Posted tagged ‘momentum’

The ‘I Thought About’s!’

June 27, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           June 27, 2016

                               

I thought about being a high school physical education teacher, otherwise known as a gym teacher. That was when I was a junior in high school.

I thought about skydiving once, and then came to my senses.

I thought about buying an old ice cream truck and strolling through neighborhoods with that bell-sounding music selling fudgesicles to delighted children.

I thought about growing my hair out and looking like a hippie from the sixties just stepping out of a time machine.

I’ve thought about a lot of things, and I think about a lot of things. Some wise coach once told me that “Thinking about it and doing it are two different things.” It was a slap of reality as I procrastinated on some important decision. We all have our list of “I thought about’s.” It’s the jump into the unknown.

I thought about studying for a master’s degree in Athletic Administration.

I thought about planting cucumbers.

I thought about running a marathon this September. The last marathon I ran was the Chicago Marathon in 1978, or, in other words, when Moby Dick when a minnow!

I thought about hiking the Grand Canyon.

Our thoughts make it on to our bucket list of things we’d like to do before we lay down for our eternal rest. Some “think about’s” come to us for one insane, irrational moment and then pass on like a puff of flatulence that we leave behind.

Some folk share their “thought about’s” openly and endlessly. From my experience, people who share their “think about’s” frequently are people who seldom do anything. Perhaps they want the listener to be impressed or encouraging. Encouragement, however, has run its course and the thoughts still keep coming. The listener gets tired of encouraging “think about’s” with no substance.

There are some “think about’s” that should be tossed as quickly as whole hominy on a dinner plate. Years ago I mentioned to Carol that we should think about having a fourth child. She gave me the look that spoke volumes using no words. I didn’t think about it much after that…at least while she was in the room.

Some people have a habit of thinking one bad idea after another and, unfortunately, proceeding with one bad idea after another. Like someone in extreme debt who decides to go and buy a new car because there won’t be any payments for the first six months!

Other people need to be coached in a few of their “think about’s”. They need to be told that the idea or new life direction has merit, be asked some clarifying questions, and be aided in giving what they are thinking about some substance and legs.

I thought about retiring from pastoral ministry for several years. My friend, Tom Bayes, helped me process my thoughts, separating frustration with the job from feelings of conclusion for the occupation. After thirty-six years I was used up, and felt like that half-gallon of milk in the refrigerator with the expiration date from a week ago. In the same way Tom helped me clarify some of my “think about’s” for the future. He was a voice of experience, since he had retired from pastoral ministry a few years before me. He helped me figure out whether or not the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

Ultimately, each one of us needs to sort out our “thought about’s” and determine which ones will get tossed with the trash and which ones will make the cut. Like that coach who told me that thinking and doing are two separate things, sometimes we need to risk proceeding with the idea.

And sometimes we just need to admit to ourselves “That is stupid!” It doesn’t hurt as much when we can admit to ourselves the idiocy of what our brain concocted.

I still, however, think about buying that ice cream truck and playing the song “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice over and over again!

Momentum Church

October 20, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           October 20, 2014

                                        

Momentum is not a scriptural word…unless you go to The Message paraphrase, and then it appears once in Matthew 4:25. Other than that there is no momentum in the Bible.

And yet we talk about momentum quite a bit in the ministry of the church. Perhaps it’s an offshoot of our over-zealous sports world mindset. There’s hardly a game that can be viewed on TV without “The Big Mo” word used during it. Teams have the momentum, grab the momentum, make a play that changes the momentum, can sense the momentum shifting…and on and on.

And so we hold it up in the church as a key part of our success…or failure. There’s a couple of problems with momentum. One is we try to make it a spiritual concept. Or on the other hand, we translate a spiritual revival or awakening as a sign of building momentum. Increased attendance at worship is seen as meaning there is momentum. An increase in baptisms, or those wanting to become members of the church, or financial giving, or a building project…all of those are viewed as spiritual indications of momentum building. We crave it. We even idolize it.

But where as the Spirit is steady, momentum is fickle. It can come and go at a “moment’s” notice. The hardest Sunday of the year for a pastor is the Sunday after Easter. Easter is a spark of momentum. The Sunday after Easter things go back to the way they were. It’s almost like Jesus goes back into the tomb. So much for momentum!

There’s been a few years where the excited momentum of Easter was quickly followed by the depressed loss of life.

Which brings me to a final question that I don’t necessarily have an answer to, but I want to ask it! What is the difference between the moving of the Spirit and momentum? The early church experienced both. I love the Acts 2 and 4 passages where the believers met daily in the temple courts, praised and prayed, took care of one another. The difference between the moving of the Spirit and momentum is that transformed lives are the result of the Spirit’s moving. People who are changed are left in the trail of the Spirit’s wind. Ananias and Sapphira’s “special gift” mentioned in Acts 5 was an indication of being caught up in the momentum of the times. They weren’t moved by the Spirit, but rather by their greed and need for recognition.

