Monday, December 12, 2005

Spiritual Ronin II

Spiritual Ronin are fascinating types of people. For all sorts of reasons they do not join a local church. I had some excellent comments and observations about some of those reasons. Often they become "masterless" due to institutional failure and infidelity, they were betrayed and absued by their "masters". Where is there a pastor who has not heard painful tales of spiritual abuse by pastors, teachers, youth leaders, parents, etc.?? It's truly awful and painful to witness. I have served churches that were known as "safe places" for burned out staff from mega-churches to come for healing. Often I would see them slip in the back door toward the end of the first hymn and leave during the second stanza of the last hymn. And during the service they would weep. They were hungry and afraid; afraid to ever let themselves become vulnerable again to church leaders (especially senior pastors) but they could not deny their hunger and attraction for the church. These became some of my best friends, though never leaders and seldom members....for all the right reasons. I think these ones need love and compassion and lots of space and time in which we can listen to their stories and repent on behalf of the body of Christ for the abuse they suffered.

But then there are some other Ronin. They are the worshipless Ronin. These are the ones who have advanced degrees, have authored books, teach classes and lead retreats. The are bold experts in all sorts of areas of spirituality. In front of a crowd they are excellent speakers. They bring brilliant insights and hold your attention. But when their class is over they do not follow you into worship, but they go home. Unless they are up front and leading, they aren't there. They don't worship with anyone. They worship alone.

Is worship either singular or plural? I have heard strong arguments for the strength and vibrancy of the interior life. I love the devotional classics and time alone in my room with my candle and cup of coffee, deep in the word of God or words of a'Kempis. But is that enough? Do I not also need to be in a gathering with other believers young and old, mature and beginners because that too is essential? In the church I serve now there is no "Pastoral Prayer". I miss publicly praying for the local church and interceeding for the body. I count it a high privilege and honor and I love carefully crafting the very best words to speak to God on behalf of my people. Instead it rotates among the memebers. Sometimes they miss mentioning an important concern and critically ill member. And other times the windows of heaven open and I am ushered into the throne room of grace because in an unguarded moment I let a brother or sister pray for me. I am discovering I need them to pray for me. I need not only to lead and preach, but I desperately need to worship with them. So that's why I am having a harder and harder time asking bright folk to come and teach if I don't see that they also come and worship.


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