An inflatable slide has given me a lot to think about this week. I’d better explain.
A friend of mine came up with the idea of getting her church to offer a free bouncy slide at a community event as a way engaging with their neighbours and talking to people about the different things going on at the church. However, as the date grew closer, she realised that, for various reasons, she didn’t have many volunteers willing to be the friendly face of the church at the event. The slide was already booked. What should she do?
With a team of friendly volunteers, the slide was a brilliant idea. Without the people, though, it was, well, just a free bouncy slide. (Can you tell that I did a Philosophy course at college?)
It made me think. How much of what I do is, in effect, just a free bouncy slide – nice but for no real purpose? How much of what the church does can be perceived in the same way?
Don’t get me wrong, I think a bouncy slide can fit very well with our message. Jesus said that God’s kingdom belongs to children and even that adults should become like children if they want a share of it too. The Bible describes God enjoying and delighting in creation and sending the Spirit to stir up life in us. Very bouncy slide-ish.
After all, Jesus gave people free picnics and free wine and seems to have spent a lot of time hanging out with his friends. But he didn’t leave it there. He also healed people. He also saw things as they really were and lovingly spoke the truth to people.
Consider the example of Jesus’ encounter with a (non-Jewish) woman by the side of a well. ‘You don’t know what God wants to give you’, he says. That’s not really small talk. That stops her in her tracks. It stops me, just thinking about it.
I’m all for offering the world free bouncy slides. Who knows? Maybe a few more bouncy slides would go a long way to solving some of the world’s problems. But I know there is more than that. I know that God wants to give infinitely more.