Factors

Julian Beever street art - julianbeever.net

Things are definitely not always what they appear to be.

You’ve heard the maxim, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and “Things aren’t always what they seem”. Also, Jesus said, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.”

And don’t forget, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”

(Wait. Scratch that last one…)

I am often rash to judge. Are you? Maybe it’s part of my personality. I quickly assess situations and make judgments based on those assessments. I’m a very fast decision maker. This is obviously a good thing when I’m ordering a meal at a restaurant, or when I am leading a group of people (like our tribe of eight) in any organized activity. Quick judgment and decision making can be helpful.

But it’s not always helpful when we are quick to judge.

The other day I was walking out of a store, my mind on seven other things, and I was rather oblivious of my surroundings. I failed to hold the door for people behind me, and though no one was injured by the lack of awareness, I was dismayed by my inconsiderate action. (Or rather, inaction.)

I wondered if they were angry at my rude treatment. I can’t believe he just ignored us! He could have waited one more second! Probably not. They likely did not even notice. (Sadly, it’s not commonplace to show such courtesies to others these days.) But if they did think these things, they were not entirely correct. I was not only distracted by busyness… as I recall, there were some heavy things on my heart. Had anyone who quickly judged my actions as rude, thoughtless, uncaring been privy to the reason for my actions, they likely would have judged much differently.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? We can’t know everything. We simply can not.

There is SO much going on around you. Why did that driver just cut me off? Where is that payment that was promised? Why is that job not finished? Why did she say that!? Why is he looking at me like that? I can’t believe they didn’t call!

Often we quickly pronounce judgement upon people—especially those closest to us—without a fair trial; without any trial! We unconsciously become prosecutor, jury, and judge, with no defense attorney, nor any sort of case presented at all!

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” —Matthew 7:1-3

There are always factors. Sometimes we are informed after the fact and that assuages previous (wrongly held) anger, based on incorrect judgment. Other times we don’t learn more. That doesn’t mean that we are right to judge.

We can not ever know all the factors behind another’s decisions or actions. Not any one of us.

Another slightly humorous example of things not always being what they appear occurred this past weekend, while I was cooling off after a run. I was reading from the book of Mark on our iPhone as I cooled down, and I was walking around the driveway as I did because I wanted to keep my muscles moving. I realized that it must look pretty silly, me being so engrossed in my phone that I can’t even look up to see where I am walking. Someone passing by, with only a few seconds to make a judgment, might perceive me much as I did those people in line at Starbucks, no?

Hmm. Perhaps I should heed my own, “don’t-rush-to-judgement” advice?

To me, the moral of this story is:

JUST DON’T JUDGE. STOP IT! DON’T DO IT!!!!!

Obviously, we need to use our brains to discern right and wrong, and even quickly, or under duress. This is a good thing, judgement.

But maybe the lesson is that we don’t need to judge what other people are doing, so long as it does not involve us at all. And if it does somehow touch upon our lives, maybe we can err on the side of grace seventy times seven times?

There is one judge, and he’s not me. I think I like it that way.

God help me to live peacefully by my own words here, and remember that there are always, always more factors than I can possibly perceive.

And may these things be true of us, as much as we are able:

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! —Romans 12:10-16


That photo at the top of this post is from julianbeever.net. Lots of really cool 3D street art there. Amazing!

Smart Phones, Not Smart?

Smart phones

Is it possible for smart phones to not be smart? Or is that up to us, and the way we employ them?

Recently I had the opportunity to visit a Starbucks for a “Venti Chai Latte, no water” (my typical order) on not just one occasion, but three consecutive days! The combination of our son attending a hockey camp, the convenience of a Starbucks location right on my main route home, and credit enough on a Starbucks card registered to me to cover three beverages—all created the perfect storm scenario. (To which I happily succumbed.)

Now, I realize that there is a certain ‘culture’ that surrounds Starbucks. Be it a Seattle-esque culture, or some other subset of American life (though it’s maybe so prevalent that it is no longer deserving of the ‘sub-‘ prefix?) one is generally not surprised by the clientele encountered upon entering any of these establishments. I was not aware, however, that part of this culture includes the necessity of owning—and holding/using—a so-called ‘smart phone’.

