Aug 16, 2011

When Your Church is Surfing in Waveless and Shallow Waters: Oh, the placidity of it all!

I remember someone bringing a surfboard to a lake once. They didn't even have a boat or jetski to pull it through the placid waters. The owner just went out and paddled on it.  He let others have a go but it wasn't quite that fun. It was more fun to just swim.  A surfboard needs waves and deep water to truly be appreciated.  When I was a kid in Huntington Beach I would watch the surfers near the pier. The waves, at least the ones worth riding, would come in ... well ... waves. The surfers would bide their time and wait for one worth riding. Of course, there was always a pecking order to who had been waiting the longest or whose territory it was to ride that wave. However, in between those waves the surfers would just sit on their board looking ... well ... bored.  They would gather in little clusters and talk with one another. Some would grow impatient and take whatever measly wave came their way. Some days there were no big waves to be had. On others, the big waves would be in generous amounts. Yet, on those days when the big wave would take it's sweet time before making an appearance, the surfers would sit upon their boards and watch, socialize, and wait.  

Catching the wave is an art. People use this analogy in many areas of life. Like when musicians notice when their band is starting to catch a wave and hop on it with hopes that it lasts a long time.  Or in sports, when a team's momentum gets going going to a fever pitch and they find themselves on a wave toward victory. (If no victory happens, at least they might get a wave or two from the crowd in the stands).  Church's catch waves as well. Growth, excitement, energy, and life flourish in a church when they catch a wave and ride it well. Perhaps a program, an evangelism event, great worship, or a timely Word from God launches them onto a wave. Hopefully, it lasts a good long time.

What we all know is that waves are not caught in shallow water.  Lakes are not going to produce waves worthy of surfing. (Though, believe it or not, people actually surf the Great Lakes). Also, ocean waves are not in our control. Spiritually speaking, the Lord creates the waves and His people are supposed to catch them and ride them when they appear. Some of us grow impatient and will ride any piddly wave that comes by in hopes that God will turn it into a great wave. Others might try and ride a big wave that breaks too close to the shore, or near coral and such, and should only be ridden by professionals. Some churches that stay too close to the shore, in the shallow part, will only experience a slight impact of the waves that churches that decided to head out into the deeper parts have already experienced or are currently riding. 

All of this is to say three things: 

First, when there are no waves things can get boring. We'll tend to socialize and constantly look toward areas where big waves might be happening.  But if the Lord is sending no waves our way, then we need to deal with that reality the best we can and pray for surf.  We can look across our area that is inbetween waves and see others gathering together.  We can paddle over to them and socialize, dig their bigger groups, enjoy their coffee, listen to their music, and hear them speak, but if there are no waves, then we are not surfing.  

Second, we need to be mindful, watchful, a have a heart that's willing to learn how to ride the big waves. Because they will eventually come and if our church is not willing to ride them or embrace the adventure that they bring, then we're going to crash and burn. That means we need to head out to deeper water and wait. By deeper, as you can easily guess, I mean spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, experientially, communicatively, and prayerfully deeper. Financially as well ... but not in the debt-sense of deep but, rather, deep wells of resource. 

Third, we need to make sure we do not lose hope or grow bored while waiting for that wave to come. It's easy to do.  I assume that most of us want to be part of something great, bigger than ourselves, and have a critical role in making that happen. Being antsy or bored when that is not going on in our lives comes with the territory. That is when many of us might discern the times and our location and seek other churches to see if their waves are any better. Yet, if you know your supposed to be surfing in the church you're at, then prepare for the next wave until it comes. Pray to God for it. In the meantime talk with and love on the others who are also in your part of the ocean. Live life well. 

So, until that wave comes, be discerning and full of wisdom about what to do. Here's a couple verses to think on:  

Luke 12:56 "Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?" 

1 Chronicles 12:32 "...from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do..."