Southern Baptists irritate me.
So I guess I irritate myself.
With finals only a week away, I find my brain overloaded with knowledge and ideas that will soon spill out in a sloppy mess onto the white paper filled with questions that will lay upon my little lap desk. I can't even explain how much I've learned this semester, it's been incredible. I've been studying under some of the best evangelical teachers in the world and reading books by some of the most intelligent and Godly writers around. I've been stretched, pushed, and stressed at times, but all in all, I think it's been worth it.
There's just one problem. I have had absolutely no opportunity to put it into practice. Maybe opportunity isn't the right word, because honestly, if I wanted to, I could walk out of this apartment right now and meet people on the street or in their homes and start building relationships. I think what's really happening is one of two things:
1. I'm lazy.
2. I've been brainwashed into thinking that because I'm a seminary student, I need to focus my attention on my studies and stand around in the morning sipping on my coffee and participating in the hot theological debate of the day.
It's probably both, but it's really starting to tick me off. I met a guy recently who pastors a small church here in Louisville, he's the interim pastor while they search for a full time guy. This church has been around for decades and the congregation consists of people in their 50s, 60s, and up. It's dying, and the people have no desire to outreach to the community even though they're only one mile from the University of Louisville. This guy tells me that there's a 16 year old girl that's been coming to church and has told him that she's been cutting herself and struggling with depression. My first response was, "did you direct her to a leader in the church for counseling?"
His response - "the leaders in my church have told me that they don't feel comfortable teaching, counseling, or dealing with problems that others in the church might have."
My response - " . . . "
Are you kidding me? How in the world is it that we end up with a bunch of churches with people sitting on their butts in the pews, claiming to be "leaders" who refuse to step up and help out those who are in need of it? Folks, this isn't an isolated issue, churches all over the place are doing this same thing. But get this, the Church of Christ a couple of blocks down the road from this church is drawing 70 youth off the streets every Wednesday with a sign outside that says "no guns allowed." I told this guy to send the girl down the street where it appears that people actually "care" about showing the love and compassion that Christ called us to exhibit.
What does all of this have to do with finals week, you ask? Well, if I've learned one thing about ministry this semester, it's that standing around trying to "out-smart" the other guys during the day's theological discussion IS NOT ministry. Helping the girl that comes in off the street and showing her the love that Christ showed me IS ministry. What in the world makes us think that we have the right to stand around filling ourselves with pride and puffing ourselves up when real people with real struggles are asking for someone, anyone, to reach out to them.
I'm ashamed to say that I've been doing this very thing all semester long and have seemingly fallen into the pit of theological nonsense that gets you nowhere if you're not willing to put your faith into practice. I do not, and I repeat, DO NOT want to turn into the 60 year old "leader" in the church that's too much of a coward to be the man that God has demanded that I be. Wow, you could be a Christian your whole life and be in church your whole life and REALLY waste your life.
Please God, give me the courage to be a real man and step outside of my comfort zone and start acting like a Christian. People are struggling, searching, and dying without anyone there to put their arm around them and tell them that you love them. Give me the grace to have mercy on all of your people and to be willing to step up when someone is in need and not let my pride convince me that I've got better things to do.
Better things to do . . . wow, someone I know named Kiel really needs to straighten out his priorities. By the grace of God alone, maybe he will.