Have you ever wondered why you were born where you were?
Even more importantly maybe, have you wondered why you were born to whom you were?
More than likely you, if you are a Christian, were born to Christian parents. That is not necessarily true, but it is likely.
You could have been born in China, where Christianity was illegal. Much of the world’s population is. You could have been born to atheist parents, who discouraged the gospel.
But, you probably weren’t.
Such is the case with me.
I was born in the USA, not merely the USA, but the South. In fact, more specifically, I was born in the Bible Belt.
My parents were both Christians. There was a great Christian tradition in my family. The gospel was explicit in my home. Faithfulness was encouraged. Christianity was not merely a label; it was a way of life. As a child, I could not escape my ancestral destiny.
It was as if I was predestined to believe in Jesus. J
As I said before, because I’m sure to be reminded, none of these necessarily apply to everyone. Some people reject Christ who have definite Christian roots. Others who have no Christian family or context are saved despite those hurtles.
For the most part though, this is the way the Kingdom grows. Family, tradition, ancestry, and geographic context play a major role in the spread of the gospel. There’s really no denying it.
Why is this important? Well, because your first responsibility is to those who are your family, inside of your tradition, and are in your immediate geographic context.
I’m a Presbyterian and it’s kind of understood in our church that it’s supposed to be that way. That doesn’t mean that we’re good at it. It just means that that’s the way we see it when it comes to children and the church, especially when it comes to baptism.
I haven’t always been Presbyterian though, and I’ve found that the same idea exists in other churches as well, although not doctrinally.
That’s not the point though. Your family is not the church’s responsibility first. They are yours.
It’s easy to forget that.
Paul did not forget the importance of family.
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul makes clear the importance of our ancestors in our conversion and our discipleship.
“I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” (2 Timothy 1:3–5, ESV)
The other day my sister was in an antique store near Charlottesville, VA. While browsing around, she spotted a painting that she quickly recognized. It was our grandmothers. Oddly enough, my wife had found one of her paintings a few months ago at one of our local antique stores. Her name was Leona Griffin and like a hurricane her paintings had rekindled the memories of our beloved matriarch.
It’s not the fact that they found these sentimental heirlooms unexpectedly that interests me though. More importantly, I am intrigued by the fact that these paintings expose such sentimentality. My sister became emotional because of her find and as soon as my wife posted her find on Facebook many family members did the same.
Of course a lost connection has been temporarily re-established. What they have forgotten, they have once again been reminded. What they have missed, to that they have momentarily been reunited.
But there is more.
There is a connection we have with our Christian ancestors that is spiritual. They have entrusted to us the deposit of faith. They have entrusted to us the gospel.
My grandmother was the epitome of this idea. Her family understands that very well.
She was an imperfect woman who loved a perfect Savior. She told us that with words and love. She told it to the world with a paint brush and a story.
She was called the Grandmaw Moses of the Mountain Empire by our newspaper. She painted for several US Presidents. She was a popular artist at several local fairs.
She painted on canvas and creek rocks. She painted on old saw blades. She painted primitive art that told a story of her beloved mountain community. She painted what she loved-for the world to see.
On each piece of art though, she painted a church. Why? Because her life revolved around church and more specifically, her life was centered on Jesus. His grace was her testimony that she placed inside of each painting. His love was what she shared in oil and color…Intentionally…explicitly…
Several years ago I wrote a song about her and the deposit she left us as a family, as a community, and as believers.
In an old yellow trailer alongside of the road,
She sold rocks and canvas where she painted her world.
Some were of kids a playin’, some of deer and of birds,
But each one included and old country church.
I’d go to the fair held at our county seat.
I’d hear the observers as I played at her feet.
Some admired all her talent and her hours of work.
But some would look even deeper and see and old country church.
The center of life for a lady I knew.
My Grandmaw was rich but her dollars were few.
In Jesus Christ she put all her worth.
And in all her paintings she put an old country church.
Each time someone asked why she’d paint that old church on everything that she created,
With a tear in her eye and a crack in her voice she’d reply “Do you know my Savior?”
Now she’s with Jesus. From our lives she is gone.
How for the past, sometimes I do long.
I can’t wait to see her and the crown that she earned,
Sharing the gospel painting an old country church.
My Grandmother has been gone for several years now but although we can no longer hear her voice, see her face, or smell her cornbread and biscuits, she has not left us unattended. Her love for Jesus is now ours and her sense of duty to the gospel should be as well.
I’m convinced that just like the two surprises found by my sister and my wife, her testimony will continue to replenish the hearts of the ones who knew her and her paintings will continue to illumine those who look even deeper, to see an old country church.