Fear and Loathing

What in the world is it going to say?  Why did I ever agree to this?

What’s done is done.  I have no idea what the newspaper article Monday will say – and no control over it.  Perhaps that’s the biggest issue for me – the lack of control.  Every week I am blessed with the opportunity and responsibility of saying something useful and true to a bunch of people.  I am tasked with making complicated things somewhat easier to understand, with making challenging realities endurable through the Word of God.  I have to think a lot about what to say and how to say it.  And now the ministry of this congregation is going to be summed up by a reporter with no real idea of who we are or what is important to us.  That’s disconcerting.  Irritating, actually.

I could have written a story for him.  I much would have preferred that.  Did I tell you that I won a state award for journalism when I was 15?  Without even knowing there was a competition?  When I had to borrow a sheet of typing paper from the irritated person next to me?  When I spent about 15 minutes on it?  Third place in state news writing.  Cold turkey.  Yeah, I’m practically William Randolph Hearst, buddy.  I could imagine him rolling his eyes.  With good reason.  But I could have done it.  I would have known how to approach it in a way that would help his readers make sense.  That’s my job.  I translate, after a fashion.  Will he know how to translate?  Does he know what to translate from?

He kept asking about milestones as he searched for something that would make sense to his anonymous readers.  I tried to reiterate that what matters most is what happens every week.  People come to hear good news.  The God who created them speaks to them through his Word.  The God who redeemed them speaks to them through his Word.  The God who dwells within them speaks to them through His Word.  They receive forgiveness, hope, a taste of life both here and now and in eternity.  Milestones are subjective.  What is important enough to be considered a milestone?   It depends a lot on who you ask.  What happens every Sunday is what matters.  God comes to his people and feeds them and encourages them.  If we don’t do this, we have no reason for existence.  We could talk about milestones of attendance or dollars raised or events coordinated all day long, but if we don’t preach the Word of God that calls us to repentance and promises us forgiveness, we are irrelevant.  The Church is the only institution on earth that does this – it is our first and greatest privilege and responsibility.

None of which makes any sense to someone who doesn’t understand Church, who isn’t a part of it.  I assume the article will highlight some of the ministries of our congregation, outreaches to the visually impaired, to those recovering from addictive lifestyles.  It will sound nice, but it will miss the mark of why we do those things.  At one point the reporter seized on my weekly visits to the jail, and he said well that’s something like what Jesus did, isn’t it?  Sort of, but not really.  But how do you explain that to a man with a tape recorder and a deadline?  If I had longer, if he wasn’t thinking in terms of word count and lead paragraphs and possible headlines.  Maybe.

We’ve been proclaiming God’s grace through Jesus Christ for a century. We’ll survive whatever story gets written on Monday.  He was particularly startled at my refusal to have them take my photo in front of the church.  People like to see people in photos.  Yes, that’s true.  But I’m not going to stand there for another cheesy photo.  This isn’t a photo op for me.  It’s not part of my 15 minutes of fame.  And I would prefer that people not make their decisions about the church based on what they think of my hair cut or smile or whatever.  I prefer not to give them that option.

Any publicity is good publicity, so an ad mantra goes.  I don’t buy it.  Maybe somebody else will.  I just hope to endure it.

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2 Responses to “Fear and Loathing”

  1. Lois Says:

    I think it turned out well. You seem to have gotten through to the fellow. Maybe we’ll be seeing him in church one Sunday ;-)

    • mrpaulnelson Says:

      Yes, it did turn out fairly well. I only sounded moderately idiotic :-) And yes, I can only pray that we’ll see him back again some time in the future, or that he’s already worshiping somewhere else!

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