Monday, September 14, 2015

The Power of a Slow Burn: Staying Is the New Going

I recently attended a celebration, hosted by one of my authors, on the eve of the release of his book. Alan Briggs is a pastor in Colorado Springs; his book Staying Is the New Going is a rallying cry to reject the wanderlust that fuels so much of our consumer-tourism (even missions and charity tourism), and instead to commit ourselves to the places we live. It's a good, brisk, energizing book, and I hope a lot of people pick it up and reimagine how they relate to their communities.

It struck me, as Alan was thanking his guests, what a spectrum he had at the table, from recent relocates (some who left the more exotic mission field to settle in the Springs) to people whose families helped found the town nearly two centuries prior. This notion of staying isn’t just about where you find yourself; it’s about your posture toward your place. We can stay and consume a place, or we can go and consume a place. When you get down to it, tourism isn’t all that different from the home-as-castle/city-as-fiefdom consumer mentality of most people. There’s nothing magic about staying or going in and of themselves. The magic is in the attitude: Missionary isn’t something you do; it’s something you are, and that’s irrespective of where you find yourself. Alan and his friends are exemplars of cultural participation and missionary concern, and it came through brilliantly at that dinner party.

TWEET THIS: Missionary isn’t something you do. It’s something you are, irrespective of where you find yourself.

I once heard Andy Crouch talk about institutions, and I was pretty conflicted by his presentation. On the one hand, it seemed like I was being chided for being too self-centered, for failing to appreciate the institutions I had been born into and grafted into — this despite all the clear failings of any number of institutions, from the church to the government to corporations to employers. Why should I just shut up and take what these big behemoths dished out?

As I thought about it, however, I thought about our mortality, and our simultaneous impulse for eternity. How does that play out on this temporal plane, in this physical space? I may want to live forever — in Christ, I may in fact live forever — but what meaning does that have for where I work or where I live? These things predated me, and they will, in all likelihood, outlive me. If I’m to have meaning in the material world — if I’m to find meaning in the material world — I have to look to these institutions that I find myself in symbiotic relationship with.

The secret value of Alan's book, I think — the value that only emerges as someone puts the book down and picks the vision up — is the rediscovery that place doesn’t matter as merely a place but as a partner in our work in the world. Where we are informs what we do, and by extension, who we become. And who we become shapes where we are. And so on and so forth.

TWEET THIS: Where we are informs what we do and who we become. And who we become shapes where we are. And so on and so forth.

I think this book will have a slow burn, both as a seller and as a conversation generator. I think that’s a good thing; the kinds of conversations it will generate should take time, because participants move slower than consumers, and institutions such as neighborhoods and cities are not going anywhere. The space this dinner party created — for people to celebrate the culmination of a year of hard work while simultaneously reflecting on their own life decisions, life patterns and missionary postures — is a great example of the power of a slow burn, and the change it can ultimately ignite.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A Book Review: