Every once in a while, you pick up a book that seems to be saying all the things you’ve been thinking. It’s such a wonder to have that kind of experience, such a confirmation and encouragement. In these types of situations, it’s not that you don’t need the author because you’ve got it all figured out. Rather, it is precisely that you need the author to give voice to your thoughts, to help you develop and further your perspective, and to lead you down the paths you were too nervous to traverse on your own. Finding a book that reinforces your own yet-forming thoughts and ideas is a revelation.
For me, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammad Cross the Road? by Brian McLaren has been just such a revelation. Read More…
This weekend, Vanessa and I attended the Emergence Christianity National Gathering, a conference/book party to celebrate the publishing of Phyllis Tickle‘s new book Emergence Christianity. Phyllis is a singular person in American Christianity. Because of her keen mind and unique experience, she has been able to best document the fundamental changes that have been occurring in the church over the past several decades. I’m fond of calling her the fairy godmother of the emergent church. Read More…
I re-read my book Fundamorphosis: How I Left Fundamentalism But Didn’t Lose My Faith over the last couple of days. I had gotten the proof copy in the mail and wanted to go through it, looking one last time for typos and mistakes. I found several. It’s an imperfect book. I’m an imperfect person.
What struck me as I re-read my own story was the people along the way who have made such a difference in my life. They are the heroes of my story. They stood by me. They listened. They gave me counsel. They didn’t always agree with me, but they let me be myself.
I thought today I would pay tribute to some of them. Here’s to the heroes of my story. Read More…
I didn’t need a survey to know this. I know this from experience.
I am often lonely and depressed as a pastor. Recently, Vanessa and I did some research into our personalities. We learned that people with my personality take criticism so personally that it can actually be paralyzing. It’s not that I don’t think criticism is helpful or valid. I do. But when criticism comes, it triggers something in me that makes me want to climb under the covers and stay there.
But when I think back on the most depressed and lonely I have ever been, it wasn’t necessarily criticism that sent me in that direction. It was the evolution of my theology that put me out of sync with my fundamentalist church upbringing.
I was pastoring a fundamentalist church in Michigan before we moved to Arkansas to start Vintage. Through a series of events – most notably, turning 30 and preaching through Genesis – I realized that I felt like I was wasting my life and spinning my wheels. I was faking it on Sunday mornings. I was pretending to be excited. I was pretending to believe the pat answers of fundamentalism. I was pretending to have all the answers.
This lack of authenticity sent me into a spiritual and emotional spiral that I didn’t pull out of for months. I credit the patience of Vanessa, the words of people like Brian McLaren, and the renewed hope of doing something risky like starting Vintage for helping me climb out of my hole.
There are a lot of reasons why we talk about authenticity so much at Vintage. I think, for instance, that faith requires authenticity. In other words, we can’t be Christians unless we are real. But I also push Vintage to be a place where people can be themselves because that’s what I need. When we started Vintage, I was fond of saying that I needed to pastor a church that I would go to even if I wasn’t be paid. I have to be authentic so that I don’t go back to that very dark place.
I’ve got a lot of sympathy for depressed pastors. I’ve been. I’m sure I’ll be there again. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess. And let us hold out hope for one another.