Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.
– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 196 (emphasis added)
Everyone’s alike. We all get along. We “click.” Yes, but click on what? Get along where? What’s often passed off as community is really nothing more than a circle of friends. The “circle of friends” is an insular, self-affirming circle of homogeneity. You share the same income, values, and jokes. You like the same restaurants, have some history, laugh together, and may be the most dangerous influence on one another.
Media critic and documentarian Adam Curtis has suggested that since the explosion of information and celebrity culture, we now determine reality based on our own experiences with our circle of friends.* Our peers now possess more authority than government, history, reason, or God. For example, what you do on the weekends, with your time, where you buy your house, and how your spend your money, may be primarily the result of friendship influences not deep values.
Your views on sexuality, politics, church, and God are easily shaped by little finite people and their opinions of you more than a transcendent, good, holy Authority and what he thinks of you in Christ. You may consume questionable amounts or kinds of media, or refuse to sacrifice your time and money for others, insist on isolating yourself from ‘sinners’, or rarely talk about the deep truths of the Bible because, well, your circle of Christian friends has settled for less.
Those who encircle Jesus are just the opposite: living under God’s great and gracious authority, working hard to live like Jesus, to love those who are different and hard, seeking deep joy and genuine laughter with those who stir up belief in the gospel, who promote joy in God, enjoyment of his creation, and service to others. Are you part of the Jesus circle, the countercultural community? Or are you caught in the circle of friends?
I sat in my office sulking. My day had been so demanding. My week tiresome. My month an all out marathon, minus the fans.
Pastoring eternal souls, preaching week after week, leading leaders, and living an outwardly focused life is demanding enough, but occasionally the demands pile higher. As a pastor, I am a sinner that counsels sinners. This means that, despite our common hope in the gospel, there are times that I fail to apply my own counsel to my own soul. It means that I’m not enough for any disciple much less a whole church.
The past couple of weeks had been one of those “pile up” weeks. More counseling, more speaking, more demands. Add to the stack a particular situation that was, shall we say, extreme? The inbox had hate mail and church slander waiting for me. In tandem, I had to watch self-destructive behavior dismantle a person, whom I had poured a lot of life into.
Exhausted, I thought: “No one understands what it’s like to be a pastor.” “I deserve better treatment than this, after all I’ve done. Why can’t I have better circumstances.” I was emotionally drained.
In hope, I turned to Chuck Palahniuk for help, author of Choke, Snuff, and Fight Club.
Read the rest of the full-length article over at GCD.com
In this video, I discuss how to avoid the neurotic pace of discipleship that tries to juggle holiness and mission.