Richard Lamb, talks about The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends

Well, good afternoon everybody, this is Dick Staub thanking you for joining us. You know, our next guest gets beyond the buzz words about the idea of community and takes the position that the pursuit of God is done best in community and, as a matter of fact, is hampered by our radical individualism which is, of course, so characteristic of American culture.

Q. Our guest is Richard Lamb. He is the author of The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends. He’s a long-time InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff member who now supervises their ministry in the western United States. And Richard, it’s nice to have you with us today.
A. Thanks very much, Dick. It’s good to be with you.

Q. Throughout the book you kind of weave in and out of your own story, but let’s kind of get a little, a few pieces of it from the start.
A. Sure.

Q. One of the things that you establish in this book is that you were not a natural people person, that-that what you’re talking about in the idea of doing something in the company of friends was really more of a learned behavior than a natural behavior for you.
A. Yeah. It’s a little awkward to have that be the first thing people know about me but, in fact, I was trained as a scientist in college and often what goes with that, I would have to say, somebody else might have called me a nerd back then. And but the¢â‚¬¦ I became¢â‚¬¦ I was involved in a Christian fellowship in college and that became a very vital kind of shaping experience.

Q. Yeah. Now, you were raised in a Christian home. Was it-was it a home and a church environment in which community was or was not kind of part of the emphasis?
A. Well, community at the level of lots of potlucks. It was a small church at the time. It has grown since then. But when I was growing up I was one of four graduating seniors in my youth group.

Q. Wow.
A. So that gives you a sense of the size of the church. And I was kind of an academic kid and so I was always more interested in kind of the study part of Christianity than the social part of, you know, going. So that-that kind of shaped my experience. My-my-my Dad is an academic in science, as well, and so I was just shaped in some ways by those things.

Q. Wow. Now, you already mentioned that InterVarsity Christian Fellowship made a huge difference. And you tell the story of Greg ¢€œ
A. Yeah.

Q. ¢€œ asking to go on a walk with you.
A. Yeah.

Q. And of all things, what he wanted to talk to you about was in part kind of the subject of this book.
A. Yeah. He¢â‚¬¦ I mean, he had noticed I was, as a freshman I would come to the InterVarsity Fellowship meetings kind of on my own and kind of leave on my own, and while I was both committed but also detached. And I think part of what he was trying to do was address the topic of friendship and invite me into it.

Q. Yeah.
A. The way any youth worker would know to do, though I didn’t know how to do that at the time.

Q. Now, it’s very interesting to me because my-my father was, described himself as kind of a brooding, withdrawn kind of person who wasn’t overly outgoing and married my mother who was a very outgoing person. But he eventually felt called to the ministry and now, looking back on 39 years of pastoral ministry and looking back on his life, he realizes that it was, in fact, that career choice that really drew him into an understanding of the importance of relationships and becoming more comfortable in that context. And one gets a little bit of that sense for you, that-that while being in InterVarsity as a student was a very constructive step towards a better understanding of the company of friends idea, that joining IV staff kind of made it a life-long pursuit.
A. Yeah, that’s true. I think, even when I joined staff I might have, I at the time thought I was only, that was a five-year decision that I was going to go out and work in my chosen field. So I didn’t know at the time I was making a life choice.

Q. Wow.
A. But what attracted me to coming on staff in the first place was this sense that while earlier in my life I would have said relationships are kind of, they’re dessert maybe, but the real stuff is your academics, your¢â‚¬¦

Q. Yeah.
A. I felt like through my college experience I came to realize, no, actually relationships are right at the center of our calling as Christians. And so that-that became a kind of controlling feature in my early ministry. And then I just realized, hey, I want to do this for my whole life.

Q. Yeah. Now, the title itself, The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends, is a kind of an interesting, you know, what happens when A.W. Tozier runs into a plaque at University of Santa Cruz.
A. That’s right. That’s right. So the plaque at Santa Cruz read, “The pursuit of truth in the company of friends.” And one of the things I loved about my-my first campus ministry assignment after I left Stanford was to go to UC Santa Cruz. And there community was more than just a buzz word. It really was built into the architecture and the design of the theory of the campus, a relatively new campus. And you could say a lot of things about how open, you know, the campus is to the gospel, but one of the things it had going for it was this notion of college is meant to be a communal experience, not an individualistic pursuit.

