“Name one amazing thing that has happened recently in your congregation.”
That was the assignment the facilitator gave to the gathering of people from congregations across the region. The day-long workshop had just started. She gave people just three or four minutes to think. And then she invited people to speak.
In a room of 150, you wonder whether people will speak. Some of the people were pastors. Many were not. Several denominations were represented. Churches were big and mostly smaller. Few people knew other people when the event started.
“We just paid off our mortgage.”
“One of our people gave a kidney to another.”
“This young leader has started a new study and kids are coming.”
With each message, people smiled and nodded. The room relaxed a little, and then got excited. People were leaning forward, anxious to report on amazing things.
I have been in similar rooms that weren’t so engaged, and least not in the same way. The workshops have started off talking about what isn’t working. And there are many examples, much frowning and nodding.
Paul may have been talking about conversations like this when he wrote to one of the churches he helped start. “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong,” he said, “but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I don’t often think about conversation threads being part of doing good for each other. But when I watched the people in the room find courage and hope, I realized that they are. The feeling of the whole day built on that encouragement, that sense of extending what is working rather than dwelling on what isn’t.
It may be a good idea for the rest of us, too.
“What’s one amazing thing that’s happened around you recently?”
This was first published in 2017. I thought we needed to smile today.