In some recent conversations with people who were not critical, but just asking questions about my involvement in the emerging conversation, the question has come to me, “why am I doing this?” and “who is this for?” which has lead to some serious self-examination on the issue. I’m continuing to ask these questions of myself and I don’t know that I’m all the way to an answer, but here are some initial thoughts:
1) I’m doing this for my own survival in faith and in the Nazarene tribe –
To keep with the Ruth/Boaz story and my role as a bit of Naomi in it… I’m doing this not just for Ruth and Boaz, I’m doing this so I can survive. I want to live a faith that is holistic and larger than me and is more about preservation. I want to live a faith that continues to change me more and more into the image of Christ. I want to live a faith that calls me to make a difference in big and small ways. I want to be a part of a community that does the same. I want to be a part of a community that is not just founded on caring for the “least of these” but lives it. I want to actively shape the community through my involvement and my experience. I want to be a part of a community that will be a viable community for my children and grandchildren as well.
2) I’m doing this for the growing number of ministers (youth and other) that are feeling a disconnect from church “the way it used to be”
This is not a deconstruction statement. It is a realization that there are all kinds of people with a call to full time ministry who don’t know if they can live out that call in the same kinds of ways that the generations before have. This is not a condemnation of those who have gone before, but a recognition that the world we live in has radically changed and so have the people – people that God calls.
3) I’m doing it so that the many friends I know that have stepped away from church (and in part at least faith) can have a place to return to
I love my friends. I truly want the best kind of life for them. Few things pain me more than to hear about those who have given up hope in the church community as a substantial place for worship and growing in their faith. Notice that I didn’t say they have given up on worship or on growing in their faith, but rather on the church as a place for that to happen. This kind of giving up generally shows up in two ways: the first being that they just walk away from church all together; the second being that they keep attending church but have no hope for it. I desperately want them to find a church community on their local level that is truly representative of a God and Christ who is bigger than their wildest dreams, capable of calling them to things they would never have imagined and will confront them in their deepest places with a grace and love that transforms. I want them to hope for and believe in that too.
4) I’m doing this to do SOMETHING
I’ve been a part of the “emerging church” conversation since 1999, my first year in full time ministry. A significant part of my own journey has been some deconstructing of the church, my own faith, my ecclesiology, etc, etc. So too has the deconstruction been a part of the overarching conversation. I firmly believe that the conversation cannot stop at deconstruction. We, as followers of Christ, must DO something as God reveals to us a bigger picture of the Kingdom. I personally want to take ownership for doing what I can, how I can, through what means I can, as God has called and placed me.
5) I’m doing this for my kids
Part of my own call to following God in the way of Jesus is a call to living a sustainable faith. In other words, I desperately hope that my children will see modeled in me a faith that isn’t tied to certain types “ways to do church”, but rather they will see modeled in me a faith that is Kingdom oriented and represents the best kind of life, a lifestyle that is sustainable not only by me, but by them and their children and their children’s children.
6) I’m doing this to pave the way for those who can do greater
I also recognize that part of the leadership that I can provide to this conversation is merely the trust in relationships I have with others so that when people come together there is a sense of safety. I am not the most creative innovator, nor am I necessarily called to be. What I can do however is prepare the way for those who come after me to operate in a safe and fruitful environment of committed relatioships.
7) I’m doing this because I love Jesus and the Kingdom
Perhaps this should have been the first point on here, but I made it the last because it is the most important. I am doing this because I believe that what it means to follow God in the way of a living Jesus is to embrace and to join the always unfolding Kingdom of God in this world. My faith compels me to ask questions of myself, my community and my future about my faith. May God’s Spirit continue to guide us as we seek to love him with all that we are and to love others.