I am the youngest child in my family. I have two older brothers and a sister and there is a five to ten year gap between them and me. When I was little, on the odd occasion my parents went out, they left my siblings in charge of themselves, of the house and of me. And we all know what happens when the kids are left at home. One time my brothers and sisters locked me out of the house so that I wouldn’t report on the anarchy they were creating inside. And what were they doing? Well they got several large bean bags from around the house, they unzipped them and poured the contents out onto the floor in one of the rooms. Then they pretended that they were out in the snow. They even took photos of themselves dressed in beanies and gloves cavorting in their winter wonderland, throwing the beans into the air. And my parents would never have known about this if I hadn’t found photographic evidence years later.
But this story isn’t about my siblings. As the youngest child it is naturally about me. What do you think I might have been doing while I was locked out of the house? Well of course I was trying to get back inside. This mostly meant banging on the door for a few minutes, yelling and then sulking for what seemed like an eternity. The thing that strikes my adult self though, is how my younger self only considered the option of being back inside the house. I paid little attention to all that was outside of it. A yard. A neighbourhood. A city. A whole universe. My vision was constrained, partly by fear, partly by a sense of injustice, but largely by my own limited imagination of what was possible. Oh the things I could have done out in that yard, in that city, in that universe, if I had only changed the direction of my imagination. I could have done anything but my focus, my vision, was set.
We all know we are in challenging times for the church. It isn’t the elephant in the room, it is the room we are in. The question is: How do we get to other rooms or out of the house and beyond? I wonder if our vision for mission in Australia, for the church, is bit like that child sitting on the back steps. Locked out of the faux snow party inside. Wanting back in.
What is behind the closed door? Is it our memory of better times? Of people just coming to church. Of a particular style of worship. Of big Sunday schools. Of Christianity and Christians being esteemed?
It is hard to avoid the feeling of wanting to get back what we have lost.
You might draw your mind to the Hebrews brought out of slavery in Egypt. Once they are in the wilderness they begin to grumble. They think back to Egypt and have fond memories. They forget all the terrible things and remember that they had cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. It is like they want to go back to what they know. They don’t realise what they have ahead of them. They don’t quite have the imagination to see God’s promises fulfilled. It is easier to see what has been.
I wonder where your vision is set. Is it on the future or is it still looking over your shoulder to days gone?
The mission planning resource, “Clarifying Vision and Values“, offers a way to help you and your community focus on the future while honouring the past.