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Why? How?  What?

Why do we do the things we do in the way we do them?

I wonder what the most important part of the question is?  Is it the things that we do?  Is it the way that we do them?  Or is it the why?

For me the ‘why’ is the most important part but it’s also the part that I fear we think about least.

I have this picture on my whiteboard to remind me.

As a church, both in the local and the larger scale, we are known for what we do and how we do it.  So, at St Ninian’s when I ask about who we are the answers might be ‘friendly’ or ‘hospitable’ or ‘welcoming’.  The how and the what of that look like weekly coffee mornings and the Guild and the Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade and hosting the Hope Cafe and the Folk Club.  As far as worship goes we have a pretty standard hymn/prayer service with a sermon in the middle, and morning prayers on Monday and Thursday and Night Church through the darker winter months.

Those are good things.  They are our ‘doing’ church.

But what do they say about ‘why’ we do or are church?

Making a case for  being ‘friendly’, ‘hospitable’ and ‘welcoming’ is pretty easy.  Loving you neighbour surely involves putting the kettle on.  But friendly to whom?  Hospitable to whom?  Welcoming to whom?  Do we just put the kettle on for people we know?  Do we bake just for our friends?

We’ve actually been talking about our ‘Why’ at St Ninian’s for a year now.  We started the day I started.  That’s what all the questions are about.  That’s what all the ‘so, you think this is about this… but what if it is about that…?’ has been for.  To help us think about what we believe and about why we believe it.  A safe space to be free to think and question and doubt and change our minds and play with new ideas and keep some of them and throw other ones away.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been looking at the 10 Commandments.  I’ve suggested that they might be our high level strategic plan because they tell us how we should relate to God, how we should relate to each other and what it means to be fully ourselves.  These 10 words from God create a space for all of us to be free.  

All of us.

Not just some of us.

All of us…

Free from fear.  Free from violence.  Free from worry.

I wonder if creating that kind of space is our ‘why’?

And if it is our ‘why’ then surely that pushes us out beyond what we do now to bring that freedom to more and more people.

The next question is ‘how’?  How do we know who we are dealing with?  How do we make contact and build relationships?  How do we choose our priorities?  How will we work?  Will we do things for people or should we do things with people?

And only then, once we have worked out our ‘why’ and our ‘how’ do we think about the ‘what’.  

What will we do?  What will we need?  What will it look like and smell like and taste like and sound like and feel like?

2 Responses to “Why, How, What…”
  1. John says:

    I like your graph but in reality do the arrows not too often look inward instead of outward? We know what the church looks like today but what will the church look like tomorrow. I think at its core (administratively) it has been all about the self-preservation and this is often reflected in the strategic plans of the COS. Maybe the church needs to look at life outwith its walls, outwith the restrictions, constraints and bureaucracy of a failing ‘organisation’ rather than enabling communities to grow through scripture and faith in one another? What is clear is that we lack radical thought, open minds and I suspect a little faith in our fellow man and women to seek the way forward. For as long as we spend 99% of our time at meetings discussing the fabric of the buildings we will continue to neglect the fabric of our faith in making our communities, world and life a better place for all in harmony and happiness…..regardless of whether or not we all have a faith.

  2. Stewart says:

    I agree about the arrows. The graph comes from a TED talk by Simon Sinek. He talks about two examples, Apple and The Wright Brothers. Apple because they don’t advertise their products, they talk about a lifestyle… the why. Other tech companies talk about what their laptops do or how they work. Apple talk about theirs being beautiful. The Wright Brothers were not the only people trying to fly. They weren’t even the best funded, but they were the most committed. They believed. They had the why, and that informed the how and the what.

    The church without walls report did just that for the church of scotland… more than 20 years ago. But people get caught up in the safe stuff, the buildings and the chairs and the hymnbooks because we can control that. And it’s important… if it serves the why. But doing radical stuff, that other stuff, that’s either just too hard or possibly it’s beyond our imagining because this is all we have ever known. And even if we can imagine a new future, without knowing why we’re doing it then it’s bound to fail. We’ll just argue about what colour of chairs we should have.

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