Upon entering this particular Starbucks, located in a retail-heavy area near several colleges and universities, I was struck by the fact that every person in a line comprised of about a dozen people was holding, and actively using one of these ‘smart phones’.

Every one!

There were several iPhones, along with a few other varieties. Apple’s device was the predominant choice. Every single patron was flicking their fingers along the tiny screens, transfixed, focused upon and interacting with touch sensors and light diodes—and mostly not interacting with the others around them, though there was one “regular” with whom the staff jovially conversed.

In the interest of full disclosure, I also walked into the shop, iPhone in hand, at the ready.1 🙂

Upon realizing the fullness of this cultural reality, however, I did return my phone to its designated pants pocket.

Slightly taken aback, I wondered how we’d gotten here. How have we allowed technology to so consume us? Every moment that we are not actively doing something else, we are engaging our technology. There are certainly many ways in which our technology does connect us to people, or allow us to be productive in our work or hobbies, but it almost feels as though we’re to the point where many of us are not ‘OK’ without it.

Doesn’t it?

Maybe it’s just the ‘Starbucks crowd’. But I don’t think so.

I saw a video not long ago that presents this disconnection from reality that our ‘smart’ phones have allowed us to … enjoy? It is very short, maybe even poignant.

I Forgot My Phone

I’m not saying smart phones will be the end of us, but doesn’t the video above portray—a bit too accurately, too vividly—what we are becoming?

Perhaps we need to put the ‘smart’ back in our smart phones, and relegate them to their times and purposes. (And disconnect from them all the rest of the time.)

That sounds smart to me.

  1. There is an app on the phone for Starbucks that allows you to not only view a balance on a Starbucks card, but you can actually pay using the phone. With one or two taps, the screen displays a barcode that can be scanned at the store, completing your purchase! Fun. Practical. And many of the folks there were prepping their phones for this purpose.

Focus [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookFridays in August will be featuring a selected chapter from the book I published on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”. If you’d like to read the rest, click the book cover to the left to purchase your copy from Amazon.com! (And, thank you!) Or, see the footer of this post for how to obtain a FREE copy.


Today is the final chapter of this month of “Church Book Excerpts” from the book you see above. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to have a copy of the book. Click through the links above (and also, more information in the article’s footer) to find out how to get your copy.

This chapter is a bit longer, but worth thinking through. Sometimes it’s good to take a look at your focus, and, as necessary, refocus your lens on what you’re truly hoping to capture.

Focus

w
e are off this weekend—not singing anywhere—and even have a break from the kids, while they are with Grandma. So, sometimes when a free weekend presents itself, we will enjoy the quietness and solitude of home when we would otherwise be “working” on a weekend, leading worship in various locations. Today, though we both really wanted to join our friends at Cross Creek Church in Palmyra. When we heard songs that they often do playing on our iPod, we thought of them. We thought of how long it has been since we have seen many of them, since outside of Cross Creek, our lives do not connect. We just had a longing to be there.

So, thanks to a last minute phone call with a friend this morning where we were reminded of the new meeting times, we made it! And it was great to see everyone! It had been a long time, but we got a sentence or two in with most of the folks we know. At least a handshake and a genuine, “Hello.” It was wonderful.

As I was preparing for that this morning, looking forward to seeing everyone, I remembered a brief conversation with a pastor friend of ours. We were talking about how I personally get the most out of any times where I get to connect with friends, other believers who are there for the morning meeting. We catch up on life, what God has been or is doing in their life. How the family is doing, what’s new… all of that sort of stuff. A real connection that seems hard in between the scheduled goings on, and is impossible as I sit quietly on my duff placing my attention on the happenings in the front of the room.

When I mentioned that was what meant the most to me, he quipped with a sarcastic smile, “Why don’t you just go join the moose lodge?!” He was not telling me I should leave, just revealing the focus that he places on our large group gatherings. They are the time we come to learn, to “worship”, and to focus on God—not each other. It’s a vital piece that we do it together, as the family of God, but it’s not the focus.

That is where I beg to differ. I think that “worship” is not a time or a place (as Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4) but something we do with every breath. (A popular song uses just those words, “With ev’ry breath I’m praising you…”) So my main reason for going to a large group gathering of believers then is not to worship, since that is something I do every day, all the time, anywhere.

