The Main Thing

To keep the main thing the main thing, everything else must change.

Loving my kids looks different at every stage. Rumor has it they won’t crawl in my lap to read books when they’re teenagers (rumors are often false, right? please?), but their need to be close to me will still exist. How will I wrap my arms around them when they’re walking out the door with my car keys? I don’t know yet, but I’ll keep changing my methods until I figure it out. The main thing is loving them without condition. Everything else must change.

Reading books isn’t just something I do with my kids. Reading gives me a lens into a world much bigger than I will ever experience in person. I love to read! However, my husband refuses to add more and more boxes of heavy books to our limited storage space, books waiting to be moved with us when the time comes to change homes (because change is inevitable). And so, I have learned to read via my iPad, which means moving past my preference for the feel and weight of an epic novel, the texture of the pages, the smell of the dust from the bookshelf where the book was living between reads, and the literal experience of a book good enough to be dubbed a “page-turner.” I still buy some books in hardcover…change is hard.

To keep the main thing the main thing, everything else must change.

Nowhere is this perhaps truer today than in the Church. As Carey Nieuwhof puts it, we have to love the mission more than the model. The mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ has never changed, but to keep that mission at the forefront, everything else about how we live out our mission as the Church must change. And that’s hard.

On Sunday, I will head to the South Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church along with hundreds of other pastors and church members from across the state. In the weeks and months to come, thousands of others in our denomination will do the same, each to their own Annual Conference. I wonder how much will look the same as it has for years. I wonder how much will change. I wonder if we’re ready to engage the big questions like which pieces of our model are we hanging onto more desperately than our desire to see people changed by the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives. Or, what about the really big questions, like whether denominations have had their day in church history. What if denominations served a great purpose for bringing Christians together for larger mission in the world, but now their systems, bureaucracies and processes have grown burdensome and distracting from that very intent? Are we willing to scrap the model for the mission? Or are we willing to let the mission suffer for the sake of maintaining the model?

I’m a church planter. Or, I was a church planter. I’m not sure how long you can hang onto that title. The church I helped plant is now 5 1/2 years old. When we started, everything looked different, so it was easy to look down from our trendy, hipster-laden, direct trade coffee-drinking perch at those other places still drinking Folgers from styrofoam and think we obviously had the market cornered on keeping the main thing the main thing. We loved Jesus, and our skinny jeans were the proof. But five years in, there are already things we love about how we “do church,” and I wonder if we are being careful enough to continue loving Christ more than our model. What happens when our relevance becomes irrelevant? Will we cling to our sacred cows, or commit to a way of doing church that is designed for constant change?

To keep the main thing the main thing, everything else must change. I want to be part of doing the hard work, knowing that the hard work never ends. The hard work isn’t a phase, it’s the path of faithfulness, and Jesus warned that few would follow that narrow road. I don’t have all of the answers, but I want to commit to walking that narrow road together – it’s better that way!

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4 Comments on “The Main Thing

  1. For me, it may be simpler than “everything else MUST change”. The emphasis for me is that our passion must never change and that’s to introduce Jesus to all we contact and be His instruments on this planet. The parts that change are a result of us staying faithful and SURRENDERED TO HIM ONLY. We listen and obey! Thx Jenn!

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