I saw this story and thought it was a wonderful illustration: Brian Cox, from New Zealand, spent four years growing a church from trees! Our current building project may take this long…but I don’t think it will look quite as pretty. Although we do have many, many trees in Bracknell…
In our always on, ever connected, 24 hour cycle we are encouraged, pushed and cajoled into getting everything done yesterday. Microwave meals, digital photos, Skype, touch payments…so much around us is designed for speed and practicality, to fit in with our evermore busy lives. Why queue at the shops when you can get it delivered, or if you do venture into a store, don’t waste time counting cash, signing the receipt or even punching in your pin code when all you have to do is touch your card on the machine! There used to be a day (which I sorely miss) when you would spend a Saturday afternoon browsing a record store or an evening deciding what video to rent in Blockbuster….now I can browse, download and stream what I want when I want through Netflix and Apple Music.
We can be like this in church, with our strategies designed to speed up growth, programmes to move our attenders and congregants from A to B in the quickest and easiest time possible…often so we don’t overburden people with more things in their already busy schedule. Rehearsals are rushed in order to get through the set, planning is curtailed, and we can fall into the trap of examining our performance at regular intervals: have we grown the team, have we achieved our objectives, will it be complete before the year/month/week is out? Not to say strategy, objectives and growth is a bad thing of course. But the path along the way, and the time spent doing it can make a huge difference.
Slow Growth = Strength
I read a story about Alfred Russell Wallace this week, a naturalist who was around at the same time as Charles Darwin. He was observing some moths emerging from their cocoons, and thought he would help one creature who seemed to be particularly struggling to hatch. So he made a small incision in the cocoon to enable the moth to stretch it’s wings and emerge more quickly. He soon realised this was a mistake…sure enough, the moth did hatch quicker, but because of Alfred’s help, its wings hadn’t developed or gained their full strength by the normal process of straining and stretching. So the moth was fully emerged, but it had less colour, strength or vitality compared to the other moths. Over the course of its brief life it flew poorly, fed inefficiently and ultimately died long before it should have.
Moses was a pivotal character in the bible, but by the time God called Moses to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt he was already an old man. He had been a fugitive guilty of murder, a refugee without a land or a people to call his own and a shepherd in one of the most desolate places on earth. He was not a young leader, he was not working out shortcuts and ways of achieving actions via the quickest possible route. He had lived, learnt, experienced and submitted, ultimately ready to lead God’s people after a long period of developing for this moment.
I may not see, in front of me
But I can see for miles when I look over my shoulder
I’ve been at EBC for around 14 years now, and I’m always striving to make things better, grow the teams, increase the congregations, be more effective with our messages on a Sunday service and keep abreast of all which is new in culture…and do it all yesterday! But if I stop and look back to where we were a year ago….five years ago….ten years ago…it is incredible how far we’ve come. And of course, because we’ve spent the last 14 years doing this gradually, the foundations we’ve laid, the relationships we’ve built and the experiences we’ve shared have made us incredibly strong and together as a team, a church and a community. My closest relationships have been built over time, my marriage being a particularly strong example. I’ve started a new business this year, but it is based on almost 20 years of experience and relationships which I can now call upon as there is a strength there.
In Praise Of Slow
A moth which hatches too quickly will be weakened. A building with rushed foundations will have no strength. Battery farmed chickens and hydroponically grown tomatoes may be quicker and more efficient, but the speed will directly affect the flavour of slow growth. Relationships, no matter how friendly and approachable you are, can only be grown over time together…there are no shortcuts.
So next time you’re trying to do 15 things at once, your drummer’s dropped out of Sunday and dinner is boiling over….try to take a step back, take stock, look at where you’ve come from and be in praise of slow. Easier said than done, but still possible…
And thanks to Skye Jethani and Simon Guillebaud for the daily inspirations which contributed to today’s blog…I read Choose Life daily and also get Skye’s Daily Devotional to my inbox every day. Both hugely recommended.