Leading churches

It Won't All Fit

Make room for what matters most

For two days I pressed our possessions into every nook and cranny of the 28-foot Ryder moving van, starting with the items we used the least. My eyes scanned the space left on the truck (3 feet), then the pile in our garage (more than 3 feet). That pile contained the items we needed every day to live.

They wouldn’t all fit.

I learned a hard and valuable lesson that day: Leave ample room for the most important things.

At least I thought I learned it. Not long after, our 15-year-old daughter, who had passed her driver’s permit test that afternoon, said, “Daddy, let me show you the car I found on Craigslist that I just have to have!”

I didn’t have time for her. There was no room on my truck.

Another day, a sign-holding homeless man on the exit ramp caught my eye and soul before I signaled to the far lane. There was no room on my truck.

One afternoon I rushed home from work to whip up and deliver a meal for a mother of five in our church who has cancer. Back in our mini-van, the prompting of the Spirit to return to hold up her arms in her battle was as real as the lingering odor of spaghetti pie. But there was no room on my truck.

Again and again, for both individuals and local churches, there’s no room on our trucks for the most important things—relationships. Relationships with the Lord, with those we love, with the lost, the least and the left-behind, and with the learner in the yoke with Jesus (disciple in Greek simply means “learner”).

Standing at the back of the truck on that agonizing December day, I got crazy. My first thought was, I’ll repack the truck. I will make it all fit. My second thought was, Maybe I could tie some things on the truck.

Faced with no place to put vital relationships, saints and communities of saints get crazy too: “We can repack or repackage and make it fit!” Or, worse: “Let’s get some rope.” Next thing you know, the church is trying to tie on small groups or a fellowship time between services.

It’s the Beverly Hillbillies all over again.

With rare exception, saints and communities of saints simply can’t make quality relationships fit. Our trucks are packed out. It’s not an organization or efficiency problem. In fact, if not for multi-tasking, we’d have stuff falling off all over.

We can’t simply add on life-giving relationships. Guided by the Spirit of God, we must first off-load.

My church gave me my marching orders for this summer: Inventory the church truck and suggest how to reload, because our schedule was packed, our facility maxed and our staff taxed. The inventory part was simple. The reloading part was more challenging. What should be placed in the “nice, but not necessary” pile?

I’m pushing hard with three “less is more” initiatives this fall. The first is capping the work hours of our staff at a room-on-the-truck level. The second is asking the question, “Is this nice, or necessary?” over every event and project that jockeys for a position on our church truck. The third is challenging the families in our church to “tithe” time for community by paring back their personal schedules 10 percent over the next year, and modeling this as church leaders by paring 10 percent of the events off the church calendar.

Pressing needs call for courageous actions. As churches and as individuals we need time and energy for the relationships that are our ministry. And so I challenge you: Consider how to off-load and reload your church’s truck, and watch community deepen.

Tim Nelson

Tim and his wife, Michele, and their four children live in Rochester, Minn., where Tim is on the staff of Calvary Evangelical Free Church.

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