Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

The Wisdom of Staying Put

I read Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s newest book, The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture
, because I was asked to blurb it. Here is what I said to Paraclete: I like this book but I don’t think I should blurb it. Why? I can’t say I’m committed to stability in the way this book advocates. But I like the book, and I will keep a copy close at hand.

Kris and I have lived in this house for almost 23 years; we’ve not really thought of moving. Our kids went to grade school and junior high and high school here; they “come home” to the same place they grew up — and their rooms, while now adjusted for guests, are still there. Our backyard is not big, but it’s ours and we know every inch. We planted every flower we’ve got, and we have raised decorative grasses … and when we go into our backyard there’s a sense of stability.
On neighbors … we’re the oldest neighbors when it comes to staying put (and age, too). We’ve had fifteen different neighbors since we’ve lived here. Some of them are staying put and we don’t see that they’ve got plans to move on. We mow one another’s lawns and help out with snow blowing. 
But I can’t say Kris and I are here still because we’ve made some kind of resolute commitment to stability, but that is just what Wilson-Hartgrove is arguing: instead of moving, he advocates staying put and digging roots and forming community and neighborhood and digging deep, and that identity and life’s chapters are shaped out of such stability and depth and location and vocation. 

Put differently, what happens to us when we are so mobile that we lose a sense of stable location? Good question.
Of course, he’s young and he speaks more from commitment and resolution than decades of stability in one place. But he’s at Rutba House in Durham NC and works at a church there and so he knows whereof he speaks; his age set is the most mobile group in the USA. And he wants to reset the default setting from mobility to stability.
Which is the case: goodness knows how easy it is for many of us to move on or always think of what’s next — over there instead of right here.
Packed with stories and theological insights and biblical wisdom and practical outworkings, this book is a one-of-a-kind conversation about stability.
Comments read comments(28)
post a comment

posted May 12, 2010 at 7:26 am

I assume he is responding to our very transient culture, and I like the idea of commitment to a community in order to be a long-term witness. But does he deal with the idea that some are called to relocate, that mission may mean being on the move?

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 7:26 am

My feelings are that we have become a nation of instant everything.
The young being young, have little patience and are accustomed to having everything instantly. They seem less likely to want to wait to achieve their goals and to understand that some work has to be done before certain goals are met.
This subject could be associated with many of our “maladies” , greater divorce rates, higher teen pregnancies, ect. I guess one could go overboard with diagnosing what stems from not having stability.
My poor children suffered greatly from instability in their lives, when I got divorced . Their whole foundation was shattered and as a result my daughters changed greatly in some ways that sometimes make me sad and yet sometimes I see strength and determination that was not there before.
I guess in everything there is good and bad. Its like two children can react totally different to a set of circumstances even if they are from the same family.
I still believe in stability strongly. As I grow older I yearn for it. Yet I also see that maybe we are evolving as a people that perhaps will reap some good from this change. Humans are survivors and some things will just have to seen before judged.
Thank you for your article,

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 7:53 am

Aside from necessary relocations I too see the value of staying put. Our situation is much like what Scot described of his family. In our circles we are one of the few remaining families who have stayed in our same home. So many others have moved just to “trade up”, in many cases moving only a few miles away. I think we tend to get restless and discontent with the “same old tired house” and neighborhood that we have lived in for too long. The “master-planned” community just down the road with splash pads, community centers, and myriad of amenities is a tough draw for many, especially when the economy was booming. Maybe we should rethink establishing some roots. Seems like a good thing to me.

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 7:57 am

We should be ready to go or stay wherever we are needed, but our lives must be built on the unchanging rock that is the word of Jesus Christ.

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 8:19 am

I’ve been struggling with staying put. It’s the biggest question in my life right now. John Perkin’s advocates missional Christians staying put for at least 15 years and if the need is great even longer. Mission is all around us.
Community isn’t as transient as folks like me wish it were!
I have a friend who was committed to never buying a house in case God asked he and his wife to get up and leave. She is a doctor and he is an agriculturalist – perfect missionary vocations. But then they started serving the needs of under-served populations around them and realized that buying a house and being hospitable was the best way to be missional.

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 8:28 am

I have been thinking on this for some time. And I have wondered if my own personal experience has underwritten my “need” for stability of location.
Coming from a divorced home, moving over 6 times before I was 9, the only place I found “home” was my grandparents “house”. I have often wondered if that was because of my parent’s divorce or the instability of locale as a child. Is the child cognizant as much of locale, or the people involved in his life? I don’t know the answer.
Many of those I went to high school with are still settled in the same place, and their family has only grown by their marriages, instead of “stealing them away”. Our society has mobilized many because of “Dad’s” commitmen to his job. And grandma and grandpa can’t impart the wisdom to their offspring, nor impact the lives of thier grandchildren as in the past. Some have thought that our “information age” would further our “connections” by allowing Dad to work from home. Some businesses have been able to adapt to these changes.

