churches are like washing machines

The commands that a washing machine ignores

The commands that a washing machine ignores

In the beginning was the washing machine. It stood silently in the kitchen, mouth slightly open, waiting for someone to feed it. Eventually the caretaker did feed it on its favourite diet of clothes that needed to be washed. They added seasoning in the form of washing powder and encouraged the machine to start chewing.

But the machine refused. Instead it flashed a small, almost insignificant, light to say that its mouth wasn’t closed properly and because it was a polite washing machine it would not eat with its mouth open. When the caretaker came back at the time when the washing machine should have finished its meal they found that the washing machine had not started its meal – it was still waiting for its mouth to be closed firmly.

Frustrated, the caretaker closed the door firmly, encouraged the machine to start chewing, and waited to see that it was now going to start. The machine happily started (as if nothing had been wrong) and the caretaker went off to do other things, frustrated at the loss of good drying time because of the washing machine’s refusal to start.

The washing machine did its thing. It salivated, it churned, it chewed, it swished, it swallowed while the caretaker got on with other things. As the washing machine neared the end of the meal it started chewing more vigorously. It started making more and more noise and getting more and more agitated, and if it had not been tethered to the wall and the water pipes it might even have started walking around the kitchen.

The caretaker heard that the washing machine had nearly finished so they came back into the kitchen and watched the machine finish. Then the caretaker tried to open the machine’s mouth. The washing machine was having none of it. It would not open its mouth. The caretaker waited for what seemed like ages, but each time they tried to open the machine’s mouth the machine refused to budge a millimetre. The phone rang, so the caretaker went to answer it. As soon as the washing machine was sure that the caretaker had left it decided it would open its mouth so that when the caretaker came back the machine happily opened its mouth as if there had not been a problem at all.

The caretaker muttered something derogatory about white goods and the machine sat in the kitchen with an air of smugness. It was still in control: it was still calling the shots.

Does that resonate with you (like a washing machine on a  spin cycle)? I wonder how many hours are wasted in a year by washing machines asserting their dominance over humanity? Of course they are just machines not sentient beings (aren’t they?) and their role is to make a mundane task easier for us (did I hear chuckling from the kitchen?).

But there is a sense in which churches are like washing machines. This is not in a Baptist lots-of-water way. But we exist as churches to do God’s will. We exist to serve him (and on his behalf to serve others). Churches are meant to be getting on with the task of showing the world what Jesus is like.

Yet sometimes it must seem to Jesus that churches are like washing machines with a mind of our own: deciding to do things our way, not getting on with the task he has set us, and simply being awkward.

Please God help us to remember why we exist and fill us with your Spirit to enable us to do your will.

Must go – the washing machine has summoned me.

Be blessed, be a blessing.


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