Being a follower

I tend to be a stickler on Scripture as the final authority on EVERYTHING. I mean, it’s the Word of God; His expression of Himself. What reason could we possibly have to use anything else as our guide? I love the words, the ideas, the structure, and the sheer power of the Bible.

So, you can imagine my frustration when my pastor decided to do a book study on prayer; a frustration that only increased when I read the book and it contained almost nothing from Scripture.

I mean, the Bible is full of beautiful, worshipful prayers. Christ himself told us how we should pray. The prayers are God-centered, confessional, and worshipful. They give God the glory throughout. What do I need from a book that contains little things like, “Prayer is a dialogue between two persons who love each other”? Where is the worship? Where is the sense of holiness?

Struggling with my frustration, I turned to my ever-patient fiancé. I just could not see why we would waste valuable time on talking about conversational prayer when there is a church full of people who still have much to learn about God’s character and the theology of the life He calls us to. Why more talking about techniques?

Wisely, Samantha heard me out, and acknowledged the value of my points. But then she made the best point she could… I trust Pastor Chris completely. Shouldn’t I hear him out?

So I went. She was right, of course. Pastor Chris has been there for us for years. When I was in college, he and Priscilla brought me snacks during finals week. When I became a member, he met with me and welcomed me in. He asked me to teach the high school class, never once questioning my curriculum or my theology. He spends long periods of time answering my wordy and curious e-mails. He listened as I confessed some of my deepest struggles, and loved and trusted me anyway. He and Priscilla counseled Samantha and I, bringing greater calm and clarity and trust to our relationship. He made me a deacon. He is making a special effort out of his busy summer schedule to officiate our wedding. How could I not trust this man? How could I allow myself to doubt his teaching and direction?

That’s not the whole story, of course. I still need to be able to question. We have theological differences, and differing areas of emphasis. It’s ok that I bring something different to the table than he does, and that I let him know when there is a need for caution or greater consideration in a particular area.

But that does not mean that I have the right to angrily question his decisions before I see where they go.

And, of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the study.

I still have questions and uncertainties. I still don’t think it’s the best idea in the world. However, Pastor Chris has a passion for corporate prayer, and desires for UBC to learn that same passion. He looks at books and sees potential for insights rather than the strength of theological underpinnings.

As a group, we talked about what it means to come into God’s presence… and of course, I had experienced exactly the same things as others had. It was a strong confirmation; there really is something to this idea of intense conversational prayer. It was humbling to have so many strong complaints and then to enjoy myself so thoroughly anyways. My complaints had not been invalidated or forgotten, but they had certainly lessened in importance.

I don’t know exactly where UBC will go in the future, and I’m still going to do my best to bring stronger structure and theology to it. I do know this, though: Pastor Chris is a guy that deserves my trust and respect. If I desire to submit to God in my life, I need to also learn to submit to those he has placed in authority over me, even when they do things differently than I would have. How can I ask a family or a church to follow me if I refuse to be a follower myself?

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