Monday Musing: Some German Dude Named Helmut Was Right
The importance of reading, studying, and teaching Scripture in community.
As I entered full-time ministry I was absolutely convinced of two things:
God would use me to change the world.
Preaching was the most important thing a man could do.
If you wanted to challenged me on those two statements you could. I would argue you into a corner and bury you there. There was no doubt in arrogant little mind that those two statements were absolutely true.
Then I went to seminary.
My first seminary professor, Dr. Patrick Smith, made us read a little book by a guy name Helmut Thielecke, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians. This little book challenged us to consider the pastoral needs of those we were serving before ourselves. It called us arrogant seminarians to a place of humility.
I became convinced that God would likely not use me to change the world. But, perhaps it was in and through a community that I was giving leadership to that God would change the world. Yes, absolutely. The local church that I was leading and speaking in would change the world.
Then I became a church planter.
I quickly realized that the two things of which I was absolutely convinced of as I began my public ministry when I was 21 were absolutely wrong.
God would not use me to change the world. Preaching was not the most important thing that a man could do.
What I am now convinced of is this:
God will use me to love people well.
Gathering people around the Scripture in intentional community is one of the most important things a person can do.
I absolutely believe that God will use me to love people well. God’s desire for all who follow the Jesus way is for them to love God, love their neighbor, and love their enemy. If we can do these three things then we will do well. I believe that the Spirit of God dwells within those of us following Jesus. As a result, if we seek God we will find God. This seeking will lead us to love neighbor and love enemy. There is no question about this. If enough of us would yield to this reality then the world will be changed. The transformation of the world will happen one neighbor and one enemy at a time. It will flow from one neighborhood to the next.
I convinced that love of God, neighbor, and enemy is the single greatest force for good and that it has largely been left untried because it’s too hard.
Secondly, I absolutely believe that the intentional gathering of people around the Scriptures is one of the most important things a person can do. Why? Because, it is in that intentional space that we can most clearly be present with God and one another. When we gather together around the Scriptures we hear from one another and the Spirit. When we are sitting under the monologue of one person only then we get that person’s reflection. Gathering as community allows all the voices of the people of God to speak, to reflect, and to call us toward the truth.
Some will say, “This is just collecting ignorance.” I have learned over the years that this isn’t true. In some of the intentional gatherings around the Scripture that I have been able to facilitate the smallest of children have spoken deep truth and wisdom. Men and women who are young in their faith have had as significant of insights as those who are most mature. The questions of the people provide insight into their hearts and where they are in their faith.
There is something so beautiful about facilitating intentional conversations and community around the Scriptures. This however demands a swallowing of pride for the one called to care intentionally for the community. It requires an acknowledgement that the pastor is not the sole arbiter of truth from God. Once that pride is swallowed joy comes.
So yes, a guy named Helmut was right. Humbly coming before the people of God and being present with them is the way.