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 8:40 am

Over the past 20 years of my life, I have not lived in the same place (house/city) for more than 3 years at a time. Recently I have found myself approaching a “3 year mark” in the same location and although I am building community here, trying to live missionally, etc I have this urge to want to move somewhere else. The grass is always greener….
I like the title of his book, focusing on wisdom. Staying put is not mandatory or even necessary to live out the Christian life…but maybe there is a wisdom to stability that more of us (myself included) should think about and be willing to commit to.

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 9:12 am

sounds like Jonathan is raising a pretty ancient question/issue…not something unique to our time, but a feature of humanity’s sinful impulse toward autonomy.
Stability in community was a centerpiece of the Desert communities.
Probably the most famous saying on the subject compares the person who moves from community to community to a horse that refuses the bridle.
There’s a discipline that comes from commitment/stability OVER TIME…the fruits of it can only be found/received in the long term.

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 9:15 am

I’ve lived in the same city over 30 years. My husband and I bought our house a year after we got married and have been here 12 years. Our friends often move, many of my closest friends have moved out of state, or, even out of the country. It’s hard to see people go so often. I’ve also been in many churches over the years, never changing churches because “the grass was greener.” It was always stemming out of a conflict of some kind. (My dad is a pastor, and later, I was part of a church plant launch team.)
I long to know that my friends “aren’t going anywhere,” but, I know most of them will move on eventually, probably before I do. It’s the pattern. Despite the stability I have with staying put, I feel the instability that comes from my closest friends and loved ones moving often. I wrote a post about being a nomad on my blog awhile back. Glad to hear about this book and know I’m not the only one thinking about these things.

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 9:27 am

Stability does not necessarily mean lack of mobility. Stability can and does lie within the nurture and trust of a loving family.

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 9:58 am

@ 10 Em,
Sure, but we don’t want to lose focus on the content of the book by worrying about a definition. I think his proposal is that often times putting down roots in a location is the best way to live missionally, intentionally, and communally.
You have Pauls – those who live transiently
You have Peters – those who stay put (for the most part)

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 10:03 am

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove films on Vimeo…

report abuse

Gary Feister

posted May 12, 2010 at 11:06 am

While I haven’t finished reading the book yet, I believe that Wilson-Hartgrove is addressing the neurotic church-hopping and relational abandonment that happens far too easily in American christianity. We no longer try to loving resolve conflicts and disagreements and to save relationships; we just bail on them and leave. Or worse, we start our own “church”. What does this kind of easy rejection communicate to our children and unbelievers who are looking on? What does it communicate to our own hearts?

report abuse

Gary Feister

posted May 12, 2010 at 11:10 am

Joey, I would say that although Paul lived transiently, he was first and always rooted in the Church (at Antioch, in particular – Acts 13:1-3; but also the Church in general).

report abuse

J. R. Daniel Kirk

posted May 12, 2010 at 11:19 am

I was in NYC listening in on a conversation with some Christians in the marketplace. One of the most profound offerings of the night was a woman’s comment that, perhaps, in our [often selfishly] mobile society, perhaps the way of the cross looks like committing to a community, to a place. I think there’s a lot to that.

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 11:24 am

Gary, yes. I was generalizing. It could be said that both were well “rooted” in a particular community.

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 12:18 pm

While I understand the value of “staying put” and I would love to stay put, I am where I am currently because of God. He put my family in the town we are living and we will stay until God releases us. We have purchased a home and see this community as home. But we also realize that this community will always see us as outsiders and if God releases us from living here we would not have a difficult time looking elsewhere.

report abuse

kevin Chez

posted May 12, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Does Hartgrove have an exception for those on Long Island?

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 1:40 pm

I’m conflicted on this. I like the idea of stability, I’m just not sure the geographic stability is always the best answer. I’m sure at times it may be, but I think the point is stability in *relationships*. sometimes that’s not so much about where the address of your residence is, especially for singles. For better or worse, our lives are mobile, and the natural communities of my life rise up in that mobility. Not just where I live, but where I work, where I shop, what coffee shop or bar or McDonald’s I frequent. Even what websites I hang out at. (!!!!) Yes, even the internet *can* facilitate deep, intimate, and stable relationships. It’s a part of the puzzle.
And I know more than one geographic neighborhood that is in reality at least four different neighborhoods over-laid like different dimensions that rarely if ever meet. Geography is far from all there is to it, and I suspect that in this part of the world (the urban/suburban West) community rooted-ness is less and less in actual geography.

