I admit it, I’m a homer. Not in the sense that I don’t like being away from home, because I do love to travel. I’ve had the unique opportunity to visit nearly every state and many, many countries. By homer I mean, my city – the place I live. I love the Queen City – Charlotte, North Carolina!
I’m a very passionate person. Even as a kid my mom always said I didn’t do much of anything without going all out. If I was playing basketball in the driveway, you better believe I had my Rex Chapman Charlotte Hornet’s uniform on (yes, the shorty shorts and high tube socks!). This passion has spilled over into my love for the place God has called my family to minister in and to. Kathleen and I even named our daughter after the city (Charlotte Kate). It’s more than the location of my home, it’s the location of my calling. It’s where God has sent me, uses me, and allows me to fulfill His purpose for my life. It’s to my fellow Charlotteans that God has chosen me to lift Him up!
Sure, there are better places to live. Trust me, if God would’ve allowed me to choose anywhere in the world to serve him I might have chosen a tropical paradise. The very fact that I’m in Charlotte today is without question the plan of God. In 2008, my wife and I were making plans to either start a church in New York or India (could you imagine my daughter’s name if we would’ve went there…Delhi Kate or Mumbai Blankenship). Then God redirected us to Charlotte. You see, Charlotte is my hometown and I never dreamed God would allow me to come back here. In fact, I had developed a little bitterness toward the region in general when I witnessed people whom my dad pastored mistreat he and my mother during a difficult time in a former ministry. As a result, I had written the whole town off, turning in all my loyalties to this great city I had loved and had been proud of. Yet, in God’s infinite wisdom He had a plan for me to return and fall in love with this place all over again.
Sometimes I observe pastors complain about the place God has put them, as if God really messed their lives up by sending them to THAT city to serve THOSE people. How dare the Lord?! I am convinced that we will never truly succeed unless we accept God’s full plan for us, and that begins by accepting and being passionate about where He has put us. The bottom line is this: I didn’t choose Charlotte for me, God chose Charlotte for me. If this is the place He wants me to be, I’m going to go all out for it. If He moves me tomorrow, I will be just as passionate about the next place.
You see, I’m not an all-Charlotte sports fan because we have the most successful sports franchises. Are you kidding me?! We get excited when we make the playoffs!! No, I’m a Charlotte sports fan because this is my city! Bare with me a moment…we have better malls than you do, better restaurants than you do, better teams than you do, etc. 🙂 I’ll argue with you all day about what makes this place the best place in the world to live, not because it actually is, but because it’s my city. I’d say the same thing about any other place if that’s where God had me.
I am certainly not suggesting that in order to express love for your city you need to name children after it or change your sports teams, but may I suggest a few things?
Educate yourself & family. Know your city. Know it historically, economically, spiritually. I once told a church planter more about the city he was going to plant a church in than he even knew himself. That shouldn’t be. You can’t love what you don’t know!
Embrace the people. I heard a guy say once in a derogatory tone, “Of all the people God could have sent me to, it was these people.” (I’ve heard others jokingly say this, but he was serious) Listen, I pastor in the redneck capital of the world. I’m literally neighbors with NASCAR headquarters, and guess what? I have become something I never thought I would be…a “NASCAR-neck.” Just love the people as they are, and embrace them for who they are. It’s who God has chosen for you.
Engage the city. Don’t isolate yourself from it because it’s not where you grew up, or it’s not the pace of life you enjoy. Our city has a lot of issues. For one, there are churches on every corner. It’s the most aggravating part of ministering in Charlotte. Our city, politically, is one of the most liberal in our state. There’s a lot of things wrong with Charlotte. But it’s my home, it’s my people, it’s my city…AND I LOVE IT!!
I’d love to hear some ways you love your city. Feel free to comment below.