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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes

The uniform height of grass

Years ago a friend asked me a trick question. You've been through the same routine. He asked if I'd been bitten by a hippopotamus. You know the answer: of course not! Then, he asked if I'd ever been assaulted by a no-see-em (that's a South Carolina species smaller than gnats or fleas, officially leptoconops torrens). Yes, many times. Then the punch line: see, little things do matter. And, I remember thinking they matter to some people more than others, as he picked the lint off my sweater, mentally analyzed the length of my side-burns, and reminded me that my right shoe lace was almost untied. it didn't take a shrink to recognize his OCD tendencies.

Getting bogged down in details prevents many of us reaching the starting blocks of mission. Overlooking the details will typically hinder reaching the finish line of that same assignment. They are the kissing cousins that irritate and frustrate us, too much or not enough of the fine print. Jesus told his disciples exactly where to find a donkey for what we call the Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem, and exactly what to say when they found it. Just the same, he warned about the empty religion of the scribes and Pharisees, their obsession with meaningless details that kept them spiritually off-track.

There's plenty of attention to detail in church life. Make note of a few instances---

1. Legalism endangered the church right from the beginning.

Religion was usually works based and their lists were typically intricate and

precise. Jesus warned about going through the motions of ritual and scolded

the religionists for straining out gnats and swallowing camels, just one absurd

word picture of their attention to the minute aspects of faith. Paul, a hyper-

religionist before his conversion, wrote to the churches often about the

dangers of being obsessed with inconsequential matters.

2. Church history is a chronicle of our misguided emphasis of tiny matters.

For generations we've debated the practices of church life and have seen the

dispersion of the Body of Christ over vestments, colors, chalices, candles,

music, confessionals, catechisms, covenants, creeds, processionals,

lectionaries, and all manner of ecclesiological pageantry. Weighty matters like

doctrine, mode of baptism, the authority and efficacy of Scripture, the nature

and mission of the church are always worth debate, and even separation. But,

whether we use a wooden cup, a silver chalice, or the plastic throw-aways

seems of little consequence. Give me a break!

3. Evangelicals know a thing or two about church details too.

Today we call it worship wars and there is an element of discord about

hymnology, formalism, and staging. But, our love of littleness often extended

much farther. We've dictated in my life time what version of the Bible was

approved, appropriate dress for Sunday worship, the length of women's skirts

at church, how to modestly wear make-up, when to stand, when to sit, who's

in , who's out, and which leadership style works. I remember back a few years

ago when a church deacon confronted me over the color of my tie. He said

good "preachers" always wore a red tie. He was serious!

4. Quibbling isn't a spiritual gift or virtue.

Most of us have been in church business or committee meetings when

someone wanted to argue a fine point of church governance, nitpick nickels

and dimes in the church financial plan, who is approved or disapproved for use

of the church facility, or the proverbial choice of the carpet color in the

sanctuary. This kind of behavior is aggravating to church leaders and often

polarizes the congregation to the point that members play hooky when

important matters are to be decided. It's a mission killer and should be dealt

with by those in spiritual leadership.

5. Kingdom vision is doing God's thing without obsessing over the little stuff.

Trusting God's provision for mission is an important theme that should be

talked about with regularity. There are many biblical instances when the details

got in the way of God's blessing for His people. Listening, praying, practicing

spiritual discernment, and leadership are essential when straining at gnats

prevents mission.

There have been many occasions in the past thirty-five years when I prayed for more attention to details. Even more, however, is my gratitude that I wasn't one who worried over the uniform height of grass.

BTW, depending on the type of grass and the time of year, the uniform height of grass is somewhere between 1.5 inches and 4 inches. If you find a blade taller, get out the clippers.

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