***2014 UPDATE TO THIS BLOG POST - IF YOU WANT TO HEAR THE PODCAST OF GOSPEL AMNESIA. FOLLOW THIS LINK.
I wrapped up last year spending three days with thirty-five young men at a leadership conference. I was very thankful for the opportunity and the invitation to speak on the topic of leadership and with these young guys In considering my topic, I was immediately drawn to 1Timothy 4:11-12. I shared that Paul (the old guy) encouraged Timothy (the young guy) to lead by example in five areas: speech, conduct, faith, love and purity. For three days, that is exactly what I did with these young men.(photo courtesy Creative Studios Photography)
On the last day, I uncovered the topics of lust and purity. Often, these topics are not spoken about in the public arena with teenage men, yet I have always found it easy to find a connection and did not waste much time navigating through this discussion. My audience (which had largely been asleep) suddenly began to straighten up and engage in what I was saying. I think they realized I was going to punch through some of the tougher subjects and not hold back.
As I spoke to these guys there was a moment that I tripped on my words. As I was speaking, suddenly what I said caused me to speak and listen at the same time. It was funny, because I had prepared for weeks what I was going to say. I crafted the discussion and I had reviewed it before getting up to speak. It wasn't until I began to speak out loud that it suddenly applied to me.
I wonder if this happens to pastors who preach weekly. Probably.
Anyhow, I stumbled through my words while trying to listen to God speak to me at the same time. I'm not sure if I pulled it off or not, but I'm thankful most of the guys were drifting in and out of sleep and missed my distinct pause. I'm not talking about a monumental life-changing event. This was just a simple truth in life I discovered while I spoke. It began as I was sharing with them about helping fellow believers that are "stuck" in their faith. I suggested one of the ways we can help someone who is stuck in sin or in their relationship with God is to merely remind them of the gospel.
That's when it happened. I had what others describe as a lightbulb moment. Instantly I was able to describe much of what I had been thinking about in 2010 with a single phrase. As I spoke to these young men at the leadership conference, I realized that I had been one of those people that was stuck. It's not that I was stuck in sin. I was not having a crisis in my faith. I was not abandoning the church. I was just stuck. Somehow...somewhere...I had developed a case of "gospel amnesia."
You see, after years and years of ministry and church involvement, I found myself struggling in 2010. Much of the year felt like I was waking up out of a slumber and rediscovering old truths. As I looked back on previous years, I began to question what had taken place. As I looked at my life I realized that I had a form of faith. I also found that I had been tangled in a mess of religion. I had gospel amnesia. For years, I had been working hard at the outward lifestyle of Christianity, but the roots of that lifestyle were established in the fear of man. I was "doing Christianity" because of what I read and saw others "doing." I was saying/repeating what others were saying or sometimes what they thought was important to say. Again, I had gospel amnesia. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that my faith was a sham, but it wasn't authentic either.
Conversation after conversation had taken place all year and I kept trying to pinpoint what I was thinking and what I had learned. I kept searching for ways to communicate what exactly I meant. Then, in the last few moments of the year, it came into focus...and quite unexpectedly. 2010 was a year of curing the amnesia with heaping doses of the gospel. 2011 will be a year of rediscovering how to live out my faith with authenticity and Spirit-led humility.
What are your plans for 2011?
Quietly making noise,