It’s always refreshing to talk without a filter.
Last week two of my friends were in town visiting from Malawi. These two guys, Vasco and Davidson, were instrumental in getting Hailey and me to spend a year in their country. They also both went out of their way to help us to feel comfortable while away from family and all that was familiar. Having them in our home was both an honor and inspiring. In more ways in one, they reminded me to get back to what is important.
Vasco has always challenged me to think about ministry, culture and the church in a new way. While he and Davidson were here, we spent plenty of time talking about how things were in Malawi and how the church is doing here in the U.S. They were on a whirlwind of a tour that started in Michigan, stopped at a conference in Colorado and ended in California. While in Orange County I introduced them to some folks at St. Peter’s, had a few meetings with others who had gone on trips to Malawi and took them to see Saddleback and Mariners. They laughed at the monster church campuses. There isn’t a building in the entire country of Malawi that would fit as many people as the sanctuaries (auditoriums/arenas?) of those two places. They saw plenty of the American Church.
As we visited and shared stories I was reminded of why I enjoyed ministry so much in Malawi… Jesus. I was able to focus on Jesus for an entire year.
Here, I find myself getting caught in all the other parts of the church. There’s programs, politics, finances, denominational stuff, congregational expectations, buildings, growth plans, etc. All filters that all too often sift out what (or who) is important. I am not saying those things are entirely unimportant, but they can’t be the thing. And we, or I, often allow them to be.
As we talked, Vasco and Davidson laughed. All that stuff exists in the Malawian church. And, really, I knew it to be true (I once moderated a 7 hour session meeting on a Saturday morning while only understanding half of what was said…makes meetings here seem like a breeze). But, because of my position and the cultural barrier, it was impossible to be immersed in what, all too often, become gigantic distractions. I could focus on loving God and loving people. Christ was essential and it felt like the rest sat in a blurry background.
One of my favorite hymns is Give Me Jesus. It was made popular by Jeremy Camp and a few other contemporary musicians but it has been around for a long long time. At the end of each verse is this line, “you can have all this world, but give me Jesus.” My personal prayer is that I’d learn to live this song.