Friday, January 18, 2008

Where's the Sage?

The newsletter from Lafayette Indiana arrived this week. Inside was an article on their men's ministry. Men's ministries have been a mixed bag experience for me. Some are drawn around a sporting theme (like fishing camps, golf outings, ski trips) and others are built around food (breakfast prayer meetings) and some are built around Bible study (like BSF). There is a value in gender-exclusive ministries. Womens Ministries in the Covenant is certainly built that way. 
What caught my eye in this article was a photo of guys I knew as church leaders when I was a little kid (1954-61) and during my time as their pastor right out of seminary (1980-85). Bob Taylor, Paul Zeimer, Max Balkema, Les Alban, and Harvey Estes. They were standing as a group with medallions around their necks and the caption over the picture said "The Sages." I teared up because it was so so true. When I arrived on the scene in 1980 each one of these guys had their own separate ministry to me and for me as this wet-behind-the-ears pastor. Bob Taylor took me into his wood shop Monday nights and taught me about wood working, and church-manship. Paul Zeimer invited our family out to their pool on hot days, and we would talk about life in the church. Les Alban would invite me out to his gear company and we'd have lunch in the cafeteria and he would talk with me about theology. Havey Estes would invite me out to his farm to escape from the noise at the office with a thermos of coffee and my books by the quiet of his farm-pond. Max Balkema would meet me for coffee and pastries and we would talk about missions and college ministries. Each one was  a sage to me, an elder brother who had no difficulty calling me up, straightening me out (always lovingly) and staying in touch along the way.
I began to look around this church for the sages here, those who are nicked and scarred by a lifetime of obedience, who know the contours of the road and have travelled down the path of the quick-fixes and faddish solutions. In a culture that relentlessly tries to stay young and avoid anything old, we are missing the sages. We need to raise them up for honor; men and women. 
Then the next direction this line of brooding went is about reading the sages. Contemporary authors are really good; Alan Hirsch, Scot McKnight, Erwin McManus, Doug Paggitt, etc. I try to have 2 contemporary writers going all the time. But who are the sages I read? Who are the sages who have only their words behind them now, dead for decades and centuries. I fear that here too our diet is too young sometime and we need to dip into the deep wells of the classics. 
So, I'm off to find some sages!


At 8:06 PM , Blogger MichaelGP said...

Yes! This is what I am missing in my search through spiritual and theological growth,the Sage (or in my case Mentors) to steer me in the day to day walks with the Word and the Lord. The Ones to show me the way to study and the paths to take. These seem to be missing in my growth or lack there of within the disceplines of my studies. This may be off subject but it hit a cord~keep playing!

At 9:10 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Thanks Michael. Check out some of Richard Foster's work on Devotional Classics.

At 10:37 AM , Blogger Erika Haub said...

One I have found who I turn to often is Helmut Thielicke. I am reading "How to Believe Again", one of my favorites, right now.

At 12:52 PM , Blogger kent said...

William Willimon is voice that I have long listen to. he has both the years and the mileage to know what lies ahead.

At 3:32 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Thanks for these thoughts. Other than the Bible, what book would you want (what author) to sustain you while marooned on a desert island?

At 11:19 PM , Blogger Beth B said...

I love the following quote by Simone Weil...it captures one of the qualities necessary for sage-hood:

"To be always relevant, you have to say things which are eternal."

Even a Timothy can be a sage. Even a Methusaleh can be a fool. What matters for wisdom is the orientation of one's mind and heart, and the way one's actions correspond to them.


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