I’ve read two books recently by Peter Block: Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest and The Answer to How is Yes: Acting on What Matters. I would highly recommend both books. Although, they are written with businesses in mind, the connection to faith, church, and building a faithful ministry is very apparent. In the first, Block asks, “who is the customer?” throughout the book, a question not only for business but how any group organizes itself to serve at all levels rather than to be served.
In the second book, the following quote is one on which I have chewed for a while. Early on, Block writes,
“There is something in the persistent question How? that expresses each person’s struggle between having confidence in their capacity to live a life of purpose and yielding to the daily demands of being practical. It is entirely possible to spend our days engaged in activities that work well for us and achieve our objectives, and still wonder whether we are really making a difference in the world. My premise is that this culture, and we as members of it, have yielded too easily to what is doable and practical and popular. In the process we have sacrificed the pursuit of what is in our hearts. We find ourselves giving in to our doubts, and settling for what we know how to do, or can soon learn how to do, instead of pursuing what most matters to us and living with the adventure and anxiety that this requires.”
I’ve been pondering how often I go to the “how?” question too quickly instead of wondering what is in my heart. When do I give into my doubts and settle for what I know or can soon learn instead of pursuing what matters most? What do I fill my days with so that I block access to what matters most?
It seems to me that churches are prone to the “how?” question and its issues as well. What matters of the heart we are pursuing together? Where have we settled for what is “doable and practical and popular” rather than pursuing what matters most to us in following God’s purpose and living with the adventure and anxiety that this requires? The truth is what matters most and the living into it will always be larger than we can accomplish in our lifetimes, but staying focused on what matters will give our lives and our churches purpose that truly connects us to God and God’s work through us in the world.
Chip Low is Co-Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Yorktown Heights, NY.