Saturday, August 20, 2005

Kemosabe (Faithful Friend)

OK you ask – how can a long-running radio and television show about a masked cowboy and his Native American friend have anything to do with this week’s subject on Guidance? Well, the answer may be that it relates more than you know.

The call of Christ to every woman and man is a call to life by grace through faith and a call to community. we are to be partakers in the fellowship of the saints. In effect, we belong to Christ and to each other. We are called together into a “believing community”. To quote Richard foster from an earlier chapter, “As human life is unthinkable without head, arms, and legs, so it is unthinkable for those Christians to live in isolation from one another”. Yet, this element of togetherness is often elusive.

The subject of togetherness is too large of a subject to weave into a discussion on the corporate discipline of guidance. Yet, I will say this – to my observation- there is too much loneliness and often too little friendliness in the body of Christ. I recognize church is a family and a fellowship; likewise, I know that what we often call “church” – an organization, a Sunday gathering, or, worse yet, a building with a steeple- is a mere veneer in contrast to the body life that God has intended for His people.

Recently, I came across a summary of a Sunday visit to a local congregation by a
mystery worshipper. Apparently, this outfit “has an intrepid team of Mystery Worshippers traveling incognito in the British aisles and beyond, reporting on the comfort of the pews, the warmth of the welcome and the length of the sermon. The only clue they have been there at all is the Mystery Worshipper calling card, dropped discreetly into the collection plate”. Whilst I’m not certain that each point of evaluation merits measurement, the comments on friendliness during the corporate gathering are telling.

Here is one 3-question excerpt that is worth noting:

Did anyone welcome you personally? Coffee and bacon sandwiches were being served before the service. I stood alone and unwelcomed in the middle of the bustling coffee area till the time for worship.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what? There was a deep sense of the presence of God during the worship, which was led by the music group. The offering was collected by the congregation going up to the front. Then there were notices, lollies (see below), sharing, and the sermon.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost? Having had a lonely bacon sandwich and coffee before the service, I had a lonely donut and coffee after the service. I had a chance to talk with my neighbours during the giving out of the lollies, but they went straight out at the end of the service.

For clarity, I can say that I know some of the believers that comprise this fellowship that gathers near London and can attest that the write up, if written today, would be altogether different and much more complimentary; nonetheless, the observations of the writer are worth noting for there is an element of similarity in this report that transcends many congregations, traditions, and experience. So, let me propose a thought:

The Sunday morning gathering of any fellowship is, at best, only a snapshot of what a church is really like. The real substance is in the small groups, ongoing friendships, lives being transformed, and the together-life of the body. However, we, as a fellowship, should be aware. If God is calling people to us and us to people, then we must be certain that we are not a closed group of believers who are comfortable amongst themselves and unaware of those searching for God and seeking the context of body life that God has ordained for all of His beloved.

For years, I have held the idea of being a “Lone Ranger” as a point of contrast to healthy Christian interdependence. We must remember that we’re not alone in our endeavor to grow in Christ. Also, even as we grow in our independence, it is important to remember that God has provided the context of family, friends, and the body of Christ to add a richness to life that is exponentially greater than going solo.

Certainly, we all need to be at ease with solitude. This is good; however, the real mark of maturity is not being strongly independent but healthily interdependent with a confidence and self worth that is deeply rooted in the knowledge that God has made us in His image and loves us so much that " He gave His only begotten Son" to accomplish our forgiveness and make us new.

Was the “Lone Ranger” really a loner? I may have been mistaken? Kemosabe means faithful friend. (Can you believe it? Kemosabe is a real word. Its origin is from the Potowatomie Indians that lived in and around Michigan. The creator of the radio series took the word from real life and his experience in Michigan. So, when Tonto would say, “You, Kemosabe.” He was saying, “You are a faithful friend.”) Until now, I was unfamiliar with the story of how the Lone Ranger came to be alone. It’s interesting to learn and broadens my understanding of the character. Moreover, he and Tonto were quite the team and, as the adage goes, there is no I in team. So, maybe my idea of the Lone Ranger being a solo act breaks down when seen in context; nonetheless, TV and radio character aside, it is clear that God never intended for us to go it alone.

In keeping with the idea of “not going it alone”, Foster’s handling of guidance as a corporate discipline was really eye opening. I knew the admonition of the Proverbs 20:18 (“ Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance.”) but have not heard the idea expressed as “corporate guidance” until reading this chapter. Clearly, there is a “communal side” to the discipline that goes beyond “private guidance”. In our day, do we ever allow that “individual guidance must yield to corporate guidance” in the context of our life together as the church of God?

“Perhaps the preoccupation with private guidance in Western cultures is the product of their emphasis upon individualism." However, it has not always been so. “God led the children of Israel out of bondage as a people. Everyone saw the saw the cloud and fiery pillar. They were not a gathering of individuals who happened to be going in the same direction; they were a people under the theocratic rule of God.” Are not we today to be the same? If so, the idea of guidance as a corporate discipline makes perfect sense.

The examples of the early churches ought to peak our interest in this week’s study. Likewise, the subject underscores the importance of life together as the body of Christ. So, even if the Lone Ranger really was a loner, we are not meant to be. Rather, our “kemosabe” (faithful friend) has placed us in a family and intends that we sort this matter out together. May we follow His lead and do so. It is time for the body of Christ to stop “going to church” and start being the church. And, if we are to do so, we must cherish His guidance corporately, as well as, alone.

Let me close with two quotes:

"We should not ask, "What is wrong with the world?" for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, "What has happened to the salt and light?" John R. W. Stott

"The Christian life is not just our own private affair. If we have been born again into God's family, not only has he become our Father but every other Christian believer in the world, whatever his nation or denomination, has become our brother or sister in Christ. But it is no good supposing that membership of the universal Church of Christ is enough; we must belong to some local branch of it. Every Christian's place is in a local church, sharing in its worship, its fellowship, and its witness." John R. W. Stott

God Bless.


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