Lanes vs Trains

As far as local politics are concerned, I’ve become a single-issue voter.

About three times a day in my car, I utter to myself, “I hate this city.” Ok, I don’t hate Atlanta (usually). But I absolutely do hate the traffic. I grew up with it, and I knew it was here before I moved back four years ago, but there’s no amount of preparation or therapy one can undergo in order to cope with the slow moving parking lot on Atlanta expressways. I’ll often look out my windshield to see more construction along the side of GA-400 and yell, “PLEASE STOP BUILDING THINGS!!!” (Really, I do).

So what’s my “single issue” as a voter? Trains. Please, please, please for the sake of all God’s glorious creation, expand the train system. Instead, we just keep adding more lanes to expressways that already have something like 16 lanes (no exaggeration). This is about as effective as putting a band aid on a cannonball wound.

Many of our congregations can get bogged down in adding lanes when we should be building a train.

In the church, adding lanes looks like doing a little bit more of the same thing, hoping that it will be helpful to people who are already in the congregation, or that it will somehow attract the people who aren’t. Building a train is a far more ambitious project which recognizes and names the challenges for what they are, casts a long-term vision that will require great patience and significant change in how people operate, risks losing people because they really prefer to stay in their “car,” but which brings people together in a more intimate, shared space that is moving more quickly in the same direction, and which ultimately improves things for everyone.

Adding lanes instead of building a train. It’s adding more programs when what’s needed is a renewed focused on making and maturing disciples of Jesus. It’s adding committees to address issues that may seem urgent, but which – if we’re honest – aren’t, and which keep us conveniently distracted from the more challenging, significant, and joyful ministry to which God is calling us. It’s adding shiny new objects to attract people to our churches when what’s needed is for us to discern and connect with what the Spirit is already doing in our communities.

You have plenty more examples, I’m sure!

Let’s stop adding lanes when what we need to do is build a train.

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