Real People Doing the Real Thing

A few months ago, a friend of mine e-mailed to ask if I was interested in joining a Bible study group she was going to lead on the book of James. It was a study written by a Prominent Christian Speaker, and I’ll confess to being a little hesitant. Okay, I need to  confess to being more than a little hesitant: I was rather judgmental about it, too. I had a hunch that I knew what the study would be like, and, well, I don’t particularly like being asked to fill in the blank, I don’t particularly like being called “girlfriend” or “sister,” and I don’t particularly like watching the video portion of this sort of Bible study. Give me a book to read and I’ll engage the text sincerely, but this? Seriously?

However, I do really, really like my friend who was leading the study, and I thought it might be a way to get to know a group of other women better, to be vulnerable with them, and to cultivate genuine community.

So I said yes.

I have refrained from writing here at Texas Schmexas about my time with this group of women because during one of our first sessions, one of my new friends said, “I keep wondering when we’re going to show up on your blog….”

I took that as a sign I should probably avoid having them show up on the blog.

(So here I am, avoiding having them show up on the blog.)

All of that was an introduction to this…

*

The book of James is not one of the texts most people spend time studying. For one thing, it’s pretty short (five chapters), and for another, it was kind of snuck in towards the end of the New Testament. When you’ve got the Gospels, and then Paul’s letters, somehow a single book by a single author, no matter who he was or wasn’t in terms of the early church, gets left in the dust. Plus, lots of folks are uncomfortable with what he says about faith and works. (I’m not one of them.)

I would guess that folks wouldn’t like other things he has to say either. James mentions, for example, that we as Christians are not to grumble about each other. Not one bit.

As we studied this portion of the text in a recent Bible study, the Prominent Christian Speaker offered a list of reasons as to why we shouldn’t grumble. If I remember correctly, she couched it in terms of why we shouldn’t become cynical about the church.

One of those reasons has stayed with me:

There are real people doing the real thing all over the real world.

I resonated with this reason for not being cynical about the church, even when we feel like there are plenty of reasons to grumble, to be judgmental, to be cynical.

Among the Christians I know and love, I often hear criticism about other churches that are more legalistic and less, um, intellectual than the one I attend. I’ve heard insulting things about the tradition I grew up in–a more charismatic, seeker-friendly tradition–and insulting things about people who see particular issues in terms of black and white.

This has always made me uncomfortable because I know from experience that there are lots of folks in those traditions, just as there are lots of folks in my own, who are doing lots of good in the world. And not just saving people’s souls, but meeting their needs, showing them love, giving up their livelihoods to serve.

So, let me repeat the message I heard a few weeks ago.

There are real people doing the real thing all over the real world.

And then the Prominent Christian Speaker continued:

If you don’t know who they are, you need new friends.

Ouch.

What she meant is that if our lives are so insulated that we don’t ever come in contact with people who are being the hands and feet of Jesus, that we don’t ever come in contact with people who are different than us, then it’s time we expanded our communities to include them.

Well, now.  If that that doesn’t make you take a look around at your community, I don’t know what will.

So I did.

Interested in what I saw? Stay tuned.
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8 comments on “Real People Doing the Real Thing

  1. Diana Paul says:

    WOW!! Great word for all of us!!!! Keep up the good work, Lizabeth.
    Aunt Nana

    • elizabeth says:

      Thanks, Nana! And thanks for stopping by, too!

      _____________________________

      As an addendum to this post, I suppose I should have also said more explicitly that I did enjoy studying the book of James in this way, by this “Prominent Christian Speaker,” with this group of women. I learned a lot, had a good time, and was challenged to do more to serve and give of myself in the context of my everyday life.

  2. Sarah Benkovic says:

    Liz, I am currently leading this study right now at our church & this was the lesson last night!! I have never gotten such a strong response from a bible study as I have from the study of James. It is so awesome to see God working in the hearts and minds of women in our church and then actually seeing it lived out in their lives. God is so good! The study has also rocked my world and been such a wonderful reminder on what it means to really live out your faith. Thanks for the post, it’s awesome to see others being impacted as well!
    Sarah

    • elizabeth says:

      Hi, Sarah! Thanks for stopping by! Lots of people are doing this study right now, aren’t they? My neighbor, who attends church in another city, is doing it, my stepmom back in PA is doing it, and I think my mom said her church back in WA was doing it, too.

      Hope to see you soon!

  3. Rebekah Leitzel says:

    I agree, Kody and I have had many convo’s on what is “the church”? Maybe some people would like to ask instead: “WHO” is “the church”? 🙂 Great post can’t wait to see what you found 🙂

  4. Jeanne Cochran says:

    I also am hosting the same study of James by the same prominent teacher. Yes, James says things that should spur us on to more love and service – isn’t that a wonderful thing? I do feel especially touched and motivated by this leader’s mindfulness of what God has done for her personally and how much she loves Jesus. May we be as mindful, no matter our background or circumstances!

    • elizabeth says:

      Thanks for stopping by Jeanne, and for sharing. This is a thought-provoking study. I especially like the encouragement to memorize more of Scripture. Let me tell you, if James is in your brain, it ends up being strangely relevant in seemingly unrelated circumstances! I find myself quoting it silently rather frequently!

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