It was written 7 weeks before I stepped down so unfortunately it was a conversation (for me) that stalled. But as I re-read it I found it surprisingly thought provoking and something I'd like to investigate further. I raised a few questions that I haven't been able to answer yet, (like, how do you teach someone to wonder?) but I think they are questions that can help lead to a good answer. Anyway, I offer it here in full (with brief insertions for clarity) in hopes that it might encourage you and assist folks in shepherding the affections of their flock.
I've been mulling this over in my mind for a while too. Here are simply just some thoughts that have occurred to me.
I think we know the what (cultivating the affections) but achieving it is another playing field. As leaders, I don't believe it is our duty or place to be the cause or manufacturers of emotions of our people. I think we all agree on this. But it is our place to point them to the cause and source which can give life to the affections (and not just simply point them, but to nurture them in the affections and aid in their development). So I don't think our 'success' or 'failure' rests in whether or not our people respond with the proper affections. That's a helpful indicator, but not the goal. Our 'goal' and the measure of our success and failure in the realm of affections, I believe, is how well we show, reveal, clarify, explain, display, Christ. Essentially, how well we point to Christ and how well we cultivate a lifestyle of proper affections. That is the real challenge.
I can't help but think of my children (especially in light of our efforts to benefit the spiritually young). I can show my kids something I think is amazing and be underwhelmed by their 'whoopdee doo' response. On some level, it's up to me to cultivate their understanding in such a way that they then have the ability to view it with an appropriate level of awe. I showed Adison [my eldest daughter] a picture of a mountain in New Zealand yesterday. I was blown away by the beauty of the picture, the immensity of the mountain, the beauty of the snowy peak above and the lush green below. I said, 'look at this!' and she said, 'eh' and walked away. If I were really serious about getting her to see the same beauty I was seeing I would really have to sit down and think for a bit, especially on her level, to come up with a way to show her, "here's why it's amazing". This, actually, now that I think about it, might take two minutes or twelve years. And then I'd have to start again with Noah [my son] and the other kids (but perhaps by the time Willow [my fourth child] comes around to appreciating the beauty, she has grown up in an environment where the whole household provides the example and the painstaking explanations that initially started with kid #1 aren't as necessary with kid #4?). And of course there's always the possibility that one of my kids, no matter what I do, will never give a flip about a beautiful mountain. If that's the case, I think my job still remains, to try to cultivate an understanding in such a way that they then have the ability to view beautiful things with an appropriate level of awe.
Ultimately it is about getting them to see the mountain and gasp without my explanations and reasonings and such, so that they will have a proper response throughout their lifetime without my aid. (it just occurred to me that perhaps the best way might not even be explanations--though that is often a necessary and worthy route--but rather to just take them to see the mountains in real life, up close and personal. That blows my explanations of why the picture is amazing right out of the water.) Hopefully cultivating affections and wonder at an early age will establish a lifetime of astonishment. It's the whole 'teach a man to fish' thing. Show a man a wonder and he'll praise God for a day. Teach a man to wonder and he'll praise God his whole life (because wonder, after all, is simply involuntary praise). Showing the wonder/beauty/amazing truth is necessary and needs to happen, but it is far greater to teach a man to wonder, to feel the stab of beauty, to cry or sing amazing truth on his own alongside you.
Translating this theme (cultivating affections for those unaware or indignant or immature or whathaveyou) to worship would seem easy enough (just show them Jesus!) but it's pretty difficult. It's the same as me showing the picture to Adison. It's amazing sure, and folks might be awed by it (since they are able to rightly be awed). And that's where we find ourselves now I'd reckon. I think we have done a noble job thus far simply showing and displaying Jesus as amazing and worthy of our affections in worship. And those of us who are able to be amazed, or whatever the appropriate emotion might be, may not have a hard time doing so. But I think the difficult part, the part that prompts us to pray and write emails about it and be concerned for the flock, I think is this idea of how do we cultivate an understanding in such a way that they then have the ability to view the beauty, truth, and goodness of Christ with the appropriate affections.
I am going to continue to think through this, but maybe one place where we can start (the obvious place) is ourselves. Think through what you find amazing about Christ. Specific stuff. What makes your heart leap when you ponder it. What catches your breath? It doesn't always have to be doctrine. It could be that mountain, right? Then (and here I'm not sure just yet) I think it might be helpful to our people if we begin to share with our people what amazes us, or shocks us, or grieves us, or causes joy, etc. Not necessarily what should cause joy or what should amaze us. And I'm not necessarily thinking it should be presented as in a personal testimony or anything, but that our speech, when we speak of our desire, would be full of flavor when we speak about it. It's like when you tell someone, "Try the steak". The way you say it reveals your love for it, your desire for them to participate in the same experience you've had, even though you never said you've tried the steak for yourself. It's just evident that you did.
My problem, I'll confess, is simply expressing that in a public way. Not that I fear it, but that I'm a tongue tied, rambling speaker. My points become less clear and more muddled. No doubt a bit more discipline on my part to prepare my thoughts beforehand would be a great benefit. Prayer would be appreciated here for me in that.
But to bring this behemoth full circle and maybe in sum:
1) we have a job to do regarding the affections (I was convinced for a long time we didn't): that job is to point clearly to the truth, goodness, and beauty of Christ and aid in cultivating the affections of our people.
2) the right affections of our people ought to be a helpful indicator but not be the measure of our 'success'. When it becomes the measure/the ultimate goal, we will always, always manipulate and try in our own strength to produce the effects (and usually with spectacular 'success' or 'failure'. but I digress...)
3) cultivating the affections is deep and continuous, like training children, it has to be a 'lifestyle' of the church and her leadership, always cultivating, always being amazed, always on the lookout for wonder in everything
4) don't be content to just show people a wonder, teach people to wonder
Anyway, that's how I approach this. I think it helps us attack the issue from a proper angle. Looking forward to digging through this will all of you.
thoughts? pushbacks? etc?
your longwinded brother,