The Church Needs More Graduates
- Wednesday, June 22, 2011
So, here is tension; Miller reads the Bible and makes certain statements about God that are completely consistent with the sentiments of my more conservative friends (e.g., he refers to Moses as author of the Pentateuch – a view my more theologically liberal friends tend to reject), yet he strongly critiques church "business as usual." Miller is a liberal in the literal sense: one who wishes to grant freedom. He has no patience for rules-bound Christianity, but he also rejects antinomianism.
So why reject rules-bound Christianity? Because Miller argues that God is not running a business, He is running a family; relationships are more important than rules. Miller encouraged his audience to free themselves from business as usual and join God’s real work. Over and over he called for Christians to join God's work of saving as many people as possible (and not necessarily through evangelism). And to underscore that point biblically, Miller began the conference with a discussion of Joseph's story in Genesis 37.
Miller discussed Joseph’s apparent arrogance at the beginning of his story – announcing to his older brothers that in a prophetic dream, his entire family bowed down to him. And Miller contrasted that with Joseph’s graciousness at the end of his story – allowing his brothers to live in spite of the fact that those same brothers had earlier sold him into slavery. Miller especially camped out in the middle of Joseph’s story (that slavery bit). Miller explained that God is okay with us experiencing disappointment, pain, delay, heartache, and yes – even failure. These are the things God uses to move us from immature arrogance to compassionate leadership. Miller underscored that point: “never trust a person who hasn’t suffered.”
I agree. Whole-heartedly.
And perhaps this suffering element is part of Miller’s distaste for how churches do education. Let’s face it: our culture wants to prevent suffering, and the church often brags about creating a “safe” environment. I will personally confess that I like safety and I dislike pain (pain hurts me, and I don’t like hurting). But until we are willing to take risks, knowing that some of our plans will fail, our dreams likely will go unrealized. Miller wants us to graduate from safety-seeking comfort to risk-taking climaxes (to borrow a story term).
Throughout the conference, Miller told story after story of people who took risks, and those risk-takers demonstrated that by taking risks, they lived out a better story.
The conference concluded with interviews of people who would seem to have “graduated.” One example: Miller sent out an email to conference participants, instructing them to bring a pair of new or gently used children’s shoes to the conference, but he didn’t tell us why. Then, during the conference, he interviewed Isabel Jones.
Isabel went to Kenya in 2009, and was moved by the incredible poverty of the children she saw there, children who often contracted diseases by walking barefoot in unsanitary conditions. So she took a risk and started an organization to prevent it: Shoes for Kids (Miller commented on how people who were getting things done simply named their organizations what they were about, no need for super-creativity on that bit). What makes this even more impressive: Isabel is a kid herself.
The conference concluded with a final interview with Ian Cron, giving out copies of Cron's newest book Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir... of Sorts. Cron also described the need to take a risk, telling the story of his son’s jump into a water-filled quarry from a 40-foot ledge. Cron’s son literally had to take a leap of action – a leap of faith in spite of fear. This concluding call for action underscored Miller's primary point: time to graduate.
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