Wednesday, March 15, 2006

resurrection of 'friend'

As I sat in Common Grounds, my favorite locally owned coffee house in Waco, Texas, the owner, Jill, came up to me as started a casual conversation. We talked about life and about school (I was in seminary at the time) and about my friends. I asked her if she knew a couple of my guy friends. But I didn't phrase it like that. I mentioned his name and then added, "...he's my accountability partner."

Jill cocked her head to the side ever-so-slightly and splashed a smile across her face. "Accountability partner?" she asked. "Is that really what you call him? Why don't you just call him your friend? Why do people use these Christianese terms like 'accountability partner'?" At the time, I thought she was merely rebelling against the Christian lingo. I kindly explained to her what I meant by the phrase and how it was different to have 'accountability partners' then it was to just have friends. Their role in my life was somewhat deeper and more important.

For some reason, this morning I found myself reflecting back on this little interaction. I am not sure why, but it struck me that she may have been right after all. Maybe it wasn't that she was against all the Christianese in the world. Maybe it was that she just understood better what it was to be friends with people.

What I realize now is that my close 'accountability partners' were really just my truest and deepest friendships. That is still true to this day. Its as if we need to use that term in order to give ourselves permission to talk deeply about sin, life, failures, and doubts. We can share these sort of unmentionables with our 'accountability partners' but not with our regular friends. Not only do we give ourselves permission to share, but we give them permission to speak truth, grace, love and acceptance back into our lives after the sharing. This is their role, after all, as a good 'accountability partner.'

And now I have new 'accountability partners.' Permission to share and to give to each other has been granted. But as I refect on present and past 'accountability partners' I realize that what we were really doing was giving each other permission to be friends. This is what Christ had in mind for friendships. This is what he desires from his children. This shouldn't be a special exception in the Body of Christ. This shouldn't require a different and special title. This kind of relationship is what we should have with our brothers and sisters in Christ. And the title should be that of "friend." What better title can their be, really?

So, Jill, its a long time coming and I know you don't read my puny blog, but I just want to say thank you. Thank you for the subtle challenge to call my 'accountability partners' what they really were. My friends. My brothers. And to all of my present and former 'accountability partners,' thank you. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your wisdom, grace and love. Thank you for your kindness in the midst of my sin. Thank you for not reeling back at the sight of my underbelly. Thank you for enduring my not-so-sage advice. You have brought back to life and embodied the real meaning of the word 'friend'.

Monday, March 06, 2006

lies for pastors

Some lies we young pastors tell ourselves:

1. I am really important
2. My advice is really good advice
3. They don't like me because I am standing for the truth
4. Being a pastor is such a hard life
5. People should listen to me
6. If I were more faithful, more people would come
7. Its not about quantity of people its about the quality of ministry
8. Me sinning is worse than someone else sinning
9. I know God better than you do
10. People just don't understand me
11. Sermon prep isn't as important as being with people
12. Hanging out with people isn't as important as preparing for a sermon
(With #11 and #12, we tend to pick whichever lie fits our mood or personality)
13. I minister to people
14. No one will know but me and God and He will forgive me.
15. My church is better
16. God will raise me up to become someone great
17. People need me
18. Failure is not an option
19. I know more about ministry than my old pastor
20. I am going to change the world

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Lenten prayer VII

"God of all compassion, Father of all goodness, to heal the wounds our sins and selfishness bring upon us you bid us turn to fasting, prayer, and sharing with our brothers. We acknowledge our sinfulness, our guilt is ever before us: when our weakness causes discouragement, let your compassion fill us with hope and lead us through a Lent of repentance to the beauty of Easter joy. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen."

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