Everyone loves to talk about creating and being excellent. I’m not so into that, you could say. Instead, though it is not nearly as impressive, I like to consider what makes my work as a church technical artist good. Excellent is about being extremely good. In my opinion, if you have not mastered good, you should stop talking about excellence. Also, I am tired of the one-upmanship, the bigger and better, surrounding the idea of excellence. When God created the world He declared it good, pleasant, agreeable. That’s good enough for me.
So instead of sounding off about what I don’t like, I am attempting to flesh out a better way. A way of good. I am applying this to how we do our work around the Sunday morning service, but these characteristics create a framework for any endeavor. In no way am I advocating for shoddy work. As we uncover these characteristics, we’ll see that they are challenging and demand more from us than perhaps we are doing now. Even if we call our work excellent.
So far, I have discussed that a service is good when it is authentic, surprising, and exposing vulnerability. Today we are talking about the next characteristic, a service is good when it is interesting. [FYI, I have 10 in total!]
If you’d like to discover where this framework came from, I talked about the backstory in my first post in this series.
My interests are about me
The word interest comes to English from Latin by way of French. It carries the sense of something important but also that a person has a stake or share in something— a right to something. Today, the word has more to do with wanting to know or learn.
Armed with that etymology, we can define interesting as: attracting your attention and making you want to learn more about something or to be involved in something: not dull or boring.
A couple of ideas are evident if we want to talk about a good service being interesting:
- Interesting, by definition, is very different for every person and is completely subjective.
- Interesting is the attraction that precipitates involvement.
- Interesting is the characteristic that awakens the desire to learn.
- Interesting is the opposite of monotonous and tiresome.
You cannot interest me in something I do not care about.
You cannot interest me in something that has no impact on my life or loved ones.
You cannot interest me by repetition.
You cannot interest me with something I find abhorrent.
All of my interests are linked by one common denominator—ME. If you want me to find something interesting, you must start with my interests. You must start with ME.
A quick detour into friendship
Outside of my actual friends, C.S. Lewis taught me what I know about friendship. In his book, The Four Loves, Lewis discusses the Greek concept of PHILEO—enjoyment, fondness, friendship.
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You, too? Thought I was the only one.
~ C. S. Lewis
This is evident in C. S. Lewis’ lifelong friendship with Arthur Greeves that began with their love of Norse Mythology. That initial interest created a life-long friendship that explored countless other life issues including Lewis’ journey to faith. In their correspondence about Norse mythology, they shared discoveries of the different gods, debated their place in the pantheon, developed theories and explanations in each letter; each discussion throwing more kindling on the fire of their friendship.
Companionship can grow to friendship, and the point I am trying to make is the reciprocal nature of friendship—the way it expands and grows and keeps exploring and opening new horizons. We have all met a bore who mindlessly regurgitates the same stats and illustrations. We may have even begun a friendship with someone, only to find out that they were not really interested in the same things we were. We were mistaken about their commitment to our common interest regardless of whether it was Christianity, K-Pop, Apple Computers, or Star Wars. In these instances, the friendship wanes and dissolves.
The PHILEO—the enjoyment, fondness, friendship—is birthed as we are side by side pursuing something that has engaged our interest. In EROS—romantic and sexual love—lovers are face to face pursuing each other. In PHILEO, lovers are side by side pursuing a common interest. Lose the interest, and you are in danger of losing the friendship. But oh how the friendship grows as each contributes until the fondness for one another supersedes the initial interest.
I am in danger of sounding too analytical, and I do understand that friendship involves care and, well, love. That is why it is one of the 4 loves, after all.
I have called you friends
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Let’s not make this overly complicated. Our congregants are with us because something attracted them to our church. It was the ME factor listed above. It was an amalgamation of all our different interests around following Jesus that brought us here in the first place. In no way am I suggesting that we need to fake interest in whatever our potential new congregants are interested in. This is the source of almost all failed church outreach strategies.
Among my best friends, I count my siblings. So while I know that family is an apt metaphor for our churches, have we explored the concept of friendship? Notice in John 15:15 that there is a link between learning/interest, knowing, and friendship.
[I thought I was on to something here!]
Properly understanding the connection between friendship and interests will help us in our pursuit of good during our Sunday services.
Focusing on a love born of common interests clarifies our main task as ministers as simply to not blow it, to not be a bad friend by becoming a bore. How sad if we get caught in a routine template that no longer awakens desire. If so, we are failing to properly equip people for the work of ministry.
And friendship is a two-way street. If the people are not feeding into the friendship (ahem… perhaps, aren’t allowed or expected to either), they will become bored and restless regardless of anything we do.
And on top of that, we also have this issue of love and mutual care in the relationship to consider.
I feel like I am circling the airport but not landing the plane.
Let me attempt to state my thought process with these swirling concepts about how we can make our services interesting.
- We already share a common interest as a church family or we would not be in this church together.
- The method of starting a relationship as a church community based around common interests mirrors friendship, because that’s what friendship is.
- Maintaining a vibrant friendship requires continual fuel on the fire of our interests.
- We have the opportunity to awaken the desire to learn in others by bringing fresh discoveries into the relationship.
- Our services become interesting when we do that.
- Friendship is a two-way street and so our services need to be a two-way street.
- The end result is greater engagement and participation that adds more fuel to the fire, which leads to more desire, which leads to more fuel, etc, etc. (just like a friendship).
Being interesting then becomes less about something we manufacture as a technique and more about revealing our relationship with the Father: “everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
Is your relationship with the Father expanding and growing and continually exploring and opening new horizons?
Or are you simply regurgitating the same stats and illustrations?
Our services become interesting by revealing new discoveries in our relationship with the Father, while allowing others to reveal new discoveries in their relationship with the Father.
Do that and you are pursuing something good.