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Weed Eater Ecclesiology

April 28, 2008

I have for the past few years had a contentious relationship with my gas-powered weed eater.  It doesn’t like to start.  It doesn’t like to run.  It likes to flood when I’m trying to start it.  I constantly have to remove the spool to rethread the string.  It is greasy, dirty and it drips onto my garage floor.

But when it finally starts it’s great.  It has sufficient power to knock down some very heavy weeds.  If you can get the thing started (and that’s an ever-increasing IF, dear readers) the sidewalks, the landscaping and the foundation of the house will look beautiful.  Beautiful enough to keep me from setting the thing on fire and dancing on its ashes.

My utterly quotable brother-in-law Tim (I’m so jealous of his ability in that realm) says, “every two-stroke engine has its own magic formula for getting it to start.  You have to figure out how many times to hit the primer bubble, how high to set the choke, how many times to pull the cord.  The hard part is finding that magic formula and remembering it.”

Some churches are like that too.  If you can get them started awesome things will happen.  The challenge is getting them started.  You gotta prime the carburetor,  hit the choke, pull the cord a dozen times, set it to half-choke, pull a dozen more times, realize it’s flooded and leave it alone for a couple hours or a couple days, clean out the air filter, yank that starter rope until your arm threatens to fall off, hear it sputter to life, mess with the throttle just right until the thing runs well, then get to work and pray it lives to work another day.

Some churches will make you want to drop them in the yard and walk away mumbling and cursing to yourself.  Some churches seem content to hang in the garage, slowly dripping fuel and oil onto the concrete floor.

And some pastors need to have the mindset of a tinker, unafraid to take things apart, clean ’em up, examine them, put them back together and see what happens.  Is there a possibility that you take it apart and discover that it’s either too broken to go back together or that you at least need professional help to get it started again?  Yep.  (Thank God for connexionalism in the UMC – that’s what District Superintendents and the other pastors in the covenant group are for).

Some churches can be exceedingly frustrating.  And as pastors we have to be unafraid to head down to Lowe’s to get some needle-nose pliers, a decent set of Allen wrenches, some vise-grips, a new air filter, some carb cleaner, a spark plug, and get to work experimenting.

Because as frustrating as some churches are, once you get ’em running again the results can be beautiful.

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