But what about the teaching? Surely that is a reason to attend such a gathering? Absolutely! While I do not deny that so much can be learned from the great teachers who can present clear and understandable truths about the Kingdom from their study and their experience and walk with God, that still is not my main focus for attending such a meeting. Again, I submit that throughout the remainder of each week, my mind and heart are filled with great thinkers’ thoughts on the Kingdom be they in books, web pages, MP3s, radio programs… what have you. There is such a wealth of great teaching available to anyone and everyone today that the Sunday morning gathering is certainly not my primary source of such teaching. And, aside from all of the “expert” teaching we receive from the so-called “professionals”, I enjoy learning from my neighbors, the way they interact with my Father. I enjoy listening to God’s voice through the experiences of friends who may not think themselves teachers, but by sharing their lives with me take on that very role in my life.

So again, at least for me, the reason for attending such a meeting is not to worship—that happens all week long, all the time—nor is it to “be fed” as we like to call it. It is not for the teaching, as again, there is no shortage of that in my life.

Is it perhaps the specialness of the place? No. I mentioned that already, too. Jesus said that worship is not a located thing. There is no place we can go to be closer to him as he now resides in us. In us! We are the temple of the Holy Spirit! That is too deep to go into here. Perhaps another time.

So that leaves me with… the other believers! The reason that I want to attend such a meeting has nothing to do with anything that is planned. Though that is always nice—and helpful—I could get that anywhere. The reason for me is to connect with other believers—especially ones I would not otherwise connect with. To share some piece of our current journey together. To feel and see the bigness of God’s family. So much larger than me. So much larger than my small group of friends. He is real and central in so many lives other than my own. And I love to know Him through them.

Unfortunately, if this is the main reason for Christians gathering in large groups, you’d never know it. The focus certainly seems to be on the events planned for that day. Even today, I was told when to stand, when to sit, and what would be happening next. Nothing out of the ordinary. That’s what we do. But, if the greatest thing we have as we gather is each other, it does not seem like that element is being emphasized or facilitated in any way, does it? Do we make that a priority in our gatherings?

Some churches do this well. While maintaining a priority on the up-front events, they carve out a decent amount of time for people-connecting. Cross Creek is one such group. There is a time in the middle to get some coffee and just say hello to everyone. Theirs lasts perhaps 5-6 minutes. There has been a church or two along our path who has taken as much as 15 minutes for such an event. That’s great! But again, usually it is much less than 10% of the time we are together. Usually much less. Often there is a bit more time in the parking lot, or the lobby after the scheduled portion of the meeting is over, but too frequently, everyone has other things they need to get on to.

Please do not think I fault only those responsible for planning the church gatherings. I do not presume that they have so much influence over an entire culture. Certainly a good portion of the blame for a misplaced focus rests on those who “attend” these meetings. Arriving late (due to rousing and preparing a family of small children at such a time of the day, no doubt…) and getting everyone to their respective rooms, entering the main room just in time to sing the last song with everyone. Then sitting through the remaining portion of the show, taking notes and attempting to hear God’s truth for their personal life packed into about 45 minutes of one hour. As it’s over, the rush to pick up the kids ensues. After collecting them all, their tiredness, and crankiness overtakes your desire to connect with other believers, and you rush out the door to get home, or to do whatever else might be planned before you can go home.

Life these days is certainly a rush. That’s why we try and pack so much into a “worship service”. We “only have an hour a week to reach them”. That is the mentality in some circles. At least from the leadership position. Perhaps there is an equally sad mentality from the seats. “You only have one hour to reach me, God… so say something meaningful… and quick!

So while we go expecting to give to God, and him to us, we miss the joy of community. We miss perhaps the greatest part of “the church”. Not the building, the time, the meeting, or the organization. The people whom God has called to himself. From out of the world, into His Kingdom. The Believers. The Saints. The Called Out Ones. His Church.

Acts 4:32

All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had.

Everything was about the oneness. Everything was about the togetherness. They loved being together. They shared everything. All the time. Acts 2 says they even went to the temple everyday to worship (as was their custom). They ate together, prayed together, shared meals together… even shared money. Life was about being together. And why not? The rest of the world hated them. The persecution was on a level that we can not comprehend in 21st century America. We have not, and perhaps will not experience such hardship. So to join together was an oasis in the desert. It was the living water of Jesus—his very body—together as one. How could they come together but once a week and then only to sit and listen to a presentation, with minimal participation, organized and performed by a select few? Where was the sharing of everything there?

