Dave Everson

Why the Weed-Out

overgrown churchThere has been a lot to announce and explain this summer, from the building search to events to volunteer needs. I think we’ve done a decent job of publishing basic information about everything. There is one theme, though, that I’ve really wanted to talk about more in-depth: the weeding-out project.

An undeniable practical reality prompted it: our building is on the market, and it’s full of stuff we don’t want to take with us. But there is a deep spiritual component to this work that I don’t want us to miss.

First, before we bemoan the problem our stuff has created, it’s important to recognize that at some point every bit of it was sensible. Each bulging crate and overflowing closet began with someone’s fundamentally good intention: to help God’s “will be done and his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” For every item tucked into a box or a corner, there is a person, somewhere, who can tell you a story about how it helped draw people closer to God. Our stuff and the people who collected it aren’t stupid or dishonorable. It’s the opposite, actually.

But here’s the thing we need to grapple with now:

Those old stories? They’ve pretty much ended.

As crucial as our stuff might once have been, a lot of it hasn’t contributed to a good story for many, many years. Some of it, in fact, is undermining new stories before they get started.

On our first floor, two offices and a classroom have essentially become big closets. And all the other rooms are at least partially dedicated to storage. That’s not necessarily bad, until you consider what else we could have done with those spaces:

  • move the main office, pastor’s office, and lounge downstairs and convert the upstairs spaces into more convenient, family-friendly classrooms, nursery/toddler space, or hospitality areas.
  • rent/donate office space to another church or non-profit partner
  • set up a dedicated prayer room, art studio, gallery, rehearsal space, writing/study center, etc.

Forgive me if this comes across as blunt, but I don’t believe it’s good stewardship to let so many things linger unused, doing as little good as they would in a landfill. Nor is it good stewardship of our building to treat ministry space like a landfill.

From that standpoint, weeding-out is needed simply to reclaim our building and our stuff. But I also find myself wondering where our stuff problem came from. Maybe it’s just a procedure problem–we need to stay on top of things better. But it feels deeper than that. It feels like a symptom of something else.

Think back to Mark Weber’s teaching on the parable of the four soils. One of the unhealthy soils was filled with weeds–specifically wealth and worry. Good seed could take root there, but competition for space and nutrients quickly choked out any good growth.

Perhaps the overstuffed condition of our church is telling us something about our hearts: that wealth and worry have taken root in our church. They haven’t overrun us by any means. But it’s hard to deny that it looks like we have an unhealthy attachment to our stuff. And it looks like we’re anxious about maybe, one day, finding ourselves in need.

Do we share some broken instinct that has caused us to hang on to things we ought to let go? If so, I don’t want to take it with us to our next building.

When we move, I want it to be to a place that will help us be better worshipers of God. A place that will help us do a better job of introducing human persons to our personal God. A better base from which to work together to shape our lives after Jesus and our world after the pattern of God’s kingdom.

I don’t want to move to a new building just to fill it with cardboard and plastic. Weeding out seems like a great way to get ahead of that possibility and cut it off. And maybe it will instill some new positive patterns of decision-making.

But here’s the final wrinkle. If our stuff is the outer symptom of inward brokenness, then no project, no good intention, no herculean effort is going to fix it. Healing–of both individual hearts and whole churches–is the domain of the Holy Spirit. It is only God’s grace that will lead us to wholeness. It is Jesus Christ who will show us the way.

This is the Gospel: what once was good became tarnished and destructive. The tarnish was too deep, the destruction too broad to be solved by anyone but God. And so he did, by absorbing the tarnish himself, by destroying destruction. And then he set everything on a new path.

And this is our response: to recognize our faults for what they are, to hand them to God and ask and trust him to handle the consequences, and then to follow his lead into the future.

Maybe our stuff is part of a good story after all. As mundane as they may seem, the piles in Mosaic’s basement are telling each of us our own stories, reminding us of where we’ve been, where we are, where we can be.

The question for us to answer now is who will write the next chapter?

Photo Credits
Overgrown church: mlhradio; CC BY-NC 2.0 license