I love Naperville. It is a beautiful suburb of Chicago. It is comfortable. It has a lovely downtown with almost every conceivable type of restaurant and at least 3 great coffee shops (Sparrow, Starbucks Reserve, Two Brothers). The city has annual festivals, well-attended parades, amazing schools, great doctors, and is incredibly safe to live in. I love meeting the people who make Naperville there home. I enjoy the many opportunities, comforts, conveniences and things I get do to here with family and friends.
As a Christian, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the good things of Naperville. There is also nothing wrong with being successful in the world, having more money or education than others, or having a nice house (things which many who live in Naperville possess). The Christian life is not the ascetic life of someone who denies themselves every possible pleasure, but is a life shaped by a recognition of God’s generous grace and love—the love of a Father that not only gives us eternal life in Christ (John 3:16), but also every good gift of this life and the next (James 1:17). Depending on one’s conscience and situation, a believer gets to enjoy a variety of things from the culture, including food and experiences.
God has richly given us all we have not only to bless others, but also for the joy of our own hearts (this is a fact that the Apostle Paul wants Timothy to remind “those who are rich in the present age” in 1 Tim 6:17-19). A believer is free to enjoy the good things of this world—“to the pure, all things are pure” (Titus 1:15), but at the same time is to keep one self from the love of the world (putting the world before God in one’s heart and life) and turn from worldly dispositions, attitudes, and practices (James 4:4; 1 John 2:16). As Christians, we must pursue wisdom in this and we need God’s grace and His Spirit to lead us away from worldliness and compromise. Yet, it is worth remembering that one thing we get to do as Christians in Naperville is to enjoy the many good cultural blessings of living here for the glory of God, blessings which are an expression of God’s common grace. (Spurgeon once spoke about enjoying a cigar for the glory of God, and Christians in Naperville get to enjoy the good things of Naperville for the glory of God).
A Christian in Naperville is also blessed by some regional factors which can help us live for Christ. There are a handful of solid, biblical, gospel-centered churches who are seeking to make much of Christ and proclaim him faithfully in this city of 148,000 people (beside the church I pastor [Cross of Christ Fellowship], there are other churches I would recommend like New Covenant Church, Restoration Community Church, and Naperville Presbyterian Church). In addition to these sound, biblically faithful churches (and there are others), we also live close to Wheaton College, which has a great library of theological books and many free public lectures. There is also an excellent classical Christian school in Naperville, and a community of believers who are committed to praying regularly together (Mayor’s prayer group and Pray Naperville!), Community Bible Study, and other Christian organizations. Along with these, there are also excellent opportunities to engage in world missions through participating in mission trips and to help with local charitable organizations. It worth considering in addition to all of these opportunities, the fact that the affluence of Naperville Christians can, if approached rightly, certainly open up great possibilities to bless others: we can use our finances to fund missionaries, help church plants, and give to worthy causes locally and globally.
Another blessing is the overall community-nature of Naperville. Naperville is a city that values community events and connecting with each other. We have parades, festivals, organizations, YMCA’s and local park district facilities, sports clubs, meetups, and many opportunities to meet others who live here. This can aid a believer who wants to build relationships with those in the community.
All of these realities can work together to help a person live out their faith in Christ in Naperville, and we ought to praise God for these things. I know that I as a Christian have certainly been helped by them.
Yet, living as a Christian in Naperville can also be seriously challenging. In some ways, I think it is INCREDIBLY difficult to live for Christ here. In the next two posts we’ll think about why this is so.