One of my favorite scenes from Life of Brian is a scene in which the People’s Front of Judea is having a meeting to take action. In this scene, each member of the committee in turn speaks emphatically on the importance of taking immediate action. “It’s action that counts, and not words. Right now we need action!” “Here, here!” Things change...not at all...when Judith comes in and informs the committee that Brian is about to be crucified. “Right. This calls for immediate discussion!” I’d tell you to watch the movie, but it honestly hits a little too close to home for many Methodists. It might trigger painful flashbacks. (If you still want to see it, you can find it here.)
Yes, the church has a somewhat storied history of talking and not doing. Some have pointed to that reality as one of the causes of the church’s present decline. Many have come to believe that the church (and all the people in it) talk a lot about serving and loving and being the hands of Christ but fail miserably at actually serving and loving and being the hands of Christ. In a world that increasingly values authenticity, the perception of duplicity is troubling.
It’s not just in the church. For a while Home Depot’s slogan was “Less talking. More doing.” Stop talking about painting that living room and paint it! (And we have the tools you need, of course!). Yes we are wired to admire action even as we struggle with our own animal desire to sit on the sidelines.
I touched on this last week in my article that was [not] about the Future Story of Decatur First UMC. We’ve been talking now for more than a year, I said. Now is the time, I said. And I stand by those statements, if for no other reason than to counteract the prevailing belief that the Church is losing relevance while its members do nothing but talk about the problems.
I noticed that some time ago Home Depot has changed its slogan. It is now “More Saving. More Doing.” I can think of a number of reasons why they might have done that. It’s nice to say in your slogan that people will save money by shopping with you. And it’s good for folks to see two things that describe you. Moreover, they keep that “Git ‘er Dun” edge by saying “More Doing!”
I wonder, though, if they removed “Less Talking” because of people like me. Yeah, I got up and painted my hallway. But maybe if I’d done a little more talking I’d have made sure I painted it the right color! Talking is planning. Talking is clarifying goals and purposes. Talking allows for other points of view and arguments and understanding. At its best, talking facilitates harmony.
Talking without doing risks a lifetime of inaction. Doing without talking risks a lifetime of wasted action. The two are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are mutually supportive. As is so often the case, balance is key: it is critical to maintain the proper tension between the two. Talking and doing must constantly tug ‘o war...and neither can be allowed to win.
Our delicate dance, then, is to continue talking with each other—both for the purposes of relationship building and future-discerning—while at the same time experiencing an awakening. And, if we are at our best, we will fall neither silent nor still again.