Randomly grab part of a child’s hot air balloon mobile and you are likely to hold a collapsed tangled mess. However, if you pick up that same mobile using the center string securing the upper most support, the entire mobile falls into place displaying the proper relationship between its various components.
Each part of the mobile is important. Yet priority is built into a mobile’s proper functioning. The church can learn a lot from a child’s mobile.
From these brief observations three principles jump out at us.
1) Good values given too much value become bad values.
Suspending a mobile by a secondary or tertiary level object ruins its functioning. Similarly, while the goals of serving the community, maintaining peace, numerical growth, or any one of a host of other qualities are healthy church characteristics, any goal trouncing more important values derails God’s people.
While Jesus valued attending to people’s physical needs and was successful in drawing large crowds, he did not permit the pursuit of these goals to silence his more important objective of proclaiming God’s transforming message (John 6:5-12,26-66). Likewise, while disciples should obey the authorities (Romans 13:1-6), the apostles refused to allow human commands to trample God’s authority (Acts 5:27-29). The church needs to shape its decisions and policies according to what is most important.
2) Whatever is valued most will determine everything else.
While organized religion in Nazi Germany valued self-preservation over Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more” (Luke 12:4:5), the Thessalonian church treasured serving the living God with faith, love and hope more than avoiding persecution (1 Thessalonians 1:3,6,9). What each community valued shaped who they became.
3) The manufacturer determines the proper functioning hierarchy.
Sure you can suspend a mobile by any of its objects, strings or cross bars. However, there is only one proper way to suspend a mobile and this is determined by whoever designed it. Whether the customer chooses to suspend the mobile by the appropriate part or not reveals whether this decorative ceiling piece will fulfill its purpose.
Similarly, God provided salvation and created the church, not man. Thus God determines what should be most important to his people. Jesus points us to God’s design.
Jesus taught that the greatest commandment involves loving God with all of one’s heart, soul and mind. To love God with all of one’s being requires obeying him with all of one’s being, not merely serving him with rituals.
Whether a household of God determines that its obedience to God will shape and dictate how all of its decisions are made or whether it selects some other goal for shaping its policies will determine whether that church will function as God desires, or not.
Our babies can become so excited as they stare at mobiles hanging over their cribs. Those decorative structures can teach us a lot, if we are willing to learn.