North American culture is changing rapidly. We know that. We feel that. Many yearn for days, not long ago, when life was simpler, faith-family was central, and Sunday worship was a highlight of the week. Most importantly, many long for those days when the next generation’s faith-story tended to mirror the faith story of the previous generation. Those days are fast disappearing.
- The cause of this rapid cultural shift is being explored by sociologists everywhere. An important thing to highlight, however, is that this is not the first time the church has experienced a rapid cultural shift.
- Looking back on previous days can teach us important lessons for these days. One previous day is found in Jeremiah 29 just after God’s people were deported to a foreign land. There in the refugee village of Tel Aviv, Jeremiah offers helpful insight into life in an unfamiliar culture.
SEVEN IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN LIVING IN A NEW LAND
REMEMBER…WE WERE BROUGHT HERE FOR A REASON (29:4)
- 29:4 says “This is what the LORD Almighty says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon…”
- God puts his church where he places it for a reason. The reason is God’s mission in the world and his work within us. We must remain alert to how God is shaping us and shaping culture through us.
REMEMBER…WE SHOULD WHOLE-HEARTEDLY EMBRACE OUR NEW REALITY (29:5)
- Many long for the days gone by when every church teamed with energy and was filled with young people. Longing for what was is not a formula to creating what will be.
- God’s word to the exiles is to find a home in their new reality, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.”
REMEMBER…FAMILY REMAINS ESSENTIAL TO VITALITY (29:6)
- The church may struggle to impact culture, but we can always impact our families (both our nuclear family and our faith family).
- The first mission field is the kitchen table and the communion table. Jer. 29:6 says, “Increase in number there; do not decrease.”
REMEMBER…OUR GOAL IS TO BE A BLESSING (29:7)
- The role of the church is to love and serve our neighbors and community. “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile, pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
- The church should not be a cultural irritant. It should be a cultural blessing.
REMEMBER…LIFE WILL BE HARD BUT IT WILL BE O.K. (29:8-9)
- Anyone suggesting that there are quick solutions to changing cultural currents is not speaking truth. “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you.”
- Simple solutions will not fix the loss of children and grandchildren from the church (sometimes from faith). Remember, God is still at work.
REMEMBER…NEVER LOSE HOPE (29:10-11)
- With God the best is still before us. Christ’s church may struggle in various places and at various times, but it is never without hope. Not even the gates of hell can prevail against it.
- God’s plans for his people are always to “prosper you and not to harm you.”
REMEMBER…STAYING CONNECTED TO GOD IS MOST IMPORTANT (29:12-14)
- Prayer is our priority in a secular culture. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
- In a world that questions the importance of God-connection, God’s people bear witness that a God-centered life is a life of meaning, purpose, and joy.