My first professional aspiration was to be a journalist. I read “All the President’s Men” and decided that I wanted to be a reporter who got the truth out and changed the world. That lasted until I took my first journalism class in college. Mostly, it was about writing about incidental things that didn’t really change any thing I was all that interested in. (“City council repeals leash laws”, “School board adopts lunch program.”)
But what I learned in my first journalism class was that every story had to answer the “Five Ws”: Who, what, where, when, why. WHAT was never said, but was by far the most important lesson that I learned was that by far the most important “W” is the first one: “Who”. “Who” is always first. “Who” is what is interesting. “Who” makes the story.
And without even knowing it, that first “W” (with a capital “W”!) was the most important element in every story. It’s all about “Who”. (This sounds like a Dr. Seuss story, doesn’t it?) And this is true for faith and faith journeys too.
St. Augustine famously wrote, “O God, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” As I wrote in my first book, for the Christian, the goal and grounding, the beginning and end of the spiritual life is about union with a person. Faith is about a “who” far more than a “what” (or even a “why”). Who God is, who you are, Who I am, Who we are.
This “First Big Question” is also the first issue in our pursuit of a model of church life that can adapt for the future without losing it’s spiritual identity. Again, WHO God is (and certainly not, “WHAT God is”) is the starting place. God’s identity, character, and calling is the starting place for our congregational life, our missional vision, our strategy and planning. As one of my church leaders has said so well that we have co-opted it as a kind of leadership mantra: “Who drives what drives how.”
And once we have clarified, at least in part, Who God is (The Triune Creator of the World) and What God is doing (Restoring His Creation through reestablishing his Reign) and How God tends to go about these things (through His Word and Spirit within His People) we can go on to the next Big Question...and it's still a "who" question: “Who is the 2nd most important ‘who’?”
Which is where I’ll pick this up next time.