Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Don't Like People Like Me

Well, this summer has been a great summer. I've been able to preach so many times and I have received so much encouragement. Most of all, I have been reminded why I am going to be a preacher. I love the church. I love envisioning a future for a group of people. I love spending time with God and listening to what he thinks the congregation must hear in order for it to grow. During grad school, I have had moments in which I have questioned my calling because I have gotten caught up in the papers and forgotten that this thing is really all about people. But being back in ministry this summer, I can't imagine any other kind of work that I could do. This summer I have been reminded that I can still preach and that I still have a love for being with people.

However, I have had an interesting revelation this summer. Perhaps it began when my brother told me what he tells others about the kind of preacher I will be one day. He said, "You know your stuff. You have studied and you know what you believe about many things. But, you are so confident in everything you believe that it will leave you inflexible as you deal with people who do not agree with you in every area." This was truly a wake up call for me. In some ways, I think he is right. I have developed many ideas about how the church should be. I have an intense desire for unity and the mission of God. But unfortunately I have become as inflexible as the people I had hoped to not be like. For instance, I don't want to be sectarian in any way like some in Churches of Christ, but in some ways I have moved away from conservative sectarianism to a new form of academic, progressive, elite sectarianism.

This summer I have been a part of a hospital chaplaincy. The head person over the program has been very critical of the church and really has nothing good to say about it. I have met several people this summer who are very critical. And to be honest, I can't stand to be around them. Unfortunately, when I take a look at myself, my hyper-critical nature developed through my time in school, has made me like the people I don't want to be like most.

I want to be a positive person. I want my kids to think of me not as a person who looks at the glass half empty, but as a father who always encouraged them in everything they did. I want my wife to be able to say that she never experienced a critical moment with me, but unfortunately I think I am rubbing off on her in some negative ways in these areas. How do you stop being like people that you don't like?

I guess it will be a God-job. As a perfectionist, I have always been a bit hyper-critical. I don't think I will ever be the Barnabas at a congregation, but every critique should also have with it an opposing robust view of what is right and good. When people come in line with the positive opposite of my critique, I should be the first to praise it and value when people's lives reflect God's unity and mission.


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