Congregational Gravity and Ministerial Escape Velocity

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If you walked out in your yard, picked up a rock and threw it up in the sky at 25,000 mph you could put it in orbit given a few other assumptions. It takes quite a bit of power, effort and direction to escape the gravitational pull of the earth.

Congregations are often like that. There is a gravitational pull that keeps things pulled back to itself. The weight of the congregation and its history are so dense and so weighty that they take on their own gravitational field. It takes a monumental amount of power to push something through that congregational gravity for it to escape.

What is that gravitational pull? It can include a number of things: culture, fear, tradition, and even hermeneutics (how we interpret the Bible). We often call this homeostasis or being in the same state. It is a psychological phenomenon that we seek out consistency even if it is consistently unhealthy. You see this when you see abused people seek out abusers or the children of alcoholics date alcoholics. It is just what you know and you keep getting pulled right back down to the ground.

While gravity can be good for us (no one likes the food flying off their plate or their car not able to hug the road and get somehwere) it can also be leveraged to make sure no one leaves the ground and leaves everyone else behind. Gravity gives you a sense of stability but if relied on too much (complacency and comfortability) is more about being stuck than about being stable.

Churches often struggle to get outward focused ministries up to escape velocity due to the continued cultural pull inward. I remember a “Bring a friend” day where we were the only ones who brought a friend! How is that even possible in a church of 400 people?

It takes a visionary to get to the moon. It also take a lot of persistence and power, a power only God can supply.

When you decide you are going to land on the moon you will always have people who say it can’t be done. These are the “gravitationally enchanced” people in the congregation. For them escape velocity might as well be one million miles per hour. Not only can’t it be done, it shouldn’t be done because “we have never done it that way here before” which is really their way of saying something never mentioned in the Bible is somehow unbiblical. Those are usually the last words you hear before the put the last nail in the coffin. These people press on the gravity pedal even harder to keep people in check. Let’s say you actually do make it to the moon, the ministry launched and it was a raving success, you will still have people who say it never happened or even if it did it should have been done differently because when you choose a direction you are automatically out of line with the vision (or complacency) of some people. If you are waiting for everyone to get on board it will never get done.

It is important we respect and appreciate the stability of gravity without allowing it to make us stuck in tradition and unhealthy processes in the church. This takes vision, leadership and a tremendous amount of energy. Much like NASA the benefits those visionaries bring about may not even come in their own generation but much later. Who are our visionaries today? What moon landings are we needing to accomplish in our generation of Christianity?

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