No. Their focus was not on the schedule of a planned meeting. It was on each other. On their joys, on their hardships. On their shared journey with an amazing Father. That is where I find joy—even in as little time as is allotted for such—that is where I find joy when gathering with other believers.

Perhaps that is just me being the way God made me? Or, perhaps our focus is slightly shifted. What if we re-focused? What if our gatherings were not as much about the individual and God, but more about his children encouraging and exhorting each other? Wouldn’t that be as much (or more?) worship than listening to a carefully and wonderfully crafted hour of events?

Well, at least that’s how it looks through my lens.

htc-small
This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

What Motivates You?

Lacking motivation?

I currently feel very unmotivated. I am banging my head against so many metaphorical walls … and I’m not even making a dent. I’m juggling too many things, being pulled in too many directions, and not feeling any level of success in anything that I am setting out to do. Only failure, or what feels like failure.

What keeps you going? Why do you get out of bed in the mornings?

Or do you not?

I’m still moving. Pressing on. (Maybe running on the treadmill—or the hamster wheel—is a better analogy, but I am still moving.)

But I’m having to really stop and think about why. What is my motivation.

To be honest, partly it’s money. I need to earn money to buy the things our family needs. I need to pay off debts. I would love to make money to save for things we want, or want to do. That is certainly part of my daily motivation.

But that, in itself, is hollow, empty.

I love my family. I love to do things with and for them. That motivates me, but much of my day is spent doing things to earn money for our family, so I don’t get to spend as much time with my family as I’d like. (That’s certainly not my own private lament—I’d say most parents who work feel that lacking in their lives.) My love for them is certainly one of my motivations in life.

And definitely obligation, or a sense of duty will push me through when I’d just rather not. When I know my kids are counting on me, or my wife, or maybe even someone else, I will eke out the physical or emotional will power needed to accomplish whatever needs to be done.

Those are some of the things that can move me when I need moving. There are certainly a few more.

Personal comfort is a big one for me. I am VERY motivated to get those air conditioners cleaned up and locked in place when the first hot weather begins to roll in on us. I do not do well in heat and humidity! And… let me tell you, if there’s an offensive odor somewhere nearby, it doesn’t matter how tired I am, I will eliminate it!

Speaking of eliminating… what about when you really, really have to “go”, and there’s not a bathroom within 10 miles? When “nature calls” we can be pretty good at finding our motivation!

Jen knows a kind of personal comfort motivation, too. She doesn’t like pain; any physical discomfort will cause her to seek any way possible to remedy her situation. This includes hunger. She knows that the well-being of everyone around her depends on her not being hungry! Our physical appetites can certainly motivate us—food, drink, sex, even our pride, and desire for acceptance. These motivations can grow so strong that they become addictions.

Personal comfort is certainly a strong motivator.

Another one for me, somewhat related to personal comfort—in an oxymoronic, paradoxical kind of way—is healthiness. I have been walking most of this calendar year, and eating fresh, good food (and less of it) as many meals as I am able. It was something I really wanted to do for my body, and for my family (so I could be more “here”). There is some part that is “duty”-oriented to this motivation, but also, I do enjoy the quiet time alone, and I feel lighter, more alert—less heavy—and just much better, overall.

And of course, the law is another powerful motivation. Not sure if I’d wear seat belts, or restrain myself from using the cell phone while driving, or give the government-funded school system a detailed report of what we are teaching our kids unless I was compelled to by the laws and codes of our various governments.

But the apostle Paul said:

“For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us…”—2 Cor. 5:14 (AMP)

And also:

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”—Colossians 3:17

So then, love is our motivator. God’s love for us, and for everyone. And being a representative of Jesus—always, gratefully.

I think King Solomon, wisest man to ever live, asked these same questions, pondered these same thoughts. You may already be familiar with his conclusion, even if you don’t attribute it to him:

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” —Ecclesiastes 1:2

Really. Read Ecclesiastes when you’re feeling aimless, directionless, lacking motivation—it’ll pick ya right up!

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

(The entire book is this repeating theme of the meaninglessness of everything in life, good and bad. Truly a fascinating read!)

