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My People

Yesterday I was at lunch with a number of good friends. As a response to a comment in a conversation, one of my friends remarked "These are my people."

Although it was said in jest, it was true. These were her people. And they were my people too. These are the people with whom I am closest. These are the people with whom I share almost every day. I know them deeply, and they understand me as well. They know the things that make me excited, what annoys me, what my goals are, and what my fears are. They are the people with whom I can actually waste time. Our time together doesn't have to have a plan or agenda. I share different things in common with each one of them, but together we form a "family" whose ties create a tight bond. This is sappy, I know. Just stick with me. This is important to me because I know we all came together through our common faith. This is the kind of thing that, for me, make scripture and the Christlife come to life. This kind of community is the thing that God had in mind from the beginning and what the fellowship of the first believers was like. It is not defined by institutional forms or programmatic planning. The community exists as much on a Tuesday night bike ride as it does during worship on Sunday.

But there is something that bothers me. I sat in my GST mentor group this morning and helped welcome in a new member who is in his first semester of the MDiv. (Remember those days? Way back, six months ago?) He, like so many others, is a young guy who wants a job as a preacher. And, like so many others, he is scraping together little preaching gigs week by week at some of the many small-town rural churches in the area. He is taking it upon himself to offer his spiritual leadership and teaching to these little communities so he can get some experience and improve his skills. God bless him. But he is empty, and it is obvious. He has no connection. He has lived in Abilene for years now (he did undergrad here), but cannot claim to have any people with whom he is close or can call spiritual family. He said that he preached on 1 Thessalonians this past Sunday for a little church. That's awesome.... but wait.... what are the important themes of 1 Thessalonians? As far as I can tell, it is to encourage the church there in the bond that they have with one another and their powerful communal faith in the face of intense persecution. It is to emphasize their duty to one another as the fulfillment of the daily Christlife. I hope this doesn't sound judgemental, but how can these ideas be taught to a church by someone who has no experience in living that in his own life?

This wouldn't be an issue to me if it weren't so common. I spend most of my days right now in the halls of an institution that is designed to help train spiritual leaders for greater service to the kingdom. Why is it so filled with people whose only obligation to the kingdom is a "job" that they do on Sunday morning? Why am I sitting in rooms with many guys whose only ambition to kingdom work is to somehow find some kind of job when they are done so that they will not starve? Why, when I ask the graduating MDiv student with whom I am eating lunch what his goals are, all he can give me is a flippant answer about joining a cult and skipping through flowers? Then when I press, all he can say is "get some kind of job"?

I thank God that, even though this situation is common, is it not the majority. There are many incredibly directed, spirit-driven students here that are involve with, and preparing for, great missions in service to their Savior. People who recognize the purposes God has given to them and what the daily life in community with his people is about. People for whom it is not a job but a calling. These are the people to whom God has given spiritual eyes and who see the world around them as mission and work to make every moment a chance to glorify and lead for God. These are also the people who recognize how much they need - how desperate they are - for the lifeblood of God's spirit, his word, and his community.


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