A community that faces fear

November 7, 2011

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When I preach, I am
absorbed in faces. I'm captured by the sustained opportunity preaching creates
to gaze into the faces of those I am seeking to serve as a pastor. In worship,
it seems more obvious that others are seeing me. In fact, I am truly seeing
them. I see and absorb all kinds of things about people during these moments of
proclamation. The most profound observation is also the most obvious: they are
a gift.

When I am seeing people
clearly, their giftedness becomes sparklingly apparent. This is not because all
of them are easy for me to see in this way, or because I readily like and
receive their gifts. Perhaps my capacity to see, or theirs to be seen, involves
masks that can hide or distort the gifts that are present. These masks have to
be dealt with in some way. But when I do see more clearly, the treasure trove
before me changes everything about what I can give and receive--and what we can
do and be together.

Knowing and using our
talents lies near to the core of our common life together. It's not because
performance is the point, but because our gifts are for lives of
fruitfulness--not for being cowed by fear. Fear is one of the most frequent
threats to pastors and people expressing their gifts. Part of being a loving
shepherd is to foster a community of hope and love that names fear, faces it
and learns to take faithful risks together.

To do this, pastors must
face their fear and help others do so, too. We are not meant to do this alone.
Flourishing will never happen if we let fear have its way.