42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. 43 A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. 44 All the believers were united and shared everything. 45 They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. 46 Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. 47 They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
Have you ever tried to start a camp fire without lighter fluid? There used to be a time when the thought to starting a fire without at least a little (or a lot) of help from lighter fluid sounded daunting at best, and impossible at worst.
Then one day, as I was building a fire for a summer camp, an older counselor changed my view. Together we were building the fire. He talked through each piece. "We put the kindling in the middle of the bottom. These are tiny pieces that easily catch fire, and burn fast. Then we put little twigs over the kindling. These will begin the real fire, but they won't last long. We put small sticks over that, but with some space. The fire needs air. Finally, we build a tee-pee type structure with sturdy but thin logs." He nodded his head in satisfaction.
"Wait!" I exclaimed. "We have one more thing." Then I grabbed the lighter fluid and fully doused the entire masterpiece.
"You ruined it!" Yep. I ruined it. It was made to catch without extra help, and I took away the wonder of watching the steps work the way they were supposed to.
The next time I was tasked with making the fire, the older counselor had gone home, and it was a new camp. Remembering the moment, I asked for the responsibility. I gathered my supplies, and yes that means I took the lighter fluid with me. I set up the kindling, the tiny twigs, then bigger sticks, and finally logs. I really took my time. Then ,knowing the fluid was there just in case, I bent down and lit the kindling. I watched as the pieces all began to work. The kindling lit the sticks, and the sticks lit the logs. It was beautiful. In that moment I realized how terribly I had ruined the previous fire. It was a strange moment, because I was both happy and sad. I was happy I was able to do something I hadn't been able to do before. I was sad because I had made the work of an older counselor useless, All he wanted was to see that moment of wonder on my face. I took that away from him.
I've seen a similar wonder happen in the church. The smallest idea catches fire. It gets picked up by some congregants and then you have a small fire. Finally, the entire church backs it, and it blazes. I've seen this happen with new program ideas, worship, and mission.. It's exciting to be part of, because the right pieces are ignited at the right time. God's perfect timing meets our burning nature. When done correctly we are drawn to give anything to make it happen. Our time, money, and talents.
Then I've seen the lighter fluid moment in churches. Now, before we continue, I'm completely okay with fires dying out. One thing I've learned about making fires with set-up over lighter fluid is they are stronger once they have a chance to really begin. Back in the day, I'd have to drench logs 3-4 times before they finally caught and took off. Today, I've made enough fires that I can start one in the rain without lighter fluid if need be. I've also sat over a pile of logs for up to a half-hour resetting the pieces. It's okay if the set up didn't work. Reset, and try again.
I've learned a very important phrase in ministry:
"That is a great idea! How do you want to make it happen?"
If the idea has been properly built, it will catch into a safe fire. If the idea has not been correctly built, it will die out before it burns the church down. That being said, I've been around church enough to see beautiful potential doused with the lighter fluid of "just in case." I've been around enough to see this turn one of three ways. I've seen the spark of an idea die out because it wasn't allowed to naturally build. I've seen that spark of an idea burn the church down because the fluid caught everything on fire. I've seen a wonderful idea lose it's wonder because the burning idea was not allowed to naturally catch.
This is where I tie it all back together. What does this have to do with the scripture? Everything. We read that everyone gave all their possessions and assume that's a step in building a church. That's not a step, that's the product. That's God's blazing, and controlled, fire. Forcing congregants to just give all their money and time up in the beginning is lighter fluid, and can explode into something dangerous. You know your church has some healthy fires going when people want to naturally feed it. The best way to feed it is with our time and money. The above scripture is amazing because it shows a spiritual blazing inferno. It's not the steps to get on; it's the end result. It's really that simple.