John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Closer to People; Farther from God

In his book, The Luminous Dusk, Dale Allison tells of a study that was conducted among scientists, a poll to determine how many of them believe in God. He says that among those who do believe in a supreme being, most of them are cosmologists -- someone who studies the universe as a whole and, by extension, humanity's place within the universe. More cosmologists than biologists believe in God. But more biologists than psychologists believe.

Could it be that the closer your field of study takes you to people, the less likely you are to believe in God?

I'll admit here that when I get alone, say, at the beach or on a mountaintop, I can sit still and contemplate the beauty of creation. This naturally leads me to a deeper contemplation of the Creator. I find peace readily at hand. I experience contentment. The light and momentary troubles of this world seem just that: light and momentary. Perspective returns, and I know the truth of Jesus' statement, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

But add a few people into the mix -- a nagging wife, her defeated husband and whiny children in tow, or an old bickering couple or a loudmouth businessman yammering away on his cellphone about his fantasy baseball draft or some other strange nonsense -- and my "peace like a river" easily turns into a stage-5 rapids.

It's just harder for me to be a good Christian when there are people around.

Perhaps this is why I chose to become a preacher instead of a counselor. Instead of patiently listening to others tell me about their personal problems for 50 minutes, I'd much rather make them sit and listen to me tell them what to do.

I don't think I'm alone in this struggle. I spent a lot of time last week with other professional Christians -- preachers, professors, authors, etc. And I noticed something strange. When they talk about God, their eyes light up. Their energy level rises. They love talking about God, about the Bible, about Jesus, the Holy Spirit and salvation. They positively glow when they talk about what God has done for us and what a magnificent person he is.

But when the subject changes to church or -- more specifically -- people in their church...well...their countenance falls. There's always someone stirring up trouble or threatening to leave. Someone just got a divorce. Someone else is having an affair. A child has been abused. Lies have been told. Money is missing. Forgiveness is withheld. Factions form.

It would be so much easier to be a good Christian if there weren't all these broken, messed up people around!

And yet, for some strange reason, God refuses to let me deal with just him. He insists that if I'm going to be in a relationship with him, I must also be in a relationship with his people.

So, how do you balance it? Do you ever find spending time with people takes you farther away from God?