San Diego For Life
By Pastor Duane Smets
My wife and I have committed our lives to San Diego, permanently. While growing up, my parents moved and traveled around the country a lot. The one constant was San Diego because every summer I got to go to grandma's house in Encinitas (North County San Diego) where I surfed twice a day and had my grandma constantly make me amazing food!
I moved to San Diego in 1996 to go to college and fell in love with the city as an adult. I became a Christian in San Diego, I met my wife in San Diego, and I received God's call on my life to be a pastor in San Diego. Over the years I have developed connections to the city which I'll never be able to get out of my blood. I love the beaches. I love the food. I love the beer (#1 craft brew city in the country!). I love the parks. I love the sun. I love the palm trees. I even love the streets and the freeway system. But most of all I love the people here.
In the year 2000 I made a very difficult decision to move to the LA area to do graduate work not knowing if I would ever make it back to the city I love. But in 2005 after a year of seeking God's call it seemed clear that God meant for us to move back to San Diego to plant The Resolved Church. San Diego is a very expensive place to live but because we believed we were called we figured out a way to make it work and after slugging away for five years my wife and I were finally able to buy a house here in 2010. It was a really big step for us.
Most purchase houses because the majority consensus from a financial perspective is that owning is a better use of one's money. From a theological perspective, many would say it's being a better steward of the money God has given one to use wisely for his glory. There is certainly a part of me which resonates with those sentiments since I rented for first 11 years of my marriage, but the truth is the economical benefits of owning are secondary to me. The primary benefit in my mind is missional and pastoral.
As I have studied San Diego and experienced first hand some of the challenges the city faces, one of the primary obstacles to the health and the growth of the city is the very transient nature of the city. San Diego belongs to an elite club of cities who exchange people on a yearly basis resulting in a high number transplants who are always either moving in or moving out. The number of native San Diegans who were born and raised here are relatively few. Whether it's college, military, business venture, or extended vacation and/or recuperation...people tend to be here for a little while and then move on.
This creates all kinds of challenges for a city who needs people to invest in it long term because they love and care for the city and its future well being. The transient nature of San Diego has been difficulties to planting a church in San Diego. What happens is: you start working with and building the church with individual(s) who due to whatever reason (sometimes godly and sometimes not) end up moving. When that occurs we lose not only a person(s) but also momentum and whatever role they were fulfilling. The upshot of it is there are always new people moving in who become interested in the plant who bring new life and energy in.
I'm so glad God enabled us to buy a house is it says, "we're here to stay" both for the church and the city. There is a temporal and non-committal aspect to renting. At any point in time you can easily get up and go. It's much more difficult with owning. In addition, you start paying property taxes which go toward the benefit of the city.
Check out this verse. Jeremiah 29:5-7 "Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you..."
I believe Jesus called me and sent me to plant a church in San Diego. It took over five years but by God's grace we were finally been able to begin fulfilling the missional mandate of Jeremiah...getting a house of our own and building our family here in the city for the sake of the gospel.
My prayer is it tells the people of The Resolved Church...look I'm not going anywhere, I'm your pastor and I'm here to stay no matter what. I hope I have grandkids here and if Jesus doesn't return by the end of my life I plan on dying here.
My prayer is it tells the people of San Diego I love them and I love our city and I'm giving my life to see the welfare of San Diego increase through every means possible, all motivated by the gospel.
Committing to the city makes a difference. When we became homeowners, we quickly learned from our neighbors about everyone on our street about who rents and who owns. It was like we suddenly got welcome into a secret club! There is a cultural sense that those who own really care about the neighborhood and the city.
For those in our church my appeal is for you to ask God to give you a heart for the city of San Diego. If you're here for just a little while then we'll love you when you're here with all we got. But San Diego also needs some people who are going to give their lives to it and I'm looking for some people who will join me in that venture.
Most choose where they are going to live according to what job they have, where there family is, what the weather is like, and/or the aesthetic qualities of the city. All of those things may be good and confirming things God uses...but rarely does it seem that God gets asked first. What I'm asking for is to ask God where he wants you to live, what people he wants you to invest your life in loving, and I'm asking you to consider the people of San Diego.
So first, for whatever time you were planning on being here...double it. If you thought you'd be in San Diego for a year, make it two. For two years make it four. Five, make it ten. It often takes time for a calling and a love for a city and its people to germinate, so give it time and see what God does. Consider giving your life to the city instead of only using it and then being gone.
Second, consider buying a house here and putting some roots down. In this non-committal age where the grass is always greener on the other side, buying a house and sticking to something will only benefit you and your character.
Lastly, committing to this city reminds me that this world is not my permanent home. "We brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world (1 Tim 6:7)." Neither a house or any of our possessions are anything. Jesus is our true home and treasure. Thus as the writer of Hebrews states, "We have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come." That city is the city of Zion where Jesus rules and reigns as king on his throne. Then there will be no more pain, sorrow or suffering and we will rejoice in him our great God and savior.