Where’s your elephant? Does it have a name?

“Daddy, I didn’t have these all night. I didn’t. I just now grabbed them.” So said Heidi proudly early this morning as she showed me one of her stuffed kitties and her snuggly koala. It’s a big deal when we find any stuffed animal in this home. These ones weren’t missing, just forgotten out in the loft before settling into bed last night. Somehow she managed to overlook their absence. So happy to see them this morning!

20130206-053314.jpg That got me thinking about the last year of change for our family. And the bigger “Family,” the Church. 2012 may be remembered in the broader Evangelical Church world as the year pastors really got serious about talking about talking about making disciples. Discipleship was the elephant in the room that we finally named. It was like, “This is really important! Let’s make sure we’re making disciples. Really.”

Previous years could be summed up with words like “authentic worship,” and “be missional,” discovering “God’s Kingdom,” “become an influencer,” and whatever you do make it “Gospel-centered.” These are all good emphases.

Yet with all the buzz and new trends, it sort of seems like we’re collecting elephants the same way my kids gather up all their stuffed animals before going to sleep. Missing one is reason to panic. Can’t sleep in peace without them all. But during daylight more than a few are set aside as the kids pursue the days fun.

More than once Kari and I have said at bedtime, “Clackamas (the stuffed leopard) has to sleep outside in the loft. I’m sorry that disappoints you, but he’ll be alright; he’s wild and can fend for himself. In the morning you can see him. And tomorrow night you can be sure to grab him along with all of your animals and bring them to bed before brushing your teeth.”

Having all the animals ready for bed means planning well ahead of the moment you notice they’re missing. For something to be added, something must give.

This got me thinking more about recent trends and the hype and confusion surrounding Christians today. Why do the lives of most Christians look essentially the same as the rest of society? Why are we missing out on the power, the conviction, the joy, peace and creativity God plans for His children? Where is the Kingdom of God we’re told by Jesus has already come?

“Many other factors explain the loss of kingdom impact in modern Western Christianity. But the most crucial weakness was the polarization of kingdom concerns within the church: the loss of interest in spiritual dynamics among those concerned for the social impact of Christianity, and the restriction of spiritual renewal to private and individual spheres among those still concerned about spirituality.

The result has been that instead of ordering careers, families, businesses and governments around God’s purposes, we have at best, tried to talk about Jesus to others while investing our main energy in pursuing the same things as the world: survival, security and wealth.
The church is seen as an enclave of spirituality apart from the struggle for worldly success. It is a restricted sphere in which God is permitted to rule; outside, we run things. No wonder the kingdom is largely invisible to Jewish observers—it stops at the boundaries of Christian church buildings!” 1

Asking myself:

  • Am I simply clamoring for “Christian” versions of the same stuffed animals the world can’t cope without at night, while disregarding them in the daylight?
  • Do I invest my main energy in pursuing the same things as the world: survival, security and wealth?
  • Am I struggling for worldly “success,” or playing a role in the Kingdom God is building?
  1. Richard Lovelace, Renewal as a Way of Life: A Guidebook for Spiritual Growth (Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock, 2002), 57.