Our friend Michael Thompson posted this and permitted me to post it here:
In the city where I live there is an intersection which has two gas station/convenience stores, one on the southeast corner and one on the northwest corner. They are both Speedway brand stores . . . no joke. It is my hope that they are owned by the same person, but I’ve never looked into it.
There has been a question forming in my mind, sort of a pastime thought experiment. It started through my own shopping habits, but really took shape when I saw the double-Speedway intersection.
Here is a missional question . . .
All minor details being equal (cost factor, distance, quality of service, etc), if presented with two local business – one owned by a member of your church community, the other owned by a non-churchgoing agnostic – which place should a missional believer choose to frequent, for the sake of the kingdom?
On the one hand, we take care of our brothers and sisters in Christ and should support their livelihoods by making their business prosper. On the other hand, we are summoned to be salt and light into a broken world, which would mean showing agnostic businesspeople the love and grace that Christian people (ought to) have. One is the edification of believers, the other is lifestyle evangelism. Of course, we could make a habit of going back-and-forth . . . but that might simply be the philosophical copout option when in reality we know that we get into routines. (Also, the thought experiment assumes that you would be a ‘regular’ if either impact is to be made.)
What if we change the parameters a bit?
1. Christian-owned business v. outspoken-atheist-owned business.
2. Christian-owned business v. Muslim-owned business.
3. Christian-owned business v. Milwaukee-Brewers-fan-owned business (just kidding, nobody would choose the latter).
You get the idea. I am curious as to what kind of thought we have when making decisions like these. If we have any thought at all. If we simply choose to support the members of our church without consideration, are we then in danger of creating a disconnected holy huddle? If we simply choose to be the evangelists at all costs, then are we being unsupportive of those business that have a positive kingdom presence which could help transform neighborhoods?
One could go back and forth for quite some time, I think . . .