On knowing it all…

The weird part about working with data is that you get to know a lot of things. Someone once asked me the hardest part about working in analytics. I told her the greatest challenge was that you often had “the answers”, but few people were willing to listen.

With time, experience, and many failures I learned that it was never my data – it was me. Why would a room full of doctors just listen to me? Because I have analyst in my title? Because my bar charts are formatted well? Because I have a certain degree from a certain school?

A few weeks ago some friends told me about our acquaintance “Jill” who was going to be teaching people how to evangelize. If you’re not familiar, evangelism is (essentially) trying to convert someone to become a Christian.

After we found out this information our group of friends sat silently with a pregnant pause. Jill is educated, with tons of experience. Jill may be a terrific theologian. But then we all thought about our interactions with her. When I think of some of my top ten hurts, she has two in the top ten. She can be mean, judgemental, and a know-it-all (as a fellow know-it-all – we can spot our own).

The saying is true. We don’t care how much Jill knows, because she doesn’t seem to care about us at all.

I’ll probably never be a famous theologian, and I don’t quite have the raw charisma to turn the masses. But I know Jesus invited Zachias down from a tree, and asked him to hang out. And when others treated children as annoying, Jesus invited them to come in.

Did Jesus ask children their worldview? Did He make kids memorize every religious text? Did He tell them about the evils of drums or guitars in church?

I’ve seldom felt close to God sitting in the pews of church. I hate standing and singing because it all feels like a production to me. I have attended church 30+ years mostly out of guilt.

When I think back on my experiences within Church, I always learned the most when I got to teach children in Sunday School. I find more truth in the simplicity of kid’s lessons than I ever have from the complexity of people defining Greek words from Exodus.

My daughter’s understanding of Jesus seems the most honest and true of all. She knows Jesus loves her no matter what, and she knows He died for her. I have never understood why we need to make it more complicated than that? The faith of a child is the most beautiful thing.

We add mission statements and complex phrases. We yell at each other over stupid policies. But sometimes it feels like screaming into the wind. I really don’t know how much Jesus would care about these trivial fights. Maybe some theologians like Jill do have it all right, and I’m just a little heretic writing a silly blog?

But I know in my heart that I still care and pray for the children I had the privilege of teaching in Sunday School. I remember the blonde haired blue-eyed little kid I got to meet when he was eight months old. I remember holding him and telling him that he was so loved. It’s fantastic seeing some of the same kids grow into amazing people. I pray life is good to them.

I presented some data on COPD at work the other day. My data was good. But when I started to imagine the people behind the numbers it made me start to cry.

In front of the room I said, “here’s all the data, but someone I know very close to me has COPD and here’s what she struggles with…” I can tell you the numbers, but I can also tell you about these wonderful humans I learned from. With that moment of humanity the room turned. A new project started, and ideas turned into actions.

No one cared how much I knew until they realized how much I cared. And when we don’t care about others why should they bother to listen to us at all?

Is it a hill worth dying on?…

The church picks the strangest hills to die on. I’ve fallen victim to those battles, disagreeing with people over guitar solos and politics. But I always wonder why we are picking these battles?

A few years ago our small group at church read Brian McLaren’s book “A Generous Orthodoxy.”

Our hope in reading the book was to understand different denominations and how Christian denominations have evolved over time. Our group would read a chapter, and then discuss it.

Each chapter of the book is broken down like this:


To those entrenched in the church, the books is divisive. But to many folks, the reading is simply a book for churchy people. I understand the different perceptions of the book.

Our small group is a mixed bag of my favorite people in the world. We have a pastor’s kid with degrees in ministry, we have folks that have attended church most of their lives, and we have folks that are newer to church.

A few chapters into the book our group started having a heated discussion over denomination X.

The pastor’s kid, who is well versed in theology and the history of the church, started a long explanation of how the denomination came to be. The explanation went on to say how one denomination started a fight with another denomination because they disagreed over church pews. That went into how two other denominations split off because they disagreed about music style. Then there were more splits, and more splits, and then another split…

After hearing the long explanation of denomination splits, the member that was newest to church said perhaps my favorite sentence I’ve ever heard in small group. He interrupted to say quite passionately, “Who gives a fuck?  We’re all fighting over the dumbest shit. Aren’t we here for Jesus?”

The room shut down.

After a few moments of silence, laughter erupted for a simple truth had been uttered.

The church picks the strangest hills to die on. I’ve fallen victim to those battles, disagreeing with people over guitar solos and politics. But I always wonder why we are picking these battles?

If all we do is fight over how to get there, then I doubt we’re ever going to get there. I’ve brought this up before.

Matthew tells us, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

If that is the essence of a church, then perhaps all of our fighting is just over complicating what is incredibly simple. Fights tend to divide people, not unite them. How will we ever unite people around Christ if we’re fighting over church pews?

And what is worth fighting over within our Church?

Communion styles? Music styles? The seating? To have a screen or not have a screen?

I’m not saying we should not ask questions. The Bible is FULL of folks asking incredibly important questions.

Books are written by theologians far smarter than I will ever be. But sometimes I read these books and feel like they miss what only the newest folks are brave enough to utter: Aren’t we all here for Jesus?

Only in our unity can we win this battle. And when we fight amongst ourselves, we create unnecessary division. Some hills are worth dying on, but most are not.