It’s a beautiful thing to be reminded of why we do what we do and why we love what we love. I recently spent the weekend in Spokane, Washington (a lovely part of the country) speaking to some high school students and young adults. The subject of the four talks I gave from Friday through Sunday was the concept of Shalom and the greater mission of God. And my time there was as fulfilling for me as it was for anyone else there.
I speak at my own church – The Mercy House – each and every week, for the most part. I’ve been doing it for over four years and we’ve built a community that I love to be a part of. It’s a creative, young, missional community and I feel lucky to lead such an amazing group of people. But it’s also true that what I have to say and how I say it is rather old hat. “Yes, Matt, we’ve heard that story before,” or “Yes, Matt, that analogy was a fine one to make the first three times we heard it.”
The particular lens and life experiences God has given me to speak truth through are what make me so it’s hard to be anything else. Of course, the Spirit brings something fresh each week–I hope!–and yet there’s always going to be some sense of familiarity to it. I guess I picture Bruce Springsteen’s wife going, “Yeah, yeah, I know all those songs. They were good the first 2,000 times I heard them.” Okay, so I’m not Springsteen…
But this weekend, the crowd was brand new. The scenario was a blank slate. And the response was fantastic. The comments and feedback I would receive sounded strangely familiar – like the ones that were made when we first planted our church north of Indianapolis and people began to hear a message in a way that was refreshing and timely for them. And it felt refreshing all over again.
There’s something about being able to step outside your typical situation or job and find a fresh audience with which to share it with that inspires you of what you are doing in the first place. I find myself hitting my head against the wall after particular Sundays in which maybe it wasn’t as sharp or inspirational or moving or convicting as others. It’s frustrating to feel like you’re just spinning your wheels in front of the same crowd, wondering if you’re getting through or if you’re wasting your efforts.
To be honest, maybe I’m not even sure what to take from this. I returned back to my home context this morning and it felt like the same old stuff. Maybe I need to quit and become an circuit rider – some preacher on his horse who goes from town to town (which in my case is an old Corolla). Maybe it’s a good thing to remember the original feeling. Then again, maybe it’s revealing a need to please an audience and feel appreciated. It’s probably all three, which only reveals I haven’t the slightest idea what to ultimately take from the experience.
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.