I was watching the BBC series Planet Earth II last night. There’s nothing quite like the soothing British tone of David Attenborough talking to you about the wonders of our planet. In the first episode, the sloth… was on… and he… moved… really… slow. That’s what sloths do. They move slow. But that’s okay. They just move up and down mango trees… at a really sloooow pace… and eat mango leaves. Turns out they put their giddy-up on a bit when its mating time, but, other than that, they just focus on their mango tree existence.
What struck me about watching Slow Poke Sloth was the fact that he didn’t care he was slow (he did want to get to that lady sloth quicker, but, hey, there’s joy in the anticipation). He wasn’t wishing he were a jaguar racing across the savannah. He did one thing. He did that one thing really well.
It sometimes amazes me how we humans, in contrast to the sloth, keep trying to be all things to all people. We hurry and scurry and fret and worry and strive and connive and go as fast as we can to get where we’re going, sometimes not even knowing where it is we’re headed.
When it comes to church ministry, even our own individual Christian lives, it also amazes me how much we try to do everything under the sun – as if we were meant to be every creature on the planet. I have often heard small churches lament that they’re not bigger. The implication is that if they had more people in the pews, then they could really do a lot of things, offer more ministries. Yet, even the megachurch doesn’t do everything well. Truth be told, the trend for big churches is finding ways to be smaller – which is why the multi-site movement is prevalent today. The big guy has found that doing pastoral and spiritual care is difficult with such size.
I think we need to take a lesson from Mr. Sloth. He moves slow, but with single-minded purpose. If you look at Jesus in the Gospels, he was never in a hurry to get anything done. He moved at his own pace, not deterred or influenced by others trying to get him to go faster or do something he didn’t want or need to do. When our Lord looked at the state of people concerned about what was going to happen, he told them to do… one… thing… well.
“Don’t worry and ask yourselves, ‘Will we have anything to drink? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?’ Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these….
“But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33)
The singular question for each Christian, every church, and all denominations and ministry groups is: “What does God want?” The question is not: “What is that other church doing?” “What will make this group of people happy?” “What is everyone else doing?” Nope. What… does… God… want? What does it mean to put God and his work first? Now we’re talking – that’s the kind of discussion to have in an elders’ meeting. It’s the kind of inner dialogue that needs to happen in your heart.
Mango leaves are not you’re thing. But going hard after the kingdom of God and his righteousness is to be your one passionate pursuit. If you will do this one thing, then all the other stuff will fall into place. That’s not David Attenborough talking – its Jesus.