Over our Christmas celebration I found myself inspired by our daughter. For years she has collected old coins and currency. I like to think I influenced her a little bit. My collection started when I was a kid. The main difference, however, is she has organized her collection. She can pull out a binder and show most of her collection. My style has been more of putting my coins in jars and boxes. For a couple of decades, I’ve had a bank bag of coins in our safe deposit box at the bank. This isn’t because any of them are worth a lot of money, I just didn’t want to lose them. My challenge has been both a lack of motivation, and not being sure how to do the organizing. As I became excited about the possibilities, my motivation increased. My daughter was able to answer the practical questions of steps needing to be taken.
I came home from vacation and ordered a starter kit for organizing my coins. This included a binder, plastic pocket pages, coin holders (for pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and half dollars), and a loupe magnifier. Separate orders got me holders for silver dollars, and pocket envelope pages for currency. It turns out the pages for the currency also works for patches (anyone else just have your mind blown?!?). Most late evenings when I’m not traveling, I can be found putting coins into coin holders. I’m at the stage of life where the loupe has been a great addition as I try to figure out dates on pennies! The inspiration I received from my daughter translated into action (though I admit it took many years to catch!).
Every week I receive questions from people asking what they can do to bring more people into their churches. Some of these church members and pastors are feeling desperate. One of the issues I’ve been thinking about is how effective evangelism comes from inspiring people to take Christian action. I believe many people are desiring to improve their lives. The problem is they don’t know if it is possible, or how to do it. They are looking for inspiration and direction in many different places. This might come as a surprise, but they don’t believe church is a place where this can happen!
Sometimes I think we work so hard to fit people into the structure of our churches we miss the basic need of teaching them how to be Jesus followers. To be good teachers on this subject, we need to be effective Jesus followers ourselves. Maybe we need fewer meetings, and more spiritual retreats! How many spiritual retreats does your church offer? How does this compare to the number of meetings your church has?
Today (Monday) I was reminded how easy it is to focus on the wrong things. The day started with taking our dog on an early emergency trip to the veterinarian. One of her eyes was swollen shut, and half of her head was swollen. The vet found two bacterial infections. Other highlights included my sister going into the hospital with a high fever, my computer not working right, my GPS refusing to load, getting a late start for traveling to Phoenix, and not finishing this article at a reasonable time. How are we Ins when our main focus is on what’s not going well in our day (or life)?
Once I arrive at my hotel in Phoenix, I walk as much as possible. This evening I decided to go on a Jesus walk. I tried to see life around me through the eyes of Jesus; to be motivated, and moved, by Jesus. I will admit when I first saw the homeless man standing outside of a business, I had a split-second thought of avoiding him. Then Jesus guided me to him. The man said he was doing well other than being hungry. I felt privileged to be able to help him to get something to eat. We introduced ourselves, and he initiated a handshake. I missed the opportunity of inviting him to eat with me. There is always more to learn!
While eating supper, I was thinking about how God created all of these people, giving each of them amazing gifts and graces. I felt a desire to get to know each of them. I was glad I had a few moments to visit with Roland. Roland is the waiter I’ve gotten to know over the last couple of years.
Walking back to the hotel via a store I like to visit, I saw two people struggling to load a big item into a pickup truck. It would have been easy to keep walking, though I was convicted Jesus wouldn’t have done this. I asked if they needed any help. The store employee said, “We’ve got it”. The woman buying the item said quietly “I don’t think we’ve got it”. I told them I would wait and see if they needed any help. They did.
Walking back into the hotel, I made a point to say “hi” to Sarah who was working the night desk. I’ve always been impressed by how Jesus noticed all of the people around him. This is an area where I can improve. Are there any people around us we don’t usually notice?
Here is a thought. What might happen if we invite our church members to go on a Jesus Walk this week, and then write down their experiences? Maybe a couple of people could be invited to share their experiences next week during worship services. Wait, let’s think bigger! What if we ask each person in our church to commit to at least one Jesus Walk a week for the rest of 2020? It doesn’t have to be a literal walk. It could be committing a time during a day to be fully inspired and motivated by Jesus. Reporting back to the church about their experiences, however, is a critical part of this experiment.
Our greatest chance of inspiring other people into Christian love and action happens (I believe) when we are most inspired by Jesus. Our greatest despair comes when we focus in the wrong directions. This is true in our personal lives, in society, and in our churches.
Your brother on the journey, Mark
Further thoughts: Anyone else notice the closer I get to retirement, the longer these articles get?