Imagine the scene: The room is abuzz. Ohio State is beating a path to a national championship. Playstation 4 has a number of new features to die for. Pinterest can help you make nutritious salads from Dandelion stems. The new Superman is better than the old one.
Then someone opens a Bible. Immediately the room falls mute, and every head goes down. The leader invites participation. He may as well have asked for bone marrow donors.
What happened? Like I said, it’s a mystery.
There’s a lot of theories to explain this phenomenon. I know because I’ve spent years reading the books that give them. The group is too large or too small. The icebreaker is too lame. The questions are not enticing enough. The snacks aren’t good enough. The activities aren’t fun enough. Every one of these reasons has its point, but they all share one thing in common: They are all externals. Structure related. Addressing any or all of these might help. They might. For a short time. I actually attended a fellowship where some of the youth in the church tried to battle religious stuffiness by putting ping-pong tables in the meeting area for Sunday morning church. It was fun for a couple of weeks. Then it started to feel ridiculous. So they began to cycle in a bunch of other colorful ideas until people got exhausted with that, too. The whole effort was like moving food around on a plate in order to make meal time more compelling. But no dice. The problem was coming from a deeper level.
Time to break out a shovel and dig.
Beneath the surface, one of the things we realize is that some people are quiet by nature. But it’s interesting how these “quiet” people will have many passionate things to say about politics or the best martial arts fighting styles. You’re shocked. It’s like, “Who the heck are you? Never seen you like this.” All of a sudden they are amazingly well spoken…about those things. Their sheer breadth of knowledge, confidence, and willingness to make their opinions heard indicate that the stalled meeting wasn’t merely due to their quiet personalities.
We Christians love that verse, “Where two or three are gathered…”
Well, try it. Get one or two other folks together with you and see what happens. Deliberately focus on a much smaller test group. If the same listlessness occurs there, you might have isolated a cause. There, at the bottom of the hole you’ve excavated, you may have found the dessicated bones of someone’s spiritual life. Dried up. Neglected. In other words, there may not be anything wrong at the group level. It’s something individual–personal. Take enough people suffering this trouble, put them together in a room, and of course you’re going to be less than inspired. No group band-aid is going to fix the problem. No surface adjustments are going to make those bones start dancing.
Time for some personal care.