By Paul Koch –
Since my early days at the seminary in St. Louis, I have harbored a great amount of fear regarding this task that I have been called to do. I still remember that first gathering in front of the president’s home: a sort of “Welcome to Seminary” meet and greet. I overheard a pasty-faced rookie saying, “I can’t wait until I get the chance to preach!” I figured clearly he already had too much of the free Schlafly’s Beer. For me, such an idea was terrifying and unfortunately it didn’t get any better the more I had to drink.
Because of this fear, I have always tried to surround myself with people who would be valuable toward the goal of being an excellent preacher. Some were preachers themselves, some theologians, some just good enough friends to tell me I’m being an idiot, some encourage me to press on, and a very few are all the above. As a result, I have always approached this vocation as one that needs a community to execute. I figured that it was the lone cowboy that was sure to get it wrong, destined to screw it up (and here “it” is the handing over of the Word itself). Because of my own hesitation, I am convinced that we are better together.
I think this is true no matter our vocations. We are better together as a people; as families, as Christians, as artists, and creators. We are better together as doomsday-preppers and survivors, better together as warriors and healers. We gather together with those who can see our faults and protect our weaknesses, and we serve not only ourselves, but our neighbor in their weakness.
To be sure, there is a danger in finding strength in the community. After all, the community can be a bunch of idiots. Or the community that I choose can simply be one that is full of “yes” men who will support what I already plan on doing, no matter what. Like the first time I got a tattoo, when I was having second thoughts about it, I didn’t call my mom (sorry mom), I called my buddy who already had a bunch of tattoos; at least he would give me the answer I wanted. Such communities aren’t very helpful and possibly even dangerous. But we shouldn’t give up on this life together.
Now I love the romance of striking out on your own. I cherish the thrill of blazing a path and taking all the credit. But I doubt if it is really better.
Better, I suppose, would be to strike out with two or three good friends unfazed by the obstacles in the way. Better would be to blaze a path that others can follow, where strife and agony are not felt in solitude but in communion with others. Better would be a path whose destination is good, right, and salutary because it didn’t follow the passions and whims of one but was corrected and guided by a life lived together.
We are better together; better when we have others to love and forgive, better when others speak those freeing words of forgiveness to us. Together we will endure, together we will make our stand!