Oh Lord have mercy—this morning. My heart is broken over my dear friend who called me in a panic and then fell into a deep sleep. What and who my friend needs is YOU, Lord. You.
I don’t know how to give him you. I don’t know how to advise him to find you. I don’t know where to send him to seek you. Oh Lord have mercy.
His current church, over the last year, he has stopped going. I honestly can’t blame him—I’ve been with him several times. He is right when it is seems just about rote structure, the sermons are getting longer and longer with no structure, and the adult ministry is largely ignored. The logic, the flow of the sermons is a little strange—-they jump from A to C to J to K to Z and are hard to follow at my friends, but they are known to be the best around. The sermons definitely preach the Gospel, and give praise to you—but it is hard Lord when it preaches the Gospel in ways that do not connect to my friend, do not account for where in life my friend is at, do not love him for where he’s at. The last straw was the small groups. He’d call me after so many groups upset, feeling left out, frustrated by Bible study logic. They don’t seem to fit him either.
And honestly, Lord—I can’t think of another church in his area that would.
It is hard Oh Lord. It is hard for him, and Lord, I have much empathy. It is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, but does the church really have to make it harder? This man is not financially rich, but this man is rich in intellectual gifts. And Lord, this man is not alone– I see a lot of my smarter friends have a hard time too. Sermons that don’t seem to make logical sense; Biblical passages that are used to speak off the cuff about almost any topic; real pertinent things of life (like depression, people feeling left out, work/life balance, hard marriages) are not being discussed. Pastors are not available to counsel, to talk—they are off flying to the next conference or speaking at the next event. Small group leaders are not adequately trained. An academic friend of mine tell me her pastors avoid her when they see her—they are afraid of her questions. For a smart person, who was trained to be critical of texts, to connect all the pieces holistically, church is hard. It is little wonder I know so few secular Humanities majors that were Christian—and even fewer who are still Christian now. No wonder, when I met a former campus staff worker years after college, he joked with me and asked, “So, are you still a Christian?”
I have a hard time too. You know I had to go to seminary to clear this up—and when I met equally smart people at seminary, from Christian colleges—it was hard, they could answer my theological questions, but they could not understand my experience, nor did they want to know it, or appreciate my “outlier” experience. They didn’t even seem curious as to why I would think differently, or approach life differently.
It seems, God, to go to church now—you almost have to forget about your training, your intellect, your questions, and in a way, yourself. You see me—you know that I let my mind wander during sermons, and I use it to think about things of you, instead of often listening. You see me—often spending the first half hour of any church service praying for my heart to be soft and not judgmental. I know God that what you most care about is the heart—and it is true, I can worship anywhere where people love you, and call you by name. I can worship in spirit and in truth, the truth of you, Christ in my heart. All the i’s don’t need to be dotted, all the t’s don’t need to be crossed. It doesn’t need to be logical…but Lord, it is hard. It is so hard. It is so hard—that you know I wonder if you did this on purpose—that you made it harder for the so-called-smart people of the world, so we could ultimately seek only your heart. For your foolishness is wiser than the world’s wisdom. And you are using the weak things of the world to shame the strong. I have wondered myself if I value all this—logic and sermons that make sense and relevance and fair use of Biblical texts—all too much—I don’t know.
I think of another friend’s response—the one when I asked him what he thought that his pastors clearly were not as smart as he was, and clearly did not get where he was coming from. His response was one of humoring—he thought it adorable—and clearly, that right there shows his lack of respect for his pastors. THAT, LORD SCARES ME. I also have that same tendency. It is hard to ultimately put yourself under the authority of someone who doesn’t “get you” or doesn’t even intellectually have the talents to follow your logic. You can too easily dismiss their criticism, their counsel, as, “You know, they just don’t get it.” I hear that all the time from my smart friends! And to obey wholesale without thinking is also just as dangerous to the soul. And yet as many that have fallen away, still go to church or still seek you on their own. They want you. They want you, Lord. They still want you.
Peer mentoring, a seminary professor has advised. There simply aren’t enough “pastors”—and it is true, we do look to our friends. My friend did call me. But Lord, this is beyond me.
Lord, this friend of mine—probably still in a deep sleep—I see his heart. He wants you too, Lord. Lord, please meet him where he’s at. I have no idea where that is—I am not as smart as him; he is a mystery to me despite our long friendship. Please, Lord, please meet him, me—and my other friends too. Please dear Lord, have mercy. We just want you.