Q. Yeah, yeah. And-and-and of course the pursuit of God is a wonderful phrase ¢€œ
A. Right.

Q. — just pretentious and actually, as you point out, moves in two directions. We’re pursuing God, God is pursuing us.
A. That’s right.

Q. Now, I want to get to the very thesis that you’re-you’re establishing. How would you describe the basic, essential, core point of this book?
A. Well, that-that these two things that I think are both attractive to us, the pursuit of God ¢€œ just the notion of growing in our relationship with God ¢€œ and the company of friends, the notion that we’re doing life together, there’s¢â‚¬¦ We’re not alone, that these things have an interplay with one another. And the one reinforces the other and vice versa. So again, I think if you, like if you were to query people about what-what does the pursuit of God involve? I think you might come up with a fairly individualistic¢â‚¬¦

Q. Yes.
A. Well, deepening in prayer, growing in my relationship with God, spending more time reading the scriptures.

Q. Yeah.
A. On the one hand, community is a very attractive notion.

Q. Yes.
A. Friendship is a very attractive notion.

Q. Yes.
A. But I think even in churches where community, even in small groups where that’s the theory, we can often find that we don’t have language to talk about things that are closest to our hearts in our relationship with God. And so I’m trying to kind of connect those two very attractive concepts together in a single process that I think is the process Jesus used with his disciples.

Q. Yeah.
A. And say that process, you know ¢€œ contextually re-examined ¢€œ but that process is the second process we have available to us today.

Q. Yeah. Now, you point in your book ¢€œ and I’ve already alluded to it in our conversation ¢€œ that community is a buzz word. Everybody is talking about community.
A. Right.

Q. What-what essentially are people missing when they talk about community in the Christian community today?
A. Well I mean, I’m not sure if there’s one thing, I think there might be several different ways. But part of the answer to that involves in understanding what I think are three essential and kind of irreducible components of community.

Q. Yeah.
A. Community involves kind of a, well, a move outward, a move inward, and a-and a relational glue that keeps us together. And I call that the move outward is partnership in mission; the move inward is accountability, depth of relationship; and the glue, the relational glue is friendship, or is fellowship. And I actually get that typology, I go back to Aristotle who basically believed that friendships, for them to survive, for them to be long-lasting friendships, have to share these three things in common, that they enjoy one another, people are useful to each other, and that they share a common commitment to the good. And those things map onto enjoy one another, that’s the fellowship; they’re useful to each other, that’s accountability; and they share a common commitment to the good, that’s a partnership and mission with an outward focus. So this is a very ancient concept and yet it applies to today.

Right. We’ll pick up there when we come back. Good old Aristotle. We’ll pick up with Aristotle and with Richard Lamb. The book is The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends. Don’t go away.

(Break)

Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Richard Lamb, a wonderful, provocative book, The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends. It’s published by InterVaristy.

Q. I’ve got to say, InterVarsity has always published good stuff, but lately they’re just on a roll. I mean, they are publishing a lot of really useful resources and I hope you’ll check them out. We were just talking about the problem with community as a buzz word within the Christian world today. And-and Richard Lamb referred to Aristotle who, as he pointed out just before the break, believed that friendships needed to enjoy one another, be useful to another, and share a common commitment to the good. And-and that gets into mission, accountability, and fellowship in a discussion that Richard has about the company of friends. But you also say that there are kind of four dynamics that make the inner weaving of the pursuit of God in the company of friends so important and really counter-cultural to a highly individualistic American culture. What are some of those?
A. Well, I talk about, I think, that there’s a kind of an invitation or a move, or maybe even for some it’s going to be a conversion experience from one to the other, from say, individualism to community.

Q. Yeah.
A. From thinking that maybe at one point we could think of, maybe our parents, could think of their Christian faith as a private thing.

