Our small group had a game night and it was a blast. It is a joy to have such an amazing group of people as friends and to do ministry with. It is also really good to just play together every now and again.
But it was something that happened during one of our games that launched me into thinking about what people in the church hear, what they own, and why it matters.
It was Bible Taboo. Yes, the game Taboo (the buzzer had a dead battery) with biblical words. There really isn't anything sanctified about the game, you still try to get your team to guess a word by any means necessary without using the list of other words on the card.
The word on the card was "family." I quickly thought to myself... church values! Reservoir has for the last year or so communicated our key values as "Jesus. Family. Renewal." We are a people rescued by Jesus. Formed into family. For the renewal of others and all things. Pretty amazing, right?!
So that's what I go with. "What are Reservoir's values?" Nothing. "Okay, the first one is Jesus..." "The third is renewal, what the middle one?" "Okay, we are formed into ______." There were responses but none of them were family when "TIME" was called.
Yikes. This is the pastor's small group! What does this say about how badly I am communicating our values?
Now our small group has a new inside joke, they don't know our tag lines. For good measure, I texted a couple of pictures of our logo and branding that recites our values. Now they can memorize them!
Note to self, think of better ways of communication and ownership of our shared mission!
When a couple of the guys from the small group showed up to Bible study this morning we had to recount the episode to another chap who also could not answer the same question.
As we continued to talk I was saying something about the importance of spiritual formation paired with Sunday mornings but also apart from it. Mentioning that our people may not remember what they hear on Sunday but might remember what they see Monday through Saturday. To that Dave responded, "wait a minute, there is plenty that you say on Sunday that we remember, as I always joke, you only have one sermon. It's a good thing."
Hearing this I thought of my dismay as the knowledge in contrast with vital things being communicated. The values are expressed they might just be recalled in different language.
In response to Dave, I said, "Okay then, what do I want all of you to smell like?" Almost in unison, the three guys at the table answered "Jesus!"
So they do listen!
Over the last couple of years, watching the myriad ways of responding to the pandemic and political tensions in our country, I have consistently reminded our church that in a sea of ideas and opinions stick with those that smell like Jesus. After all this has been a guide for me when evaluating teaching or posturing of even "famous" Christians. So much of it doesn't jive with what Jesus prioritized or preached. It smells like something else.
Certainly, I am not the first pastor to want his church, his people, his friends to smell like Jesus. To look like Jesus. To love and speak truth like Jesus. But maybe this is more of our communicated value than I once thought.
To smell like Jesus. To be a smelly church with the aroma of Christ.
I don't think we will scrap the other branding just yet, but we will endeavor to keep smelling like Jesus. It really is all we've got.