Last Sunday, Pastor Ken taught from Luke 12, the Parable of the Rich Fool. It was a message that came at a good time for me. I had just spent the entire previous week (working through both my days off and a holiday) getting new system processing in. I thought it sounded a ton better; however, by Saturday night, I had heard various criticisms of the new sound. Some thought it was too middy, others thought it was too muddy. Still others noticed that you could really hear the reflections off the back wall now.
By the end of the night, I was pretty discouraged. But as I thought more about the message, my discouragement has been displaced by gratitude. Ken shared some things that I already knew, but was glad to be reminded. For example, if you make more than $50,000 per year, you are wealthier than 98% of the rest of the world. That's pretty staggering. As I thought about that, I realized that as a church with a PA that even has system processing, we are probably in the top 5% of churches worldwide. The fact that we have musicians and sound engineers who know enough to have an educated opinion about the sound bumps us up even higher. So while it may not be everything we'd ever want, it's a whole lot better than what most are dealing with.
And that's the rub.
See, we always tend to compare ourselves with the wrong end of the spectrum. We're not happy with something in our church, and we're quick to point out another one that has more or better. Take our PA. We have the wrong desks feeding the wrong speakers that are hung improperly, in a room that lacks any type of decent acoustic treatment. It's easy to say, "Man, if only we had the same room that XYZ church has," and totally forget that most of the churches in driving distance of ours would be amazed at our system. When I think about that, I can scale that illustration to every single church I've ever been a part of.
Back in the late '80s, I was part of a small church plant. After several years of using the 70 volt ceiling speakers of the middle school cafeteria we were meeting in, we finally saved up $2,000 to buy a powered mixer and some speakers on sticks. It was a vast upgrade. I've been thinking about that this past week, having just spent nearly three times that amount on new processors to improve a system that I'm not happy with. I mean, really...
So while it's easy to compare our situation to someone else or some other church that has more, perhaps we should look the other way. Consider the others who have less (and there are far more of them, no matter how big or small your current church or income is). Suddenly, it's a lot easier to be thankful.
And an amazing thing happens when we replace envy and an ungrateful spirit with one of gratefulness and gratitude; suddenly, the stuff we have doesn't look so bad.
This isn't to say we shouldn't always be looking to improve when we can. However, it's important to keep the proper perspective. When we're thankful and grateful for what we have, we can continue to tweak and get better without feeling like we're not measuring up. Expand this thinking out to musicians and volunteers and you can see where we end up: Thankful--for whatever we have.
So that's my thought process this Thanksgiving. I'm trying to re-train my brain to not compare myself with the 2% of the world that has more than me, but with the 98% that has less.
In closing, I'd like to say that in addition to being thankful for my family, my church and of course, my Savior; I'm also thankful for you, kind reader. Your comments and e-mails are so encouraging and I have truly enjoyed getting to know some of you over the last two and a half years.