Q. Yeah.
A. An individual thing. And yet I think today there’s a pretty widespread recognition that that is not satisfying.

Q. Yeah.
A. A second move from privacy to openness.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. That it’s not just that we want to be in a small group or to share a meal together, we want to be able to talk about things that are deep on our hearts, that are¢â‚¬¦ We don’t any longer¢â‚¬¦ Or there’s a growing desire, anyway, to be able to talk about a financial concern or more than just pray for my Aunt Molly who’s dying, but pray for my son who is struggling in his, you know, in his identity as a man. Or whatever. And then, thirdly, from superficiality to authenticity. You know, one of the things that¢â‚¬¦ One of the kind of dynamics I point out is that even if, you know, you think about a small group experience in a church, my typical small-group experience is before the small group starts people are kind of chatty. They just have a lot of energy, they talk about what’s going on.

Q. Yeah.
A. The small group then starts and turns to say a Bible passage, or the worship ends, and it turns to whatever is the topic. And they’re a little bit less chatty but they’ll still kind of pitch in. Somebody asks a question and they’ll, you know, people will speak up. But then when it gets to personal application time and people will go¢â‚¬¦ Or you know, let’s pray and let’s really pray for one another, there’s just almost a dead silence.

Q. Yeah.
A. People¢â‚¬¦ Again, or you know, again, people will pray for each other as long as it’s kind of superficial needs.

Q. Yes.
A. But once it gets to kind of deep, personal, you know, we’re inviting people to actually share what’s going on, there’s just a dead silence. And that’s part of, I think, the conversion is experiencing a move away from ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ being satisfied with that.

Q. Yeah. And then finally you talk about from justification to sanctification.
A. Yeah. Rather than being focused exclusively on who gets, who’s in and who’s out, who’s on the good list, who’s going to heaven, we’re more focused actually on what’s the quality of our life going to be between now and heaven?

Q. Yeah.
A. And we want heaven to be great, but we want¢â‚¬¦ We don’t want to just wait for heaven to experience the benefits of being in-in this-in this gospel thing. And that has to do in large measure with the quality of our relationships with one another.

Q. Now, you say Jesus intentionally pulled the disciples together and he wanted to combine, what you refer to as “seekers and stumblers.”
A. Yeah.

Q. What’s that about?
A. Well, I’m making a kind of a dichotomy there in a larger purpose of saying I think Jesus intentionally brought together a group of people who were not like each other.

Q. Yes.
A. And that’s a part of how they learned from one another and a part of how-how they kind of¢â‚¬¦ The seeker needs the stumbler and the stumbler¢â‚¬¦ You know, the seeker, the one who is like the pearl merchant going around looking for fine pearls ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ specializes in looking for God. And then the stumbler, who is the one who’s like the man who bumps into the treasure hidden in the field, he wasn’t looking for God, wasn’t really looking for, you know, deep intimacy with the divine ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ but stumbled across God and is just kind of wowed by the whole thing.

Q. Yeah.
A. And not over-awed by their own search, but over-awed by the-the kind of the primacy of the find that they’ve made.

Q. Now, one of the wonderful things about this book is it’s a series really of stories about the painful experiences you’ve had in learning these lessons. And one of them has to do with starting a church in Cambridge.
A. Yes.

Q. And I want you to tie it together with-with the images you come up with of how these kind of groups and friendships shape and form. And you talk about one image might be Michelangelo, but another one is the idea of a rock tumbler. Tell us a little bit about the Cambridge church, how it represents so many of the principles you’re talking about here, and how it becomes a place where you can be shaped.
A. Well, as you know, I work for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I’m in touch with a lot of people who are InterVarsity alumni. And we had a sense that there would be a place for a new church to emerge that would have a kind of a charismatic focus, but-but not a kind of high Pentecostalism, if that makes sense. So a kind of an academic vineyard, as it were.

