Ideals and the Bare Minimum

“Assume the best. Ask hard questions.”

Anyone that’s been around Christ Community Church in the last few years can attest to the presence of key phrases in the congregation’s collective lexicon. We like our stuff to be tweet-able, apparently, and have undoubtedly uttered at least one of these phrases in conversation both inside and outside of our gatherings:

“We want to make Jesus un-ignorable in our city.”
“We want to B.L.E.S.S. those around us.”
“God always gets the first word.”
“Adopt a posture of honesty and hope.”
“Assume the best. Ask hard questions.”

Now, before this reads as cynical, let me clarify my stance here: I’m a former youth-grouper who was raised on The Fish, so I’ve found my pseudo-adult self to be fairly resistant to Christian jargon of several varieties. However, I’m completely bought in to the deeper meaning behind these concise taglines. The thought that our Church could help create a culture where Jesus is brought to the foreground of our lives and dialogue, especially in the way we love the people God has placed in our lives, while continually looking to scripture as the true Word of God, as we commit ourselves to vulnerability, authenticity, and inter-personal grace, is pretty exciting.

I’m an idealist, and I like those ideals.

But what if they aren’t ideals?

We’re moving into a season with the church’s band where we have more people than we’ve ever had, which is awesome. Most of those people are real Athenians, meaning that they’ll probably be around longer than most college students, which is also awesome. A more stable group of musicians means that we can be far more detail-oriented in the way that we schedule bands, arrange songs, and develop band culture, which is awesome. It’s an exciting time to be directing our band!

However, with a large, stable group of individuals, all of whom differ in both their musical and non-musical personalities, and their aspirations for our band as a whole, it can be fairly daunting to attempt to manage the band in a way that will not only facilitate a positive environment for the people freely giving their time to help us proclaim and internalize truth through song, but that will serve the church as a whole most effectively, which is the point of the band in the first place.

I’ve found myself looking ahead into the coming season of the church, and at first, my thoughts sounded like this:

“How great would it be if we all assumed the best and asked hard questions?!”

But the longer I thought, the more conversations I had, the more stories I heard, the more I became convinced that assuming the best and asking hard questions is more than just a cute ideal scenario.

This posture of vulnerability, where I assume the best of both band members and other congregants, even when my first inclination is to feel hurt, offended, or mistreated, while simultaneously being vulnerable and courageous enough to ask questions that may be uncomfortable or downright painful, all through the gracious provision of God, is actually the bare minimum if I want to help the band (or any other inter-personal situation, for that matter) thrive.

If I assume the best and ask hard questions as the band directior:

  • I take criticism as an opportunity to improve, rather than an insult to my talent or work ethic.
  • I’m quicker to inquire about the real meaning of “that thing you said” instead of internalizing and harboring any offense I may feel.
  • I trust that any seemingly-impossible-to-schedule volunteers have lives that are just as busy as my own (if not more), adopting a posture of continuous gratitude for their service.
  • I believe that my amp really does need to be turned down.
  • I field suggestions from both band members and other congregants with equal parts grace and honesty.

The list will go for days here, but the point should be clear. I don’t want to assume the best and ask hard questions. I need to. The culture I want to help create simply will not be created if I don’t. It’s not an ideal. It’s the bare minimum.

What if that was true about more than just the band?

What if that was true about more than just assuming the best and asking hard questions?

How would that change us?

With Hope,

Ian