Monday, September 7, 2015

The Myth of the Single Solution

A long time ago a friend who was seeing a counselor gave me a slice of wisdom she had learned.  "My counselor told me that I should beware of the single solution,'" she said.

The meaning was was not immediately clear to me.  My friend was in a conflicted relationship, so I at first thought the advice had to do with whether she should continue or end her relationship.

That's not what she meant.

"No," she explained, "my counselor means that I should beware of thinking that there is just one thing that I should do, or can do, that will magically fix everything.  There is not one single solution."

I thought about that for a long time.  I thought about it in terms of personal relationships, and (I couldn't help it) I even thought of it in terms of congregations.  There is not a 'single solution' for congregations.

At one time, (a long time ago, this was) I believed that the solution for churches was worship.  If we could get with it, worship-wise, if we could create a kick-butt contemporary worship service, or a sublimely reverent traditional worship service, if we got rid of the organ or got a better organ, if we had a lead vocalist or a string quartet or a djembe, Everything Would Be All Right Again.  The Contemporary Worship Service was the strategy of the hour.  It was the way all churches were going to turn around and grow again.

It was the single solution.

I happen to know a fair number of churches with contemporary worship services.  It has not been the single revitalization tool they thought it was.  There is no one single revitalization tool.  There is good worship of many varieties, and there are healthy relationships and there are disciples growing in faith and serving their neighbors, and there are myriad ways these things work or don't work in a congregation.

It's not just worship, of course.  Sometimes the great youth program is the single solution.  Sometimes the small group program is the single solution.  Sometimes great sermons are the single solution.

Of course, the woman who told me this was seeing a counselor, and she was trying to figure out how to have a happier life, a more meaningful life.  I think she believed that there was one thing she could do that would make her life better, and her counselor was cautioning her:  it's not that simple.

For congregations, perhaps it is simple, in a way.  There is no single solution.  But there are two things:  There is prayer, and asking questions.  The prayer involves both speaking and listening, and expecting to hear God speak.  The questions are all about what God is calling us to be, and to do.  Maybe the questions are just another way of praying.

Now, this is my strategy.  There is not one thing to do, but there are two (or three, really):  Ask Questions.  Pray.  And Trust God.

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