In honor of our 125th birthday this month, we are posting two short articles “from the archive” written by George Long. Dr. Long was senior pastor of LMPC from 1964-1986.
“A Stranger is a Friend I Haven’t Met Yet”
The eleven o’clock service is full of them – even some at the eight-forty-five.
All of us have something in common. We have come to church! This means that there is a need for God in the heart of each one. It expresses itself in different ways. Sometimes worship fulfills a duty. Sometimes it fills a need. Sometimes it expresses love and gratitude. Sometimes it is being with people who have something special about them. Usually it is a combination.
When we see a stranger in church the likelihood is that, behind that face, lies a kindred spirit. That spirit was probably forged in the midst of surprising, fascinating circumstances. Seeing ourselves lined up on a pew might suggest that we are all alike – that is, that all others are alike, while each feels quite individual and different, sometimes even strange.
The next time you see one (a stranger), consider that you may be looking at someone who shares many of your own feelings, someone who probably has an interesting background, and may indeed be a good friend whom you haven’t met yet.
A congregation ninety years old, as ours is this month, exists because there has been a constant influx of strangers that became friends.
The best way to feel less strange ourselves is to help someone else feel more at home.
“Sometimes It Bothers Me”
Sometimes it bothers me that we who teach and preach always lift up as role models the exceptional people in the Bible, the stand-outs. People like Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Peter, Paul, Barnabas. And don’t forget Abraham. And of course, especially Jesus. I’ll keep on doing so, because the Bible does. What a glowing list of examples is given in Hebrews!
What bothers me is the inference that everyone should aspire to be a stand-out, a leader. Could that be God’s will? When Aaron and Miriam aspired to the same authority granted to their brother Moses, God rebuked them. If everyone said, “Follow me,” how many directions would the human race take? Wouldn’t it be a complete fragmentation?
As a matter of fact, the people in the Bible who became real leaders were uniformly those who did not aspire to. They were pressed into it, against their will. God seemed to pick those who were intent upon following – intent upon following Him – and those who proved out were those who continued to do that no matter how elevated and important their station in life turned out to be.
Those who failed were those who had their heads turned by their own importance and ceased to follow God faithfully.
It is good to look to biblical standouts as role models as long as we perceive them as faithful followers of the Lord, and as long as we aspire to follow the Lord as they did.
Whether or not we have a following (become leaders) is to be totally up to the Lord.
“Follow, follow, I would follow Jesus…”