Q. Yeah.
A. And we gathered a group of eight of us together, and our belief was, hey, there’s a lot of fire power in the room. We’re serious Christians, we’re eager to, ready to rock and roll in terms of planting a new church. And our team just had the hardest time getting off the ground. The conflict and judgement and just relational tension. And at one point the person, one of the key people in the group, just said, hey, you know, our ability to attract a church¢â‚¬¦ I mean, we’re hoping that this church will attract hundreds, but our ability to be a small group that kind of lives out what we believe is going to be essential to our ability to think we have anything to offer to dozens, let alone hundreds.

Q. Yeah.
A. And that-that was a kind of a turning point. It was a personal challenge to me because I was right at the heart of one of the tensions. And I was not performing well. I’m flip with my mouth. I’m able to say things strongly. I usually apologize afterward but¢â‚¬¦ And it was really an invitation to kind of expect that, not just God is present in our big dreams, but God has to be present, Jesus has to be right here in our midst.

Q. Yeah. Now, in what sense does that fit the idea of shaping the rock tumbler image or the Michelangelo image?
A. So-so¢â‚¬¦ Let me just explain those terms. Michelangelo carved the David out of this block of marble. And I use that as an image of kind of disciple-making in the classic sense of an older person working with a younger person chipping away all that doesn’t represent, all that’s kind of not Christian maturity and kind of discipling them in kind of a long, mostly one-way flow. Michelangelo wasn’t chipped by the rock, the rock was chipped by Michelangelo.

Q. Yeah.
A. That’s a kind of unilateral process. The tumbler image is you take a bunch of kind of unbeautiful, uncut stones, you throw them into ¢€œ gemstones ¢€œ but they’re not polished. You throw them into a lapidary tumbler, you add water and grit and a lot of time, and a month later or something they’ve fallen on each other, they’re breaking each other, but over time they polish each other and out come the whole pile of polished gemstones. And they’re pretty and they’re-they’re worth something.

And we’re going to take a break and be back with more of Richard Lamb. He’s the author of The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends. You’re picking up the idea of pursuing God with other people and the way that is a shaping experience much like the rock tumbler. The book is full of useful ideas like that. We’ll be back with more right after this. Don’t go away.

(Break)

Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Richard Lamb. His book is The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends. And it’s a wonderful exploration of two issues that matter most to so many of us.

Q. Many of us feel we’re not doing that well in either of them, and yet Richard is, I think, rightly observing that the two of them are done better in community and the pursuit of God in the company of friends, both of them are enriched by-by the combination of the two. Now, just before the break you were talking about the idea of the rock tumbler. And you said you add some water, you add some grit, and a lot of time. And one of the points that you make in your chapter on presence and intimacy is the time factor involved in-in pursuing God in the company of friends. And you talk about Jesus and how he had, if you look at his life in a set of concentric circles, he-he had a fairly ¢€œ and I think we could say intentional ¢€œ but he had a way of using his time that-that reached a lot of people but maximized that company of friends as a more important use of his time.
A. Yeah. Yeah. And the whole notion there is of a focus on the few for the sake of the many. And-and this is an ancient notion and kind of well discussed by Robert Coleman in his book of 40 years ago, The Master Plan of Evangelism. But just the notion that I think sometimes it can be a little, the idea of being intentional with people ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A ¢€œ can be a little intimidating because it feels like, well, if I-if I spend more time like with this member of my small group then do I-do I, you know, I have to be kind of even about it? Or do I have to spend a little time with everybody? Or just¢â‚¬¦ I can’t¢â‚¬¦ Since I can’t do everything I can’t do anything. And just realize, well, Jesus focused on a few. He had 12 that he spent a lot of time with and he had three that he was even more intimate with. And his pattern of relationship can be our pattern as well.

Q. Yeah. When we¢â‚¬¦ Now, one of the things I have to say, I was on staff of Park Street Church when I went to seminary out in the Boston area, and I was on the ministry team. And during the summer it was a full-time deal. And there were, you know, 30 of us or so that became really over the years and time there, we became linked by our common relationships with each other, by the amount of time we spent with each other, by all the things that you’re talking about, the mission, the fellowship, some level of accountability. And-and some people listening ¢€œ and I’ve got to bring this up because I know some people are thinking it ¢€œ feel like what you’re describing is exactly what they want. They may even remember a time when they had it, but it was more in a setting that was ministry-oriented and when they were able to devote themselves fully to it, such as InterVarsity staff.
A. Right.

