Acting Our Way Into A New Way of Thinking

I love canoeing.  There is just something about paddling down a quiet river with only the mosquitoes and black flies disturbing the quietness of the moment.  As I paddle down the river the beavers slap their tales as a warning, the ducks and birds fly away and I see the odd fish become startled from my moving shadow.  The river seems as if it will never end, but then to my horror around the bend a log jam blocks the path and I can’t get through.

This is how ministry is sometimes.  The church is moving in one direction.  The leadership teams, the volunteers, the staff and even the lay people are moving as one but then to our horror a log jam is blocking the road.

I feel that this is also a picture of my ministry thus far.  For awhile when I had an eldership we seemed to be paddling, but in different directions.  Once we all got turned the right way and were heading in the same direction it seemed that all would work out.  Unfortunately what I didn’t realize was a log jam was forming that would block the path.

As I am living with the log jam and trying to navigate a path (well, looking for God to navigate a path so that I can follow) I am noticing that something isn’t sitting right with me.  It seems that I have been trained and somehow believed that if I can only teach another class in order to help the congregation think of a new way to navigate the log jam than we will be able to continue on our journey of faith.  What I am trying to do, as Alan Hirsh has said, is “to think our way into a new way of acting.”[1]  I am sitting on the bank of the river teaching the basic and fundamental principles of removing a log jam. 

What would happen if something completely opposite took place?  For example, what would happen if we acted our way into a new way of thinking?  Thus, instead of first teaching the basic and fundamental principles of removing a log jam I/we begin to remove the logs one at a time while learning the basic and fundamental principles.  This is a more hands-on approach.

In my last piece of writing I talked about how we have lost touched with our neighbors.  In order to help the congregation be a better neighbor I could probably could give a class and preach on what it means to be a neighbor.  I could talk with people over a cup of Star Bucks coffee about being a better neighbor and I could probably plead, urge, beg, and get down right nasty with the congregation telling them to be a better neighbor.  If I did this then I would be helping us think into a new way of acting.

Another option arises; I could help us act into a new way of thinking.  Thus I could solicit some key leaders and we can organize a couple of activities, like a strawberry social for the condominiums and lead the congregation into the condominiums, thus helping the congregation act into a new way of thinking.  It is one thing to teach and tell people how to act; it is another to provide tangible opportunities and experiences so that learning can be incorporated into life situations.

This idea of acting our way into a new way of thinking touches all aspects of ministry.  For example, help the congregation act in prayer, giving, reading of scripture, a life of serving, forgiveness, justice, etc., and eventually as they act (and of course hear some teaching) they will eventually begin to think differently. 

If we are going to help our churches become missional in nature and if we are going to help our churches shed the Constantine mindset it is going to take more than just teaching another class and more than allowing the congregation to hear another sermon.  It is going to mean helping the congregation act in a new way and as they act in a new way they will eventually begin to think in a new way.


[1] Alan Hirsh, The Forgotten Ways (Brazos, 2006), 122.

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Published in: on May 14, 2007 at 12:54 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Great post, Nathan.

    What you are focusing on is one of the tidbits that has stayed with me from various counseling classes. In some cases, it is suggested that a person might need to intentionally engage in a new practice over an extended period of time in order to transform his or her behaviour *and* thinking.

    If education is all that is needed to change our behaviour, then racism, teen pregnancy, litter, and a multitude of other ills would have disappeared long ago. Unfortunately, society (and church) still embraces this fallacy. Thus, the suggested cure to any societal ill is to “educate people” and, ipso facto, it will go away.

    We (can) do the same when it comes to sin.


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