I once heard someone say if the church is to remain true to the ministry Jesus began it must become more participative, interactive and experiential – which also makes a nice acronym: P.I.E. The basic idea is that the world today is more like the world in which Jesus lived. In other words, we live in a world that expects to participate, to interact and to experience their faith in real ways – and not just as spectators.
People who study trends in today’s churches have made one thing clear: the greatest indicator of a church that is alive and growing isn’t its theological positions or the size of its building or parking lot or even how well the preacher might preach. The greatest indicator of a healthy church is the level of participation; the greater the number of “ministers” with practicing ministries, the greater the health and growth.
How does a person or a church get more participatory, interactive, and experiential? The answer is something of a paradox. While it is about “doing” it is also about “waiting” and “watching.” In his book, Taste and See, Tim Dearborn tells the story of a woman in his church named Grace. For 40 years, Grace had a very successful ministry to street people in Seattle. When asked her secret, she replied, “If you want to have ministry on the streets, then walk slowly and it will happen to you. If you want to avoid it, then walk
Jesus teaches us that if we want to develop our spiritual senses and if we want an effective ministry, we also need to walk a little more slowly. We need to learn what spiritual directors call the act and art of “noticing,” and from there begin to get involved.
It is easy to get so caught up in our own concerns and compulsions that we literally walk right past opportunities to be a part of God’s mission. We’re looking one direction when God is actually working, or could be working through us, right where we’re at. The late Jesuit priest and author, Anthony DeMello, describes folks who do this in this way: “They are like the Jews who were straining their eyes toward the future in expectation of a glorious, sensational Messiah, while all along the Messiah was beside them in the form
of a man called Jesus of Nazareth…. You wish to see God? Look at the face of the man next to you. You want to hear him? Listen to the cry of a baby, the loud laughter at a party, the wind rustling in the trees. You want to feel him? Stretch your hand out and hold
The call of Christ is one of active service to the world. It is participatory, interactive and experiential and always has been. In other words, it asks something of you. So slow down… open your heart and your eyes and prepare to be a part of something that will not only change you – but change the world at the same time.