The phrase “inside out” is taking on new and exciting meaning for me. I hope this is a good sign for 2022. Although, getting to this point didn’t start out in the happiest way.
Longer ago than I care to admit, I realized the fabric that effectively serves as the “ceiling” of my car was coming unattached especially at the back of the car. This was a new experience to me. (I love not having a car payment, so I have kept this 2007 Chrysler Sebring longer than any other car I’ve had.) As I have been driving around, I look at other Chrysler Sebrings that seem to be around the same year. I realized those cars are experiencing the same thing.
I turned to the internet for solutions and learned two important things. First, that part of the car is called the “headliner.” (I thought that title was only for the star of a show—not the “ceiling” of a car!) Besides hiding wires below the roof. The headliner also helps the car stay insulated. Second, my problem must be a common one because 3M makes a spray-on adhesive to reattach headliners. Actually, several companies make spray-on adhesive to reattach headliners. Only the 3M product gets good reviews.
I share this process because I believe it can be helpful to congregations in these challenging times—especially if we start to look at things from the inside out. Looking from the inside out caused me to wonder about the situation of other Chrysler Sebring owners. Wondering about other Chrysler Sebring owners caused me to check other Chrysler Sebrings. I learned I am not alone in my problem. Once I discovered I was not alone in my problem I was able to discover there are several solutions (i.e., multiple spray-on adhesives). I was also able to make a guess about which one might work best for me (i.e., the 3M product).
I believe congregations can also learn about ministry from the inside out. In other words, if we look at ourselves and see what challenges we face, and then ask around, we will most likely learn we are not alone in those challenges. Then, if we look even more, we will also learn that, while several “solutions” may be presented, not every solution will be right for us. God’s call invites us to open our eyes—both to what we are experiencing and what the world is experiencing. When we do that, we can be like the man in one of my favorite gospel stories. He didn’t start out in the happiest way, but he ended up in a great place.
At Mark 8:22-26, we find the story of Jesus healing a blind man, which we are used to happening. What we are not used to is that, in this miracle story, the healing “doesn’t take” at first. The blind man says, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” (verse 24) So, Jesus has to lay hands on the man’s eyes again. Then he can see.
Will the adhesive work right away on my car’s headliner? I don’t know for sure. I certainly hope so. Yet—some reviews have caused doubt. So, it is good there are multiple options. Will every “solution” we try to respond to the challenges of ministry work for sure? I am even less certain about that than I am about my car’s headliner. What I am certain about is that even Jesus had the experience of a solution not working and was prepared to go to Plan B.
Looking from the inside out takes willingness to see how we relate to others and how others relate to us. That is indeed a challenge, but, in his work with the blind man, Jesus reminds us that, when we let him work with us, he will help us persist in the task. Christ’s purpose is to help us see clearly. We will be able to help others. We will be able to help ourselves. It will all happen from the inside out.

Live as children of light!
Pastor Scott Paradise