In the ancient world, a householder was something akin to a modern-day rancher. They owned massive amounts of land, herds, and crops. They employed dozens of families, with jobs and responsibilities for every age of both men and women. Householders ran their holdings like a small country, and took their own responsibility seriously for the protection and wellbeing of their people.

Consider the example of Downton Abbey. Lord Grantham, played by Hugh Bonneville, is a British Earl whose primary occupation is running his family estate. He has no real job. He simply makes decisions about the wealth he has inherited or acquired through marriage. And yet, his job is clearly to take care of the estate and all who live on it. There are sharecroppers, workers, and serving staff that he considers family. He loans them money. He performs their weddings and funerals. He visits them. He accepts advice from them on how best to run the estate and what plans there might be or its future. When Lord Grantham does make plans for the future—such as parceling off portions of the land in order to generate some much-needed revenue—he does so with a big picture perspective on how his decisions will impact future generations. He wants Downton to remain wondrous, majestic, and noble forever, and so all his choices are weighted in light of a future that has no foreseeable end.

This is how we must imagine God making decisions for us, about us, and concerning our administration of his Creation. The church of the future will recognize God as householder and know this entails not only ecology, but also the work of restoration in cities, economies, and cultures.

Adapted from Then. Now. Next.: A Biblical vision of the church, the kingdom, and the future.