This summer's theme for our annual Give & Go serving push is "See the City." We want to encourage Watermark members to look beyond their own doorsteps, beyond their commutes and workplaces, beyond even their own family schedules and the busyness that can keep any of us nearsighted.
Instead, let's see the city.
But that doesn't only mean serving the city - though service is always a big part of our Give & Go goal. Today, I want to offer another aspect to "seeing the city."
See the City... Like a Tourist?
Ourtheme's title - See the City - can conjure up various images. But one thing "seeing the city" can mean is, well, touring. We can imagine a couple of tourists to Dallas chatting in their hotel room:
"So what do you want to do today?"
"Let's get out and see the city!"
In other words, they're going to explore and enjoy Dallas. They'll grab a bite to eat, see some tourist attractions, maybe study a little history or see some green space.
Among all the other important things "See the City" means - "notice the people around you," "recognize the need of our city," etc. - this notion is there, too: A simple encouragement to enjoy our city.
But is Enjoying the City... Spiritual?
Why would a church encourage its people to enjoy the city? I can think of a few reasons:
1. We can (and should) enjoy what God has given.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 urges us to eat, drink, celebrate, enjoy our spouse, and work hard - in light of God's approval and His provision. And I Timothy 4:4 tells us that "everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving" (ESV).
Of course, our pursuit of "enjoyment" is informed by a devotion to God's instructions and ultimate purposes. But we shouldn't fail to celebrate the gifts God has given: The art hanging in the museum. The fun of the animals at the zoo. The natural beauty scattered throughout our city. The skill of the ball player or the actor, or the productivity displayed in business or government that helps citizens flourish.
Our good Father has given us the place where we live! If we claim to be thankful sons and daughters but don't ever enjoy this particular place as one of His gifts, then our gratitude isn't complete
2. Enjoying God's works (including His works through people) glorifies His attributes.
It's easy to identify the way nature points to God's glory. But only people were made in God's image - so at the very least, we should be looking for His attributes in people's gifts as well.
When we celebrate people's creativity, we're getting a glimpse of the Creator. When we notice brilliance, we're seeing a reflection of God's brilliance. As we taste an excellent bite of food, we celebrate gifts from God - not just a gift to us of tasty morsels, but also His gift of artistry to the chef. As we enjoy these things (as well as the beauty of nature throughout our towns), we have the chance to actively recognize that these gifts come from God (James 1:17) and to offer gratitude (I Tim. 4:4 again!).
3. Enjoying our city serves our city.
It's not only acts of charity that serve our city and its people. Getting involved in our city - even enjoying its resources and attractions and economy - serves people. Visiting the "Main Street Festival" where you live, for instance, blesses the vendors and the organizers. Obviously "buying local" helps invest in the flourishing of our fellow citizens. Enjoying a high school football game encourages the players and families, and tending a community garden blesses your neighbors.
Even spreading the word about your city on social media helps encourage participation and tourism! (You can start with a photo by the Dallas B&G at the Watermark Dallas pond.)
And there's a bonus here: As Christians actively engage in the commerce and culture of our city, we're far more likely to gain an audience with its citizens and officials.
4. Enjoying ties our heart to our city.
When we invest in enjoying someone or something, it causes us to love that person or entity more. Enjoying your city will connect your heart to it - energizing your other efforts to love and serve the city.
Jesus gave us a practical tool when He reminded us that our investment directs our hearts (Matt. 6:21). First and foremost, we want to "lay up treasure in heaven" so our hearts are tied first to God's Kingdom. We don't seek the kind of love for these things that competes with our love for God.
But we do seek to love our city and its people. Enjoying our city will move us in that direction, and we'll be more focused on serving and loving this great place God has given us.