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From Chaos to Collaboration: An Ant’s Story

Posted: 6/21/19 at 3:30pm. Column by Ed Jordan.

Have you ever watched ants when they find food? Within a short period of time, one ant becomes an army of ants.

They look really erratic—almost frantic and chaotic. They crisscross here and there, going one way and then changing directions. They move very quickly, sometimes doubling back on their path.

Scientists are studying this behavior and explaining how some scout ants go out chaotically searching for food—not really working together—just going farther and farther from the nest until they find food.

However, once one finds food, it takes a little piece back to the nest, and in the process leaves a pheromone trail which leads ants in the nest, or other scouts that might cross that trail, to follow the trail to the food and bring it back to the nest.

The pheromone evaporates and dissipates with time, so if an ant finds a shorter route, the others will take that route home because the pheromone scent is fresher. The best route to and from the food shortly emerges. So while the search was helter-skelter, once the food is found, the trail becomes more direct. Using this process, hundreds of ants then embark upon bringing home the food.

What began as random searches develops into communication, which leads to collaboration, then almost the entire community becomes a coordinated network to bring the food home.

Someone must encounter the church or ministry, recognize good spiritual nutrition when they see it, then share with others what helpful things are found there.

What can we learn from the ants? The concept of finding enriching things in the midst of a chaotic environment, and then sharing with others how to successfully navigate the chaos to find and bring home the treasure, has many applications.

It encourages younger people to find a mentor who is older, more experienced, and who can help them get the lay of the land. It encourages the importance of individuality and adventuresome, bold thinking when that is needed but also of community and collaboration when the work is bigger than one person can effectively accomplish.

This idea is also at the heart of the Internet and its web of information. We begin with a random, perhaps helter-skelter search, but then we find what we are looking for. We share where we found that information with others, and more people make tracks to that website. The more people that go there, the bigger the trail becomes, and even more people will access that site. For instance, I used this site for this column.

This concept is also a principle in how a church or ministry becomes known. Someone must encounter the church or ministry, recognize good spiritual nutrition when they see it, then share with others what helpful things are found there. The more people that do this, the more people will seek out that church or ministry. It is not rocket science. It is the nature of social beings.

However, if a person does not recognize that their soul is famished, they will not search for a local source of spiritual nutrition. Instead, they will follow the high traffic to a place where a crowd already is, which may or may not be of value or what they need to feed their soul.

Jesus said that the wide road—the one with the most traffic—is often a road that leads us away from God, not to God (cf. Matthew 7:13-14). The Christian faith calls people to follow Jesus, not the crowd.

When we are seeking for eternal life there is only one source, which is Jesus, who in John 14:6 (CSB) said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” There is only one certain way to get home to life with God, and that one way is through Jesus.

In John 10 Jesus describes us as sheep, and himself as the Good Shepherd. In John 10:4 (CSB), Jesus said: “When He has brought all His own outside, He goes ahead of them. The sheep follow Him because they recognize His voice.” 

The way to discover all aspects of the life God has for you is to follow Jesus and his instructions. He knows what will nourish your soul and where to find it, and he provides others in the church with whom you can collaborate in sharing Jesus’ life-giving presence with others.

While we begin our search in chaos, Jesus can bring order and peace to our chaotic lives. He leads you into eternal life with God and an abundant life here on earth. He leads you from chaos to community. I would love to help you discover Jesus, learn to follow Him, and enjoy him forever.  

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.