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I think there is wisdom here that many need to heed, including myself. However, I would also note that living “missionally” oftentimes demands NOT staying put, always being willing to “go” and “leave your hometown.” I moved 13 hours away from everything I’ve ever known 3 years ago and it was the best thing for my marriage that could have happened. There’s something about moving away from the comfortable and well-known that makes you rely on God and be more intentional about community than you ever have. Also, I would say it’s fresh and healthy sometimes to have a change of scenery to prevent the mundane and monotony. It is my hope that one day I can “stay put” and have some “stability,” but I don’t think young people have to box themselves in. After all, I can think of at least 3 good examples of itinerant living (Abraham, Jesus, & Paul).

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Does Hargrove cite Wendell Berry’s communitarian thought? The commitment to place and rootedness sounds very Berry-esque.

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 7:52 pm

The message of ‘staying put’ is sorely needed in a culture where the average pastorate is only 3 years.

report abuse


posted May 12, 2010 at 9:15 pm

I grew up in Northern Indiana, even went to school there and started my family… When I was 28, my wife and I finally moved to California, where her family is from. That’s a tremendous challenge. My family has lived in Indiana for generations, and her family has lived in California for over 50 years. So we lived in CA for ten years, serving a church near San Francisco for 8 of those years. It was wonderful, communal-like living, on the property of the church, with friends who were like us in faith and life stage, young children, etc.
Then two years ago, hearing the call of God, we launched out into the unknown… I still believe it was of the Lord, but man was it hard. We bounced around the country, with 4 kids, for two years, never really finding our place. LA, Seattle, Houston… Finally we landed here in Tulsa. I’m serving a church here, and my wife and I have committed to living here at least 10 years, if it’s God’s will. We bought a houe for the first time, we want all of our kids to graduate from high school here if possible…
We just found that we desperately needed to be rooted somewhere. Community is so valuable. It’s growing again, slowly but surely. I think it took my NOT having a sense of stability for two years to really value it again.

report abuse

Rick in TX

posted May 12, 2010 at 10:08 pm

We’ve been married 30 years and have moved 14 times – 10 different cities – the first 7 moves were all related to my grad school (seminary) moves. Since 1986 we’ve lived in 3 cities and we’ve lived in our present home 12 years. I’d love to stay here longer but it is likely that forthcoming employment changes will require another move. I wish it were not so. We already feel like gypsies. My parents lived about 50 years in the same home; my inlaws lived 40 years in their home; I fear that kind of stability will never be mine. I will ever be a stranger in a strange land. though I think greater stability is a healthy thing, and I certainly don’t want to feed the cultural myth that happiness is somewhere other than where I am right now, I believe God has taught us that our security and stability is in Him, not in a physical geographical piece of land.

report abuse

Bob Smallman

posted May 12, 2010 at 11:16 pm

32 years ago I was taking a course in small group counseling as part of my ThM in counseling at TEDS and our prof Paul Myers had us go around the circle and talk about where we’d like to be in 10 years. I said I’d like to get a PhD in an Old Testament field and teach in a non-evangelical setting. After a series of similar academic/intellectual responses from others, Paul told us to get real and get out of our heads. So I said, “I’d like to plant a tree and watch it grow.” And for the past 31 years that’s what we’ve done, as we’ve grown up with our church in far northern Wisconsin. This was not, at first, a purposeful decision. In fact, after our first winter here (weeks of below zero weather), I was convinced the Lord should be calling us somewhere — anywhere — else! And on a couple of occasions I thought about leaving for greener pastures. But in the Lord’s providence we stayed around, raised our kids here (all grown up and married), watched a whole lot of babies that I baptized grow up (and now I get to perform their weddings!)and, sadly, bury a lot of these great friends that I’ve grown up with. (I used to bury my parishioners, but now all I bury are my old friends.) But what a privilege!
I don’t think that this kind of stability is for everyone (especially for those in first pastorates), but I highly recommend it! The pastor who moves every six or seven years is missing out on all the real fun!

report abuse

tony jones

posted May 13, 2010 at 6:50 am


posted May 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm

RE: #22
the average pastorate is often cut short because of deficient ecclesiology codified in bad polity.

report abuse

Pingback: links for 2010-07-30 | The 'K' is not silent

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog ...

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the ...

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: ...

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's ...

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or ...

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.