I enjoy teaching. One of the best times of my week comes in sharing some time with a group of adults thinking about follow Jesus as we engage the Scriptures in a small group. Generally these settings call for an “expert” to “dispense” truth. Long ago I considered that model passe. The reason? Learning comes best when everyone engages. My role then is to facilitate a conversation around the subject of following Jesus. Nearly every week those who gather end up putting together one really deep, challenging “lesson.”
Recently we have been loosely following some devotional thoughts derived from Dallas Willard & Jan Johnson’s, Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice. This devotional book grew out of Willard’s book, Renovation of the Heart. Our learning journey has taken us to consider how a community would look that practiced the expressions of genuine love the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 12. Working through this list resulted in a statement made by one from our group.
A personal story conveyed a matter with which we all wrestle. Generally we talk “to” people. We do things “toward” people. We leave those relational opportunities unchanged by the encounter because it has a “detached” feel to it. What really makes the difference is when we alter our “to” to “with.” Talking with people means we not only talk but we listen. Ministering with means connection beyond a “crop dusting” approach often prevalent in quick hitting “evangelistic” tactics. I realize this agrarian metaphor may not readily connect, but we in Oklahoma understand “affecting crops” from a distance.
Another chimed in suggesting a change in prepositions makes experiences less certain and can be quite messy. Beautiful observations that had us all considering how we may press to make the kind of community Paul described a reality not only in our “class,” but also in our church and community at large.
All of this with the turn of a preposition.
As we look toward Advent it is a healthy reminder that Jesus would be called Immanuel, “God with us.”