Weatherford Democrat

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April 12, 2013

CARTER: Attempting to follow Jesus

By JOHN PAUL CARTER

One of my faith heroes, Gordon Cosby, died recently at the age of 94. In 1950, he and his wife, Mary, founded the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. He came to the nation’s capital, believing that their mission was to help a relatively small group of believers “to be the church,” uniting blacks and whites in relevant ministries, especially to the poor.

The Church of the Savior based its life on an “inward and outward journey” – an emphasis on deepening the faith of its members and then letting that faith take them out into the world on creative missions. It became an inspiration and model for commitment and ministry during the tumultuous second half of the 20th Century.

Jim Wallis of the Sojourners said of Cosby: “He never wrote a book, went on television, talked to presidents, planted more churches, built national movements, or traveled around the world. He just inspired everybody else to do all those things and much more.” I was privileged to visit the Church of the Savior and meet Gordon Cosby in 1967.

A humble man, Cosby encouraged people to call him by his first name and, instead of saying that he was a “Christian,” preferred to call himself “a follower of Christ.”

Cosby’s preference reminds me of one of my favorite authors, Maya Angelou. She writes, “I’m startled or taken aback when people walk up to me and tell me they are Christians. My first response is the question, ‘Already?’ It seems to me [that it’s] a lifelong endeavor to try to live the life of a Christian. … The idyllic condition cannot be arrived at and held on to eternally.”

Indeed, we often use the name Christian like it was a static trademark – to distinguish ourselves from the devotees of other religions. Sometimes we casually refer to ourselves as Christians in a way that sounds like we’re answering a survey question about our religious preference.

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