When a bird takes off to fly away I can’t hear it.
However, when a flock of them take off at the same instant – as though someone shot a starting gun at a foot race – I hear an unmistakable “whoosh!”
As a preacher I try to be aware of lessons that come in unexpected ways, and this turned out to be one. Here’s the back story: there are two bird feeders positioned just outside our TV room doorway (a sliding glass door, so we can see the entire side yard). One of the feeders is your standard column-type glass feeder with a small tray around the bottom for the birds to hang onto (or fight over) as the seed slides its way out of the feeder. The other is what I call our “donut” feeder, a hollow, round, plastic feeder shaped like a donut (hole in the center) with a perch on either side of the opening in the bottom that collects the seeds.
It seems that the birds are either there en masse, or not at all. They certainly do “flock together.” When the whole community is present there are birds on both feeders as well as on the ground, pecking away at seeds both on and under the feeders. They’ll hang around for maybe one or two minutes, and then, as one body, they’ll take off – whoosh!!
So, in observing this phenomenon I concluded that the best way for a bird to make noise that a human can hear is to do so with a lot of other birds. Why is this helpful to know? Well, I see it as an affirmation of the purpose of the church.
Wait – what??
Over the centuries pastors have had to deal with congregants who believe the pastor should shoulder most of the work. “After all, that’s what we pay you for, right?” Well, no, that’s actually quite wrong. The task of the pastor is to “equip the saints” for the work of spreading the Gospel. In other words, the pastor may be the lead “bird,” but s/he is not going to be able to make much “noise” (i.e., actually accomplish anything worthwhile) if left to do everything alone. The pastor may take off and fly really high on his/her own, but the likelihood of being able to claim any real accomplishment is next to nil.
However, a flock of birds working as one is able to make a lot of “noise” (in the positive sense), especially as they share a common purpose (when the flock of birds around our feeders decides to take off all at once, their common purpose is to skedaddle, for whatever reason; but by doing so, their combined effort makes a noise that captures my attention, and even if only for a brief moment, my focus is on them).
It’s a time-worn message, just put in a different context. It’s the same message as the one illustrated by the pencils (it’s easy to break one pencil, but much harder to break several in a bundle). Working together accomplishes things, very likely more than one person working alone. To the churches (and anyone else to whom this may apply): work on working together. The sound of one bird flying is inaudible. Let’s try for a grand … WHOOSH!