A Parable of Churchville

[This is one of a series of posts related to the REVEAL Spiritual Life Survey. To see the others, click here.] Welcome to Churchville, Population 10. (Generally very good and likeable people.)

An exciting opportunity has come to Churchville, as electricity has become available to the residents.

Time passes, and a very interesting thing happens. Half of the residents of Churchville take advantage of the availability of electricity by bringing it into their homes. One of these comes to believe so strongly in the benefits of electricity that he (upper left) is willing to give anything for the sake of electricity and deeply desires for all of his neighbors to come to experience it as he has. The four others who have connected to electricity are also enthusiastic about it. It has dramatically changed how they live their everyday lives. This "connected" half of Churchville's population all exhibit a love of electricity and a high degree of hospitality toward and concern for their neighbors.

But half of our residents of Churchville have never chosen to connect their homes to the available electric current, and they have varying reasons. One of them simply isn't convinced that electricity exists. He says that his neighbors who claim to have electricity in their homes are just fooling themselves with wishful thinking. Yet, even though he thinks these five neighbors of his are living under a delusion, he remains in Churchville rather than leaving, because it's a good place to be.

The other four of our non-electric residents are a bit more of a puzzle. They believe in electricity, but for whatever reason still have yet to make the appropriate arrangements for it to come into their home. The most notable thing, though, was three of these four seem to be unaware that they are living without electricity! They talk and often act as if they have it in their homes, even to the point of occasionally buying an appliance or sending the electric company money for the bill they think they owe. (One of them even volunteers to serve on the board of the electric company.) Yet these three continue to go on with their electricity-less lives, with no realization that they could be living any differently.

Only one of the non-electric residents notices the gap between how she is living and what her life would be like with electricity. One of the "connected" neighbors gave her a light bulb, and she really wants more light in her house. Neighbors and electric company workers are confident that she will make the necessary arrangements and become connected soon.

So what's the point of the parable? I am a big fan of the REVEAL Spiritual Life Survey for churches. It seeks to give church leaders a measurable way of looking at how effectively they help people grow. Our church participated almost two years ago, and will take our second survey this fall to see how we have improved.

Our results indicate that somewhere close to 1/2 of our people have yet to significantly arrange their lives in ways that would make growth in their love for God and others natural. Also, of these, only about 1 in 5 recognize that things should be different.

Of all of the things that are presented to church leaders as worthy of our time and energy, nothing is more essential than this: modeling and communicating how profoundly good it is to live our lives fully in the kingdom of God, so that any others who desire to do so will know how, and that others will have a more accurate understanding of what it is they're being invited to in the Christian life.

"Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news: 'It's time. The kingdom of God is now available. Change your mind and direction and believe the good news." (Mark 1:15, paraphrase)