Cool it now, you gotta slow it down, ooh, watch out…
An 80’s New Edition song was playing over the loudspeakers as I perused the AS-IS section of that ultimate Scandinavian big-box furniture store also known as IKEA.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had an up and down relationship with IKEA. Sometimes it seems to be the best store ever (better than, dare I say it, Target), and other times it seems like a headache waiting to happen. But recently, as I’ve had to buy tables, chairs, prints, you name it, in launching my new educational tutoring center (another story for another time), I was registering on the positive side of the barometer.
And as I shopped at IKEA, I got to thinking about some parallels between IKEA and our Christian life.
There are many things IKEA will provide for you the customer. Free thick colorful catalogs on each floor for you to peruse. Check. Bright yellow shopping bags to stuff. Check. Handy dandy little sharpened pencils to jot down item numbers. Check again. Free coffee if you have an IKEA family card. Yup, that’s right.
But there are certain things IKEA won’t do for you. Or put another way, there are certain things IKEA expects you the customer to do for yourself. You the customer are expected to load your own boxes and take them home. Once home, you have the task of deciphering instructions and utilizing the handy dandy tools to assemble your own furniture. You could say it’s the IKEA way, their philosophy. They can keep their prices low by relying on you the customer to be involved every step of the way.
Kind of like the church, and specifically, our church. Lighthouse will do many things for us the congregants. Greet us at the door and walk us over to where we need to go. Provide us with an outline for every sermon. Water us with faithful teaching from the Word. Prepare study guides for small group Bible studies. Encourage us to share prayer requests, talk with an elder or deacon, and ask for Biblical counseling. Check all.
But there are some things the church expects us the members to do for ourselves. Read the Bible and pray everyday (as the song goes, “Then you’ll grow, grow, grow”). Commit the hours on a weeknight to meet together in small groups. Invest time, mind, and heart in reflecting upon and answering study guide questions. Show up to the special events, including missions luncheons, church meetings, and membership classes. Serve actively in different ministries. Be generous with our resources in supporting church family members who go forth on missions.
It’s the way of the church, and specifically, our church. But towards what purpose? To save money? No. To increase profit? No…well, actually, yes. Active participation will allow our church life to be fully profitable for our souls. So that there would an increase – not of the bottom line – but in our worship and growth in the Lord as the body of Christ.
Active participation – it does a body (of Christ) good.
It Takes Two
Have you ever noticed that it is so much easier to shop at IKEA with two people? It is so much easier to carry boxes into your car, out of your car, and up the stairs, not to mention to assemble the furniture. So say for instance your two daughters are long overdue for full size desks. You make the trip to IKEA but realize you won’t be able to complete this task by yourself. Then imagine if one of the young engaged couples at your church stops by and builds the desks for you. You would definitely be thankful.
Or say you buy a number of plastic chairs from IKEA. You assemble one and realize it will take you at least fifteen minutes to build just one chair. Multiply that by fifteen chairs and it looks like you will be assembling chairs for a very long time. Then say your accountability group shows up with their handy husbands and cheerful kids. Suddenly your chairs are assembled in no time. Not only the chairs, but the tables, which would have taken you even longer.
Many of us have many stories such as these. We have sweet vignettes of our church family surrounding us with love and service and care. These moments leave a deep imprint on our hearts and add to our understanding of the love of God as demonstrated through His church.
Yet, in our current day and age, we often have to resist a tendency towards self-reliance. We rather pay an anonymous someone than inconvenience people we know. Yes there is a time and a place for asking. Sometimes it is wiser to let professionals take care of professional duties. Yet the very inconvenience of asking someone for a helping hand is often what leads to our entry into one another’s live. This then encourages us to pray for one another, which ultimately results in increased love in the body of Christ.
The body of Christ – it takes two, and three, and four…
Experienced IKEA shoppers know this – most IKEA furniture is not built to last. Ever try to move one of those Billy bookcases from one place to another? Not a good idea. So we learn to use and abuse IKEA furniture with the full knowledge that we will not be holding on to them long-term.
Come to think of it, this applies to most of the things in our lives. In our recent small group study of the book of Acts, we reflected on how Paul was willing, more than willing, to go into Jerusalem, knowing he would suffer, be persecuted, and likely die. How was he able to do this? As we discussed in our small groups, Paul’s hope was on his eternal prize – being with the Lord, of faithfully testifying of the gospel of grace through Christ for the glory of God. His prize was one that would not corrode, rust, and be destroyed but one of eternal value and permanence.
Built to Last
I’ll actually be making another trip to IKEA soon. Gotta do a return. While I’m there, I might as well peruse the AS-IS section. And I may as well as grab a free cup of coffee and browse through a catalog. And while I sit at the café, perhaps with some 80’s pop music playing in the air, I’ll take a moment to appreciate the many things that make IKEA, well, IKEA. But I’ll also be reminded of what IKEA is not. Built to last.
But what is built to last is Christ and His church.
Annie Chung and her two girls, Audrey and Elise, have been blessed to call Lighthouse home for going on five years. A teacher by day, Annie enjoys serving in the K/1st class of Children’s Ministry. She find great encouragement in walking alongside sisters going through trials and from her accountability and Bible study groups. Annie counts musical worship, sports, and home baked treats as some of her favorite things.