Notes From Black Butte Part Two: Engineering Conducive Environments…

Last night our guest speaker Saul outlined the kinds of themes and ideas that we’d be discussing throughout the weekend. For those who read my last post, it does seem odd that I’d talk about the second day of the retreat first and then the first day second, but really, my thoughts weren’t completely formed until after this morning’s message. In other words, I didn’t get much out of last night’s message until after this morning.

What he talked about last night had a lot to do with preparation, but there was a specific aspect to it. In my last post I talked about the kind of preparation we can do on a day to day basis and I used Oregon’s “win the day” motto as an analogy to help convey how effective daily preparation can be. But that motto for Oregon only works within an environment conducive to a football team winning. Likewise, spiritual preparation only works if we’re also taking the time and commitment to creating an environment conducive to encountering God and bringing His kingdom, His real life, to real people.

Saul talked about the structure of Autzen stadium and how it was built for loud fans to become louder still. “Win The Day” is plastered all over the sides on the field. Players weekly dawn the latest in Nike’s athletic apparel not only to promote their brand, but to promote a culture of winning. What Saul points out as the difference between the environments we ought to be engineering for encountering God and the environment Nike engineers for winning is that we seek to win even in defeat. To those devoted to Christ, “winning” no longer has the meaning the world gives it. Instead, winning means having shared Christ – having glorified God whether your team won or lost.

I find this idea of engineering environments incredibly challenging. It’s challenging because it’s the bigger plan to living out God’s commands. It’s like planning a big event like a wedding; many people work on different things, but it all comes together for one purpose: to provide the most conducive environment for the bride, groom, and their families to celebrate a major new chapter in their lives. In a like manner, if the goal is to encounter God in a consistent way that produces an eternal process of transformation, then there are several different aspects required in order to engineer an environment that draws people together to seek God.

Saul pointed us to the average Sunday morning at church. In many churches, there’s a worship team, a welcoming team, a team of pastors ministering to all sorts of people, and even a team of people making sure there’s fresh coffee. And this isn’t only for big churches; this happens every week at Emmaus Life, just a much small scale. But the point is there are different people doing different things to create an environment for encountering a God with real life, so that our lives can be eternally transformed.

Last post I was wondering how well I was preparing myself for life’s tests. This post I’m wondering how my own preparation fits into a bigger purpose. What am I building or helping build that helps promote the kind of environment where people see and experience God? And if I’m not building something, where could I help?


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“Do not mistake me for a conjuror of cheap tricks.”

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