I’m sitting in a corner trying to work. Two feet from me, three workers from a fast food chain are working through a list of agenda items. They are making enough noise so that the conversation between a friend and a sales person is being blocked out. And the people doing some kind of employment screening or testing are pretty quiet.
I’m here to think about vision. I’m doing drafting on a document that is about preferred futures for our congregation. We’re looking a few years into the future, thinking about what vision and processes and images will help us.
I came here because it’s challenging to think creatively in my office sometimes. But I’m thinking I may have picked the wrong place.
Except I think I’m learning.
1. Church doesn’t happen in the quiet sanctuary. It happens in offices and bowling alleys and coffee shops. It happens only when people connect. This is probably a really good place to think.
2. I don’t get to pick how my days turn out. I can choose places, but people always intrude. And people are the point. (And I understand that these are minor interruptions…but they are directly related to what I am trying to do.)
3. I can pick a place that is usually quiet, but focus is inside my head, not outside.
4. Fast food people are better at training than I am. Though I am responsible to help people grow, I am not nearly as effective with training as these people who are interrupting my thinking.
For example, yesterday a bunch of people spent time teaching other people. I never talk with them about how it went. I never make suggestions about how to sharpen what they are doing. I assume they are trained and am just grateful that they are doing what they are doing. Except I don’t think I tell them that, either.
5. How is Sunday permeating Monday? I’m supposed to help people who are running training sessions like the one next to me run them the way Jesus would if he were a manager at that fast food place. That’s what formation is about. If I want to help this guy, I need to help him understand how to value people, how to value time, how to value purpose. (He’s doing great, by the way. I’m not sure what I could add).
6. I gotta quit making assumptions about my friends. Across the room, my friend is talking with the sales rep about God. She had raised the topic earlier, identifying what some of her objections were to what she thought he must believe. He’s helping her understand the inaccuracies of some of those objections. It’s not a big “evangelism” conversation, the kind that people both in and out of church dread. It’s a real conversation between real people.
I am pleasantly surprised by him.
The challenge with learning, of course, is that it doesn’t count until it works.
Time to work. I’ll let you know if I really learned anything.
The link for my new ebook again? Unchurchy: reflections on communication and church.
Quiet places seem to be rare. My favorite coffee shops have been discovered by others who come to visit rather than work. I picked a large vacant table at the library to work and two ladies came and sat near me and worked on their Avon orders together. I am learning a couple of things in in my quest for quiet – one, sometimes the interruptions are opportunities for ministry, for stories or for lessons – two, learning to tune out the noises of other conversations to focus on what I am doing. Perhaps what I have not yet learned is discerning the difference between opportunity and distraction.
Ah, Tom, the learning to discern is a major challenge. Which is why it is necessary.
My update is that I wrote the post, everyone left, and I found I still couldn’t write. So I went to lunch, got into our building unoticed, and wrote all afternoon. So maybe I did need some silence.