the road to enlightenment.

so my brother took me to his church yesterday - 1st Pres. Washington (NJ). it's a mid-size, rural presbyterian congregation, with a senior pastor, and a commissioned lay pastor. i love visiting new churches. i love seeing how local congregations live and interact, and how church is unique to them. so it was fun to go to the church that my brother has found to be home for him.

it was refreshing - a number of members said hi to me, recognizing that i was a new person. but mostly, it was the senior pastor that struck me - he was...umm...normal. it's hard to describe, but he was just being himself - not trying to put on a show or a facade, or over-dramatizing his performance. he was being genuine. i was thinking about how i've become super-sensitive to un-genuine-ness, and how i find it harder and harder to understand how people think they need to put on this show with who they are. i feel like it shouldn't be so hard - don't try so hard, and be yourself. now for sure, i know there are instances for all of us where this is difficult to follow through on, but it seems like i'm seeing more and more examples of people who are putting on a constant show to hide their real selves - and unfortunately more and more of that is in churches. so while it may not sound all that profound, i found it refreshing to experience this senior pastor just being normal.

he preached on the road to damascus, as thousands of other churches were preaching on across the country. it's always so hard to listen to (let alone preach on!) one of those passages that we've heard a hundred times - thinking "i know what that's all about". this is what stuck out for me.

"When [Jesus] was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him"(luke@24:30-31). i have come to believe that relational ministry should always be our primary focus, no matter what we do. i have had a very difficult time figuring out what that "looks like", as most churches are primarily focused on the programs that they run. but i keep getting encouragement that i'm on the right track - and this passage is one of those encouragements. they all sat down at the table, broke bread together, and the two followers' eyes were opened to who jesus was. a simple formula for ministry - to break bread together, to share a meal and personal time together - as relational ministry.

now i know that churches can't just run on eating meals together - though presbyterians certainly try their darned-est. but i have found it hard to figure out how to base ministry around interactions such as this - interactions that allow people to open their eyes to each other; to open their eyes to the jesus inside each other. i can imagine the difficulty lies somewhere beyond trying to justify having lunch with people as successful ministry, when programs are the things that draw larger amounts of people in one sitting. i have experienced this at every church i've been at, and i still have trouble understanding this challenge.

but i have prayed a lot for help in understanding what i have been convicted by. and, as i mentioned, i continue to get encouragement that i'm on the right track. so i'll continue in my quest - not belligerently, but contemplatively.

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