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Unexpected Blessings of TLF

April 9, 2009
I wanted to take a moment to express an unexpected blessing of last year’s Twin Lakes Fellowship. In order to do so I first need to mention a peculiar temptation. This is the temptation to purposefully place yourself in the path of well known pastors and theologians to be seen by them. I would assume that this is a temptation for most of us at gatherings where the best and most well known theologians in the church are speaking. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying it is wrong to approach these men or to fellowship with them–that would be an overreaction of the worst sort. But, I fear that we have frequently made associations with public figures the end of all our endeavors at events like Twin Lakes.

Last year I felt this particular temptation. I expressed this to one of my best friends, Mike Cuneo, who was there for the first time as well. “Mike,” I said, “I am really struggle with wanting to be someone important.” “Sometimes it seems like who you know is the surest way to achieve this.” Without hesitating Mike said “Well, I know Jesus, and that’s really all that matters.” I desperately needed to hear this. I thought about it for many months.

Why do I have an insatiable desire to mingle with well known theologians? Well, for one, they have much wisdom to impart. But who has more wisdom that the Lord Jesus Christ? I have access to Him anytime I want to speak with Him. Besides, He gives us all the insight and wisdom that a person can have. Another reason I seek to put myself in the way of these men is the fact that the speakers at these conferences/fraternities are writing books. Well, Jesus wrote the best book ever written–and He wrote it to me and for me. Any good book that theologians write is only good on account of its content that is derived from the written revelation of Christ.

In God’s providence, I roomed with the Rev. Brian Janssen, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Hosper’s, Iowa at the fellowship. In the course of our conversations Brian recommended C.S. Lewis’ The Inner Ring. This was a lecture Lewis gave, at King’s College in 1944, to a group of graduate students as they were about to embark on their callings in the world. The main point of Lewis’ lecture is that there are these rings or circles in every sphere of society. No one talks about them because to talk about them means you are not in them. Lewis spent time defining and explaining the workings of these social rings. He warned that there was a danger of trying to get into a circle by rejecting friendships along the way. Once you get into the ring you realize that there is another, and another, and yet another ring of which you are not a part. Lewis was careful to point out that these rings are not, in and of themselves, wrong. He wrote:

I must now make a distinction. I am not going to say that the existence of Inner Rings is an Evil. It is certainly unavoidable. There must be confidential discussions: and it is not only not a bad thing, it is (in itself) a good thing, that personal friendship should grow up between those who work together. And it is perhaps impossible that the official hierarchy of any organization should coincide with its actual workings. If the wisest and most energetic people held the highest spots, it might coincide; since they often do not, there must be people in high positions who are really dead weights and people in lower positions who are more important than their rank and seniority would lead you to suppose. It is necessary: and perhaps it is not a necessary evil. But the desire which draws us into Inner Rings is another matter. A thing may be morally neutral and yet the desire for that thing may be dangerous.

I was challenged by this lecture over this past year. Not long after TLF, I was reading 1 John 1:1-4 and thinking about the reality of this dynamic. I came to the conclusion that there is an ultimate inner ring of fellowship that we are brought into by faith in Jesus Christ. That ring is the ring of “fellowship…with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” In turn, we are also brought into fellowship with all other believers.

The goal of Twin Lakes Fellowship is discovered in its very name–it is designed for ministerial “Fellowship.” We have fellowship with one another because we are united to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of our fellowship with God and fellow believers. He is at the center of the greatest ring of fellowship in all of existence. He is the greatest Person we can ever know, and He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. My plea for us at this upcoming Twin Lakes Fellowship is that we would be eager to have fellowship with Him and with one another, no matter who the “one another” is in social circles. If opportunities arise to speak with well known pastors and theologians you should seize that opportunity to have fellowship with them in Christ. But do not neglecting to do the same with others who are not well known. You will find an unexpected blessing in forming friendships with fellow ministers of the Gospel–whoever they may be. In Christ, we are members of the greatest ring of fellowship, and I for one, am eager to know more of that blessing with you this year.

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