Some of the churches in our local Presbytery, or region, of the United Church of Canada got together last week for a workshop called Unstoppable Church. Mostly, we called it that after the organization that led it, Unstoppable Conversations. But I think many of us hoped - and do hope - that our churches might be inspired to be just that: unstoppable.
A key part of the method that opens up these "unstoppable conversations" is the idea that we need to change our thinking. I know, heard it before, right? But what that usually means is different solutions for the problem we think we have: everything focuses on the problem and what the solution will be. But that's not what Unstoppable Conversations does. They offer no solutions to any problems. Instead, they focus on the thinking behind the actions we take to address an issue. Transforming that thinking is what creates positive action that achieves something.
It's not about changing how we act, it's about changing how we think. That's what makes transformation happen. So we did an exercise where we identified some key issues or circumstances in our churches and the actions (or lack of action) that lead to them. Then we considered what some of the root thinking might be behind that and we came up with some pretty simple things: I'm flawed; No one can do it as well as me; They don't care; What are people gonna think; They might rock the boat; Why do I have to do it; Why don't they like me; They'll say no; I'm too busy; There's not enough; and I'm not loved.
That's pretty depressing, isn't it? But then we made a list of the "New Thinking" that we'd like to replace that old thinking with, and it looked like this: We are love; We have value; Technology works; Willing to risk; I have courage; We have intelligence; Accept Opportunities; Open minded; We have enough; Be grateful; Respect; Commit to something; We are unique; Be inclusive; Christ-like; Unconditional.
That's an awesome list of "New Thinking." And yet, it seems oddly familiar. To me, it's the themes that permeate our message each and every week in church. To me, it's the message of Jesus. So why is it our list of "New Thinking" - shouldn't it already be our thinking?
Well, yes, it should. But here's one of my little epiphanies from this weekend: do people attending churches hear, or, better still, experience a message about new life, about how we live, with ourselves, each other and God, or do people simply hear us telling them how to act (often with an "or else")? Because church isn't about how you act, it's about how you live. Authentically and genuinely how you live.