Oswald and his dog decide to build a birdhouse. They get the supplies and build their nice wooden birdhouse. They get it ready to put out for the birds, but then a friend comes by and says,
“That’s not what birds like. Birds like polka dots.”
Because Oswald is a sweet and caring walking Octopus, he gets paint and puts polka dots on it. Once again he goes to put it out for the birds, but then another friend comes by and says,
“Oh, that smells like paint. Birds don’t like the smell of paint. You should put flowers in it.”
So Oswald goes and gets some flowers and puts them in the birdhouse. For a third time he goes to put it out as another friend comes by and tells him,
“Birds aren’t going to know that this birdhouse is here. You need to get some bells to draw attention to it.”
Oswald goes out and finds some really nice bells to draw attention to it and then goes and hangs it in the yard. Birds fly by, but none of them ever go in the polka dotted, flower filled, ringing house. Oswald had done everything his friends told he needed to do to attract birds. He didn’t understand what he was missing.
As he was pondering it started to rain. The wind started to blow. The polka dots got washed off and the wind blew the flowers and bells away. The rain and wind left and Oswald is left with the birdhouse that he started with. Just has he’s starting to talk about all the work that he had to do again, a few birds come up and go in the house.
Then came the line. Oswald says,
“I guess what the birds really wanted was a nice, plain, and simple birdhouse”
This reminded me of something.
I thought about how as church-planter, it’s easy to listen to all the voices that, with good intentions, speak into my life or work. Or listen to the new books that say to add this or that.
As we head off to start a new work, I am consciously trying to reject being over complicated, or excessively professional or slick. When I really think about what people without faith in Jesus are looking for, it’s not the newest trends or ideas that we talk about in the Church-world. (I think that a lot of this is a distraction from simple mission, and new ways to talk about keeping believers entertained and interested) I think that what people are looking for are summed up in what Henri Nouwen asks in his reflection on leadership, “In the Name of Jesus”,
“Do you love me?”
At the end of the day, I think that what people want and need to experience aren’t the polka dots, flowers, and bells that we decorate Church with…they need to experience the simplicity and significance of what it mean for God to love them.
It’s easy to give into the temptation to listen too much, and add too many things to the simple practices that God has given us to participate in. I do believe that in Europe the rain and wind have come on the church and are calling us to simplify in order to be a home for the world around us.