Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Most Difficult Lie

When I began preaching full-time at age 30, I had a rude awakening when I realized I was supposed to be in “community” with these church folks. I had always been somewhat of a lone wolf. In seminary especially I went my own way. It wasn’t that I was unsociable; it’s just that I had things to do (work, study, dote on Angela) and not a lot of time for hanging around

I remember in one particularly difficult class joining a study group with four other students. The idea was for each of us to prepare a study guide on a specific portion of the class material and share it with the others. I showed up for the first meeting expecting to exchange material and head home. Everyone else wanted to discuss the material. I was emphasizing “study,” they were emphasizing “group.”

I mentioned I had a rude awakening. What I mean was that folks thought I was rude. I had an image of the preaching ministry that was a mixture of John the Baptist and Clint Eastwood in “High Plains Drifter.” I would ride in from the hills on Sunday mornings, deliver my message, hang around just long enough for a fellowship meal, then head back to the hills (complete with background music).

That didn’t last too long. And it wasn’t very rewarding while it lasted.

So I can relate to Donald Miller in his delightful and acclaimed book, Blue like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. Herewith, an excerpt about his journey to community.

Before I lived in community, I thought faith, mine being Christian faith, was something a person did alone, like monks in caves. I thought the backbone of faith was time alone with God… If other people were a part of the Christian journey, they had small roles; they were accountability partners or counselors or husbands or wives. I hadn’t seen a single book (outside the majority of the books in the New Testament) that addressed a group of people or a community with advice about faith.

It is like in that movie About a Boy where Nick Hornby’s chief character, played by Hugh Grant, believes that live is a play about himself, that all other characters are only acting minor roles in a story that centers around him. My life felt something like that. Life was a story about me because I was in every scene. In fact, I was the only one in every scene. I was everywhere I went. Sometimes I would have scenes with other people, dialogue, and they would speak their lines, and I would speak mine. But the movie, the grand movie stretching from Adam to the Antichrist, was about me. I wouldn’t have told you that at the time, but that is the way I lived.

[When I eventually moved in with six other single Christian guys] living in community made me realize one of my faults: I was addicted to myself. All I thought about was myself. The only thing I really cared about was myself. I had very little concept of love, altruism or sacrifice.

The most difficult lie I ever contended with is this: Life is a story about me.
(Donald Miller)

This Sunday, in conjunction with Memorial Day weekend, my congregation will worship with a special focus on the Lord’s Supper. One of the primary things we will affirm as we gather at the Table is that we gather TOGETHER. We break the bread and drink the cup together in remembrance and celebration of the One in whose name we sit at the table as a PEOPLE, not merely as individuals joined by a common faith. The Christian life is meant to be lived in community. Even rude people get to sit at the table! That’s part of how we break our addiction and confront the most difficult lie.


Blogger Reality Check said...

Here's your occasional "Reality Check."

I think Mr. Miller's intent was to dissuade one from his same mistake.

I wonder if you mentioned your dislike of being sociable when you interviewed for the job at WHCC. Even more curious, had you mentioned it, that it was overlooked and dismissed by the interviewers. Nice.

Oh well, at least the flock is learning not to be co-dependent on a preacher who actually enjoys engaging in conversation with "his" congregation.

7:14 AM  

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