“These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.”
—Morgan Freeman’s character “Red” in The Shawshank Redemption
Thirteen years ago Amy and I made the decision to resign from paid ministry in the local church. During the previous decade, I had worked at three congregations (one for only a year, another for eight, and the last for a little over a year). One was a small family congregation, the second was a growing suburban congregation, and the last was a large “mega-church”.
The decision to leave professional ministry wasn’t easy. Since giving my life to Christ, I had always felt a “call to ministry”. I loved the relational work of sharing lives, learning together, and working out what it means to follow Jesus with other people. I, like most who feel strongly about such a call, assumed that following it meant paid ministry in a church, as a missionary, or in a para-church organization. However, I now felt for the first time that God was calling me out of professional ministry. I wasn’t sure what it meant, or what I would do, but I was certain that resigning was what I was supposed to do. So, in a huge leap of faith, without another job, and in major change in my previously assumed direction in life, I resigned.
There is a view of life which holds that where the crowd is, the truth is also, that it is a need in truth itself, that it must have the crowd on its side. There is another view of life; which holds that wherever the crowd is, there is untruth…
“The Crowd Is Untruth”
(available here in it’s entirety)
“In the splendid cathedral the Honorable Right Reverend Geheime-General-Ober-Hof-Praedikant [Private Chief Royal Chaplain] comes forward, the chosen favorite of the elite world; he comes forward before a chosen circle of the chosen ones and, deeply moved, preaches on the text he has himself chosen, ‘God has chosen the lowly and the despised in the world’—and there is no one who laughs.”
The Humor of Kierkegaard: An Anthology, 148
[Wealth] is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. It gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of an husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless; We may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death.”
Sermon 50, The Use of Money
You know that I have a difficult time inviting people to things that are of an “official” nature related to myself. Somewhere along the way I developed this knee-jerk, over-response to anything that might appear less than genuine. Sometimes, as a church worker, I’ve wondered if in the back of people’s heads there’s this idea of that somehow an invitation by a church worker comes across as “working” my relationships for the benefit of the institution or having a mixed agenda (the success of the program vs. really caring for people).
His finger cut through the sand and dirt. It wasn’t the first time he had seen his finger write in the the flesh of the earth. On the mountain he had written the words in the stone. He had given them to his people, those he had chosen to make his own. Words that were meant for life.
And this is what they had done with it. They had taken the very words meant for life and twisted them into an excuse to accuse and rain down death with stones, lists to decide who was right and who was wrong, who was in and who was out. His words, their lists.
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed out on a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace, or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.”
—Stephen Presfield, The War of Art
The most free person in human history came to be a slave of all.
(Meditation on Philippians 2)