Staying Power

An excerpt from an interview from 2008 between C.J. Mahaney and Mark Dever:

GravestonesCJM: As a member of the pulpit committee [interviewing Dever], Matt Schmucker remembers a particular statement you made in that regard. You said to Connie, “The next place we go, we’re buying…

MD: …cemetery plots.” Because we had been moving around and wherever we lived my heart got entangled with the people. I just hated moving and it was just horrendous for me. I had been studying the Puritans and realized that the basic model was to just stay someplace—like a marriage to a congregation. It is not exactly the same, it is not sin to leave it necessarily, but you don’t assume churches are a career ladder you are climbing. You are at one church for two years to work on some skills and when you run out of your bag of tricks you move to another church for three years, they hear all six of your sermons and then you move someplace else. No, I would like to know their children and their grandchildren. So I made clear when we were talking to the pulpit search committee that if I came I was intending, Lord willing, to stay. I had no further plans and actually planned to have no further plans.

I’ve been thinking about this mentality a great deal lately.  It is a powerful thing nowadays to say you’re staying somewhere.  Our early married life included four moves in six years — two were moves from one coast to the other.  Now we’ve been in Charlotte for seven years, at the same address.  We’ll be moving soon, but just to a house down the road “a piece,” about ten minutes from here if you drive slowly.  Lord willing, the next house will be where we settle for a good long time.  We bought it with teenagers in mind.

Even as we ready ourselves to move, I think about our street now with some sadness.  It has always felt like a temporary address to me, and I feel a little guilty about it. I wonder what our ministry to our neighbors would have been if we had known we’d be here for seven years.  Truth be told, though, not many of them have stayed, either.  Our street, once full of families with young children, has seen three divorces and a lot of moves.  The landscape is different now than it once was.  Every year we have to get to know a new family or two, many of them just stopping through on their way to somewhere else.

There are so many options now to live different places, seek different jobs, attend different churches, and the like, that saying “no thank you, I am content,” seems counter-cultural.  There is power in it.  Like Dever says above, when we stop “keeping our options open,” we make a significant statement.  (I highly recommend reading the rest of the interview for a funny story about the older lady who told Dever she’d outlast him.)

This morning I spoke to a married friend who had a conversation over the weekend with some single women.  These women were all committed girlfriends, linked to their current boyfriends for years.  They tried to argue that they are essentially the same as her — they live together, they’ve been together for years, etc.  She argued no, they are not the same.  “My husband stood up before God and hundreds of family members and friends and declared that he was forsaking all other women for me,” she said.  “If he walks away from me, he has that on his head.  Your boyfriends can walk away with nothing lost.”

In marriage, in geography, in church membership, in employment — staying is counter-cultural.  Sometimes “keeping our options open” is a fancy way of avoiding the harder road of faithfulness.

Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,
but a faithful man who can find?
(Proverbs 20:6 ESV)

You can read the rest of this interview, entitled, “The God of Options,” at the Sovereign Grace site.

3 Responses to “Staying Power”

  1. Craig Stumpf

    Faithfulness – love it…I came to your blog from Jon Acuff’s site. He has created a tremendous forum for sharing our blogs and impacting more people with them.I hope my blog can be an encouragement to you also. I write it for encouragement and motivation daily. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to watching the connections grow!


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