I think it was in the right place — even in the beginning. People needed Jesus. I wanted people to love him more than anything. I wanted them to see that being religious and loving Jesus are two distinct universes. “Life for a look…!” is so much better than “do all this stuff until you die and then we’ll see...”
"But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled." (Acts 3:18, ESV)
"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18, ESV)
"For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law." (Romans 3:28, ESV)
Nonetheless, I had stumbled into a preaching style that got in the way of my heart’s desire… more bombastic than substantive. At a minimum, it was misguided enthusiasm, but I’m afraid it was more than that. A more thorough take would include something about my pridefulness, cultural affectations, peer pressure, and lack of insight regarding genuine communication skills.
My reading last week took me to these words:
My use of language in the community of faith was a mirror image of the culture: a lot of information, a lot of publicity, not much intimacy. My ministry was voiced almost entirely in the language of description and of persuasion.
Eugene H. Peterson. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (Kindle Locations 823-825). Kindle Edition.
Changes have come slowly. Sometimes, I still get in the way of the Good News I’m supposed to be sharing. When I think about where I should be, I feel like I’m not even potty trained yet.
I wasn't giving people much help in developing and using the language that was basic to both their humanity and their faith, the language of love and prayer.
Eugene H. Peterson. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (Kindle Locations 826-827). Kindle Edition.
I might be better at teaching Spanish than teaching the language of love and prayer… maybe because I spent more time learning Spanish.
I grew up in a religious framework where you had to memorize and repeat prayers. Prayer should be heart-to-heart conversation. But in my case, breaking free from the formalism translated into not making real prayer and real love for people the first things.
A dear pastor/friend pointed us to a compilation of Puritan prayers called Valley of Vision. Steeped in theology, they pierce to the core of my sinfulness. Reciting prayers still turns me off. But here’s a tool to stretch my praying. It points to things I don’t usually remember to pray about.
My Love Language
My love language would not qualify as verbal. It’s more like a pre-schooler’s picture book. Freeze-frames of faces I recognize… lives now speaking for themselves through the language of love and prayer. It’s a language only God can teach them. And I love that they have learned it well.
He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30, ESV)
I have been crucified with Christ. (Galatians 2:20, ESV)
Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. (Romans 14:8, ESV)
My brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown. (Philippians 4:1, ESV)
For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 3:8, ESV)
It’s the language of “Abba! Father!”… the one language I wish to master over any other.
Sobremesa (after-meal, table-talk) is harder… and easier. It’s harder to be bombastic and imperious breaking bread together. It’s easier to be empathetic and loving over coffee. Intimacy, loving acceptance, and joyful celebration… a foretaste of heaven itself. It’s so worth the stretch…!