Outer Rim of Christendom
I am a sucker for adventure. I love traveling and exploring. While that would sound like I’m a globe-trotting thrill seeker, let me rephrase that … “I love exploring off-the-beaten-path kinds of places at home.” That could be different neighborhoods in Portland, places within the metro area, or it could be outlying communities within a few hours drive.
Every time I visit these communities I imagine what it’d be like to live there. Then my mind begins to wonder what it’d be like to start a business there or non-profit as I guess and discern what the needs are. Ultimately I dream about what a new church in this community would look like. Yesterday was no exception as we explored as a family.
Let me preface this to say that for the past month I’ve been slowly working my way through Herbert Eugene Bolton’s Rim of Christendom: A Biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino, Pacific Coast Pioneer (as I’ve mentioned in a previous article). I’ve been enthralled with the missionary practices and sacrifices of Father Kino whom I introduced in the Intrepid book. There are many noteworthy happenings throughout Bolton’s book about the life of Kino. What is intriguing are the cultural interactions from what historian John Charles Chasteen calls the “Encounter” in his book Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. He uses that term to denote the meeting between indigenous Americans and Europeans.
Kino details many of these encounters as he visits villages in what is now Sonora, Mexico and southern Arizona. What we find is the expansion of what has been dubbed Christendom. The gospel is preached, people are discipled, missions are established, and thus the story goes on. While times and methods have changed, and with a lot more cultural sensitivity, the same missionary ethos stills lives on in church planting today.
While for many would-be church planters urban areas are (to them) their new frontier, I’m always reminded of the vast frontier before us. What is this frontier? The hinterlands. These could be overlooked neighborhoods within cities or even rural areas that people simply don’t have on their radars. This is what I call the “outer rim of Christendom.” Again, times have changed, practices have improved, and so on, but the same impulse exists … to plant churches in communities of need. But what we also glean from history is that it is best to do so with a community economic development mindset, framework, or posture. Meaning, that we’re brining something of value. We’re adding something of value to the community beyond simply “spiritual” things. We’re being an asset and a blessing to the community through creating new businesses and/or non-profits. Why? Because we care about the whole person. That’s what it means and looks like to be an intrepid planter on the outer rim of Christendom.