Straight Lines Aren’t Always Best

indexThe shortest distance between two places is a straight line. While the rule might work well in geometry, it doesn’t work as well in real life.

Imagine nature with only straight lines. Imagine artwork. Imagine your movements. Imagine conversations.

Imagine spiritual growth. We want it to be straight and narrow. We want to intentional, purposeful, but what if quick, focused arrival isn’t the goal? What if the process, including extra effort, detours, and obstacles, is? Sure, there’s frustration in meandering, but there’s also beauty, rests, and discoveries.

Anytime I’ve climbed a mountain of any significant size, I have not taken a direct route. The path usually meanders back and forth. As I work my way up the side of the mountain, I see the same view over and over as I look out across the valley, but my perspective changes. I notice new details. I appreciate where I’ve been. I appreciate that I’m a few steps closer to the top.

It’s the same with spiritual growth. I sometimes wonder why it seems I learn the same lessons over and over, but in reality, it’s not the exact same lesson each time. I have a little more experience, and I get a slightly different perspective.

I can’t stand in exactly the place I am without having taken each step leading me here.

The meandering line seems less-productive than a direct route, but in reality, it’s a lot more productive, beautiful, and productive than a direct route.

Set Your Boundaries Well

BoundariesSome people were even bringing infants to Him so He might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, invited them: “Let the little children come to Me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17)

Google “how to set good boundaries,” and you’ll be flooded with advice with how to manage your time, relationships, and schedule. Boundaries are important, right? I mean, without boundaries, we’ll be at everyone’s mercy. We’ll lose all control. We’ll end up exhausted, overwhelmed, and frustrated. We’ll become so inefficient that we’ll be ineffective. Right?

Well, it’s not quite as clear cut as that.

The problem with setting boundaries is that we often want to set them based on popular opinion or our own preferences. Boundaries aren’t ours to set. Only God knows where our boundaries should be set. Jesus welcomed children despite being busy. He chose one thing over another. Of course, He also chose to retreat at times. He spent time in prayer. He taught the disciples. He healed people. He provided nourishment for people. He chose well. As He served, He didn’t say, “I will never,” just “I won’t right now.” He walked where God wanted Him to walk, one step, one choice at a time. He let His yes be yes and His no be no.

But let your word “yes” be “yes,” and your “no” be “no.” Anything more than this is from the evil one.
(Matthew 5:37)

If you want to set your boundaries well, don’t set them yourself. God has already surveyed the land of your entire life. You’ll need His help and His timing every step of the way.

How’s Your Community?

“It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed.”

Walt Disney was referring to EPCOT, which stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Disney’s vision was to create an ever-evolving community which would continually use the latest ideas and technologies. It’s not the use of latest and greatest technologies that caught my attention as I watched a television special featuring Walt Disney’s life. It was the idea of a “community of tomorrow that will never be completed.”

I’m won’t argue with the fact that Walt Disney was a visionary genius with creativity and energy of monumental proportions. But the concept of an ever-evolving community isn’t new.

It’s biblical.

The church everywhere in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had a time of peace and became stronger. Respecting the Lord by the way they lived, and being encouraged by the Holy Spirit, the group of believers continued to grow. Acts 9:31

Continued to grow. How is the church doing at the “continued to grow” thing? I’m not talking about numbers. I’m not even talking about the specific church you attend (or don’t attend). We’ve skewed God’s meaning of the church – all believers and followers of Jesus – to our own meaning – a building and the people who are involved in the group within the building.

Oh, I know there’s been a huge push in recent years to break out of the four walls of the church building and reach people outside the walls, getting into the community more and even (gasp!) partnering with other churches. The church where I’m involved is soon beginning a churchwide study of The Hole in Our Gospel in hopes of stirring a passion within people to get outside their comfort zones, listen to how God wants to use their lives to impact others’, and then step out and do faith instead of just talking about it.

The truth is “the church” is made up of individuals. You. Me. Etc. And as a whole, we’re not doing a world-changing job at being “a community of tomorrow that will never be completed” in Jesus’ name.

(1) We can become complacent with the status quo. It doesn’t mean we’re not doing good things. We can be very effective in a program or ministry and celebrate with a longstanding tradition of repeating the same approach for years even after the effectiveness has died. I’m not suggesting change for change sake is the route to take. Some who have chosen the cutting-edge approach find that while they attract a lot of attention, they struggle with commitment. Drawing people in with entertainment and consumer-mentality frequently fosters increased consumer-mentality. Building relationships with people so they become invested and committed can be done, and there are churches who are doing it well, but if there’s not intention behind the process or program – whatever the process or program is – its effectiveness will be minimal and short-lived.

One size doesn’t fit all in ministry. It’s great to learn from others. God gifts us all, and his gifts are shared among his entire church, not just the one you attend. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you need to know what God’s calling your church to accomplish within his big picture and then continually assess – based on God’s standards – whether you’re being effective. You’re not going to complete the entirety of God’s will. That’s God’s job. Your job is to fulfill the purpose he’s planned for you.

(2) We can forget to give God all the credit. We’re involved in ministry in Jesus’ name, right? Has your church or ministry’s name been hoarding some of the credit? Do you personally take some of the credit? Make no excuses. It’s all about glorfying God. All credit-hoarding is going to do is slow down the growth of your relationship with him. God’s still going to get the glory. His creation, his community, his will = his glory.

I encourage you to stay (or get) involved in a community of believers in your area. No matter what your past hurts or negative experiences with the church is, it’s God’s will for you to do life with others. It’s messy, because people are messy (including you!), but God has no intention or desire of you living life in seclusion with him.

Let your challenge to impact and live in the “community of tomorrow that will never be completed” begin with you – not so that you can judge everyone else for how they’re falling short and not so you can judge yourself for falling short or excelling. But you need to evaluate how you’re doing because your passion and service will overflow onto others. People will believe what you say because they see what you do and who you are. 

Let God stir a passion within you to get out of your comfort zone. Listen to how God wants to use life to impact others’. Step out and do faith instead of just talking about it.

What will you put your whole heart into today for God?