No Straight Lines

A Snowy Day and A Cup of Coffee

ParkingLotI pulled into Dunkin Donuts one morning to grab a much-needed coffee on the way to an early morning meeting. It had snowed pretty heavily the night before so things were pretty messy driving around. Pulling into the DD parking lot was tough enough because of the mounds of snow in the entrance and people trying to navigate their way in and out of the small parking lot but something else had happened.

Where there was once very clear vibrant yellow parking lines, they had been replaced by a good few inches of snow. The lines were virtually non-exsitant as far as all the drivers were concerned and the parking lot turned into an absolute mess. People were parked sideways, some were taking up two spots, people were double-parking behind other cars making getting in and out of the parking lot nearly impossible. It was a mess and it was chaos… and I hadn’t had my coffee yet.

Straight Lines

I tell that story to make two observations; one of which I will just quickly name and the other I will dwell on for a moment. The first clear lesson I learned that day is we love our straight lines. What I mean is that as humans we, at some level or another, desire structure and organization to put into order the seeming chaos. A quick look at the parking lot that snowy day would have had anyone wishing they (and everyone else!) could just see the parking lines to put some things in order. Organizations, businesses, our lives, and parking lots benefit from structure; a system that systematizes and organizes various, “stuff”. I would go as far to say that some of our lives, mine included, may benefit from little more structure in some areas.

The second and probably the more important lesson I learned that day is that life is not made of straight lines. As much as I may want it to be, life is not a series of straight lines where everyone stays in theirs and I stay in mine and we all go on living happily into our beautifully structured and clean IKEA-like lives. Quite the opposite, life is more like the parking lot and roads covered in snow and full of people who have not got their coffee you better get out of their way.

Messy Discipleship

Northeast-Snow_sham-9-725x488Here is where it all comes to a head. If we agree that life is more messy and more fluid than a perfectly lined parking lot, then why are we making disciples who need parking lot lines to learn and make disciples? Or why are we believing that the way to make disciples is to make better parking lots? How will they teach others what it means to be someone who follows Jesus in the messy snowy days of life if we have spent our time stuck in the parking lot making more parking lots?

If I just lost you with the parking lot analogy I apologize but let me explain. A disciple, as it is defined, is a learner of a way of thought and life. So then discipleship is the process by which a person becomes and grows in the way of that particular thought and way of life. I have gone to, been involved with, and worked for churches across the map. I have seen countless models and methods to make disciples. I want to go on record and say that all of them are good to some degree and serve a purpose very much like lines on a parking lot serve a good purpose. Now, put those parking lot lines in the middle of the interstate you are going to create a mess; not because they aren’t useful but because they don’t belong there.

When we look at the modern day church, the question is, are we discipling people in a way that is helping them and others navigate the messy roads of life or are we teaching them to stay in the parking lots?

Are we discipling people to navigate the messy roads of life or the parking lots? Click to Tweet

This is Part 1 of a 3 Part series. Click here to read part 2

Greg Smith

Blogging about faith, life, church, and everything in between.

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