Lord, Make Us One- By John W. Sloat
   

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An Excerpt from Lord, Make Us One-

At one point in the development of this concept of the four positions, I shared it with some ministers who were part of a study group in which I was involved, and I asked for constructive criticism. One of the men asked a pertinent question: "Where do you see yourself fitting into the picture?" It was an obvious question, but one I had never faced directly. In formulating an answer, I began to see how the model in this book can be the profile of a person's spiritual pilgrimage.

I related the story of my own faith journey. I began life in the Traditional position. My father's father and brother were both ministers, and I was taken to church regularly from my earliest days. I sat between my parents every Sunday of my youth, attended every level of Sunday school, sang in the adult choir and was president of the youth group. My mother was the youth advisor; my father was the Sunday school superintendent. The organist was my piano teacher, and the minister was a family friend. There was no escape for me. The church was a central element in our lives, and though we never talked about "salvation" and "commitment," it was clear that there were things one did and things one did not do because God was God.

Somewhere along the line, in my high school years, I began to consider the ministry. It was about that time that I took the Authoritarian position. If I was going to be a minister, I had to act as though I knew what I was talking about. I joined study groups. I argued with my biology teacher that the theory of evolution contradicted the Bible. I went away to camp and was indoctrinated with the difference between those who were saved and those who were lost forever. I joined little prayer cells that prayed for the lost by name, and I felt a wonderful sense of security in the knowledge that, since I was praying for the lost, I must be saved! Even as the pastor of my first church, I went to a local Nazarene minister's home and argued with him one afternoon, trying to convince him of the error of his ways, certain that his fundamentalist theology was due to faulty thinking.

Gradually, as I was exposed to wiser people and to more diverse ways of thinking, I became more tolerant and plunged into the next phase of my spiritual development, the Activist approach. I was convinced that to be a successful minister meant to have a massive program raging in the church at every moment, something for everyone, so that people kept pouring into the building. It didn't really matter what they were doing just as long as something got them there. The really superior pastor was the one with enough imagination to design a program that would appeal to everyone. Being an activist also meant that I had to be everywhere, visible at all times, and constantly out in the world making contacts. As a result, I was secretary of this, treasurer of that, and a member of the boards of two or three agencies at a time. I served as trustee of an arts center and wrote articles for the newspaper. I did all of this while trying to run the church program almost single-handedly. It was my job to make the kingdom come, and I really tried!

In time, mercifully, I moved on. I do not know whether it was the intervention of the Spirit, the weariness from "doing good," or the simple decrepitude of middle age, but gradually I discovered that it is also possible to serve God by sitting, reading, praying, or talking quietly to one person at a time about the meaning of spiritual growth. I began to seek the guidance of the Spirit in trying to find what God wanted me to do rather than forever telling God what I was prepared to do for the kingdom. I must now confess that I feel very much at home in the Transcendent position; and yet it is a temptation to sit all day and fly away into spiritual delights while the world burns down around me and people cry into ears that have stopped listening.

In my single-minded pursuit of the truth (or was it simply intellectual narrow-mindedness?), I have always been willing to claim that the position in which I found myself at the moment was the best of all possible positions. But this journey of faith upon which I have been embarked for two generations has revealed to me the rich variety of experiences available to the Christian disciple, experiences that, I believe, can only be explored fully one at a time. To miss any one of them, to settle in a particular position and take root there is to deny what God has prepared for us--- a depth experience that will not only make our own faith four-dimensional but will give us a firsthand understanding of those who take all the various positions.

Excerpted from Lord, Make Us One. ©John W. Sloat, 1986.