by David Phelps
"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person." - Mother Teresa
A couple of months ago, during the official reception for our new pastor, Allen Ladage, and his family at Immanuel U. M. C., we had a chance to tour the parsonage. As we were approaching the house, a group of people came out; they all had complimentary things to say about it.
In particular, Nancy Collins looked in our direction and said, "It's really nice, guys!"
Our almost-six-year-old daughter, Monica, looked up at her mother and me and said, "Nancy says it's nice!"
Afterward, Nancy's sister, Lynn Walker, came over to us and said, "'Nancy says it's nice!' There were half a dozen people, all talking at once. What are the rest of us, chopped liver?" She paused for a moment and then added, "Nancy Collins -- and her orchestra."
It's natural to want to be the conductor and not just the "orchestra." Each of us has a need to be recognized; we all have an ego. This is why Jesus' disciples were arguing about who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-37). They didn't want to be merely his "orchestra," they each wanted to be the conductor.
At work, I'm a supervisor, which means I usually get to be the conductor while everyone else gets to be the "orchestra." But being the one in charge also means extra responsibilities: Whenever one of the members of the "orchestra" plays the wrong notes, people look at the conductor. When someone at work makes a mistake, I'm the one who has to talk to the boss.
When the disciples got tired of being the "orchestra," Jesus asked them if they thought they could do the things he would have to do or endure the things he would have to endure (Mark 10:35-45). At the time, they answered "'We are able.'" (Mark 10:39a); but later their perspective and their priorities changed (1 Peter 4:10-11).
In last month's newsletter, our pastor, Allen, shared the results of a study by Bill Easum and Tom Bandy, in Growing Spiritual Redwoods. I won't discuss the study at length here, but one point remained in my mind: According to the study, members of Declining Congregations are "Eager to know everyone." And presumably for everyone to know them. Members of Thriving Congregations are "Eager for everyone to know God."
We are called to share Christ with the people around us. We are not called to share ourselves; they cannot be saved by knowing us. I'm reminded of the old line, "But that's enough about me. Let's talk about you: What do you think of me?" We're always eager to talk to others about ourselves: our families, jobs, cars and homes. We should be all the more eager to tell them about the most important aspect of our lives, our savior. I enjoy writing these articles, and I appreciate the comments I hear. But my main purpose for writing them is so that you or I might lead someone to Christ.
It's common to hear about "guilt by association," but you never hear about "innocence by association." Nobody is ever going to be saved because they know me or you, but only because they know Christ. If they can come to know Christ through us, that will be an association that will change lives.
"He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, 'Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord'
"When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Cor. 1:30-2:2 RSV)