The Autonomy Problem

(For regular readers of this blog, this entry will not be like others. It is not indicative of future entries. Allow me this one and done, please. For first-timers, you’re welcome to follow along for future posts with the same expectations.)

I am a Christian. My father was an Independent Baptist minister (to be clear, that didn’t make me a Christian; that choice was my own). For all 50 years of my life, I’ve been a member of Baptist churches-the first 25 in Independent Baptist (IB) churches, the second 25 in Southern Baptist (SB) churches. At age 29, I took my first church staff position. In these last 21 years, I have served three SB churches in associate minister roles. These churches have varied in weekly attendance from 60 to 1,600. Over my lifetime, my church experiences have included seven IB and SB churches in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Much like being blessed to be an American, I have been blessed God has granted me this history.

Recent SB news hasn’t been pretty; that’s being nice (to be clear, I will not be including links to any news stories or responses from others in this post. Google is your friend). My pastor tweeted this week that he is “heartbroken over the tragic events in our SBC family.” I haven’t asked him this question, but I’m pretty sure if asked if this is the first time his church experience has broken his heart, he’d say no. That’s my answer. Chances are, that’s the majority’s answer. Why is that?

The exhaustive answer to that question would take a series of blogs. I’m only in for one post, remember? So I’m going to zero in on just one, which was actually brought up in a response to my pastor’s tweet. And it’s been an answer for me since I was 12 years old. The answer to why my heart has continued to go through a cycle of being broken and mended is autonomy.

So we’re all working with the same understanding, autonomy is defined as self-governing, free from external control or influence, independent. All IB and SB churches exist under this theological conviction. Is it the right or wrong conviction, some are asking? My answer is, that’s the wrong question. The conviction has been chosen. Frankly, if you don’t like the conviction, consider other churches that have another conviction. The better question I raise is this: how can every Baptist church improve its autonomous state?

It’s easy to point fingers at the other guy, the other church, the other president or professor or minister like you’re the Monday morning quarterback who knows how they could have been held in check. Before we do that, let’s take our eyes off the news and our mobile devices and consider how our local autonomy is going. That starts in every church member’s heart, then moves to their home, and then to their church. Why? Because we all are bent toward autonomy. We all desire to be self-governing, free from external control, and independent. That’s a problem. I know it is for me. Chances are, it is for you also.

Start there. With you. Then your household. Then your church. Ask yourself better questions. 

  • How much is God in charge?
  • How dependent am I on God?
  • Where am I allowing other Christians to speak into my life?
  • How should we best keep each other in check?
  • Where am I tempted to be independent from God and others? How could I address that problem of autonomy?
  • How open am I to accountability in all arenas of my life? How can I establish it?

Scripture tells us to guard our hearts. I believe we need to avoid more broken hearts by guarding them against the autonomy problem.

This is my opinion, one answer to why. I understand the autonomy of one person’s blog. Feel free to offer accountability.

Running Tuesdays: Solo Running vs. Group Running

by Lorraine Kennimouth Williams

Should I go it alone or bring in the troops? This is a question asked by many runners when lacing up their running shoes in anticipation of their daily morning run – translation …. Should I run solo or run with the group?

This is a question I answered firmly for myself many years ago since running with the group is hands down my preferred method; for me it is a non-zero sum game or a win-win all of the time! Why is running in a group more attractive to me than “going it alone”? For many reasons, most of which I believe are psychological barriers … 

  • The group gives me new-found respect for “accountability” by getting me out of bed in the morning.
  • The group helps heighten my intestinal fortitude. I am less likely to exaggerate an ache or a pain and therefore less likely to stop. 
  • I become competitive when in a group; I don’t push myself anywhere near as much as I do when running with the group.   
  • The group speeds me up – I tend to run faster when running with the group. A baseline is set, and I feel the need to keep up with [at least] the slowest runner even if their pace is faster than my average. 
  • With the group, I find myself running in unfavorable elements and have done so on many occasion. If I am alone and the elements are unseemly, I will “bag it in” and go home.

But, more importantly that any of the above points, the comradery and compassion displayed by a group is unparalleled! Running buds look out for you; they are there for you; failing is not an option when they are around. They are that voice of affirmation that forever tells you how awesome you are and how you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to. They are the guys who constantly remind you day after day that “It always seems impossible until it’s done”! They are the savior, the rock, the wings, the inspirational vehicle – wait a minute, something of great importance I may have forgot to mention …… I’m a “screaming extrovert”!!

Some people adore running alone – they do it for the very reason of taking a break from the chaos – they have been around people and telephones and emails and demanding children/spouses all day, and the last thing they want is to run with a bunch of chatty people! They look so forward to claiming that quiet space, the tranquility that a solo run offers …. They wouldn’t dream of spoiling it with a group. So, as we can see, it depends on what you are looking for and what works for you.  

Some points to adhere to whether you are a solo runner or a groupie –

  • Make your runs work for you. 
  • Many of us want to become faster runners, so have a goal and always keep it in mind. 
  • If you run with a group or a partner, they may not be progressing at the same rate as you. Make sure not to hold back because of this. Run your own race!

Depending on the mindset, some believe you can accelerate your progress by running alone. This is based on you being able to concentrate on breathing, stride and overall positioning and is probably very true for some. I, on the other hand, know for me and many like me the only way to become faster is to run with faster peeps. Some of us find it “easier” to accept the level of discomfort when in a group setting than when alone; we don’t have the grit to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone when alone.

So, next time you lace up, decide whether you’re going to “go it alone” or “rally the troops.”