Thursday, August 14, 2008

the prodigal returns... sort of

Well, I wish I had a good excuse for neglecting this blog since Good Friday... but I don't. Lately we've been busy closing on a house and preparing to move, but that doesn't explain 5 months!

I had started this blog with reflections on worship-related subjects, and had moved on to processing thoughts from a conference on conversational evangelism. I have a lot of topics remaining from several previous conferences that I hope to explore here over the next several months, and will add to that new things picked up at the recent Whitworth Institute of Ministry (July 2008, Spokane, WA).

To get myself started today... no matter how much I end up rambling... I want to reflect on a topic related to the context in which I'm writing right now. I've been eating lunch and hanging out for a bit at our local Caribou Coffee. My office at the church is a humid, basement fishbowl right off our Fellowship Hall, so I periodically escape over lunch just to get where I can see daylight.

But ever since hearing Dan Kimball speak at the CEC conference in Menlo Park last Spring (see below) I've tried to get out of my office to do some work from a coffee shop (I rotate between Starbucks, Caribou, or wherever else I can bring in my sack lunch) at least once a week.

Here's why... Kimball shared a personal revelation that convicted me about the incongruity of my work habits and my preaching content. Kimball realized that his ministry routine at his church kept him from having any meaningful contact with non-Christians, so he took steps to change his habits. As our "evangelism" guy, I'm charged with rallying our church members and spurring them on to lovingly engaging those around them with the Gospel in the midst of their daily lives. However, as someone whose entire weekly routine and network of daily contacts includes almost NO interaction with anyone outside of the context of the church, I have walled myself up into a lifestyle that means I have no opportunity to actually practice what I encourage others to do. I have almost no weekly contact with anyone who is not an active part of our church community. (I could maybe could my weekly Ultimate frisbee pick-up game by the lake in Milwaukee... but I've been out of town and missed it so much this Summer I bet those guys hardly remember who I am anymore... plus I'll be moving soon and will need to find a new pick up game... anyone know of one in Lake County, IL?)

Hence the conviction. Since Kimball's talk, I have felt the need to find regular times in my weekly routine that get me outside the church walls and into places where I can have at least the chance to interact with other people in the community.

So, how am I doing? Well, that's what I'm reflecting about today, sitting here at Caribou. I acheived part one of the goal, I got out of the building for lunch... but what I'm not feeling so good about is what I did once I got here (and quite frankly, what I've done every time I come into a place like this). I walked in, ordered coffee and bantered a bit with the friendly barista whom has served me several times before. But then I set myself up in a corner, pulled out my computer and my lunch, put my headphones in and instantly disappeared into my own world.

So the questions I'm asking myself now (which I won't try to answer today... gotta let 'em stew... with you and with me)... Does getting outside of the church walls do any good (for me or for others) if I'm not actually having any real conversations with any of the people with whom I come into contact? How can I strike up conversations or build relationships with strangers who, like me, come in, do their own thing, and get out? Are there better choices I can make with this plan, like going to the same coffee shop at the same time and day each week? Can my budget afford that many mochas?

Not that I was getting any comments before my unintended hiatus... but if you have any thoughts to contribute to this discussion, please, comment away.

Glad to be back.