Last month I got to participate in the Transforming Ministries 5 conference. This is a time for pastors to listen to the stories of innovative and creative business people and then spend some time translating the secular to the sacred.
One of the speakers was from Nike. He has held a variety of jobs with the company over the years, but through all of them he saw a uniting thread in what he calls design thinking. My favorite thing he said was that the word nice comes from the latin root nescire, meaning not to know or to ignore. How often do we ignore a problem or not say what we really think because we want to be nice? He said that empathy and compassion are part of the creative process, but being nice has no place.
This is once of my favorite themes because I think that niceness has no place in the church. The church is not a place for the agreeable or the well behaved, which happen to be the dictionary definitions of nice. So often I have had people sitting in my office saying they couldn’t really voice their doubts or share their spiritual journeys in church because they didn’t want to offend other people. Parishioners are so interested in making nice with one another that they develop superficial relationships rather than sharing the full beauty of themselves in God.
So at Sellwood we’re not nice. We love each other, we care about each other, we walk with one another, and we listen to each other, but we don’t ignore what is in our hearts and minds. We ask hard questions. We aren’t well behaved. We march in the streets to protect our immigrant brothers and sisters. We read books that make us uncomfortable.
I think the real beauty of God is found in us when we are real and when we share all of ourselves and see all of others. From this place of beauty we can create and innovate a world that looks more like God’s dream for us all. So may we stop being nice and start getting real.