Have you ever tried to explain something to someone that they have never seen or touched or experienced? It’s tough. Sometimes the best you can do is tell them what it’s not so as to eliminate all the stuff they might naturally tend to think.
You’ve seen this phenomenon right? As you begin to try to explain something, people start throwing in all of their guesses about what you’re trying to explain based on what they do know and have seen, touched or experienced in their past.
You: “So it’s sort of like…”
Them: “A ball right? Round like a ball??”
You: “No it’s more like what you see when…”
Them: “When you go to the grocery store?”
You: “Well not really because it’s not in a crowd at all it’s…”
Them: “In a field? Something square maybe, and in a field??”
You: “Oh never mind.”
As silly as the above may sound it’s pretty much how I feel whenever I start trying to explain to someone what “Church” is. Before we get past the first paragraph of conversation it all gets lost in a sea of guesses based on what they’ve always known and experienced before.
So I’m going about it differently nowadays. Instead of describing what Church is, I start by stating clearly what it is not. Think of it like this: Deep in the forest there is the most magnificent flower anyone has ever seen and you had a guide take you to it once.
Amazing, wonderful, fragrant, beautiful, intoxicating and invigorating; it made you feel more alive than you’ve ever felt before and it was more real and vibrant than any flower you have ever seen! It even had a special pollen that was a soothing ointment to the sickest of souls.
But now you find yourself standing outside the forest trying to describe it to people who have never seen it and who are looking upon a mass of trees. Oh if they could only see it! After many attempts to describe it you discover there is only one way they will ever understand.
So you get the biggest chainsaw you can find and you start leveling that forest one tree at a time, taking away everything that is not the flower and everything that stands in the way of people seeing the flower. Finally, it comes into full view…and then folks get it.
This is my task and our journey over the next few weeks if you are willing to travel with me. (Not everyone wants to know what Church really is.) I’m going to start by stripping away all that it is not so that what it is will come shining through. It’s quite spectacular.