I love Robin Hood stories. I grew up on the cute Disney version of the story with the foxes and lions and bears and bunnies. I still love the fact that my children enjoy the movie because that means I get to catch snippets of it now and then. Then came high school when I was introduced to the great Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Admittedly, I am not a Kevin Coster fan. But, he does seem to find his way into the leading role of some great and well-written stories, Robin Hood being one of them. I still love that movie!
A couple of years ago, though, a new Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe hit the theaters. My husband and I rarely watch movies in theaters, so we get to sit back and listen to the talk of others before we decide whether or not to watch new movies as they come out on DVD. Everything we heard about the new Robin Hood story compared it to Prince of Thieves. And most of our friends didn’t like the new movie.
Doug and I finally had the chance to rent the movie. But, we went in knowing that it would be different. And we came out loving it! Granted, we still love Robin Hood:Prince of Thieves as well. But we enjoy both movies for very different reasons, depending on our "movie mood" of the time (which happens to be our standard for deciding what movie to watch when we have a movie night).
So, what do my movie preferences have to do with spiritual things? Preconceptions. Most of our friends who didn’t like the new movie went in with some misconceptions about the storyline. So, the movie didn’t live up to their expectations. We, on the other hand, went in knowing a little better what to expect. That freed us up to enjoy it independently of our old favorite.
I think that happens a lot in our ministry to others as well. We hunger to minister to people. We want to disciple them. We want them to grow and learn. We want to encourage. We want to mentor. But, how much information do we truly give these people before we drag them into whatever great thing we have in store for them? Very little, unfortunately.
We tell them we want to love on them.
We neglect to tell them we hunger to challenge them to grow.
We tell them we want them to see the joy of walking with Christ.
We neglect to warn them that challenges will come in the spiritual walk as well.
We tell them we want to be their friends.
We neglect to tell them that friendship, true friendship, sometimes means painful honesty.
We see Christians living everyday, humdrum lives, and we want to introduce them to glories of a life of vibrant spiritual growth. But, we’re afraid if we tell them the deep truths and let them know up front that it will be hard that we’ll lose them before we even start. So, we tell them the good parts. And we lose them when the challenges hit.
I was given the heads-up about something as silly as a movie. "Hey, this movie is completely different from the one we know, love, and grew up on! Just to warn you." That left me free to explore and to establish my opinions. What if we were to trust the women in our churches with the "heads-up" about the nitty-gritty nature of spiritual growth? What if we were to look at that nominal church member and say, "I really want to get to know you better. But, I warn you – friendship with me can be a tricky thing. I’m growing in the Lord and sometimes have to deal with the consequences of that. I just need friends to walk through it with me, both the good and the bad. Would you walk that journey with me?"
Some would laugh nervously and run hard in the opposite direction, without a doubt. But others would take the challenge. And oh how their lives would change! They wouldn’t be able to help but grow with us! They might not know what to expect, but they would know to expect the unexpected!
It wouldn’t hurt for us to share a few spoilers now and then with the people we are called to minister to. Let them know a little bit about the faith walk they’re getting into. Knock down some of those false preconceptions and expectations. Give them a clean slate to be open to the unexpected.
Who knows – they just might find they like the new a whole lot more than they expected!