I have no answers. I still feel mostly unmotivated in life. It’s like much of my effort is not worth the effort—it will not have its desired effect, if I am even sure of what that is. I hope God will illuminate me, personally, in that regard. But perhaps he won’t. I know my ultimate motivation—reason for moving—is him. That’s it. Keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. Stay connected to him, the Vine.

That, I know.

But what motivates you? Where do you find reason for your efforts? Impetus for your actions? Why try when our world is so, SO messed up? What does it matter?

Everything is meaningless.

I’d so love to hear your response. Please comment below and let’s do encourage one another with the things that move each of us—great or small—to get out of bed, and carry out a day… and even to do things that move the planet.

What motivates you?

Thoughts on Motivation

Not feeling motivated?

I have been working on a post titled, “Motivation” for a few weeks now. It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while. What is it that motivates me? What motivates anyone, really? What causes people to get up out of their beds each day and do anything they do, let alone some of the great things that so many do each day they breathe. This world and seemingly all of its inhabitants constantly fight back against us at nearly every turn … why do we keep going?

It really poses some interesting questions, and I’ve enjoyed putting into words a lot of these thoughts already.

But then… I just can’t ever seem to find the motivation to finish it…

Let Them Go [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookFridays in August will be featuring a selected chapter from the book I published on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”. If you’d like to read the rest, click the book cover to the left to purchase your copy from Amazon.com! (And, thank you!) Or, see the footer of this post for how to obtain a FREE copy.


Following up on Monday’s post, Natural Consequences, this chapter seems to fit really well with many thoughts recently churning in my heart and mind. It can be so hard to allow freedom toward people we love, especially when it seems obvious that their exercise of that freedom will only lead to hurt. But the greatest love allows the greatest freedom. The Incredible Father in the Prodigal Son story is such a great example of this. I believe it’s truly the heart of our Father.

Let Them Go

while talking with a friend tonight, I think I realized anew a trait of humanity that does not really mirror our Father. On the surface it is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite. But I always wonder when our ways are very clearly not His, perhaps we should take a look at our “ways”?

We are obssessed with fixing stuff. When things go wrong in our lives, or the lives of our brothers and sisters, or others who are close to us, we want to do anything we can to help. And why not? Love your neighbor as yourself, right? Don’t we try and do everything we can to fix our lives when something goes wrong?

Perhaps there is the first mistake.

Life is so much about trust, and most often our first response to adversity is not to stop and listen to what God would have us do, but to roll up our sleeves and tackle the issue head on. Sometimes the blow is too devastating for an immediate response, so then we just reel back and lose any sense of forward direction. Again, we are not trusting our Father to be with us, and take us forward—to go with us there.

When someone we know is in trouble, even by their own choice, the response is quite similar. We want to take matters into our own hands and help them get back on the right track. We offer advice, help straighten out bad thinking, admonish them… and all with an urgency brought about by the discomfort we have with suffering.

I am not saying that I am immune to this. I know I do this very thing. It is hard to watch someone whom I love be beaten down by life, or worse yet, by their own persitently bad choices.

But God does. God allows us so much more room than any of us give to each other. The Father let his wild son have his full inheritance, knowing very well that his son would get hurt. This son, whom he later runs to meet, receives the largest welcome-home party imaginable. This after having made horribly pitiful choices, wasting half of his father’s wealth.

And he let him go.

That is crazy love. That is so crazy, I think I get it, and it still doesn’t make sense. It is so hard to let someone suffer. To not step in and fix stuff. But God does not always fix stuff. Sometimes the greater good, the greater freedom and joy can come from the lower depths of our bad choices.

The ultimate freedom was in the son returning to his father after he had finally hit the bottom. That can not have been easy for the Father. He loved his son. But the greatest good is not always in the immediate fix. Sometimes loving someone really means letting them fail.

So, does that mean we allow our brothers and sisters to wallow in sin? Until they completely destroy their lives? No. If a brother is in sin, restore him gently. We ought to encourage each other to live in the light, since we are new creations—the old has gone the new has come. But once we encourage, once we admonish, once we have lovingly confronted someone in a behavior or mindset that will hurt them or others, we must allow them to choose. We can not make their choices for them, even if we try. God does not miss anyone’s poor choices. He knows all things. Nor does he want for anyone to suffer eternal condemnation due to poor choices. Even still, he does not always step in and fix stuff.

