Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Christianeze

I don't think I want to mimic the way many pastors speak. This past Sunday as I sat in the service I began to think about the language which pastors are expected to use. "God is working in this church." "This series is going to be life-transforming (whatever that means)." "I believe God is going to transform our society."

I suppose there is nothing inherently wrong with this type of language (although perhaps there are some theological misgivings). Most of it is probably true. But as I have been exposed to different parts of ministry I am beginning to realize that I do not want to speak like the typical pastor. It is as if there is a certain role which the pastor must fit in most churches. There is a theological role, a terminology role, an appearance role. Again, it is not that the demands on these roles are necessarily awry, but sometimes I feel as if pastors know what it is people want them to be and they become it.

To be quite honest as I listened to the introductory comments by the pastor this past Sunday and I began to think about these things I could not determine exactly what it was that I disliked. I also found no substitute terminology. I suppose one thing I realized is that I could have put this pastor in a number of churches across the nation and heard the very same sort of statements. Is that good or bad? Universality is a good thing but would it be more appropriate to label this sort of thing uniformity? Conformity?

Many pastors I have met speak differently when they are in front of a congregation than when they are speaking one-on-one with a person. Obviously there is a differentiation that will occur between an individual and a body of believers but sometimes pastoral communication via Sunday morning services seems so generic.

I do not intend this to be a broad generalization of all pastors. In fact, there are probably more who do not fit this description. Pastors have a difficult calling, no doubt, as I have experienced and will continue to experience. It will take more analyzation to determine what exactly it is that spurned these cognitive wheels regarding pastoral language. As for now, I want to be a pastor who speaks strangely. And by strangely I do mean something different than what I just described. And by something different than what I just described I mean...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Quote of the day

"as far as john wesley goes, i have no need to read the works of a man that is
theologically lacking. i would much rather read guys like john owen, johnathan
edwards, and thomas a' kempis"


I thought my Wesleyan friends would find this, at the very least, quite insulting. It comes from a person on a message board. Irritating? Yes.

Friday, August 26, 2005

What say ye?

It is simply one of those days. You know the type I mean. Thoughts are swirling in your head, emotions you didn't know you have dancing through you and intersecting in a massize eight lane highway pile up. One of those days where you read John Wesley and wonder, "It sounds nice. I just don't see it ever happening in me." One of those days where you have three different options to choose and indecision becomes the deciding factor (that and the lack of a reliable vehicle). One of those days where you wish you could be more than one person yet you are unable to even understand one of you much less multiple. One of those days where confusion reigns supreme.

You ever have a day like this? I finished reading Blue Like Jazz yesterday and wanted to weep. I wanted to weep because I don't weep when I read the Gospels. I wanted to weep because I don't weep when someone asks me about Jesus. I'm not saying I want to be an overly emotional spring that bubbles with tears at the mention of teddy bears, but there are certainly times when I wonder why my heart seems so cold. Why is it I yearn for knowledge, I yearn for understanding, and yet I neglect to question the emotional apathy that resides within all too often?

I suppose I will be brutally honest. I feel as if I am impersonal with my personal God. I had a turtle once. I loved that turtle. I talked to her and took her on walks down the block. I remember that turtle, but I haven't seen her for a number of years now. Sometimes I feel that way about Jesus. I remember meeting Him. I remember the euphoria, sort of. I know a lot about Him, but it's been a while since He and I had a good one-on-one.

I've struggled with this sort of thing. I feel an unsolvable paradox within the Christian life. I feel that unless I put effort into my relationship with God it will dissolve. While I think this is somewhat accurate I also acknowledge that there is much in my relationship with God that is out of my control. When does God take over? When you sit still and yearn to hear from God and don't, when will you begin to hear? Is it my divine deafness that keeps me from hearing, or is it lack of speech on the part of the Creator? Is it both?

"I'm struggling with God." I've said this often. I've been told often, "You just need to spend more time with Him. You need to spend more time doing devotions. You need to spend more time in prayer." I'm not denying this type-cast answer. But if my life is to be vibrant and filled with the Holy Spirit I wonder if I am really capable of doing the filling? I believe that there is more to life than my current situation. I can feel that there is more. Help me, Lord, with my unbelief.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Shifting Paradigms

It seems lately that my life consists of many interposed paradigm shifts. Throughout this past school year I found myself often immersed within scholarly literature and saw my perspective on biblical interpretation and criticism greatly altered. I have enjoyed the throes of academia and will often say, "one's view of God determines, in part, their relationship with Him." I am beginning to wonder if I have used intellectualism to shield myself against some of the more tangible parts of ministry.

First, let me be clear. I do not see a grand disconnect between intellectualism and practicality. After all, in order for something to be truly intellectually beneficial must it not also be practical? Therefore the cognitive processes seem to be interdependent upon practicality. However, ministry is much more than simply a philosophical belief system being mechanically lived. Ministry, at times, moves outside of our tidy expectations and forces us to again redefine our paradigm for ministry.

This summer has moved me to higher thinking while simultaneously moving me to a deeper level of connection with others. That deeper connection has become emotionally concrete for me with the happenings of last week.

Last week was the last week of the Blacktop Rec. program. It was, therefore, also the last week of ACCESS. The ACCESS group that volunteered for last week was comprised of about 18-20 people. To be completely honest I have never contemplated youth ministry as a pastoral vocation that I would be interested in. God has gifted me in the areas of preaching and teaching and also have given me an astute mind to deal with the more difficult theological issues. I have a passion for moving people deeper in their knowledge of who God is in order to better their relationship with Him. Yet this last week I made an incredible connection with some fantastic youth. I spent about 18 hours a day with these youth and on the last day I spent about 29 straight hours with them. In short, Christ blessed me with the ability to share His love with this group. Christ set in my heart a love for this group and all of us were greatly impacted by the week.

Suddenly I am undergoing another paradigm shift. I gave my entire energy to this group for a week. I prayed with them, taught them, mentored them, sang with them, discipled them, goofed around with them, etc. I exhaustively invested myself into this group. Nonetheless, at the end of the week they returned home to Iowa. I felt as if this group, MY group, had been ruthlessly torn from my life. For a week I held them in my hand and as swiftly as they had arrived they were taken from me. The emotion which resides within me is indescribable. I miss them.

I believe I am at a teachable point in my young life. For years now I have been making plans. Plans to graduate and go to an intellectually respected seminary. Plans to receive my Masters of Divinity and to head into a pastoral role. Now I feel lost, confused, disappointed and yet overjoyed that God has placed His hand into my plans and twisted it.

Dear Lord, what do you really want me to do with my life? Perhaps a comprehensive life-plan is not only unnecessary but also deleterious to myself. For now, I will thank God for the love He has given me for this group from Lone Tree and pray that He shows me how He wants me to remain in their lives. Perhaps having a correlation between my paradigms and plate tectonics is not such a bad thing.