Okay, before you commit to reading however long this ends up being, I want you to know that this is not a post of substance. I won’t teach you anything, cook you anything, or have a beer with you in this post. This isn’t going to edify you on its own. Just fair warning for committing to reading.
I have a dream. I’ve been asked a few times what I would do if I could do anything in ministry (God bless my wife for asking me when I don’t know what path to start walking us down :-S). I’ve thought about that a lot, wondering what a perfect call or ministry for me would be.
And that image has changed over the last 5 years. I went into seminary just assuming that my call was to be a pastor of a rural community for 10 years, then a rural community for 20 years, and then a rural community for 15, and then part-time in a rural community after I retire.
There is a part of me that still imagines that, but I don’t know if that is my dream or the perfect call for me that I once thought it was. I could easily do it – I’m currently in love with my time in the rural churches – but it’s not what I’m longing for.
I did a mildly unsuccessful project my final semester of seminary where I looked at the rise of social media, the psychological implications of it, and how that applies to the church. In researching that, I found a lot of stuff that churches are doing online. A lot of preaching, a lot of teaching, a lot of worship videos and writings. Type “Christian Blog” or “Christian Podcast” or “Christian Facebook Group” into Google and you will find stuff. People are out there, online, and putting stuff out there to the glory of God.
I don’t want to step on the toes of anyone’s offering to God or how they are trying to show Christ’s love in this extremely powerful and extremely new social world, but I found something that I was hoping to not fall into with this blog:
There seems to be hesitation to be frank. There is this hesitancy to let full, true emotions and thoughts out. I feel like I’m always hearing things through a filter, and not a filter of Christianity but a filter of…appearance? piety? professionalism?
It was around the same time that I started listening to podcasts. I’ll be honest, I don’t regularly listen to a single Christian podcast. Heck, I’m pretty sure there isn’t a single non-atheist who hosts or has appeared on a singular podcast I listen to. It’s not that I haven’t tried Christian podcasts – I literally was listening to the Bad Christian Podcast moments before I started writing this – but rather that I don’t feel like they are real. There is a filter between the minds and hearts of the presenters and the mouths, or so it feels.
The podcasts I find myself listening to are raw. They are uncensored, unscripted, and full of emotion, be it pain and struggle or joy and happiness or recovery and peace. There is something I can learn about the person presenting and the guest, a certain personal truth that I find lacking in Christian media.
My dream is to do that. I want to be a frank, raw Christian leader talking about emotional issues, be it struggles of faith, joys of ministry, politics and the anger that comes from politics, or anything else that we work with being in a broken world and of the Body of Christ. And I want to talk about those things with other frank, raw Christian leaders.
But not just Christian leaders. I think a major flaw in much of Christian media is it is isolationist. I would want a podcast that has atheists having those same frank and honest conversations.
I want a conservative Christian leader and a well-known homosexual atheist to have honest, frank, raw, difficult, and loving conversations about homosexuality and sin. I want Christian leaders to have conversations about sex, and conversations beyond what they believe is moral. I want a fundamental Christian who views the Bible as inerrant and spirit person who views the Bible as simple a spiritual book to have that debate. I to have these difficult and uncomfortable and absolutely necessary conversations to happen in a healthy environment that encourages thinking and evolution of mind and shows that we can work with and interact with one another in love because we are working and interacting with one another in love.
As I write this, it sounds great, but it isn’t without risk or those participating on the Christian leadership side. As I think about this, I can think of two consequences of this.
The first risk is public perception. I’m not even sure how to address this concern. It’s a big deal if a large public group of Christians call anyone a heretic, telling them they aren’t pastors anymore or that they have abandoned scripture. People mourn and weep when you make a decision or interpret scripture differently than they do, especially when it happens to deal with sin.
This is a problem – a big problem – but also a source of motivation. I think we should be seeking to be at a point where we can disagree about sin and yet not mourn over the lost souls of those who disagree with us. I think it would do us a world of good to force people to see the other side as people, even if participants are branded heretics and evil by minority detractors.
But it kind of leads to the second risk. To stand in the pulpit, to preach and teach, you must have a certain level of authority as a pastor. Being frank and honest are good things – I hope to be those things from the pulpit – but there is a healthy level of reservation that pastors must have. It makes me seem more human if I admit that I have struggle with a particular sin, but it also depletes my pastoral authority. Depending on context, the hit to pastoral authority can be so large to make the risk too great or so small to make the risk moot. But there is always a risk when being frank about things that would deplete ones moral and pastoral authority are discussed openly and frankly.
Even now, when I am fairly certain that I at least have some sort of future in ordained ministry, I worry about posting something like this. There are people who have the power and authority to judge me based upon this. If someone were to read this and question my maturity of faith and ability to excise authority from the pulpit, I would put my career at risk.
(I don’t actually think that would be the case, and a few more people would have to read my blog to see it, anyway, but it is still a concern.)
My goal is to have conversations with pastors (and other spiritual and social leaders) of various denominations and faiths (or lack there of) who want to further loving relationships and be humans as well as pastors. I know the risks, I know the difficulties, I know that the conversations I am contemplating are dangerous and uncomfortable and can lead to a lot of anger, but I think we are avoiding them because they are really hard to do in a way that is safe.
Faith isn’t safe, and it never should be. Jesus was a radical and discussed things with leaders, with followers, and with those on the outside. I think we should be trying to do the same thing, and I think we are in a time where we can do it so the world can see and consume and participate.
If this sounds like something you might be interested in, if it sounds like something you think you might like to consume, or if it sounds like something you would like to help build, I want to do this. I don’t know how to do it on my own, but if there are even a couple of people who would be willing to have a recorded conversation once a month – or more – we could create something beautiful and needed.
Comment, e-mail, find my on Facebook, call or text me if you know my number, ring my new doorbell, let me know if you are in to do something difficult, crazy, risky, and for the good of humanity.