It doesn’t have to be this way

I think one way of expressing the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus, is summed up in the phrase “It doesn’t have to be this way.” It’s the idea that what we currently experience isn’t the only option and things are not set in stone. There are other ways, often better ways. But we, for some reason or reasons, choose not to take on a different way.

Maybe we’ve gotten lazy. Or we are stubborn. Or maybe we’re tired. Or maybe we don’t have the capacity of envision how the situation could be different. Or maybe we don’t even know that it’s a possibility. Maybe we get the phrase, but think it only applies to certain things.

This of course relates with another idea that I embrace – What we say we believe is merely aspirational. What we do aligns with what we actually believe. And often what we actually believe is for settling for what exists. There’s a benefit to that – it’s a known. And humans have an addiction to having a sense of control and knowing. We’ll often give up a whole lot – even giving up a better situation – if it means we get to think we know and/or are in control.

But that’s not how growth happens. There are many church people who say they want growth for their church. But do they? I’m often curious by what is meant by growth. I’m guessing their definition and mine are not similar. What I have heard from people who express a desire for growth in their church is really about increasing the number of people to be part of the institution. The purpose – this will allow for more people to do what is needed to maintain things the way they are – the way we know them to be. And we’ll have more money to do it too.

That’s a version of growth. To me, growth is different. I think Jesus had the idea of growth. John 12:24 records Jesus as saying, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

In other words, if you want growth, you have to be willing to let go of everything. You can’t be in control. If control and knowing are more important to you, then growth will never happen. We preach life, death, resurrection. It’s God’s idea of growth.

In order for there to be growth though, it requires that we embrace our lack of control. It requires that we let go. It requires that we are willing to change everything and adapt as needed. That doesn’t mean everything will change. Growth requires a different mindset and attitude.

And growth isn’t just an affirmation that we want growth. There is follow-up. And while faith without works is dead, growth without action is also dead. If we are serious about growth, then everything we do aligns itself to that. It might mean a whole host of changes – our decision making, how the money we have and the resources we have are utilized, our structures, our systems, our policies, our staffing, etc.

This applies to challenges in society too. We could choose to eliminate homelessness for example. There are places that have made that decision and been successful. How did they do it? They changed laws, funding, systems, attitudes, etc. They made it a priority and put in place what was needed in order to achieve that.

We could choose to end mass shootings too. There are places that have made the decision and been successful. They likewise made necessary changes because they made this a priority.

But enough about other places. We have done this here in our country too. In the 1960’s President Kennedy said that by the end of the decade we would put a man on the moon. And we did. That didn’t just happen. We made it a priority and followed through with the appropriate changes in funding, policies, systems, and more.

What I don’t understand about the United States is how we have settled for mediocrity and a blah status quo that serves hardly anyone. Why? We can do better. We have before. Let’s do it again.

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