Sunday, September 6, 2015

Chasing squirrels. . .

There is a dog who lives at my house and this dog has ADHD.  He pays attention to you until something moves.  If you are outside and a squirrel darts somewhere within the wider vision of this dog, he is gone -- running after a squirrel he will never catch.  It does not matter that he will not catch it, he is designed this way and his attention span is the size of a gnat.  He goes where his eyes lead him.  He can no more resist the impulse to run after whatever he sees than he can forget when it is feeding time.  But that is another story.

It seems to me like more than a few of us Christians have the same attention deficit.  We spend our days chasing squirrels.  We pursue with all our energy whatever new things passes in front of us -- until it gets old or we tire of it or, more likely, until we squint the next squirrel in our peripheral vision.  And then we are off on a new old tangent.  We are impulsive and spontaneous -- too impulsive and too spontaneous for our own good.  We go where our eyes lead or where the whispers we hear in the background tell us -- and end up in places we did not know without a clue why we are there.

Youth ministry tends to be like this.  We start and stop, try anything and everything new, and then we start it all over again.  How easy it is to think that the next new thing will solve all our problems!  We do the same thing with evangelism (or evangelization, if you prefer).  We look at what this church is doing or that and if it seems like what they are doing is working more quickly or easily, we do for it.  Until the next new thing come along.  How shocking that the early church grew without new paradigms or vision casting or mission statements or core values inventories!  We seem to have the attention span of a dog in a yard full of squirrels.

Most of the things the church does are slow, deliberate, plodding, and repetitive things.  We think the next new thing will save us from the harder work of sticking to the Word of God and living out our lives in the weekly rhythm of repentance/confession/forgiveness that is God at work in us and among us.  The Spirit works through the Word and the Word is the yesterday, today, and forever Word of the Lord.  Christ and Him crucified.  The Gospel and the Sacraments.

When somebody once asked me what I did as a pastor, I pointed to the work of a housewife.  I do the same things over and over and over again.  Like the wife and mom who does load after load of laundry, who cleans the same space over and over again, who picks up the same messes, who prepares the same food, who goes to the same grocery store, etc...  Repetitive tasks -- not because we do not know how to do anything else but because this is how the Kingdom of God comes and grows.  Word.  Sacrament.  Preaching.  Teaching.  Prayer.  Works of mercy.  We need no gnostic spontaneity to run after but to believe that God is going what He has promised to do if we are faithful in doing what He has given us to do.  It sounds so dull and boring but that is how it is. 

We do not need to chase every new squirrel that comes along.  We need to trust that the Lord will do what He has promised to do and to live within the cycle of daily repentance and faith, listening to the Word the Lord, and faithfully receiving His Holy Supper, and doing the good works of Him who has called us from darkness into His marvelous Light. . . and no matter how little appears to be happening, we need to have more confidence in the Word and promises of Christ and we need to do less squirrel chasing.  All it does is make my dog tired and it is sapping the energy of the church from the work that IS ours to do. . .

1 comment:

Kirk Skeptic said...

Dogs are predators, thus it is their nature to chase squirrels. Men are dead in trespases and sins, their carnal minds being enmity with God, thus it is their nature to use any excuse imaginable and then some to avoid doing God's will. Christians, being simul justus et peccator, will always struggle with the Old Man in attempting to stay on point. Unfortunately for me and mine, we have yet to encounter a youth ministry not stuck in "Adamic mode" and hence no more than glorified daycare. What does a proper youth ministry look like to you?