"...but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." (from Philippians 2:3)
This may be the shortest and simplest piece I have ever posted on my blog, but that's O.K. Many of us preachers tend to believe that sermons or writings have to be very long in order to be truly important, valuable, and life-changing. Nothing could be further from the truth. I've been an evangelical Christian for over forty-three years and I spent almost thirty years in full-time pastoral ministry. Sometimes we put so much energy and thought into some of the most complicated stuff in an effort to both grow churches and to disciple believers. Yet, we forget that SIMPLE THING that can make all the difference!
That thought hit me like a ton of bricks a few days ago when a friend shared with me the reason he stopped attending a very good home Bible study group. I had not asked him about it at all, but I was aware he had been very faithful to this group for quite awhile and he had (as we often say) "gotten a lot out of it". Out of the blue he said, "I used to go to that group and I liked it, but there's a reason I stopped going." I was sort of taken back because I had not asked him about why he no longer attended that group, nor had I raised the issue in any way at all. For some reason, he seemed to just have the need to tell me about it, so I listened. He continued, "They have each person in the group take turns reading Bible passages aloud. They go around the room in order, and everybody has to read. I've always been very uncomfortable reading out loud- even from elementary school. It's not that I can't read out loud. I can. But it's very stressful for me. It creates a lot of anxiety, and I just don't like it. This became so stressful for me that I just could not go back to that Bible study."
Wow. I did suggest that he talk to the guy who runs the Bible study privately to see if they could make a change and ask for volunteers to read, rather than having everyone read out loud. I don't know if he will do that or not, but I was reminded of a situation from almost thirty-five years ago. I was teaching the Adult Sunday School class at Christian Life Center Church in Walpole, MA. This was before I was even officially put on the pastoral staff there. I was a graduate of Central Bible College and only about twenty-six years old- maybe younger. I was in the habit of just calling on people to read out loud. I called on a guy in the class who regularly attended church services and Sunday School there. The man was a contractor in his late forties at the time. When I called upon him to read, he turned red and looked as if I had just asked him to dive off the Sagamore Bridge and swim the length of the Cape Cod Canal! He read the passage aloud- somewhat falteringly. After class he came to me and said something very similar to what my friend said about that Bible study. He said he'd always been very self-conscious and embarrassed about reading aloud. This experience had been terribly upsetting for him, and he asked that I never call on him to read again. I really felt bad about this! It's just second nature for me to read things out loud. I don't even think about it, I just do it! I got quite an education that day. Yes, it's second nature for me, but not for everyone! My brother was like my Dad, both of them could rip any automobile's parts apart and put them back together like "nobody's business". My Dad was a very good mechanic, and my brother Eddie was an outstanding mechanic. I still struggle just to handle a wrench properly and to do very simple things with tools. The mechanical ability was second nature to them, but not to me. And, it's just like that with reading out loud. How many people have been driven out of churches because of things like this?! (That God, that guy did not stop attending church or Sunday School!)
Another time, when I was in my late twenties I was leading a home fellowship group. I asked a young lady in the group (about age nineteen) to close us in prayer that night. She immediately got up and left the room crying! Again, that's something that's second nature to me, but it wasn't to her. Honestly, I don't remember if she came back to that group or not. (It was held at her parents' home, so perhaps she did.)
Now, I realize there is another side to this. It's true that if people would just face their fears and "step out of the boat" and try reading out loud or praying out loud, it may not go well at first, but over time they will get better at it and become more comfortable with it. But it's just not something we can force on people, and doing so can be very harmful. Well, that's my "simple thing" and I hope you "got something out of it"!
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