Thursday, April 10, 2014

Where Have All The Front Porches Gone?

Cana N.C., circa 1968—My grandmother and I would sit on her front porch and play the guessing game. We would hear a car coming up the road quite a ways off. When we heard it we had about twenty seconds to guess the color of the car before it came barreling by within thirty feet of the front porch on her old farmhouse. All the houses in Cana had large front porches. I have sat with a dozen or more while listening to bluegrass jam sessions on those front porches. Visited with Ruby, Mossa, Ray, Pee Wee, Boyce and Lucy for hours while perched in a swing on that front porch. I ate my mayonnaise sandwiches or toast with Karo syrup and honey for lunch on that front porch. I sat and watched Ab Hutchins mow the yard, plow the garden under, stack the firewood and bushhog the fields from that front porch. Grandma and I used to set up a community lemonade stand for the neighbors on hot days on the front porch. 

Where are the front porches? I live in a house with a large back porch and absolutely no front porch. Sociologists have noted the shift in our relational means and manners. The front porch was toward the street, interacting with the community-an invitation to stop by, catch-up and have a glass of lemonade. The architectural shift to a large, secluded back porch and a tiny front stoop says something about our collective and individual communal state of mind. The front porch not only welcomed people into our lives, it invited people into our lives.  The apostle Paul had a “front porch” quality to his discipleship. He welcomed people and invited people. This means that his sense of mission compelled him to welcome the curious and needy (Timothy) and invite (Silas, Barnabas) some others.

Our effort to make disciples begins with guessing the color of the next car alongside a friend, fresh-made lemonade, mayonnaise sandwiches and watching Ab Hutchings mow. No bible studies necessarily, no discipleship programming and no revival services just a welcoming swing on a visible and inviting front porch where good conversation takes place, relationships are forged and the Gospel is observed.   

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