Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Not only the gospel

I've begun meeting with one of the assistant pastors in our church, a young guy about the age of one of my own children. He has been in charge of youth ministry for a few years.

I looked him up to meet on a regular basis for many reasons. Two of them, however, that strongly motivated me: he thinks, deeply; and when he preaches (at least when I have heard him preach), he preaches from the heart and from true-life experience. He doesn't preach "theory out there"; he preaches about things with which he, himself, has struggled.

I like that in a person. I like reality. Don't ask me for prayer for "things out there"--"My aunt who broke her arm." Ask me for prayer for "things where you are"--"I'm struggling with _____." "I feel like quitting." "I don't know if I can continue with _____." Talk to me about things you're passionate about.


Last week I was talking with Jim (that's the assistant pastor's name) about some of the things I've been writing about here. I asked him if he ever teaches kids about giving.


"What do you teach?"

He summarized.

Two things struck me. The word "I" never appeared . . . and it sounded all theory. Y'know: "God has made us to be stewards. He makes it possible for us to have everything we own."

I told Jim about the two things I've mentioned above about why I've been attracted to him: that I so appreciate how he speaks from the heart, from things he, himself, has struggled with.

"Where's the 'I' in there?" I asked (though, I'm sure, not in those particular words!).

Then it came out: Not that Jim has not struggled and/or lived in the reality of giving (or, as he expressed it concerning the discipline to which he has been called: tithing). Rather, that he had conveyed to me, accurately, what he has taught. He hasn't talked about himself. He hasn't shared his struggles. For whatever reason, he has been uncomfortable talking about what it has been like for him to come to terms with giving. . . .

I suggested he should share, even in this area, from the heart.

I am reminded, here, of something the Apostle Paul wrote that deeply impacted me when I first read it. He wrote it to the Thessalonians. And he wrote in the "royal we" voice:
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
Not only the gospel of God, but our very lives. Because you had become so dear to us.
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