The greatest love allows the greatest freedom. True freedom produces the greatest love.

As hard as it may be, sometimes we just have to let them go.

htc-small
This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

The Masses [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookI’ve decided to continue this series of excerpts from the book I published on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”. The rest of the Fridays in August will feature one selected chapter from the book! If you’d like to read the rest, click the book cover to the left to purchase your copy from Amazon.com! (And, thank you!)


The Masses

Last night we were leading worship at a local church and had a great time! The band were all good friends of ours, and good musicians. The songs were fun. The mood was pretty light. The room was full of people we love. It was great!

After our song set, we went out around back to sneak in and listen to the message, stopping in the lobby for dinner along the way, of course. That is always a hit-or-miss kind of thing, so we did get delayed a bit as we conversed with the various folks in the lobby over food and a leisurely stroll back to the main meeting room.

Once we finally made it, we caught up with the speaker in the middle of his message, and as always, it was great! Packed full of truth from scriptures, and good insights into those. A major theme of the portion we were able to hear was that God is so for us. The infinite God of the universe is not only for us, but he is with us. The fact that such a being would think of us at all, let alone favorably, is a life-changing truth. A truth that God has taught me over the past several years, and that I try to share with every opportunity I have.

What struck me about all of this is that in the middle of a setting that burdens my heart greatly (the polished presentation of all these things)… in the middle of that, there was deep, life-changing truth. There always is. Though I am often saddened with how much effort we put into the actual presentation of the knowledge of God, at its core, there is life-giving hope. We are offered an invitation to drink deeply of the daily life with our Creator, who no longer calls us servants, but calls us friends.

So what I realized again last night was that we just have this thing with efficiency. We figure, this stuff is so good, we want to reach as many as possible. And so, with all our might, we plan and organize, and schedule and rehearse, and build and build and build these elaborate structures (both edifices and programs) to attract as many as possible. We encourage all who attend to invite more people. We plan various outreach events to draw even more people. We tailor the events (including worship services) to be “accessible” to everyone, especially those who might just be “kicking the tires, checking under the hood” of this whole “church” thing. We work so hard to reach the masses, so as to tell as many people as possible in as little time as possible.

It’s not all geared toward the first moment of hearing and understanding the truth. The structures go deeper than that. The goal is to get people connected on a regular basis. To disseminate truth through the vehicle of large group gatherings. Giving the most people the best chance to hear what God is saying to them.

It all seems to make sense. Even as I type it, I think, “Yeah. What’s wrong with that?” But last night, I heard a line, or had a thought, or something that reminded me that Jesus did not try hard to build a structure from within which he could reach the most people. He did not primarily hold public gatherings where he could speak to the most people at once. Jesus’ plan seemed to revolve around close friendships. Make disciples he told us. I have been told that a disciple is one who learns whatever they are learning, and then in turn they “learn” that to someone else.

Where I think we have missed a nugget of greatness that God intended for us is in this sharing of Kingdom things with our closest friends. This ownership of the truth by each member of God’s kingdom. It is the life-changing truth that we have experienced and that we know. Not by passing along a sermon tape (or CD, or even MP3 as the case may be), or even by bringing someone to a large group gathering. Just by sharing life over a cup of coffee. Over a lunch meeting. At the park while your kids play. On an afternoon walk. In the comfort of your homes. Out at a bowling alley. At the local McDonald’s. Not only do we miss the joy of those situations when we pour all of our effort into the structures for the masses, I think we even limit our effectiveness? I don’t like to use that word, but perhaps it’s true? Might God be able to work more mightily through three friends who care about each other, who in turn each have three other friends, who each have three other friends, who each have three other friends… on down the line till each person has a vital connection with someone vitally connected to the Life Giver?

Perhaps.

I wish that we would not focus on the end result so much. On the apparent successes of mass production. While good does come of it, I think we are missing the most important piece of being friends with God—sharing that friendship with his other friends. Directly. Not like watching a movie together, where we sit in the same row next to each other, as we learn about God. But directly sharing our lives, the daily learnings from God, the struggles, the successes, the hum drum and the magnificent.

That is the goal of our structures, but it seems to be missing as so much of our life and energy is poured into feeding the structure. Making it bigger and better, so as to reach more people.

Maybe we could be better spent?

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This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.