I am often “playing with my toys.” I can’t help it, I see something that looks interesting and I am compelled to put it through it’s paces to see what I can do with it. My playing around, however, isn’t all wasted time. By the time I get finished fiddling around I often have a net set of skills at my disposal for use in my life and ministry – I’ve also increased my ability to problem solve so that when I’m confronted with obstacles I have a deeper well of resources I can draw upon. When I play, I learn. When I learn, I’m not only happy, I become more useful for the community I serve.
Over the years, my playing has impact the way I pastor in a multitude of ways, from the sublime to the seemingly silly. The first time I saw the Wii in action, for example, I envisioned using it to bring people together for something fun – it looks silly, but it’s brought a lot of people together in the Church. The first time I saw iMovie back in seminary I knew that video could be a powerful way to communicate, so I learned. When YouTube broke into the mainstream I played some more and increased my skills (just a little) – and through that play video has been a way that Central witnesses, and communicates, our community. Last month, I played around with ustream, and am already looking at using live video on the web to show our community in action. It’s fun, and I’ve learned.
Play is so important to me, as a matter of fact, that my Church study has entire shelf of toys dedicated to reminding me (and anyone else who happens to enter my domain) about it’s importance! Legos, Gobots, TMNT, and Star Wars all make an appearance on top of my book shelf that is dedicated to history, theology, and Biblical Studies. A better mix, I could not imagine. It’s through my play, after all, that I imagine ideas for sermon series, Bible studies, and worship experiences. When I’m not able to play, I find myself strangely distance from God.
Now, my penchant for play has left some feathers ruffled. So people believe that pastors should be much more sedate and dignified and I will likely ever be. To these folks, a pastor shouldn’t be so obviously awed by a book, or a movie, or by the possibilities granted by a new “toy.” To these folks, pastoring is “serious business,” and so pastors should not be spending so much time playing. I used to feel guilty about that. I mean, after all, I am an ordained pastor. People allow me into the most intimate moments of their lives. I’m immersed in the grief, joy, and transitions of the folks who worship here – and I’ve sometimes thought that, perhaps, I should just “grow up” and be serious.
Then I hit myself and I feel better.
The truth is, human beings learn through play. From our earliest childhood until our last breath. We play roles, we explore, we tinker, we tweak, we experiment – it is, quite frankly, built into the very fabric of what it means to be human. If you show me a person who has forgotten how to play, I’ll show you a person who has forgotten how to learn and who has lost their sense of wonder.
Jesus, in fact, seems to get the need to be child-like as we pursue him and his Kingdom. He says in the Gospel of Mark,
One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.
When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
Mark 10:13-16 NLT-SE
So it might not be dignified enough, and it might not look serious enough, for folks who expect a staid and stoic pastor – but I think I’ll keep playing anyway. I want to be amazed. I want to marvel. I want to experience the wonder at what Jesus is doing in this world and at how humanity continues to image God even through the blight of sin. More than that I want to invite people to play with me, so we can be amazed by Jesus together.
Now, if you don’t mind, I have some serious playing to do.