Mess and Transformation
Where people exist, mess abounds. Which means that small groups are messy. I live in a world where mess abounds. My church is about 60% single and under the age of 35, and many of them work jobs that have political overtones or undertones. The three issues I find myself addressing over and over again: 1) appropriate relational and sexual boundaries, 2) how to approach alcohol Biblically and responsibly, and3) how to navigate tricky political issues with people whose passions and jobs are fueled by them.
I’ve discovered the hard way, and I’m beginning to discover in a hopeful way, that mess and transformation are directly proportional. There is always a link.
Sometimes mess is the byproduct of growth. When systems are working properly, there will be a messy byproduct. For example, if a car is running, there will be exhaust. It’s the natural and expected byproduct of a working system. Several years ago, a young man attended a small group training class that focused on the need for transparency among leaders. He decided to put that into practice. Which meant he had to confess to a pastor that he struggled with same-sex attraction. The growth in his life—a desire to be more transparent—resulted in some messy byproduct—a confession that had to be engaged. Because he learned and grew, mess came out. The good news? The mess led to transformation. That young man grew through the mess and today serves as a sought-after leaders in the group ministry at his church. Mess is the byproduct of growth.
Sometimes it works the other way around and mess can be the catalyst for change. Mess happens and it causes people to grow as a result. Think about compost piles. They don’t do their job unless trash is heaped on them regularly. Several years ago, a leader met with me to let me know he was stepping down from leadership and submitting to spiritual authority for accountability and growth. He confessed that he had been hanging out with his small group one night and had a bit too much to drink. The result was behavior inappropriate for a Christ-follower, much less for a leader. He submitted to a process of accountability and growth which catalyzed spiritual growth in his life, and his transparency and response actually caused those around him to respect him more. Mess happened, which catalyzed a growth moment, and transformation happened. Today, he's back in leadership with more maturity and more respect from those he leads.
Mess is the byproduct, the catalyst, and the environment of transformation. Mess means that change is happening, is right around the corner, or will happen if we engage it correctly.