Getting to “Why”

This past Sunday evening’s sixty minutes offered a remarkable example of the power of vision.  This is worth watching! Gustavo Dudamel is the new Venezuelan conductor of the LA Philharmonic.  He could have gone anywhere, but chose Los Angeles because, as he says, he wants to “change the future of this city through music”.  Members of the Philharmonic are now investing part of their professional hours teaching young children in the poorest parts of the city how to play instruments, believing that the disciplines associated with music are a path to living well.

This gets to something I’ve been pondering recently: the power of WHY. There’s a book out called, “Start with Why”, and the premise is that we tend to begin everything by focusing on the “what” and the “how”. The really great leaders though, always start with the why, because it’s the why that motivates us at our deepest level and inspires us to sacrifice, action, living differently.

Gustavo understands this, because he doesn’t say, “we’re going to teach kids how to play the violin”.   That’s not inspiring, or motivating to anyone except die-hard violinists, and even they will have their own ideas about the ‘how’ question which might make them dismissive of Gustavo. Instead, he begins with the “Why”. We’re going to change this city! The what:  by teaching kids to become musicians.  The how:  by linking professional musicians with the poorest children in Los Angeles who’d never otherwise have access to good music, training them, and then letting them perform at the Hollywood Bowl.

What’s the church’s “Why”? Though it varies from community to community, our passion had better be to make God’s good reign visible on this earth, because in a world longing for justice, mercy, beauty, hospitality, and hope, that’s compelling – and it’s our calling.

We’re taking what we hope will be a significant offering this coming Sunday, all of which will go to digging wells in Uganda through Living Water International.  But we’re not just digging wells (that’s the “what and how”):  We’re making God’s reign visible.

We gather each Sunday to worship through singing, prayer, fellowship, and teaching.  But we’re not just gathering. We’re making God’s reign visible.  Imperfectly?  Of course, but that’s the vision.

We do stuff, each of us, in our lives:  work, family, hobbies, rest, exercise.  Is there an overreaching “why” that governs the “what” and the “how” of our days.  I hope so.  Making God’s reign visible in my body, my life, my marriage, my family… this is a “why” worth sacrifice, discipline, sweat.  And this is a “why” that assures a great adventure.

I listen to Gustavo, and the children playing on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl, and tears come to my eyes.  “Yes”!  Here’s someone imparting hope and he’s an entire army of musicians committed to doing it with him, all because he can understand and articulate the “why”.

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • Lee

    This reminds me of one of my favorite quotations:

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. ”
    - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  • Lee

    This reminds me of one of my favorite quotations:

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. ”
    - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  • Josh A.

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