Skip to main content

c+o+n+n+e+c+t

I am currently reading The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. It puts into words so many things I have been thinking about in the past year or two. That church is so much more than a weekly meeting or two. That the lack of enthusiasm people have for church and religion has very little to do with the life-changing adventure of following Jesus. That every aspect of life can be relational (connecting with God and with others) if I look for it. That Church was never meant to "happen" behind closed doors. That helping others (not just watching out for my own interests) is much easier and natural than I thought, yet much more challenging than is comfortable.

This summer, I have been trying to get better at connecting with people outside of my immediate circle of friends (read "comfort zone"). Once a week or so, I make a point of calling someone up that I would not normally hang out with and inviting them to go for a drink. They might be people I have not seen for awhile. They might be people I don't really know, but have seen around. They might be people I keep thinking about for some reason. They might be people that have approached me in the past, and I never gave them much time. They might be a random person that I strike up a conversation with.

Without fail, all of these encounters have been interesting, fun, and as far as I can tell, meaningful and encouraging for both of us. Sometimes they start a bit awkwardly, but as soon as I let my guard down, so do they. Let's face it. Everyone can use a friend, a listening buddy, and someone to let them know that they are valuable enough to have an hour or two devoted to them.

And last week, I found someone who has lived with these ideas much longer than I have, and he says it much more clearly than I could. Here's Hugh:

There are 4 things that Mr. Halter suggests should be part of a life that seeks to connect well (with God and others):

1. Leaving: get out there. Go where people are. Invite people not only to participate in your life, but express interest in theirs. A few examples are: 1) let people live with you for extended periods of time. 2) have dinner with people (not just the usual friends). 3) do what you love with others (invite someone you are just getting to know along on a bike ride). 4) go out of your way to build relationships (walk over and say hi, don't just hurry along on the way to your next appointment, and hey, maybe leave early to allow time for these connections). 5) look for chances to talk (neighbours and mailmen and bank tellers and waitresses need friends, too). Oh and by the way...selfishness is the enemy of "leaving."

2. Listening: let people tell their story. Make space for them in your life and day. Don't feel the need to offer advice or relate it back to yourself. Watch and listen and let people reveal themselves to you. It is a gift most people only give to the patient, loving, and trustworthy. You know what? Arrogance is the enemy of "listening."

3. Living Among: If we are incarnational people (that means letting Jesus live in us), we will develop the habit of living among. We participate in the natural activities of the culture around us with whimsical holiness. We are at home with people of all walks of life and don't try to separate ourselves from certain types of folks. Jesus really knew how to do this. The religious of the day felt uncomfortable around him, but the sick and needy and people with issues didn't. He came to their homes, he ate with them, and he hung out in public places with them. You guessed it: fear is the enemy of "living among."

4. Loving without strings: people can tell if we are just trying to get them to sign up for something or take them on as an improvement project. I need to become comfortable with receiving unconditional love (from God), and then get good at giving it out. Love is the most attractive force in the world. And wouldn't you know it: having expectations is the enemy of loving.

One nice quote from Hugh to end it all off: I've concluded that, almost without exception, relationships are formed, important dialogue and conversation begin, and powerful moments of ministry occur during spontaneous, unplanned moments while we are sharing our lives together. In many cases, these events occurred when I didn't want to be some place or have someone with me. Over time, I have learned that "interruptions" are the very place where I look for God to work. It's almost as if God creates interruptions as his last attempt to get me out of my own life. - Hugh Halter

These 4 points and the ending quote shamelessly ripped (with paraphrasing by Matte) from the pages of The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008.

This is a photo from the Mardi Gras parade in Montreal thus summer. Who wants to be a knight in shining armour?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.

---------------------

When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…

comedic timing

One of my favourite jokes goes like this:
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Interrupting cow
Interrupting cow w---
Moooooooo!!

Timing is important in both drama and comedy. A well-paced story draws the audience in and helps it invest in the characters, while a tale too hastily told or too long drawn out will fail to engage anyone. Surprise - something which interrupts the expected - is a creative use of timing and integral to any good story. If someone is reading a novel and everything unfolds in a predictable manner, they will probably wonder why they bothered reading the book. And so it is in life. Having life be predictable all of the time is not as calming as it sounds. We love surprises, especially good surprises like birthday parties, gifts, marriage proposals, and finding something that we thought was lost. Surprises are an important part of humour. A good joke is funny because it goes to a place you didn't expect it to go. Similarly, comedic timing allows something unexpected …

singing lessons

When I was a young child, a visiting preacher came to our country church. He brought his two daughters with him, and before he gave his sermon, they sang beautiful duets about Jesus. They had lovely voices which blended well. The preacher, meaning to impress on us their God-given musical talent, mentioned that the girls had never had any singing lessons. The congregation nodded and ooohhed in appreciation. I was puzzled. I didn't understand how not learning was a point of grace or even pride. After all, people who have natural abilities in sports, math, writing, art, or science find it extremely helpful to study under teachers who can aid them in their development and introduce them to things outside their own experience. Being self-taught (though sometimes the only option available to those with limited resources) is not a cause for pride or celebration. Why? Because that's just not how the communal, relational Creator set things up.

I have been singing since I was a child. …