By Steve Matthews,
Senior Missional Consultant with FaithX
In March I was at a workshop with church leaders, and we were using a methodology called ProAction Café to help attendees discern the next steps in their missional experiments. In ProAction Café, a small group of 4-7 gather in a circle to accompany the person in discernment. They ask thought-provoking and heart-opening questions to help the person in search of direction find some clarity. It’s a profound process.
Dan (not his real name), the one in discernment, described his project with clarity and conviction. People were offering helpful reflections and questions interspersed with silence. After a period of extended silence, group member Martha looked at Dan and asked, “Why bother?” The silence deepened. From a church growth and ministry perspective Dan’s project had a lot to offer, but this question moved beyond the metrics of “how” “when” and “what” and invited Dan deeper into his heart. A tear formed in Dan’s eye as he explained why the people in this region meant so much to him. After the “Why bother” question, everything was different. The tone and the questions shifted and Dan walked away with a clearer sense of his mission and a much more compelling connection to it.
Why do we care so much about our churches and their vitality and sustainability? Is it because we love our traditions? Is it because it’s our “safe” place and we love the fellowship? Do we do this work out of a compelling sense of nurturing a more just world? If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, it’s OK, AND there is at least one more question worth pondering:
Do we do this work because we want to know and be known by our neighbors because we want to delight in them and they in us, because we want to build stronger communities known for mutuality and kindness and justice?
As you live and work in the world these days, what are you perceiving? Do you feel joy and happiness? Apathy? Are you picking up on an increased sense of despondency at worst or malaise at best in our culture these days? For many of us, climate change, political discord, the pandemic… these factors among others have really challenged our sense of peace and well-being. We need each other now more than ever, but it seems we are not turning to one another.
The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reports that overdoses have increased at an annual rate of 8. 38% every year for the past three years. The CDC reports, “Suicide rates increased approximately 36% between 2000–2021. Suicide was responsible for 48,183 deaths in 2021, which is about one death every 11 minutes. The number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher.” These are staggering numbers that suggest we are missing some piece of connection and relationship.
Why bother? WHY BOTHER? I’m not sure what your answer is, but I “bother” because in order to stay alive I need to love and be loved. I need to know and be known. I need to connect again and again and again and show up for those in my neighborhood and community with God’s love and be ready to receive God’s love from them. Like it or not, we need each other. Let’s care enough to “bother” for the sake of love.