As Whitewater moves into the last quarter of the year (and into 2013), I see a unique dynamic expressing itself in our church family (which is not unusual in a church that has grown the way we have). I call it growth tension. Let me explain with an example from the advertising world passed on from Kent Carlson.
Tastes great, less filling.
One of the longest running and most successful advertising campaigns of all time was produced by the Miller Brewing Company celebrating their famous Miller Lite beer. The tag line was “tastes great, less filling.” They would feature all sorts of celebrities arguing over which claim was greater. Did Miller Lite taste great or was it less filling? (Those of us who are older may remember a similar advertising campaign about Certs. Was it a breath mint or a candy mint?) Now the obvious point behind this advertising campaign is that both claims can be wonderfully true. There is no need to argue over it.
The same kind of dynamic and discussion is happening frequently with senior leaders around Whitewater (not about beer, but about the body!). We are learning to live with certain tensions.
Do we exist to win the lost or disciple the saved? Do we cater to the preferences of new people or veteran members? Do we keep things routine and the same or introduce creative change? Do we want quality or quantity? Do we spend money on buildings or the poor? Should we be outward focused or inward focused? Do we design programs to meet the needs of young adults or older adults? Should we sit and meditate in prayer or should we go and actively engage in service? Do we want a ‘big’ church with lots of programs or a ‘small’ church with lots of close relationships? Or do we want a big church with a small church feel? (Good luck making that happen long term!) Behold the tension of growth and competing values.
Although we may like living in a tidy world where everything is either black or white, right or wrong, democrat or republican, (that is REALLY true after watching last night’s presidential debate!), it is stressful to live in a world with gray. Tastes great or less filling?
When I truly reflect carefully on our personal and church lives, I realize that some stress and tensions will never be resolved, only managed…because personal life (and church life in a growing church) is more nuanced than we may think. It’s not an or; it’s an and. So, one of the most important skills we must develop is a deep appreciation of the tensions in our world. Especially church world. And one of the most important verses to memorize and apply for all of us at Whitewater in this season is Ephesians 4:2,3 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
One crucial truth these days in the church here is to realize that we need tension/stress. It’s the only way we are challenged and continue to grow. It is possible to live well with this tension. It will take maturity and a willingness to forgo our own way. It means making sure that your preferences don’t become prejudices. It’s understanding there is a difference between unity and union. We are called to have unity (diversity), but not union (where everybody looks/acts the same). We truly need each other. That’s the way God designed the human (and church) body to be. There is no need to argue here. Embrace this tension as a friend and not a foe (or frustration). The church can both taste great and be less filling!
See you this weekend for the last SIGNS message. It’s the best one of all of them (and chock full of positive tension)!