Pastors are built from the same stuff as everyone else. That’s good, and that’s bad.
This black-and-white photograph, taken in the l890’s, perfectly captures in a single image what it means to flourish as a human being in an imperfect world. We may not be challenged by any physical disability, but all of us are lacking in one way or another. And our impairments are the very reason God pairs us with others. In those pairings, in those dependent relationships, we learn that we not only need others, but are in fact created to need others.
My friend, Tullian Tchividjian, and I co-wrote the following article, which was posted on his website yesterday (August 16, 2018). Here's the introduction, followed by a link to the full article.
Hallelujahs and Amens were ordinary parts of the Sunday morning service in the tiny country church. So was the swish of a flushing toilet.
The experiment seemed like a cakewalk. “Watch this video,” the researcher said. “You’ll see two teams, one wearing white and one black. They’ll throw a ball back and forth. Count how many times the ball is passed by the team in white.”
The earliest the McKenzie family ever made it to church was during the closing stanza of the opening hymn. Every Sunday something delayed them. Little James would spit up his breakfast all over his church clothes as they strapped him in the car seat. Lindsey would hog the bathroom and delay Garrett’s shower. Tom and Cindy would hit snooze one too many times.
Out of the depths have we cried unto Thee, O Lord. Out of the morgue, the hospital, the cemetery baptized with a thousand tears. Out of the rubble of our shattered lives, our dead children, our bitter grief and lacerated hearts.
Every congregation is a dying congregation. This is not up for debate. The sun is hot. Water is wet. Congregations are dying. Thank you, Captain Obvious.
We talk about having personal things. We employ a personal trainer to help us shed pounds and get that coveted beachbody. We open a personal bank account to manage our finances. And, please, keep your hands off our personal property and your eyes out of our personal diary.
Here’s what will happen. Maybe you’ve already been through it. Or maybe you’re living through it right now. I don’t know what will trigger it—I’m no prophet—but I do know, sooner or later, something will.
True beauty is always manifested in love, and it is that beauty that Christians around the world will celebrate tomorrow, January 6, in the festival of Epiphany.
If you can tell me about the Almighty’s mind-blowing power to fashion ladybugs, the Milky Way, and titanium from absolutely zilch, but don’t get around to talking about our re-creation in Christ…
We carry our heavy silence from the last night's fight after the kids were tucked into bed. We carry the bladed words ripping through the one we swore to love and cherish. We carry the silence of a marriage in its death throes. We carry it to church.
I can experience almost every aspect of church from the comfort of my own bed. I can prop up my pillow, open my laptop, and enter my very own cyber sanctuary. The music of beautiful hymns can reverberate through my computer. I can read the Bible myself or listen to an audio recording of a trained professional narrate the Scriptures for me. Preachers from across the spectrum of Christianity can squeeze their pulpits within my computer screen.
It can seem, in times of violence, when people are calling for political, cultural, and legal changes, as if the church is largely irrelevant. Worse yet, the church can make herself seem irrelevant if she embroils herself in political, cultural, and legal changes, and forgets her primary calling: the preaching of Christ and him crucified.
It happens to almost every pastor at some point in his ministry. He may not even realize that he's working with this assumption. And if he becomes aware of it, he's probably too afraid even to admit it to himself, much less to accuse God of it. Some may get so angry that they directly accuse the Lord of it.
I like the psalms, but I can’t pray some of them with a straight face. Psalm 122 is a prime example. David is a little too cheerful for me as he exclaims, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’”