Q. And so they look at what you’re talking about and they say, Richard, most of the examples you give in this book are IV staff members or people you’ve met through that ministry.
A. Oh, well I think, you know, that the opening example you mentioned of the church small group, none of those people besides my wife and I were on staff with InterVarsity.

Q. Okay.
A. And I mean a lot of the examples, and specifically a lot of the examples in the book, are pulled from my relationships with people who are no longer students and don’t work in student ministry.

Q. Yeah.
A. Obviously, I have a number of student ministry examples. The-the thing I want to stress is that I think there is a place for contextualization ¢€œ

Q. Yes.
A. ¢€œ and yet¢â‚¬¦ So for example, I have a chapter on road trips in the company of friends.

Q. Yeah. And how useful they are, how much you can get done in a short period of time.
A. And-and we could say, well, that’s for youth, and that’s for college students.

Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. But my wife and I have-have two children and we’ve done three different summer missions, including summer missions with two of them were involved people in our church.

Q. Yes.
A. And some of those were parents with their kids.

Q. Yeah.
A. And I’ll tell you, the relationships I had with the people I went on those mission trips with, people in my church, are at a much different level than like other members of my small group who didn’t go.

Q. Yes.
A. And part of the idea is just let’s not just say, well, deep relationships or real community is for college students ¢€œ

Q. Yes.
A. ¢€œ but not for¢â‚¬¦ Once you have kids you can’t do it. No, once you have kids you have to think creatively. Well, you have to kind of break down the assumptions of what, you know, of what barriers we face and so forth.

Q. And my comment was meant in a positive way. I remember my friend, Pete Hammond, one time and I was working on a book and he says, just one thing for sure, don’t make it another Lone Ranger Christian deal. And-and he was reflecting on an InterVarsity deeply held value of community and team, and doing things together.
A. Yes.

Q. You know, and I value that greatly. I do think people are yearning for what you’re describing and they’re having a difficult time making it happen within the context of their current life. And some of it is time, some of it is-is that we don’t really understand what community is. And I think your book really, chapter by chapter, just layer upon layer, helps people get a vision for it. But-but people are asking, how do I get deeper? How do I have this happen in the context of my life, in my church, and the people that I know in my life? You talk about getting with people different than you are. Well, most churches are based around affinity groups. They’re based around homogenous units. They’re based around people like them.
A. Well so, just in terms of that, one way to think of it is that may be true church by church, but you can still go into any small group you find and look around and say, oh, these people aren’t like me.

Q. Yeah.
A. And that may be our natural gut reaction.

Q. Yes.
A. But the second reaction, which we need to kind of train ourselves into, is say, thank God they’re not.

Q. Yeah.
A. You know, okay, they’re not like me. But they’re in¢â‚¬¦ I’m in this group and I have something to learn from them even though ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ I mean, we may all be the same race, we may not.

Q. Yeah.
A. But I have something to learn from them and not just because they’re all my demographic age wise and they all have 2.1 kids and a two-car garage. No, the people here who are pretty different from me are here for a reason, and I have something to learn.

Q. You have one really interesting ¢€œ like I say, there’s a number of angles to this ¢€œ one of them is in the chapter on dealing with competitiveness and comparison. And you were stunned to meet a woman who basically said, yeah, I can see how being in a community could be useful to you. But I can help you, but you don’t really have anything that I can see will help me.
A. Right.

Q. What was that about?
A. Well you know, it did kind of catch me off guard, that here’s a person¢â‚¬¦ I’m used to people saying, you know, their response to me is, yeah, I have something to learn from you. And I just¢â‚¬¦ The-the nature of that relationship, you know, we had to work together, so the next six months we did. And at the end of that time we were able to talk a little more honestly, kind of reflect on that conversation where she, you know, recognized well, she was probably intimidated by me and wanted to put up a front. But part of the point of that is comparison and competitiveness doesn’t just simply show up between say men on the basketball field ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ but it shows up in relationships. It can show up in one form in relationships with guys, and it shows up in a different form perhaps in relationships with women.

