Wednesday, April 26, 2006


I just listened to a recording of Kyle Lake (former pastor of University Baptist Church in Waco, Tx) giving a seminar at the the Catalyst '05 conference. Kyle was tragically electrocuted in a baptismal pool during one of UBC's services. Catalyst is offering his talk online as a way to honor his memory. You can listen to the seminar here. There's a bit of distortion at the beginning, but stick with it.
His basic thought: Our penchant for formulas leads to our tremendous ability to act instead of being authentic. "Being authentic" can itself be an act.

"Hypocrite" is the appropriate biblical term and it referred to the mask an actor wore in the Greek theater to express or convey an emotion (think of the mask icons frequently used to depict theater). Of course, we all loathe someone who says one thing and then does another. That kind of person is not Jesus' point in calling the Pharisees "hypocrites."

A hypocrite, in the New Testament framework, is someone acting a part that they aren't in reality. A huge temptation for any of us in the helping professions (particularly ministers). We know how to "act" in almost any given setting. But acting is Pharisaical behavior...

We can act in prayer.
We can act in compassion.
We can act in love.
We can act in marriage.
We can act in friendship.
We can act in humility.
We can act in preaching.
We can act in counseling.
All of which are attempts at impression management.

I want you or my parents or myself or God or some old authority figure or some old flame/friend to be impressed with who I am, to value me... so I act. I mean this as a confessional statement. I know how to act. In fact, I'm really good at it and am frequently rewarded for it.

But I can all too easily be a caricature of myself in all those settings (and more). Reminds me of Glittering Images, the first in a series of novels by Susan Howatch. (The whole set should be required reading for every pastor/minister/priest/bishop/spiritual leader). The lead character (a highly respected leader in the church) comes to grips with how he has been a caricature of himself. The writing is superb and poignant.

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