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Tension

February 12, 2018

Have you ever watched those spiders skimming on the calm, glassy surface of a lake or a pond? They zip along effortlessly on the surface of the water, never sinking to the depths below. What enables the spider to walk upon water? Obviously, the fact that its total weight is less than a gram helps, but the molecules that make up the spider, are still denser than the water itself. So how does the spider accomplish this biblical feat? The principle reason enabling them to zip along on the top of the lake, is a thing called “surface tension.” The tension that exists in water molecules that causes them to bond at the surface creating an elastic layer, is what enables them to support the weight of the spider and many other objects that should otherwise sink (And indeed do sink once they are plunged beneath the surface).

Tension is a wonderful force. It exists in many environments, and in many relationships. Tension in relationships and communal environments is the result of people being pulled by forces or biases in different directions. Often we view tension as fully negative, and therefore do all that we can to create a tension free environment. However, tension free, usually means one party is getting its way and the other is not. The idea that if you gather 100 people in a room, you will usually have 101 opinions, is not far off the mark, because everyone is filtering their opinion through a list of personal preferences and experiences. Individual perspectives and bias are sure to create tension. Perhaps creating a tension free environment is therefore not as desirable as you would think.

The church is a great microcosm for witnessing relational tension. Why? As people encounter Christ and become more whole and complete individuals, they also become more powerful as well. Healthy believers are not tossed two and fro on the waves of whim and manipulation, rather they have developed a sense of identity through Christ, that has empowered them to confidently express their opinions and ideas. This is a recipe for conflict and tension. Since we want people to become healthy, powerful, confident children of God, we must also embrace tension. Our goal should therefore, not be to avoid relational tension, but to train the church body to put on the humility of Christ.

Humility will cause us to express our opinion, while enabling us to be respectful of the opinions of others. Humility will give us the grace to put others ahead of ourselves. Humility will empower the body of Christ to recognize the beauty of tension, enabling us to turn potential problems into opportunities. If we acknowledge this tension in the body of Christ, and we practice deference and put to death selfish ambition, it is amazing what God can do.

Our church has recently been experiencing a genuine hunger for God. After 21 days of prayer and four weekly prayer meetings during that span, God answered our cries and we have witnessed a dramatic increase in passion and hunger. The restored passion and hunger has resulted in spontaneous altar times, protracted worship, and altars filled in response to the preaching of the word. The problem is, this all adds to the length of the service. The move is wonderful, and for those whose calling is worship, whose ministry is working around the altars, praying for hungry believers, it is all good. But for those serving in nursery, those working with 30 kids – all 3 and 4 years old, those doing children’s church; the move of God, looks a lot like work. That which is helping people get healthy and whole, is also creating frustration for workers who must come up with an additional 15 to 30 minutes of creativity and energy. So far, (a testament to how awesome our workers are) no one is complaining, but the tension is already there. On one hand, the response is, “Don’t quench the spirit”, “We don’t want to do anything that would get in the way of what Holy Spirit is doing,” and on the other, you have those concerned that longer services, mean hungry, energetic children and tired workers.

Walking in humility and deference, enables us to acknowledge the tension, and work to find solutions where one side doesn’t win at the expense of the other. In our situation, we gathered as staff and asked some important questions:

  • Are there elements of the service we can shorten to allow more time for spontaneity?
  • Can the preaching be shortened by five to ten minutes? (Heaven forbid)
  • Can we dismiss the service on time so people can get their children, but allow the altars to remain open?
  • Can we find additional workers who can go in during a prayer time at the end of a service and give assistance or relief to workers?
  • Are there systems we can put in place to let workers know the service that morning may go a little longer?
  • Are there better tools and supports we can give our children’s workers that will enable them to serve for a little longer?

Finding solutions to these questions and more, enables us to embrace the tension and use it to make us better. As we recognize that the tension only exists because God is doing something supernatural, we will be able to embrace the tension and work together to facilitate what God is doing, while supporting those who serve our precious children so faithfully. Embracing the tension and walking in humility, esteeming others before ourselves, will allow us to “walk on water” together, rather drowning alone.