This article is a part of an extended series of articles. If a particular statement seems to be lacking sufficient support or clarification, we encourage you to go back and read the previous articles, as well as commit to reading the following articles as they are published. Thank you for your patience. Some of you may be asking, “Why another …
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Some of you may be asking, “Why another article about Christians living in California? Why devote so much time to this particular topic, especially a niche topic?” These are fair questions and so I will do my best to address them in this article.
Although it may be reasonable to categorize Christians living in California as a niche topic, it should be recognized that we're talking about a pretty big niche. According to multiple studies, approximately 16 million people in California identify as Christian. This massive number accounts for about 10% of the total number of professing Christians in the nation. Therefore, a serious discussion regarding the spiritual and financial well-being of a tenth of America's Christians seems more than prudent.
“According to multiple studies, approximately 16 million people in California identify as Christian.”
In the book of Jonah, God's heart of compassion for Nineveh is seen when he says, "Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:11). Biblical commentators have long been divided over the meaning of these words. Some say that this 120,000 represents Nineveh's total population, referring to the moral ignorance of all the Ninevites. However, Jonah 3:3 says, "Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth." According to this measurement, many trusted historians and archaeologists suspect that Nineveh's total population was much closer to 500,000 people. According to this theory (which I subscribe to), the 120,000, which God mentions in Jonah 4:11, was most likely a specific reference to the young children in Nineveh who were not even old enough to distinguish their literal right hand from their left. Although 120,000 is the minority in an overall population of approximately half a million, this number still matters greatly in the sight of God. This same principle can also be seen in God's willingness to spare the entire city of Sodom for the sake of just 10 righteous people (Genesis 18:32).
“This same principle can also be seen in God's willingness to spare the entire city of Sodom for the sake of just 10 righteous people.”
In light of all this, Christians in America should be profoundly concerned about the well-being of a tenth of our nation's professing Christians. Are these Christians in spiritual danger? Are they living in a context where they can thrive and raise godly offspring? Will they be able to exercise wise and careful stewardship of the resources God has given them, or will large amounts of these resources be siphoned away from their local churches into state taxes and high costs of living? Christians may disagree on the answers to these questions, but Christians should agree that these questions matter.
“Christians in America should be profoundly concerned about the well-being of a tenth of our nation's professing Christians.”
Another reason why I have decided to devote so much time and energy to this topic is because I lived and pastored in California for over a decade. During that time, I frequently sought to persuade Christians to stay in California, and more particularly, to stay in San Diego where I was pastoring. In some cases, there were no discernible harmful effects. In other cases, there were. Many people postponed marriage, children, or buying a home due to my continual insistence that our church in San Diego desperately needed people to stay. For the record, the choice to postpone building godly households was not exclusively due to the practical challenges of living in California. Prolonging of singleness, postponing of children, and mismanagement of finances appear to be a nationwide phenomenon likely caused by a combination of several idols prevalent among young people today, as well as multiple unbiblical views regarding God's design for the family. Still, the unique challenges of living in expensive and liberal states/cities exasperates this epidemic.
“I frequently sought to persuade Christians to stay in California, and more particularly, to stay in San Diego where I pastored.”
In short, since I spent the better part of 10 years compelling Christians to stay in California, it seems only right that I would devote a short time to righting my past wrongs. This is not some kind of gospel-less penance. Rather, the Scripture teaches that each of us should strive to do good works in keeping with our repentance (Matthew 3:8). One of my deep concerns is that I personally led the way in creating a culture at my church back in San Diego that made Christians feel as though they couldn't leave. That said, I recognize that I must be careful not to make the same mistake, only this time, on the other side of the equation. Therefore, my desire is for Christians in California to seriously consider whether or not their choice to remain there will inhibit them from full obedience to all of Christ's commands. I want these Christians in California to know that it's permissible, and in some cases even right, to leave the state. At the same time, I want Christians in California to know that in some cases it's permissible, and even right, to stay. To that end, I have decided to provide list of possible exceptions to my arguments for why Christians should leave California. This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Instead, it is merely meant to serve as a starting place for this important discussion.
