Busy? Check Yes or No.

To say that we live in the busiest society that’s ever walked the face of the earth, seems like a bit of an understatement. I don’t know about you, but a typical week for me is filled with 70 hours of work, several group meetings, picking my oldest daughter up from preschool and taking her to gymnastics, trying to maintain a healthy exercise routine, as well as, try to be the best father, husband, son, brother, pastor, and friend I can be.

According to a recent study, the average full time working American spends 52.6% of the day working, 7.6% maintaining a household, 5.8% negotiating goods and services, 3.4% caring for members of your household, 5.5% socializing, 1.9% in communal or religious activities, 29.3% watching TV or surfing the internet, 8.2% relaxing, 2.6% on fitness, and 12.2% of the day eating. (Read more on this study here)

While it’s obvious that there is a little bit of time to work with under that 29.3% TV watching and internet browsing, most of our days are slammed full; roughly 130% to be exact. Obviously, this study is keeping in mind the many ways we multitask.

Do you concur? (check yes or no)

The Church’s Frustration

When I begin to think about how I can impact the people and world around me in a real and authentic way, my first thought is honestly, “Well, where am I going to fit that in on the schedule?” The crazy thing is that I’m a pastor and making an impact on people’s every day lives is my priority.

For most churches and ministers, our first inclination to impact other people’s lives is to create a new program or event. So the church creates this hour-long activity once a week or this three-hour long initiative that meets once a month.  Too often, it is the case that people don’t show up, and those who do get burnt out quickly.

In the past, the church would have followed this thought process…People in the community love to exercise. The church should build a gym and invite people to come to it. So the church would build a new gym when there are already five gyms in town. If not a gym, then a coffee shop, or book store, or kids sports program, or an alternative worship service. 

But if we pause and really think about it, that’s just adding another thing to an already full schedule. It doesn’t make any sense.

Don’t get me wrong: this worked for a time. Except life adapts, and people find new ventures to fill their time. As a result, the church often got frustrated and demanded that people change their schedules to fit into what “God” wanted them to do. But as much as the church can shout and wave its hands, the community around it is going to keep moving.

What’s ironic is that I knew this going into a new church start five years ago, yet some how we still found a way to create opportunity after opportunity. Please don’t misunderstand me: much of what we do is absolutely vital to the development of Jesus’ disciples. Things like, serving the needs around us through ministry, blessing God through worship, growing in God through discipleship, and connecting deeper with others through community, matter.

I am not at all suggesting that the church get rid of discipleship methods, corporate worship, and the like. We are focusing on how we meet people where they are, minister to others, and live out the full meaning of the way of the Jesus.

So, what? Does the church just give up? Do the people of God stop trying to make an impact on the world? How does the church be the church in the busiest society in history?

A Shift

I’m beginning to realize that it is not in the creation of something new that the people of God can be the loving presence of Jesus in the world around us.  Instead, I believe it is the alteration of how we look at the time given to us and the activities we are already involved in.

This is a paradigm shift from adding to repurposing with what you already have and do. Where the church has created and invited people to in the past, this shift brings the church to a place where they are intentional about going where people already are.

Take for example the 29.3% of the day that people watch TV or surf the internet. What if the people of God took this very thing but retooled it to gather with others?  So instead of just watching a TV show alone, what if you watched with other people who enjoyed the same show? This makes sense, doesn’t it?

Why can’t the church be the church while living life… ordinary, day-to-day life? Why can’t I intentionally be the radical presence of God’s love while I exercise at the local gym, gather with friends at the local pub, or disgrace the game of basketball with my inconsistent layup? Could it be that real life investment is really what connects us to others relationally and spiritually? Why can’t I do these things well and not turn it into a program?

So consider what you enjoy doing, whether it be binge watching Downton Abbey, cooking a hearty meal with others, engaging in deep philosophical conversations, a good outdoor adventure, breaking out your inner Vincent van Gogh, or playing a super competitive game of Cards Against Humanity. Now consider how you can repurpose these things to connect deeply with others in community? What would it take for you to invite others into what you enjoy doing or finding ways to connect with others in the things they enjoy doing?

This feels real. I’m not trying to bait and switch someone. This isn’t a gimmick. I’m purely loving people and engaging in life with others. This seemed to work for the one who first modeled it for us…Check the Gospel of Matthew through John for a quick reference to the relational ministry of Jesus.

Engaging people where they are and for who they are builds a strong mutual bond of respect, trust, and compassion.  All of these things are what authentic and genuine community are made of. Your in this relational engagement because you love this person, not because they are the object or idol of your evangelistic pursuits.

Of course, this shift will have its costs. The gradual death of church programs might see the final nail driven into the coffin.  The church will have to change its mindset around how we can get people to come to us.  We will have to think deeply, thoughtfully, and holistically about the people we encounter each day and decide if we are willing to live beyond ourselves for the Kingdom of God. And then there is the difficult of actually engaging in life with others, such things as conflict and disagreements.

Yet somehow the costs do not outweigh the outcome of meeting people where they are in real and authentic ways.

So are you willing to make life simpler? Are you ready to stop adding to your busyness?

Are you ready to discover that the work of the Kingdom is life giving and real?