Friday, May 13, 2005

The Paradox of Following Christ

I had a short discussion with Jen on the way home about our future and the inevitability of future congregants being upset with my preaching and teaching at points. Why? Quite simply I probably would be considered "liberal" by many American evangelicals. Certainly the ultra-conservative Reformed Holland community would find me "liberal", perhaps even radical regarding some issues. Who will I anger? Who will I upset? These questions, and many more, are unanswerable and unneccesary. The congregants who will gossip about the preacher who is a human being, and (amazingly) makes human mistakes, are those that I am least worried about. People will always talk about other people. Stories will be told and perhaps devastating ones may be circulated. But what are we "liberal" theologians to do? Shall we simply suppress our views, which may happen to be more Orthodox, to appease the masses? Or do we proclaim Truth despite the racuous outcry? The answer seems obvious; the proclamation of Truth seems to supersede the reality of its lack of welcome. Yet what truths do we proclaim? Are there some truths which, while no less true, may be deleterious to the faith of a congregant? Can we in good conscience proclaim those truths?

The more I learn, the more I desire to know. That is the virus of intellectualism. Once you begin to know more, more must follow. And for many, me at least, the more I know the more I must abandon previous paradigms and methodologies. I also find it difficult to be patient with those whom are unable to see what I consider to be quite clear and obvious realities. Perhaps if there were so obvious I would not have to go to such great lengths to explain them. But the question again arises, as a spiritual leader, a pastor, what truths do you proclaim and what truths are better to be left inconspicuous? The dangers of knowledge mishandled.

Who am I to be given such knowledge, and such authority? The reality is that many Protestants give the same, or even more, spiritual authority to their pastor than many Catholics do the Pope. As a Protestant pastor this of course has vastly important consequences. A flock of God's people will be entrusted to me. What I say and do will have a profound impact on the spiritual life of others. What a blessing, yet what a fragile blessing.

Then, of course, there is my own spiritual life to consider. Does my relationship with God come before sheperding my flock? Can I properly guide a congregation without myself being in a right relationship with God? And what defines a right relationship with God? Discipline? Emotion? Knowledge? Wisdom? What about my family? Can I truly lead God's people without prioritizing my family as first? Family, in my mind, must come before the church at times.

So where do all these questions spring forth? Ironically, from a phone call earlier tonight informing me that I am not needed as a youth pastor for a church where I had gone for an interview. I had not gotten a strong sense from God either way on the matter but was feeling privy to accepting an offer, if one was given. But one was not. The realization that ministry is much more God directed than me directed hit me like a theological hammer. "Where do you want me to minister next year Lord?" But of course the questions being to arise, "why was I not offered a position?" Hence, my questions tonight. None of them probably even crossed the mind of the board of elders, but they have crossed mine.

Life should not be monotonous. Life should be enjoyed. Life should not be seen as a means to an end. Life should be seen as an opportunity to share the light and life of Christ with others. People are important. Money really is not. Love should be sought. Political correctness is not always correct. It is when God's people love that the world is revolutionized. Lord God Almighty, make me a man of love, a man of obedience, a man willing to bow at Your feet every moment of every day and profess that You are Lord. To the Glory of God the Father. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.


GRAM said...

Wow Ben, I sure appreciated your honesty and also your quest for knowledge and wisdom. I sure loved dialoging with you!

Anonymous said...

Hey Ben,

As usual, good thoughts. I hope your summer is going well so far, as well as the wedding planning. Keep up the "intellectual diligence." :)

Brandon M. Brown