Recently I came across in interview with James Houston, former teacher of Regent College. His books and tapes have been very instrumental in my spiritual journey. He was asked to list the top three needs of the church today. Since I admire him so much, I want to comment on the three needs he mentioned.
The first need, “is for the church to stop being ‘institutionalized as church and to recover the amateur status of being ‘lovers of God.'” The presence of “professional trappings” in the church can a stumbling block for men. I often joked during my 40 years of active, full time ministry as a Lutheran pastor, that I was paid to be good, while other were good for nothing. In our culture we have put too much emphasis on degrees and titles. As men we tend to believe position dictates influence. But position has nothing to do with being a lover of God. Men celebrate your status as an “amateur.”
In my early 50’s I gave up what I called “The Big Deal,” that is, wanting to be important and recognized in the church. I have spend to last 25 years wanting to be an ordinary Christian, living an ordinary life as a lover of God. That has brought me new freedom, allowing me to spend time integrating my inner life, so that I might be more authentic. I have heard Dr. Houston often say in recorded teachings, “I want to be an honest Christian.” This implies being a person of integrity. He frequently asked his audience, “Can you be trusted as a Christian?”
The second need, “is for ‘being Christian,’ rather than interpreting our Christian identity in activist terms and programs. For the nature of the triune God is communication, and from this the nature of the Church takes its identity also.” This is difficult for men. We are motivated to be doers – to take the initiative, while our wives are the responders.
One of my greatest discoveries over the last 25 years has been to realization that God, the Father through His Son, by the presence of Holy Spirit invites me into the community of the Trinity. The essence of the Christian life is relationship – relationship with God, myself and others. Men, what matters most is not want we accomplish, but how we relate. As men we each have our unique way of relating. There is nothing that keep me more humble, then my failure to consistently relate like Jesus in my relationships.
The third need, “is harmonious creative union between men and women in the life and service of the Church, not as rivals, nor as being alienated in ‘politically correct’ behaviors.” This refers to the matters of “gender integrity” within the Church. I call it “rightly ordering spiritual authority.” In my humble opinion, the only institution in our culture that can model and rescue our nation from the chaos we are experiencing in relating as male and female is the Church. We have the blue print in Scripture and the Holy Spirit to guide us. I John 2:27 reminds us, “Christ’s anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and him, uncontaminated by a single lie” (Message).
So my challenge to the wild men of this blog is this: First, celebrate you status as an “amateur” Christian. by simply being a lover of God Secondly, always remember that relating rightly is far more important than doing. And thirdly, love your wife and children. I met Dr. Houston once. I asked for one piece of advice. He said to me, “cherish your wife.” I never forgot those words.