cultivate (kuhl - tuh - veyt)
v. 1) develop 2) nurture

graft (grahft)
n. 1) transplant 2) bud 3) union

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Smelling Salts For The Church

Let me begin by saying I hate math. I struggled my way through high school algebra only to discover I had to take algebra again in college. What the heck is that all about?!? In September of 1998 (am I really that old?), I squared my shoulders and walked with a facade of confidence spread thinly over myself. After I crammed myself into a postage stamp desk, the middle-aged Algebra 101 professor began waxing on eloquently about our inner child and inner math student and how we needed to corral them with our inner teacher.

*blink, blink* 

I never did find my inner teacher, so I dropped out. 

Fast forward a year and algebra was still blank on my transcript. Fine. I'll try again. I stood in the doorway for a full three seconds in disbelief. There, greeting the students, was good ol' Professor Inner Child.

I turned on my heels and beat a hasty retreat. 

I'm still not sure what his spiel was all about. I'm not sure if he really believed what he was saying, or if he was just trying to hook us with a quasi-spiritual connection to math (of which none exist-don't argue this point). Was he appealing to our emotions? Was he just trying to be relevant to college-aged kids? I have absolutely no clue. What I do know is he should have stuck to what he knows: Mathematics.

Church, we need to stick to what we know: The gospel. 

We don't need to hook people with quasi-spiritual programs. Yoga for Jesus every Tuesday at 6 pm.*  We don't need to prey on emotions by playing tear-jerker videos every week depicting starving orphans and lonely prisoners. Pyrotechnics and cafes. Disco balls, fresh paint, upgraded lapel mics. We're no longer sticking to what we know. We're finding ourselves sticking to welcome packets and attendance sheets. None of these things are bad, but the gospel shouldn't be playing second fiddle to it.

Here's one easy step to cultivating a dying church: Try to be relevant. As fast as we can "Wow" them in the front door, they're sneaking out the back during "greeting time". Obviously our efforts at relevancy have flopped. If it weren't so, church attendance would be booming right now. Silent church bells and dilapidated steeples are the smelling salts for the church. Let's awaken, stop trying so hard to be relevant and begin being an authentic, gospel-led people. We needn't worry about relevancy. The gospel is always relevant. We don't need to dress it up in ladies' tea luncheons, western round-ups and seizure-inducing youth services. We've dumped enough money into state-of-the-art this-and-that. What this world needs is people to invest in them, who genuinely care about them. They need people who remember their biopsy results were today or that their son is with his dad this weekend. Inviting them to more programs will not be nearly as effective as inviting them into our home and lives.

Third time was a charm. A new professor made all the difference. He stuck to what he knows and I have the grade to prove it.***

Let's stick to what we know and relax our grip on the rest.

Prying My Fingers Loose,

*Whew! I no longer need to feel conflicted about whether I'm selling my soul to the Devil every time I do the eagle pose.**
**Just kidding. I've never so much as attempted yoga, but it sounds like exercise
***Unfortunately when I transferred it counted as an elective. You've got to be kidding me.


  1. Show me a discipline more spiritual than mathematics. All its precepts and theorems exist only in the purely abstract realm of thought. You won't find the Pythagorean theorem on a nature trail, and you will search in vain for examples of real numbers in the real world.

    1. I knew you couldn't resist the argument!

  2. Oh my - I remember when you had that (non)teacher!

    Ah, but according the "The History and Philosophy of Mathematics" (an old college text book of mine) there is a numerical progression in nature which occurs in palm trees, pineapples, and other plants with similar growth patterns. Of course I can't find the book right now, so I can't tell you exactly what it is.

    Neither can I quickly locate Grandmother's math book, which has the best true descriptive math related poem I have ever read.

    But I can tell you that the only thing dryer than my comments above, are the uncaring program oriented people who want a notch on their Bible or six people in a pew on "bring a friend Sunday". You are so absolutely right! After ignoring a line of program people, it was our neighbor who, because she cared about all of us, finally reached my heart.

    1. Praise God for neighbors who lived out their faith in love!

  3. Math shmath....who needs it? (says the Mama who's kids will soon be teaching her math and not vice versa)
    And, YES! I fully agree. This is part of what has led us on our current journey, and honestly I needed this reminder. We aren't the only ones thinkin these crazy thoughts! Now Lord, please make me bold enough to live it out!

    1. You are definitely NOT the only ones!!


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