Q. But you know, some of the best stories in the book that illustrate the value of friendships are those sparking moments, like you talk about in the healing and community stories, you talk about Kuala Lumpur. And you were being kind of sarcastic about the experience. And it was, I believe, one of the students that took you aside and challenged you about it.
A. It was not just one of the students, it was my whole student mission team. I was the leader, they were the members of my team, and they had during a break time had been talking with each other and realized that my attitude was affecting them all. So they started first to talk for themselves and eventually they started talking about me. And they decided, well, let’s just invite him to join us.

Q. Oh, man.
A. So that was a very humbling time, but it was also, it was an incredible experience of receiving the love of my students, as I didn’t defend myself, I opened myself up to their care and they came through with flying colors.

Like a lamb led to the slaughter, folks. We’re going to be back with some concluding comments. But you can spend more time with Richard Lamb by picking up his book, The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends. It’s published by InterVarsity. We’ll be right back.

(Break)

Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Richard Lamb. His book is The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends. Do you yearn for deeper relationships? Do you want to get beyond the superficial in that small group? Do you yearn to know God in a more intimate, personal, practical, daily way? Richard Lamb is saying that those pursuits go hand in hand. The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends is the title of the book. It’s published by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Q. And I¢â‚¬¦ One of the things, Richard, that happens through this book is that many of the stories that you tell, you end up being the person that has a lot to learn. And you just used the phrase “humbling.” And-and a true community of friends will bring about an interaction and a dynamic that over time will mean that each person in that relational dynamic will have their chance to be humbled. I mean, isn’t that the nature of it?
A. Sure. And at that point you have probably your key, you know, that’s a turning point in the relationship. Going back to that-that-that mission team I was leading, when they were confronting me with my attitude, I could have I suppose decided to kind of take them all on and say, this is why my attitude is valid.

Q. Yeah.
A. This is my complaint with this ministry and why my sarcasm is valid.

Q. Yeah.
A. I think at every point a leader or member of a small group, at some point you’re going to get a chance to make a choice either of kind of self-protection or vulnerability and risk. And you know, what I’ve found is that I think I used to have a leadership model that says I’ve got to be a good witness.

Q. Yeah.
A. And what I’ve realized is, no, actually the best witness I can be is to just assume that, you know, when people point out a sin my response could be, well, that’s you know, sure I may be technically a sinner but not in this case. Or I could say, oh, you don’t know the half of it. It’s much worse than you think.

Q. Yeah, yeah. But you’re really talking about an interesting dynamic of serving and leading in these groups.
A. That’s right.

Q. And you talked about the issue of intentionality and what it means to be a leader and a servant. And many times the company of friends is one that doesn’t really have a stated leader, but there is a dynamic of serving and leading that’s an interplay.
A. That’s part of what I’m trying to recover is, too, this notion that’s out there that friendship and intentionality somehow don’t go together.

Q. Yes.
A. Friendship should be spontaneous. Intentionality implies work and insincerity.

Q. Yeah.
A. And I’m saying, no, actually the deepest friendships are going to be highly intentional where we think about people even when they’re not in the room, and we pray for them things even beyond what they’re asking for prayer for.

Q. Yes.
A. And that’s a part of the case I’m trying to make is that friendship and intentionality ¢€œ it’s not that there won’t be spontaneity in our friendships ¢€œ but intentionality and the effort applied to and thoughtfulness applied to our friendships really strengthens those friendships.

Q. Yeah. Now, let’s go-let’s go to something that you’ve touched on but¢â‚¬¦ You have a chapter from here to community and you talk about three-dimensional community.
A. Yeah, yeah.

Q. What’s important about a three-dimensional understanding of community?
A. Well, I think part of what I’m trying to do there is give people a chance to do their own analysis of their own community.