EXCEPTION #1: THE MILITARY
I am not a pacifist. I strongly despise the doctrine of pacifism (in at least some of its present forms). Therefore, I believe that it is both permissible and commendable for a Christian man to serve in our nation's military. And if a Christian man chooses to serve in our nation's military, there's a good chance that he and his family will end up spending some time in San Diego, California. If for no other reason, San Diego needs solid Christian churches simply because these men (and their families) serving our country deserve a gospel-preaching church. These individuals did not choose to live in California. They were ordered to live in California. Therefore, it would be wrong to penalize them for their sacrificial service, especially when each of us benefits from their service greatly.
EXCEPTION #2: THE EXTENDED FAMILY
There are plenty of cases where a Christian man has more to consider than merely his immediate family. For those Christians in California with aging parents or grandparents living nearby, it may be wise to stay put for a time. The Bible does not merely address a Christian man's obligation to his wife and children but also his duties to the members of his extended family. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). The beauty of this command is that it often proves to be mutually beneficial. Having parents or grandparents nearby can make an incredible difference in raising a family. They can assist with caring for and homeschooling young children. And in some cases, they may even be financially positioned to help their adult children purchase their first home significantly sooner than they would have been able to otherwise.
“The Bible does not merely address a Christian man's obligation to his wife and children but also his duties to the members of his extended family.”
In some cases, it may be possible to persuade the whole family to move out of the state. This is precisely what my father-in-law did back in 2013. As he was nearing retirement, he looked at his three daughters, their husbands, and their children and was deeply grieved by how much difficulty they were experiencing as they tried to raise their families in California. Instead of telling his sons-in-law to simply suck it up and work harder to provide, he had the insight and compassion to recognize that providing for a family in California is a tall task that many men will not be able to achieve, even if they are hard-working. After all, if everyone could live in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, they probably would. One of the primary reasons California doesn't have an even larger population is because most of the country simply can't afford to live there. So eventually, out of a deep love for his family and righteous indignation toward the state of California, my father-in-law constructed a plan for his entire family to flee out of the state. They all ended up settling in Round Rock, Texas, and the family has thrived ever since. My wife and I were the only members of the family who chose to stay behind. At the time, I simply couldn't bear to leave my church in San Diego. I even used to tease my father-in-law by saying that he and his family were acting like some kind of “family-cult,” building a conservative commune together in the South. Years later, as I more carefully studied the Scripture, I decided that my wife and I were missing out. At the end of 2020, we officially moved across the country to join this “family-cult,” and we couldn't be happier.
EXCEPTION #3: THE RICH
Another possible exception is those who have experienced significant financial success in life, or those in a specific career path that provides plenty of income but may limit them to living in California if they wish to remain in their vocation. These Christian men can obey all of Christ's commands for families without experiencing nearly as much temptation to compromise. These men can afford to purchase a home, as well as make additional wise investments toward the financial future of their children and grandchildren. They can also afford to live on a single income, allowing their wives to diligently work at home with their children and resist the temptation to utilize public schools. Lastly, this also allows for significant generosity towards the local church and other faithful ministries.
EXCEPTION #4: THE CONTENT
Others, while far from being rich (at least by American standards), are simply content to live with less. Perhaps they choose to purchase a small two-bedroom condo while others are purchasing four-bedroom houses. And perhaps these Christians are just as committed to having multiple children and providing a Christian education for them, they just plan to get really good at assembling bunk-beds. After all, most of the world lives on far less than Americans have grown accustomed to. Although there are specific commands in Scripture for families that necessarily contain financial implications, none of these commands specify what amount of square feet a Christian's home must be.
A FINAL CAUTION
Finally, if you're a Christian living in California who falls into one or more of these “exception categories,” don't be too hasty to assume that you should stay. This very well may be the case, but the fact that a Christian “could” live in California does not guarantee that they “should” live in California. That which is permissible is not always wise. There remain dozens (if not hundreds) of other factors that merit our serious consideration. What are your tax dollars funding? Are you funding abortion through Planned Parenthood or the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools? If so, how much are you funding these things, and is there a way to stop funding them while still living in the state? Could you be a better steward if you lived somewhere else? Would you have more financial excess to invest in your family's future and give to your local church? In summary, my assessment is that while some Christians “could” live in California, fewer Christians “should” live in California. But ultimately, this decision is up to you, your conscience, and the Lord.
“The fact that a Christian “could” live in California does not guarantee that they “should” live in California.”
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