On March 18, 2015 the church consultant Rev. Lyle E. Schaller passed away at age 91 of heart failure. During his lifetime he published 55 books and edited 41 more and visited an estimated 6,000 churches across the country.
I felt some sadness upon hearing the news. I remember in the 1980’s reading his little paperback, The Small Church is Different. Having grown up in a small church hearing about the successes of big churches I knew it was easy to compare the two and conclude the former could not be as effective as the latter without becoming the latter. Schaller’s was a voice of reason and assurance.
Something I did not know about Schaller was reported in his obituary in the New York Times. It had to do with his attire. The Times reports,
“While his audiences typically dressed respectfully in business attire, he preferred his characteristic T-shirts. ‘If you want a taste of religion, bite a preacher,’ one said. Another cautioned, ‘87% of Statistics Are Made Up on the Spur of the Moment.’”
The article closes:
“’Question Authority’ was emblazoned on the front of another favorite. At an opportune moment, Mr. Schaller would turn around and reveal the message on the back: ‘And When Authority Answers, Listen.’”1
In a lengthy letter in March 1940 C. S. Lewis discusses with former student Mary Neylan the complexities of the difficult topic of obedience. After presenting the theology behind his understanding he writes,
“But you would NOT have to agree with these two purely theological views if you agreed the children ought to learn obedience as such, since it is perfectly obvious that every human being is going to have to spend a great deal of his life in obeying parents, schoolmasters, employers, magistrates etc. Nor of course am I making any political statement. The question whether persons to be obeyed should be democratically elected or otherwise (I personally am a democrat) leaves where it was the truth that in any human society there will have to be a lot of obeying.”2
The human heart does not lend itself well to obeying. It’s about all it can do to cooperate. Yet it is perfectly obvious we have to do a lot of obeying, like it or not.
“You are my friends if you do what I command you.” – John 15:14.
- Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Books, Broadcasts, and the War 1931-1949, Vol. II [New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004], 372.