Monday, March 29, 2010

Infinite Loops

As a former programmer and continual geek, I tend to think in processes and if/then statements. If potential member x visits our church, then x will want to serve in position A. If potential member Y visits our church, then neighbors q, t, and z will visit as well eventually ending in a 10% increase in membership. Annoying huh?

Its just who I am. I can't change it so I must learn to use it for good. One such process that has always fascinated me is the infinite loop. Usually programmers don't realize they've put these in until they crash the entire system or cannot get their new code to complete. An infinite loop is basically a sequence of instructions in a computer program which loops endlessly, either due to the loop having no terminating condition, having one that can never be met, or one that causes the loop to start over.

A simple example of this is

int x = 0;
while (x < 10)
x = x - 1;

In this case X will ALWAYS be less than 10 so the process will continue looping forever.

I have discovered that the church is a place of infinite loops as well. Some good some bad. Here are a few of those examples:

1) The "We've always done it that way" Loop - This is the tradition with no purpose loop. At some point someone did something and someone else thought it was good and therefore it became tradition. Traditions can be good. Spending time together at Christmas is a great tradition and one that I'm not likely to break. But tradition with no purpose can get out of control and really hard to break. I served at a church once that had a Bible on the Altar that was too large for the table. On days when we served communion it was very difficult to place the elements on the altar. When I suggested that we substitute one of the smaller, "historical church Bibles" that were on display in the hallway, I was dismissed with a "we've always had that one" remark. Side note - the church was 150 years old and the Bible was only 40 years old but I digress. This really didn't bother me too much until one day I was flipping through said Bible to find a scripture passage and noticed that there were many pages missing from this Bible - 3.5 books of the Bible to be exact. And thus the example of the infinite loop that needs some de-bugging.

2) The "We've got to help them" Loop - Helping others should never be a loop without an escape condition. The purpose of helping others is to get them back on their feet so that they can be the people God created them to be. If we help them to relieve the situation but don't help the cause, we are creating an infinite loop where a person could possibly become dependent on our "help." If you want to really see this in action, volunteer to answer your church's phone for one day. Its amazing how many calls you'll get from people needing bills paid or food handouts. Its sad really that there are so many people who need help and have no one else to call. Please understand I'm all for helping people. But there are ways to help others in the short term and ways to help them long-term. The key is to find out how to balance both.

3) The Infinite God Loop - This is the good loop. The one you want to be a part of. The one that never ends and will keep on going, and going, and going. I like that my beliefs are part of a "kingdom that has no end." And when I'm part of a process that focuses on this infinite loop of love, I can feel, experience, and see that Kingdom now. Don't try to hack into this one - there are too many firewalls. Your name is your username and your password is belief. That is all you need.

Sorry for the bad puns but like I said - I am who I am and I'm learning to deal with it!

Until Everyone Hears,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a consultant, I used to hear "we've always done it that way" a lot - and knew it was time to leave a client site when I started saying it myself!! Just think how much fun life would be if you did every thing that was 'always done that way' even just a little bit differently...


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