Sneak Peak: Boomchurch

20140110-171338.jpg      I live in Dickinson, North Dakota in the middle of a substantial oil boom. As this boom has developed it has created an altogether different culture than the American norm. Not a city but no longer a small town, followers of Jesus here must understand the culture and look at this differently to be productive for the Kingdom of God. Boomchurch will explore the culture, difficulties, positives, struggles, and pains of the task of making disciples who make disciples in the odd culture of a midwest boomtown. Below is a sneak peak of the beginning of the first draft for your review. What do you think? Does this topic need to be addressed?
“Dickinson is one of a few “Boomtowns” throughout the western part of the state of North Dakota. Billions of barrels of oil lie deep under the ground here and that creates an altogether different type of atmosphere on top of the ground. We regularly experience temperatures of -20 to -30 during the winter and the frigid winds can make it feel like -60 at times. I’ve heard stories from some of the old timers who tell me that they remember times when wind chill brought it down to 100 degrees below zero! I’ve had others tell me that they remember “taking a leak” outside (that’s urinating for all who haven’t taken in any Duck Dynasty yet) and watched it freeze before it hit the ground. To put it in perspective, providentially the week before I began writing this, temperatures were lower in western North Dakota than at the North Pole and some places in Antarctica. If you get your first impression by driving through in January you’re likely to begin looking for penguins, polar bear, and maybe a few Ice Road Truckers along the way.
The lack of trees through most of the state doesn’t help this persona. I remember answering the, “Where you from?” question everyone was presented with during my time in the Marine Corps and getting a lot of “That’s the one with the president faces in the hill, right?” To which I had to answer with a quick geography lesson and some sort of proof that it was in fact an inhabited state.
In addition to the frostbitten nothingness through a good portion of the year, there isn’t much going on for entertainment if you are at all used to population. There are more people in Louisville, KY than there are in North Dakota. Apart from the oil boom there is ranching, college, hunting, and drinking. That about sums it up. That’s what people do here. I take it back. There are two coffee shops to choose from here. That’s something.
The tundra aspect of this place mixed with the lack of trees and entertainment makes this miss the list of best places to live in National Geographic. But it hasn’t stopped or even slowed the explosion of people coming up here for work in the dirty cold of the oil boom. They take buses, trains, planes, personal vehicles and even get rides from friends or perfect strangers. They come up here with high hopes and for many different reasons. Some to pay debts and child support. Some because it’s all they know. Men leave behind broken homes. Some leave behind families. Some convictions. Some men leave behind entire lives to come here for the chance to make big money in the oilfield.
As one might expect, the crowd that this draws isn’t always reputable. Most of the time when someone has a day off in the oilfield it’s because they have a court date, not jury duty. It’s because they just didn’t feel like waking up that day and they know they can walk a block down the road and get the same job with the same company. Drinking is insane here. I’ve put in a few hours in the harsh weather conditions this line of work presents and I will never understand the men who roll out of bed at 3:30 in the morning (most people just assume that’s a real time) drive treacherous roads for two hours one way to get to the job site, slaving away for 12 rigorous hours using muscle groups that make the gym look wimpy, drive two more hours back to the town they are staying in just to head to the bar and drink for three more hours in hopes that they can find a way to fornicate before the next day of work. As you can imagine, even if the fornication is unsuccessful this leaves little time for sleep. Some of these guys do this for 14 days straight without a break.
As you can imagine, the harvest in plentiful. There are three types of people taking part in this boom. There are those that passionately follow Jesus. These are few. It’s sad but this is the minority here (as in most places). The second group consists of those that attend church service from time to time and believe they are Christians headed for a happy ending. This group sadly looks at this boom as if God drove a garbage truck through and dumped it on their state. They are Pharisees. They live morally and attend mass or worship services on their respective day of the week and this is supposed to magically turn into a ticket to heaven when they pass to the next life. It is difficult for the untrained believer to tell the difference between this group and their own. They have good camouflage but aren’t here for the hunt. They just want to look like they can hunt. The biggest reason it’s tough to distinguish is because there are so many people who have put their faith in Christ and repented of their sin without really knowing the next step. They don’t understand that their chief task as a believer isn’t simply to live righteously and try not to sin. They don’t think about Jesus’ last orders to those who would follow him. They tend to spend so much time studying the Bible that they rarely find time to do what it says and make disciples. Ironically it’s the lack of discipleship in past generations that has left us unprepared to be on mission today. So these Christians and the pretend Christians look a lot alike. This easily mistaken identity is a bad thing. However, in an effort to keep the flow of this idea going we will discuss why later in the book.
The third group not surprisingly is the blatantly rebellious unbeliever. They are the majority here in the oil boom. They are in the news. They are in our jails. They flood our bars and make domestic violence, assault, prostitution, and other sex crimes skyrocket in a place that had very little crime of any kind only a few years ago. Things have changed dramatically in very little time. The once quiet streets of this modest innocent state have quickly turned into the Wild West to a degree. There are thousands of people that came here looking for satisfaction. Looking for their chance. Looking for success. I believe they came in search for fulfillment that they will only know through meeting Jesus! I believe they have to be introduced to Jesus! And I believe it’s my job, not as a blogger, writer, or ministry student, but as a follower of Jesus to make that introduction.”

New Job; New Mission Field

Matthew 28:16-20
English Standard Version (ESV)

The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I am beginning a new job on Wednesday. My prayer is that I can be a missionary on the job. I’ll be working one week on and one week off. Every believer in, and follower of Christ is called to be
about their fathers business. We are all called to be on a mission. I once was told by a college professor that if you’re not a missionary, then you’re a mission field, and that is so true.

So, as I leave this post, I would like to pray…

Jesus, thank you for the cross and for what you did in dying my death, so I could live your life. I pray that you would give myself and all who claim you the strength and desire to live a gospel centered life in our places of work. Also that you would not allow us to be someone in the workplace that differs from who we claim to be at home. Lord God, thank you for loving me, the unloveable and for putting up with my childishness. Make me more like you.
-Amen