Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cut and Run, or Stay the course?????

Mov. Cap from Dr. Stragelove....classic scene!

Well, if you were expecting a political blog you have come to the wrong place, I am not vocal about my politics. But if the title got your attention then good, stick around! I think that the title accurately describes something that I am struggling with. And since I am a minister (even if i am an unemployed minister) that believes in being transparent (human on this journey with struggles just like everyone else), I share my struggles on my blog.
So I had an interesting conversation yesterday. The conversation has given me a lot to think about in terms of my calling. So here's the skinny.

As mentioned in my last post, I am (with several others) starting a discussion group on our lives and our spirituality in a local coffee house. I' am very excited about this group, because:
1) everybody's view and opinion will be respected
2) It is a conversation not a debate
3) we really want to hear from everyone no matter where they are spiritually
4) it is NOT a church (and we have no intention of it becoming a church); but just a bunch of people sitting around chatting about their lives!
5) It is targeted at postmodern people who have been disenfranchised by the church (altho that is not a requirement for attending)!

Basically this is an open group for people to form community not related to church. It is a place where everyone is welcome and will be respected and hopefully we will have some great discussions and def. good coffee! It is a place where everyone is free to share and explore the path they are on! No Judgement! No Conformity! Just COMMUNITY:)

of course, this is not a new idea, this is something that Emergent Village has been encouraging and doing for a while now. (here's a good podcast by Tony Jones with some explinations, and here is their whole Podcast Archive to understand more.)

Ok so, to my conversation yesterday: the argument (I mean that in the purest sense of the word, we really didn't argue!) was made that because of my passion for building authentic relationships, philosophy of ministry, my being very postmodern, that I should do what many people involved with the Emergent movement are doing: get out of the mainline church, find some other way to put food on the table, and focus my ministry on Emergent/Postmodern endeavours like this coffee house community.

I won't rehash all of the compelling points that were made, but some very good things were said to make me actually think about this (many of these things are things that I've thought about before, which makes them all the more compelling). There is a belief that the mainstream church is so set in their modern ways that who I am will always be suppressed. I will never be allowed to be who God has made me at this point in my journey in a mainstream church. (by mainstream I mean mainline denominations and established churches set in the modern paradigm).

By focusing on the Emergent ministry to the emergent world (being bi-vocational and starting an Emergent Church that focuses ONLY on postmodern ministry). I am very relational in my ministry (which is a must for postmodern ministry), and I am very experiential in my general philosophy of beliefs (that an individuals experience informs (and determines (except when ignored)) the beliefs that a person chooses to believe. There is a LOT more to that and to Emergent, as well as more to postmodern ministry that i will refrain from for space!

The down and dirty is this: that I could EASILY and NATURALLY do Emergent ministry!

The Question is this: Do I want to leave the mainstream church?

I have always been in the mainstream church (baptist, altho I align with what baptists believed historically speaking, not what the stereotypical fundamentalist baptists believe), but that should not be the reason for remaining in a mainstream church. Being postmodern, I can't use words like, "because I've always done/been," because that is what needs to change in a lot of churches. I honestly feel that I have a calling and responsibility in the mainline church to help it to grow and transition (as Tim Conders talks about in his book The Church in Transition) into the emerging culture of postmodernity!

I have many gifts that would be valuable in both settings, but one unique gift I have is that even though I am postmodern personally, I can easily SWITCH back and forth from postmodern views/approaches to modern views and approaches. That means I can come out of a coffee house open discussion group outside the church walls, and walk into the sanctuary and give a lecture type bible study! Most people are one or the other, and once they emerge into postmodernity, cannot go back to more modern paradigms.

I think there are still churches out there that are interested in Transitioning in order to still be relevant in a changing world! However, whenever there is a path like that ahead, a good guide is needed. But is it true? Can I go back into the mainline church (esp. after what the mainline church has done to me...see In Repair posts below)? Can I be accepted where and who I am in a mainline church? I hope that the answer is yes, and that these type of churches exist.

Unfortunately, many mainline churches are either dead or dying because they refuse to enter into the discussion that is going on in the secular world. Many people don't understand why numerical growth is not happening in their church because they refuse to leave the safety of their modern Christian bubble and interact with the world that is moving on without them. I'm not 100% sure where my path lies, but I'm very interested in finding out!

so there you are: my struggle! What's a boy to do?

The Mainline Church:

Cut and run, or stay the course?
addendum: for explanation on the picture please see the comments section:)


  1. It's funny to me how you describe your discussion group, but then say it has nothing to do with church. I know that you saying that your group has nothing to do with the institution that has become the western church, but the way you describe it, it sounds a lot like "the Church".

