If you happen to have seen me driving around in my van laughing to myself the reason (lately, anyway) is not my compromised mental state, though that would be a very good guess.
No, I’ve been listening to Liberty, Garrison Keillor’s latest Lake Wobegon novel, which chronicles the trials and tribulations of Clive Bunson, head of the Lake Wobegon Fourth of July committee, as he tries to lead the committee in the wake of the growing success and international attention Lake Wobegon’s Fourth of July celebration has recently attracted.
I knew I was going to get a few laughs out of listening when I put the first CD in and heard Keillor describing the conflicted tension swirling around the community of Lake Wobegon by saying, “It is not easy trying to sell grandeur and pizazz to a bunch of pragmatists . . . . Success was the problem. You bring forth a triumph and people (1) resent you for it, (2) expect you to do it again, except better, (3) watch for signs of pride on your part, and (4) await your debacle with cheerful anticipation.”
Why, you may be wondering, did this make me laugh? Because, my friends, it reminded me of church life. Thankfully, not so much church life at Calvary right now, but church life as a general rule.
This week I am in meetings with a group of ministerial residents and their supervising pastors, talking about life in the church, and so many of the themes in Liberty resonate with what I am hearing. All around me are young, idealistic, passionate ministers bringing all their ideas and enthusiasm to bear on, for the most part, congregations that sorely need all these qualities. But finding a way to marry idealism and reality without bloodshed is the finest art of leadership, isn’t it? It’s interesting for me to listen to these young ministers talk about their successes and frustrations and remember my own trek through that territory not so many years ago.
It’s true that life in the church, apparently much like life in Lake Wobegon, can get depressing at times. But I hope these young, talented ministers stick it out, ride the wave of criticism, and push through the resistance to change. It’s worth the pain and struggle, I’m thinking, to see the fireworks of what God is still doing through the institutional church!