The Trouble with Adventures

J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit (now a series of popular films) chronicles the story of Bilbo Baggins, a reserved, organized, no drama hobbit. At the beginning of the book, the reader finds Bilbo enjoying a nice, quiet life on The Hill. Suddenly, his quiet life is rudely disrupted by Gandalf the wizard. The following conversation ensues:

Gandalf [said], “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

“I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them,” said our Mr. Baggins. Then he took out his morning letters, and began to read, pretending to take no more notice of the old man. He had decided that he was not quite his sort, and wanted him to go away. But the old man did not move. He stood leaning on his stick and gazing at the hobbit without saying anything, till Bilbo got quite uncomfortable and even a little cross.

“Good morning!” he said at last. “We don’t want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water.” By this he meant that the conversation was at an end.

I’m sure you know the rest of the story—Bilbo ultimately decides (and is quite heavily persuaded) to take Gandalf up on his offer for an adventure. A grand, frightening, exhilarating, life-altering adventure is had by all; and at the end of the book, Bilbo returns home from his adventure to discover the following:

He had lost his reputation. It is true that forever after he remained an elf-friend, and had the honor of dwarves, wizards, and all such folk as ever passed that way; but he was no longer quite respectable. He was in fact held by all the hobbits of the neighborhood to be “queer.” I am sorry to say he did not mind. He was quite content; and the sound of the kettle on his hearth was ever after more musical than it had been even in the quiet days before the Unexpected Party … and though many shook their heads and touched their foreheads and said “Poor old Baggins!” and though few believed any of his tales, he remained very happy to the end of his days.

Living in the way of Jesus is an adventure, and the trouble with adventures is that they always possess elements of risk. Reputations are tarnished (at least from the perspectives of non-adventurers), possessions are lost or damaged, and even physical or other harm may be experienced as a result. Does that mean we should not take up Jesus’ offer to accompany him on the next great adventure? As much as I relish my relatively quiet, comfortable, routine life, I’d trade that any day for the type of hobbit-sized adventure that brings about such deep transformation and lasting peace.

Sparking Ministry Conversations

What new adventure is your church being invited to embark upon? What do you and your church stand to “lose”? How open are you to an adventure-filled life and way of practicing ministry?

This post is also published here through Stillspeaking Weekly, a series designed with pastors, lay leaders and committees in mind, offering thoughtful and practical reflections that invite and inspire dialogue on how churches can strengthen their ministries.


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