    It seems to me that you use a lot of buzz words and try to put your ministry/life in some sort of box, e.g. emergent, postmodern, etc.. I say forget all that talk, and just live it. Love people where they are. Show God's grace where you are.

    As for your question about the mainline church, that's up to you. The easier road is to bail and go somewhere else where everyone is in your line of thinking. If you are looking for a challenge, or feel called to do so, stay with it. While you are there treat those around you the same way you treat your gay friends or your disenfranchised friends. Love those people in the mainline despite thier conformity. It probably won't get you a job in the mainline, but it could be your mission field.

    If you are interested in finding a community to get involved with you could come check out ours, Visio Dei. I know you already know a few people there: Jon and Katie Pritchett, and Jessie Pease.

  2. Shannon,
    thanks for commenting. I felt that (in order to keep it shorter than my usual blogs) i was less articulate than normal. I'm glad that it communicated well enough! allow me some clarification for my own conscience if you will!

    first, i mistakenly made the assumption that those who read my blog know me and know where I am spiritally and how I think about things. thanks for allowing me to revision my perspective.

    Yes, you are right about the discussion group: the exact purpose of the group is to be more like "the Church", rather than what is typically thought of as church in the southern U.S. dead on the spot. that is usually what i mean when i speak of "community".

    You are also correct on the buzz words/box type of ministry. that's EXACTLY how I feel a lot of the times. If i went with an "emergent" style ministry, it would NOT be to fit inside their box (because in many ways they give their cohorts the freedom from the box), but would be me responding with ministry to the needs of those around me. I agree with your words completely, "to go out and love people where they are, show God's grace where I am." Beautifully stated! That's the draw of doing something like what Visio dei is (great place BTW, i actually am very familiar with it)! However, i would have the freedom to start from scratch and use my creativity and actually feel like i am doing true ministry for a change. The freedom to be myself, to communicate that I am a flawed human being in the middle of a journey very similar to the journey you're own, yet our individual journey is also unique since the picture God is painting of you is different from the picture he is painting of me. It is in that uniqueness that I find God so active, yet the mainstram church seems focuses on conformity.

    You have also hit the nail on the head with my stuggle with the mainline church. do i take the risk of riding the bomb to it's (possible)doom in a (possibly) vain effort to try and help them remain relevant in a changing worldview (hence the picture)? That is the rethorical question i face. again you have beautifully stated how I feel. I have a love/hate relationship with the mainline church. It has caused a lot of pain and hardship in the 10 years i've been a minister. Yet after all the crap it's put me through, i guess i still view it as MY mission field as you say! I have a heart for the mainline church if it is open-minded and accepting of different views as well as focused on doing true ministry rather than the self-serving task of bring in higher numbers!

    Again, these are just a FEW of the things that are i guess the pros and cons of each. Honestly, they come out to about even on both. What would tip the scales is finding a mainline church that is wanting to transition into a missional church and get away from the mainline church way of thinking and acting. either way, i want to def. be running TOWARDS something and not away from it. Either way i choose could be out of the fear of taking a risk with the other option! that's what i'm trying to avoid!

    I'm so happy for you that you are in a community that is loving and accepting. Maybe one of these days my wife and I can come and visit so it won't be what I HEAR about your community, but what I have EXPERIENCED in your community! Thanks again for helping me be more areticulate and it is very good hearing from you!!!
    peace bro!

  3. My only advice, my friend, would be to not rush it. You'll feel yourself leaning one way or the other at some point (even though it may not be FULLY in one direction).

    My experience in the postmodern-ish church (like Visio Dei) is that there's room there for someone to bridge that gap between modernity and postmodernity. Maybe this is you?

    No need to rush it, though.

    I think you'll look back at this job loss, and possibly do already, as one of those pivotal life moments where you felt yourself being defined. Don't make the definition happen, let it happen.

  4. Jeff, last 2 lines!!! awesome quote!!! you and Shannon both, i'm stealing your lines:) I guess all good quotes are subject to sermon, discussion, lesson material here?? maybe I should add a disclaimer!

    thanks man, i think that is great advice, just like Shannon's you're right about me already feeling this experience as a defining point for me...it has and is still defining me and informing who I am. It has caused a major question I am trying to answer that is a big problem (not this blog but prob. in an entry soon). You are def. right about letting it lead me... def. not jumping into ANYTHING...but in the meantime, trying to figure out where I'm being led through all avenues available to me (i.e. prayer, discussions, devotion, reading, and even blogging are my attempts to unravel a glimpse of the divine's path before me)! thanks again, you guys both have given me more to ponder in this in-between time for me!!!!!