A Theology of Place

This summer Sandy and Nathan and I took a road trip.  Don’t worry, this is not a “this is what I did on my summer vacation.” But, I did want to tell you about one part of our trip. Along our way we took time to go to New Orleans and visit my friend Ray Cannata.  Ray was on my staff when I was a pastor in New Jersey. He left the New Jersey church a few months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.  His purpose: to replant a church there.   I believe God planned his church to be a sign of resurrection hope amongst the rubble.

Ray did not go into a city as an outsider. No, he became a New Orleanian.  To become connected to the city, he had an amazing idea.  He decided he would get to know the city through its food by eating at every non-chain restaurant in the city.  (Yikes. There are over 750 of them! Note the picture of Ray eating his “last supper,” at the last restaurant on his list.)  In the process he managed to gain 25 lbs (and thankfully lose them as well!), and meet thousands of people.  But, Ray did more than that.  He learned the unique features of this city to which God called him, how the gospel applies there, and how to love the people of his city.  He developed a theology of place.

Now of course, Ray got that idea from Jesus.  Jesus didn’t enter Galilee as a tourist.  He was born there.  He called the place home, and he loved his community. Why did he do this?  It is the way of God. God came into the neighborhood and loved us.  He wants us to do no less.  Of course, there are many bad things in New Orleans.  They have the highest murder rate in the country, for example.  But, God calls us to love and serve where he has placed us.

So how should all this impact us?  First, I was jealous of Ray when I saw his love of the city.  It made me want to invest even more in my neighborhood and my city. (Just how many restaurants are there in Coral Gables?) It also made me wonder what our city would become if God’s people really loved their city and invested themselves there.  Second, it reminded me that our God is a God of place.  The Lord sent Abraham to a special place, and he does the same with each of us.  If you are in Miami, God has a purpose for you here. He wants you to live for him, love your neighbor, and learn to serve and benefit your community. This is what it means to be followers of Jesus in Miami.  What is your theology of place?

5 responses to this post.

  1. This remind me of Pastor Rudy Rasmus ‘ book , Touch (Pressing Against the Wounds of a Broken World). He reached into his community of Houston Texas reached the homeless community around his church. He started with 9 members. Today it has 9000. It is a story of how God showed him how to love each person the way Christ loves each of us. He strives to see passed their smell, sin and economic situation . In his book, Pastor Rasmus, states, ” Jesus’ goal wasn’t to categorize people into believers and unbelievers, clean and unclean, righteous and unrighteous. He met each person where he was and tried to bring them to the center of God’s presence so they could experience His love.” It seems that Ray Cannata has them same goal.


  2. Thanks for sharing a vacation story. I rather enjoyed it! Location is not accident. If God ordained the time and space for us to inhabit, he did so for a reason–that He might gain glory as we do people good (Matt. 5:16).


  3. Posted by Joseph McDaniels on August 16, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    I wrote a note today to my older brother about my narrowing horizon; I no longer have before me the extent of possibilities I had when I was younger, I told him. I know, I know. “You’re only 26!” But I grew up thinking that I could do and be anything that I wanted, that I had limitless potential. But growing up turns out to be coming to terms with limitation. I realize that, among other constraints, I have a limitation of place. I cannot be a man of every city, or a city man and a man of the wood all at once. At first, this thought brought drought, a depression. But what I see now is that this limitation, this narrowing of the horizon is no curse. What I realized is that as clay looses its potential, it takes the shape of what its creator intends. If we try to be all things, we’ll end up nothing. If we try to be everywhere, we’ll end up nowhere. Embracing who God is shaping you to be is just as much about embracing the location – the space – where he has placed you. You nailed it in that last paragraph especially.

    Thanks for the post. See you tomorrow.


  4. Posted by Sandy on February 18, 2017 at 2:09 am

    Great challenge.


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