August is to church what April is to accounting firms; or December to the mall; or crab season to those deadliest guys.
Traditionally, you think of Christmas and Easter as the ‘big’ seasons for church work. But they’ve got nothing on August. August is the time for starting new things, engaging new people, upping the game in worship, and generally trying to get ‘Church’ back on people’s planners–and in their collective imagination–as everybody gets into a daily routine at the end of summer. August might still be hot as all get-out, but it is still a psychological signal to get ‘back to real life.’ Therefore, if you want a ministry to be a part of somebody’s coming and going for the rest of the year, you’d better get in their heads (and their iPhones) come August.
Add to that the reality that i just got back from 2 months of sabbatical; and the fact that we are in the middle of a whirlwind capital campaign; and well, I’ve been feeling especially harried this August. (116-degree temps do not help my energy level, btw).
With the first of several campaign gatherings coming up, I notice that i’ve been sitting in front of my computer for approximately the last day and a half, wondering what i should be DOING in preparation. Another powerpoint presentation? Another mailing or email reminder? Phone calls? Print materials outlining budgets, building plans, interest figures or giving grids? Ordering food? Planning church-camp like ice breaker activities???
The temptation to plan group energizers for a group of 50+ church folks was where i stopped myself. With some pretty ridiculous images in my head (you know, people tangled up in human knots or trying to get each other across a room without touching the ground) I was reminded that significant ministry rarely involves DOing anything.
Sometimes, our addiction to that two-letter word–DO–is, in fact, the very thing standing in the way of The Holy Spirit “doing a work.” Not the work. A work.
Clergy are not the only ones in need this reminder. We all run through our days, frantic with to-do lists and appointments, tangible outcomes and bottom lines. And yet, when we try and account for the most meaningful, transformational times in our lives (or in our churches) we can rarely trace them to an actual HAPPENING, or when something was DONE. The simple truth is the same, whether we are talking Church or life: you show up. You love people. You speak the truth. Stuff happens.
So, for the course of this campaign–and really, in this month of hurry and do–i plan to show up. Love people. Speak the truth about who we are, what we need, and why God is calling us to be in this place. And i will let the Spirit “Do a work,” as they say. And maybe that work needs to happen in my very self. THAT is the hard work of faith, after all…To let the work happen within you, and not necessarily be dependent upon you.
Meanwhile, i got this urgent memo last night. Maybe you need to hear it today, as well. It said:
Dear Erin: My love for you, and grace toward you, is in no way dependent on your ability to (raise $150k in the next 3 weeks; plan the world’s most powerful and creative sermon series; write the most visionary blog post ever; draw in 50 new members… *insert your own angst here*). So, show up and be who I told you to be. And sometimes, you need to be quiet, get the *%&$ out of the way, and let ME do some stuff. You will be amazed at what can happen. Love, God.
Perhaps the heat is making me crazy and i am hearing voices. But i don’t think so. This is what you might call the still, small, voice. Even if it did curse at me a little bit. It shows up. It speaks the truth. And it is absolutely right. On the rare occasion I’ve had the sense to get my activities and my powerpoints out of the way…I have been amazed at what can happen.
Happy August, folks. Is God trying to tell you something, too?