Monday, April 6, 2015

Church Lessons from the Camino (part 3)

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Last year Robin and I walked the last 140 miles of the Camino de Santiago in Spain (the medieval Catholic Pilgrimage immortalized in The Way).   We chose the Norte route through the mountains because less "pilgrims" travel it.  It provided us a lot of time to pray and reflect.   The scenery was beautiful, the people were welcoming and the food and coffee were delicious!  It really gave us some time to confirm that God was truly directing us to move back to the US after 13 years of training and coaching leaders, teaching in Bible schools and planting churches in secular Europe.

There were a few lessons we learned on our trip that apply to churches.  If you haven't noticed, our culture is rapidly moving from postmodern to Post-Christian.  Christianity, believers and churches are rapidly losing their influence in society.   But there are some things we can do to create a larger footprint for the Kingdom of God.  In this series of blogposts I'll cover a few of them that are pertinent to North American church leaders.

If North American church leaders want to connect with an unchurched Post-Christian audience they need to:

3.  Choose to be present

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 1)

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 2)

One of the guys in our "Camino family" (staying at the same Pilgrim Hostel every night) was often so intent on getting to the next town that he just lowered his head and walked as fast as he could - sort of like a fullback taking the ball up the middle.  It was as if the journey didn't really matter... only the destination was important.  One night he lamented the fact that he often lost his way by missing the signs because he was so determined to get to his destination.  He always ended up in the right place, but he missed a lot of the scenery.

Robin and I, on the other hand, would stop every now and then and allow ourselves to be awed by the amazing scenery.  (For the record, we stopped at almost every coffee shop along the way as well, but that's more about my coffee addiction than anything else.)  I'd love to tell you that this was a continual occurrence for us, but it wasn't.  We did, however, often choose to stay present in our surroundings instead of just focusing on where we had to go.  It would have been much easier to get caught up in the weight of our backpacks, our sore muscles and blisters or the distance to the next hostel.  But we made an intentional decision to be present.  And we enjoyed the benefits.  Some of the sights, sounds and experiences truly took our breath away.  And because we slowed down, we were able to hear God's voice more clearly.

Tweet: Make the intentional decision to be present. #slowdown #relationshipsmatter #enjoythejourney @jonperrin

Too often we are so focused on our goals that we ignore the people around us.  We noticed it when we moved from western to southern Germany.  For the first time in our marriage we were visiting churches as outsiders.  Up to this point, anytime we visited a new church it was as guest speakers.
Now we were just looking for a good church for our family.  Often when we arrived early for the service the people inside were scurrying about trying to get everything ready for visitors.  And they were far too busy to be bothered by the very visitors they were getting ready for.  It was almost like the business owner that wouldn't allow people inside his shop because he wanted to keep the floors clean.

One of our mantras at our church in Freiburg was, "It's all about the journey!"  We wanted to make relationships a priority, rather than just getting our tasks done.  We required all preparation to be done 30 minutes before the service started so we could enjoy each other and truly welcome our visitors.

Actually, we found a sign along the Camino that said the same thing:
"Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar." - Antonio Machado
It means, "Camino traveler, there is no Camino.  You make the Camino as you walk."  Or in other words, the Camino is a journey, not a destination.  We can't afford to take the relationships and situations around to us for granted.  We need to take time to enjoy the scenery.  We need to make time for the important people in our lives.  We need to slow down and savor the sights, smells and sounds all around us.  And most importantly, we need to quiet ourselves enough to hear God's voice as He speaks to us.  We must choose to be present.

How do you stay present?  Join the conversation!

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 1)

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 2)

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