Of brotherly love and silly things Christians say.

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I can guarantee that this is the first of many musings on my part brought on by a nice meal, some alone time, and good tunes.  A nice beverage may also have been involved.

The scene is this:  me standing at the kitchen sink with the sponge in my hand staring at the pile of dishes, my beautiful son asleep in his crib – likely with a foot or arm caught between the bars of the crib – and my one-in-a-gagillion–incredible-wife cozy in bed, the single recessed light shining on me like a bluesy spotlight with the sultry growl of Dave Matthew’s in my headphones.

Tonight I had dinner with some amazing people, my son got to play with his day-care-friend AND his church buddy, I got to spend some time with an old college friend and my priest, who is also my Father-co-worker-friend (since we work at the same church, share an office, and have so much of the same humor and vision of ministry), and my wife was able to connect with other incredible professional working moms.

Tomorrow I have a call scheduled with my mother at 9am, and my Tennessee friend at 10am (Pacific Standard Time; another post on the ridiculousness of Daylight Savings Time some other day…)  And at 10am I shall bid adieu to my mom because, frankly, I am excited to chat with my Tennessee friend.  I miss that guy.  And my mom will understand.

…back to the scene with the spot light and Dave Matthew’s… I was embarrassed.  Alone in my gym shorts and plain white Hanes t-shirt, doing the dishes, excited to talk to my friend for so many years, I was embarrassed.  Why?  I suddenly felt so Christian.  Because Christians say the silliest things!  We say things like  “I want to do life together” (this means we like to drink coffee and confess our sins in the afternoon), and “that was some great fellowship” (this means we like to drink coffee and confess our sins in the evening), and “I just want to love on you” (which means we like to drink coffee and you just confessed your sins to me so I’d like to give you a hug).  And this sounds so silly!

Is it because the masculine nature of “secular” has perverted the world of the silly Christian?  I think so.  I think what Christians say sounds silly because the rest of the world is uncomfortable with tenderness.  And those that aren’t Christians are afraid to embrace Jesus because he embodies the totality of sacrifice and tenderness.  Jesus, while pierced and bleeding proclaimed to those that did the piercing, “forgive them,”.  This sounds silly.  And when the Christian that is beaten to the brink of death in the Middle East says to his transgressors, “God loves you, and therefore I shall love you too”, this sounds just plain ridiculous.

So Dave Matthew’s growl persists, “And today, you know that’s good enough for me.  Breathing in and out’s a blessing can’t you see…”  And I thought, ‘what a silly Christian thing to say…’

And I was wrong.  It’s right to understand breath as blessing.  It’s wrong to tell Dave Matthew’s he’s silly and expect him to stop breathing.  It’s right to be excited about talking with my friend.  He was, and still is, an incredible influence in my life.  A lot of my Christian formation happened through his mentorship and friendship.  And tomorrow, while I’m speaking to my mother and the phone rings on the other line, I shall say with much tenderness, “see ya Mom, gotta go…”

Don’t underestimate the tenderness that we experience through Jesus.  And don’t undervalue it either.  Yes, it sounds silly to say things like. “lets do life together” (because literally that’s saying you want to exist in the same room together).  There’s something right to understanding the kingdom of God that necessitates a tender soul and tender disposition.

Just do it, again.

If you happen to work at a church you live in the reality of being in the people business.  Often this is immensely fulfilling.  Other times this is immensely frustrating.

I love working at a church because I get to be in the people business.  I love that my job is centralized around building relationships with the people in my church, inviting them into the life and love of Jesus, and equipping ministry teams to reach those that I, and the rest of the staff, cannot.

It’s a blessing to work with people exploring unique ministry opportunities in our church and community.  Sometimes these opportunities seem overwhelming; we realize there is so much good we could be doing and there are so many people we could be reaching, but we’re missing the mark here or there.

How could you not act?  How could you sit idly by?  So you act.  You do it.  You devise a solution, create a program, hire a person, fulfill the need, meet the opportunity.

And this point is crucial: in the coming days, weeks, or months, it’s quite possible that you realize that this might not have been the best solution.  You may have created an incorrect or poorly planned program.  You may have hired the wrong person.  You might have only partially fulfilled the need, and didn’t quite meet the opportunity.

You were *this close*!  And now in round two, having learned from the previous mistake, you devise a new solution, create a different program, fire the old person and hire a new one, fill in the needs you missed, and close the door on this opportunity.

This is the frustrating piece of being in the people business.  We love people and therefore want to bring them all into the life and love of Jesus.  We want to do all we can to bring them into our community, equip them with the tools to learn and grow, and send them out into their community to bring more.  We see a need or an opportunity and react to meet the need.

Our first question is typically, “How can we meet this need?”  I propose that our first reaction should always be, “Does meeting this need fulfill the vision and mission of organization?”  If you meet this need, does it advance the mission of the kingdom of God?  If the answer is yes, you should do all you can to meet this need the right way.

Too often we live and work with the idea that there’s just not enough time, so we rush the solution.  We hurry from problem A to B because along the way we’ve identified C, D, E, and F and feel it incumbent upon us to solve these problems.  Why is it that in the moment there’s never enough time to do it right., but then after the first solution has failed there always seems enough time to do it over?

Wherever we work, at every need or opportunity we discover, we must always ask, 1) Does meeting this need advance the mission and vision of the organization? and 2) How can we fully meet this need, the first time?

Sometimes the solution is not to act.  Sometimes the fulfillment of the opportunity is to pause, breathe, pray, and discern.  Opportunities do not always necessitate our action.  But alas, we’re in the people business.  It’s really difficult not to act.  So if you must act, just make sure you’re acting rightly.  Make sure your action advances the mission and vision of the organization, or you’ll likely need to revisit it shortly down the road.