Can You Hear The Stranger?
As churches, how many of us run the same initiatives expecting different results?
Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We certainly live in a ‘results-orientated’ world where our endeavours are measured by ‘key performance indicators’ and ‘return on investment.’
As Christians we face the challenge of wanting to use the resources God has given us to good effect, but at the same time recognising that God’s timing, while always perfect, doesn’t necessarily fit into neat measurable parameters.
Don’t Sleep Walk
We are called to persevere, but that doesn’t mean simply sleepwalking through the motions of our faith hoping God will bless what we’ve been doing for the past five or ten years.
You might be interested to know that the word ‘perseverance’ occurs 13 times in the NIV Bible – all in the New Testament. The root of the word comes from the Greek verb that is often used to describe the permanence of God in contrast to the mutability of mankind.
This is important. When it comes to perseverance, lots of us make the mistake of focussing on what we are doing rather than who we are doing it for.
Stranger on the Beach
In John 21we meet some frustrated disciples. They had been fishing all night long and had nothing to show for their efforts.
When a ‘stranger’ on the beach suggests they cast their nets on the opposite side of the boat, the men surely rolled their eyes and folded their arms in incredulity – as if that was going to make any difference!
And yet they swallowed their pride, put aside their scepticism and gave it a go. Their reward – a net overflowing with more fish than they ever thought was possible, and breakfast on the beach, cooked by their best friend and risen Lord.
How many times do we as churches become stuck in our ways? Our activities can easily become stale, out dated or even a means to an end in themselves.
We can become so attached to our models of ministry or our ways of working that we fail to hear the ‘stranger’ on the beach calling us to cast our nets elsewhere.
Whether you are struggling to engage with your community or your social action projects are full to bursting point – we all need to be open to new ways of working.
We will never know what a catch could be waiting for us, unless we try.
Perseverance is all about keeping our eyes focused on our goal – Jesus. The path he takes us on could lead into completely unknown territory, but when we listen to his voice, the path through becomes less daunting.
Perhaps we all need to be a little bolder in actively listening for that stranger on the beach.