So…any time there is a sense of momentum there will always be the anger of false acts of spiritual devotion. It’s the Christian version of “fifteen minutes of fame!”

How do we know what is of God and what is of our own creation? I don’t entirely know, but I am taken back by the story in the gospels where Jesus notices the gift of a poor widow that everyone else has discounted as meaningless.

Something to think about!

Camp Building

July 22, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     July 21, 2013

 

 

     Yesterday about a dozen of our kids, young people, and three adults came back from a week at church camp. In worship today there were several testimonies from the campers about their experience. There was a heightened level of energy and excitement in worship. The energy may have been fueled by the sharing of how camp had impacted lives, or it was the result of lives that had been impacted…or perhaps it was because the Spirit seemed close and moving in our midst…or all three.

This was the first year in the last five that I didn’t go to be camp pastor at the middle school camp, but I have always felt that the church- not just mine- doesn’t do enough in building upon the spiritual excitement of camp in the weeks that kids come back home. Perhaps that’s because the campers are away…an hour away. Sometimes we miss the momentum because it didn’t occur in the church building or the community. On the other side, kids come back from camp on spiritual highs, emotionally charged and wondering what is the next thing to take place. They encounter parents who have gone to work each day during the past week as usual, people who have gone about their routines and responsibilities.

Sometimes the first few days after camp are disappointing for those returning home. That’s why camp is such a great experience! It’s twenty-four hours a day of relationship-building, making new friends, campfires, and getting messy with shaving cream and Cheetos. The campers have been taken out of their usual surroundings and, in essence, they start building a new home with a new family of their peers under the watchful eye of their counselor. My guess is that almost all of the students who were at the middle school and high school camps last week have already been on Facebook with most of their camp friends, sharing pictures, “I miss you” comments, and counting down the number of days until camp next summer.

The church would do well to build on what many of the campers now see as the greatest week of their lives. The church would do well to challenge them at this point in their faith and commitment. If that happens it will help young people looking for a purpose to find purpose. If it doesn’t…if that building on camp doesn’t happen…they will continue to count down the days until next summer, and about 360 days will be lost in their growing season.

The Pain of Momentum

November 21, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                November 21, 2012

 

The knees are going!

Well, actually, the right knee! I’m reminded of it each morning when I come downstairs. Stiff, inflexible, uncomfortable, like a broken bike that you’ve always had, and can’t decide whether or not to junk it or restore it.

As I start coming down the stairs my momentum increases, but the pain in my knee doesn’t decrease. “Ouch…ouch…ouch” accompanies each step down.

The knees of a 58 year old former marathon runner when running shoes weren’t so cushy and former basketball player who still likes to drain the eighteen-footer are knees that announce their presence every morning when I wake up.

We probably don’t think about the challenge of getting from the top of the stairs to the bottom. I’m thinking of following my granddaughter’s example- laying down and sliding down on the stomach. I’m sure she would enjoy seeing me do that.

We talk a lot in churches these days about momentum; that when we get momentum in our ministry there is a snowball effect. There is truth in that statement. Churches become “Christianized iPhones.” People flock to the one, or ones, that are deemed “with it” and “hot.”

Blackberries used to be hot. Now they are in recovery mode.

Momentum is good if those moving are clear on where they are heading. It seems like there was a story in the Bible where a herd of pigs rushed over the side of a cliff. Sometimes momentum is following the crowd in a rush to someplace that we’re not sure of.

Back to my knees! Momentum is sometimes partnered with pain. Moving forward is not always a total satisfaction experience. Aching knees is the rider on that horse coming down the steps. Movement unsettles parts of the body.

But momentum is necessary, and to be strived for. I can’t get from upstairs to downstairs without some pain…even on my tummy! A church can’t move forward without experiencing some pain in the process.

It gets visualized and verbalized in various ways. The 70’s style of the sanctuary needs changing, and it will cause some pain in people who have become accustomed to it. After all, it takes at least three Baptists to change a light bulb- one to change it, and at least two others to stand there and comment on how nice the old one was.

Starting an AA group in the church will cause pain, because there who still equate alcoholism as something that happens out there in the world, and the church needs to have that separation from it.

I don’t have to say anything about how different types of music in church cause knees to throb.

A new ministry initiative to a population of immigrants who have settled in the area around the church will cause pain. It is pain experienced as a result of an obedient congregation. The momentum created in becoming a welcoming community will also have it’s sparks, like a sagging muffler hitting the pavement as the car moves down the street.

The question is how much pain is too much pain? Does the tail wag the dog? Does the knee guide the body? What is the tipping point between “Spirit-led momentum” and “holy hesitation?”

It’s interesting that as I progress through the day my knee pain lessens. In fact, mid-afternoon trips down staircases are often pain-free and quicker. No ouchs, no moans and groans. I’m a man on a motivated mission. Put a trip to YoYogurt for ice cream at the bottom of the steps and just see how I can pick up the pace!

Momentum for the church is sometimes like that.

But that’s the exception!