FIRST PERSON: The dreaded bubble
Social media and our increasingly segmented marketing strategies allow us to immerse ourselves in specific ways of thinking about ministry and spirituality. While this has the potential to make us an "expert" on certain things, when we surround ourselves with only one viewpoint we can also become blind toward things that do not fit our own narrative.
Not long ago I was chatting with a ministry volunteer who was passionate about youth ministry. He was incensed that he could not get his church to fund a significant youth event he was trying to pull together.
In frustration he said, "All my church cares about is the building. They have no interest in reaching teens for Christ."
I reminded him that the church had set aside a significant portion of its building as the "youth room" -- and had spent considerable funds to make that room the way the youth worker wanted it. At the youth worker's request, they had also upgraded the technology in the building to make it more appealing to teens. The pastor had even been finding ways to incorporate teens into the morning worship service.
As the youth ministry volunteer considered these things, he realized that the church actually was committed to reaching teens, but he had become so focused on the specific event he was trying to organize that he didn't see everything else the church was doing. Though still very passionate about youth ministry events, the youth worker was able to peer outside his bubble, and see how the commitment his church had to caring for its building that was also helping him in youth ministry.
Then there was a church planter who was full of passion and energy not only for his own church plant, but also for starting churches in other towns. He had developed a plan to direct all of his church's energy, passion and mission dollars to church planting, and had come to meet with me to try to convince me to do the same thing with our organization. He struggled to understand why anyone would want to invest money and effort in existing churches, especially ones in smaller population centers that were not likely to grow much numerically.
While I admired his energy and passion, I wanted to help him understand that people are called to different types of ministry, and our own organization serves the greater body of Christ, not just the smaller subset of church planters. But he was unable to gaze outside of the bubble that he lived in.
I could give dozens of other examples, but the bottom line is: I think we all live in bubbles of various types. We see the world through our own lenses. And the more we seek out people who agree with our perspectives to spend time with, connect with on social media, and read or listen to, the more we lose the ability to conceive of ministry in any other way. It is the dreaded bubble.
As painful as it is, I think it is helpful every so often for someone to come along and burst our bubble. Why not try scheduling a lunch from time to time with someone is actively opposed to us in some area? We need to have that awkward conversation with someone who totally disagrees with us. It might make us angry. It might make us frustrated. It might leave us feeling uncomfortable. But it might also help us peek, outside of our little world, to see the bigger picture of what God is doing around us.