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Loneliness is an unavoidable by-product of a culture that believes individual rights are more important than community.

A seminarian asked me if I would take him on for an independent study course in preaching.

"What do you want to study?" I asked.

"I want to learn how to preach like you," he said.

"That's ridiculous," I said. "You can't. For one thing, you're from Iowa. To preach like me, you'd have to be born in South Carolina. Besides, I don't want you to imitate me."

My reluctance had nothing to do with modesty, a virtue with which I am not overly endowed. It had to do with my discomfort at having a disciple, a young person patterning his way after my way. I don't want that responsibility. I'd rather not have my errors reflected in someone else.

But then we come to Philippians 3. "Be imitators of me," says Paul. This is no slip of the Pauline tongue. Paul gives exactly the same advice to the Corinthians, Thessalonians, and Galatians. "Become as I am." Is there no limit to apostolic presumption?

Picture this: I begin a class by saying, "Class, this is a course in homiletics. The goal of this course is to see ...

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