Unleashing the Scriptures
The room was small, one of those cramped “pretty” rooms found almost exclusively in churches. The furnishings were nice if not slightly, well, no actually, they were completely dated. A picture of Jesus hung on one wall and directly across was an even larger picture of some long gone saint of the church. It truly was difficult to tell who was watching over whom on those walls.
There were six souls in that room as well. Five of them in a state of restless listening and the sixth was just in a “state.” They were all pastors, but this sixth person was probably on the verge of finding some way out of that calling. The sixth pastor was hurt. The sixth pastor was angry. The sixth pastor felt abandoned.
One of the listeners eventually quietly offered a word of Scripture…something about a yoke being easy and a burden being light. Another of the listeners offered a word from the Word that reminded number six that a worker was worth what God had paid for them. Number six remained in a “state.”
In the silence that followed, a person already in the room would have heard hearts breaking and aching to reach a colleague. An observer walking in would have thought there was a death in the family but there was no one relative that united these six pastors – only a calling to serve. A stranger off the street – an outsider – might have sat among them and offered advice about finding a new path.
Eventually the painful silence was broken by the words of one of the listeners. It had to be one that was not only listening to the pastor in the “state” but also listening to the Holy Spirit. They said, “When I was being examined for ordination, the people on the Board used to say to one another, ‘Would I want this person to be my parent’s pastor?’ Well, Scott Sears, I want you to know something. I would not only want you to be my parent’s pastor but I would welcome you to be my children’s pastor, anytime. They could not ask for anyone with a better heart to lead them spiritually! You ARE a caring pastor no matter what anyone else says.”
The state of the sixth pastor…my troubled state…melted away in the presence of Jesus found in colleagues and friends and sisters and brothers.
Yes, there were words from the Scripture. These were words that I had read and heard on my own along with others like a passage from Isaiah that was shared by another friend – “’Remember,’ says the Lord, ‘remember that I have plans for you. Plans for good and not evil.” But on their own, these words just didn’t bring comfort…didn’t bring understanding.
It was only when I was together with a group of loving, forgiving, trusting Christians – a place where I could be myself and be loved – that the Bible and the very Word of God that is Jesus came alive.
Yes, I know that there are times and sometimes circumstances that keep people from being together in groups to study the Bible and to hold one another accountable. But the single most common reason people are not in some sort of Bible Study group is simple – they just don’t want to take the risk.
I speak from experience on this one folks – a painful yet wonderful experience that showed me once again that the greatest place to seek understanding of God’s word, God’s will and God’s way is with a group of loving Christians. (This was not the first time being in a small group made a difference in my life and faith and I am quite certain it won’t be the last.) If you don’t have a small group…build one. If you think you can’t build one…then call me and I will put together those that call so that they can have one another to help, to build up and to encourage in the Word. (And don’t worry about being stuck at home, or work or school…there are always ways for people to get together.) The group I met with and continue to meet with today drives hours to be together. Why? Because! Simply because.
One of the books I read in seminary which happened to be written by one of my favorite seminary professors, Unleashing the Scriptures, argued that Christians really should not be trusted to read the Bible alone – it was a book written in community and should be studied in community. Although I may not go to that extreme, the author, Stanley Hauerwas, is absolutely correct – Christians are a community…not a group of individuals. We must, must, must read the Bible together.
It’s been well over 18 months since that day in the room with that pain and those tears. But the words and the Word…well, nothing has dulled them from my memory. Thanks be to God.