Q. Yeah.
A. So I give some examples and kind of talk about how I would analyze this or that expression and kind of give them help. But really what I’m trying to help them do is think about their own actual small group, their own actual church experience, their own actual marriage or relationships and say, what in my marriage or my small group is strong? Maybe the fellowship component, that component is really strong, but the accountability component or the partnership in mission is missing. And then so when you kind of do that analysis and say okay, this is what’s missing, then you kind of have an idea of where you, as a member at least, if not as a leader, can help to invest or work toward deepening, you know, kind of have a pathway for growth.

Q. Hm.
A. One of the things I say in that chapter also is I kind of talk about there’s a-there’s a final session, you know, from here to community where I talk about okay, here’s where you are. Now, you know where you are, you know what’s weak and what’s strong. How can you make choices, as an individual, since you may not be able to make choices for your whole small group or whatever? But how can you make choices to deepen your experience of community in whatever setting you find yourself?

Q. Yeah. And I think all of this is very useful because, in addition to getting a vision for what it is that we’re looking for, we want to have some practical help in ¢€œ
A. That’s right.

Q. ¢€œ knowing how to get from where we are to where we want to go. You talk about Jesus having a vision for his company of friends. And how does our understanding of Jesus’ vision for his company of friends help us understand the pursuit of God in the company of our friends?
A. Well again, I mean that’s where I’m kind of filling out the picture. Jesus used a number of different images for what the people of God looks like. A family. He used the image of a family. Or the image of a party. Or the images of salt and light.

Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. And part of what I’m trying to do is take a look at those images, as Jesus uses them, and try to apply them to kind of deepen our understanding of those three, that three-dimensional notion of community.

Q. Throughout the book one gets the sense, Richard, that you are a man that feels kind of deeply enriched by your company of friends.
A. Yeah.

Q. And-and what you, the passion of this book is your deep belief that other people both can experience this and that in a sense they must experience it if they want to fully become who God expects them to be.
A. Yeah. One of the things I talk about is¢â‚¬¦ Hello?

Q. Yeah.
A. One of the things I talk about is¢â‚¬¦ One of the things I pray a lot with my kids and talk about with them is just their nature, the nature of their friendships at school. And they know that, well, I care about how well they do in their schoolwork and stuff, we’re really¢â‚¬¦ I want their lives to be enriched by their friendships. And I want them to be excellent friends as a kind of a key feature of their whole life long.

Q. Say a word to somebody listening right now who everything we’re saying they believe they hunger for but they feel that their biggest problem is that they are alone. They don’t feel like they have friends. And so in a certain sense what you’re describing is even making that feel more painful.
A. Well, for example, I mean I think everybody has a chance to find, you know, to go and look for a group, like a small group or a new church perhaps. Or a new small group. But you show up at that church or at that small group and you look around and you say, these people aren’t like me. Or well, I don’t really feel like this is really meeting my needs. And one of my kind of primary, you know, one of the primary pathways or primary steps to community is to decide to make a commitment to a community.

Q. Yes.
A. You say, okay, this small group, it didn’t meet my needs tonight. And it may not meet my needs ¢€œ in kind of a crass way of putting it ¢€œ for several months.

Q. Yes.
A. But if I commit to this group of people over time, by virtue of that commitment I’m going to experience a deeper experience of community. I will no longer be alone.

Q. Yeah.
A. Than if I make other choices like deciding okay, I am going to let them know what’s going on in my life. I’m not just going to wait around and see, do they like me? Are they reaching out to me? I’m going to be a part of making this group community for me.

Q. Yeah.
A. It’s those kinds of choices, we all can make those kinds of choices in our life and it’s not something that we have to feel like that’s a party to which we have not been invited.

Yeah. Everybody wants it, everybody fears it, everybody needs it. And Richard Lamb’s book, The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends, I think is just exquisite in its exploration of this theme, not just in a theoretical level but at a very personal, practical level. It’s published by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, or InterVarsity Press. And you can pick it up online or at your local bookstore. We’ll be right back.

Posted in DS Interview, Staublog in November 4, 2003 by | No Comments »

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