David Brooks: A Holy Friend
Dr. John Stott’s last bit of advice to his assistant before he died was simply this, “Do the hard thing.”
“Uncle John” believed that choosing the easy trail, the road most taken, and the path of least resistance can only end in mediocrity – even if it comes with praise.
I experienced firsthand John Stott doing the hard thing. He arrived late at night from London to talk with a group of pastors the next day. I met with John to let him know we designed the meeting to allow him the freedom of no preparation; he had only to reflect on what he had already written.
When I told him this, he was quiet and looked away for about a minute – a long minute. He then said, “That will never do. These men have come long distances and having a free form discussion is a disservice to them. We’ll have to have something for them to discuss.”
I tried everything to assure him this was what they expected and he was not to worry about preparing anything.
The next morning I found him at breakfast finishing his remarks for that day and the next two days. He had stayed up most of the night preparing on topics he thought relevant to their ministries. When we convened the group, it was clear they were going to be treated to the fruits of his “all-nighter.”
No one complained. No one interrupted. No one left the room for a full four hours. They knew they were the fortunate recipients of a rare opportunity as John discoursed on topic after topic and they scribbled notes. It was only at the break for lunch that they had a chance to ask questions – and they did!
John kept up that pace for three days, and when we concluded he was going strong while everyone else was dragging. I’ve never seen anything like it since.
Well, not until David Brooks spoke with us at The Gathering last week. I have read David’s books and columns for years, and he could have easily delivered material he had honed and perfected for this luncheon talk. Everyone would have listened, and we would have enjoyed his insight and given him accolades.
But from the beginning, it was clear that David had been thoughtful in his preparation for this particular audience. He had chosen the hard way and instead gave a heartfelt talk that was crafted for The Gathering. He took the opportunity to say some hard things to us but in the kindest and gentlest way possible.
He began by saying, “I want you to know I’m for you and I love you.”
Then he took a risk and stretched us. There is nothing in David that is harsh or snide. He speaks truth with warmth, humor and great wisdom and is what you might call “a holy friend” to the evangelical community.
It was a rare privilege to have David with us, to have him be a part of The Gathering at this time, and to see someone who understands and chooses John Stott’s counsel to “Do the hard thing.” We were honored and hope we can be a holy friend to him as well.
David has graciously given us permission to share the audio and the transcript of his talk with you. It’s well worth your time.
(Introduction by Michael Cromartie. David’s remarks begin at 8:30 in the audio link.)