How Bad Memory is Afflicting Your Ministry (& Maybe Your Marriage)

one-wedding-251029Could your church (or community) be suffering from faulty memory?  I thought about this last Monday when I attended a presentation on the Missional Wisdom Movement.  The movement is relatively new and it is supporting the creation of new forms of Christian community that take the form of everything from a laundromat ministry to co-working space for local entrepreneurs.

What isn’t new are the roots that the movement draws from.  They are building on the contemplative tradition that draws people into the presence of God for discernment of insight and releasing God’s vision into the world.

The possibilities intrigue me.  (What might an intentional Christian community do and be on the Eastern Shore?)  But the presentation also hit me right in the memory bank.  This is the kind of spiritual practice and community dreaming that formed me when I was a seminary student in West Dallas.  Why had I lost touch with this?

This is the kind of spiritual practice and community dreaming that formed me when I was a seminary student in West Dallas.  Why had I lost touch with this?

The marriage researcher, John Gottman, says that one of the telltale signs of a troubled relationship is bad memory.  As it says on his website, “In a happy marriage, couples tend to look back on their early days fondly. They remember how positive they felt early on, how excited they were when they met, and how much admiration they had for each other. When they talk about the tough times they’ve had, they glorify the struggles they’ve been through, drawing strength from the adversity they weathered together.”*

On the other hand, couples that have difficulty recalling those formative days of the relationship are usually struggling.

IMG_5611I worry about churches that are so caught up in conflict or in the mechanics of ministry that they can’t remember why they are doing what they’re doing.  I also worry about clergy who have lost their first love and their sense of calling.

To use the Gottman analogy, if a church can’t remember the excitement that got them into a project and celebrate they strength they discovered by going through it together, then perhaps its time to recall their mission.  If clergy fumble for the words to say why they are in ministry, it may be time to get reacquainted with the Lover who turned their lives around.

So many times our programs, at every level of the church, are tinged with an institutional anxiety that sees everything we do as a way of saving the system.

This applies to the connection as a whole, too.  So many times our programs, at every level of the church, are tinged with an institutional anxiety that sees everything we do as a way of saving the system.  No disciple lays aside her plans and life in order to save a system.  Disciples became a part of the body of Christ because they heard a call that rearranged their world and the work they do as a result only makes sense in light of that call.

When I am attuned to the voice of God in my life, I know that it because the task before me is a part of a greater joy.  It’s the same joy I knew as a youth coordinator in a West Dallas community center.  That’s a memory I savor.

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