You don’t know this, but I can speak several languages.
According to Duolingo, I’m well on my way to fluency. This means I can ask “Does anyone know where we are?” in Italian, Dutch and German. I have no doubt at some point this knowledge will be helpful.
Of course, the time it actually takes to learn a language is much longer than what the various sellers of apps suggest. Fluency comes when we move beyond vocabulary into the difficult work of grammar. Some studies suggest that what happens as we become immersed in another language is that our brains are “rewired”. Some of our brains take longer than others…. but you knew that.
That promise of quick and easy results finds resonance in other areas of our lives. The promise of speed is expressed in every drive-through and EZpass booth, diet plans and get-rich-quick strategy. We want everything yesterday, and if that isn’t deliverable, we want it now.
Congregations fall prey to this as well. We implement new programs, websites and music and expect immediate returns. Once we are convinced that there needs to be change (interestingly, the one thing folks complain is often done too quickly!) whatever change scheme we implement needs to create the desired effect immediately.
The problem is that often the only thing we’ve learned is to ask the question “Does anyone know where we are?”. We’ve not actually learned a new language or a new way of being, but instead we’ve developed the skills to allow a reasonable facsimile of the required syllables to spill off our tongues. It’s all surface and “eye-wash”, and that required brain rewiring hasn’t taken place.
Unless the new language we are trying to speak is love.
What if the changes we implement in our churches is not to attract new members, but to help us love new members? What if the language we learn is one where we listen to the needs of those outside our walls and to pray for those needs and address them as we are able?
It’s not our brains that need rewiring. It’s our hearts. “If I speak in the tongues of humans or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
It’s not what we are doing, but rather why we are doing it.