hope

My Resolution for the Church in America

New Year’s resolutions are the grace of God. Granted, many of us make them, and we often fail miserably. And yet, with the turn of the calendar each twelve months, we are given a chance to evaluate, reconsider, and commit ourselves to act differently, to try something new, to be who we have only dreamed of being. We can choose to abandon something that has outgrown its usefulness and embrace new things that would be beneficial to us. It is the grace of God that we can become, change, develop, evolve.

This year, I’m making a New Year’s resolution for the church. From the presidential election to the Chick-Fil-A debacle, the Facebookization of American Christianity in 2012 needs to be evaluated and reconsidered. I’m thinking that we need to commit ourselves to act differently. I’m thinking there is something we need to abandon.

My 2013 New Year’s resolution for the church is that we would abandon the Remnant Mentality. Read More…

An Advent Reflection: Anticipation

Seth Godin said on his blog last week that anxiety is experiencing failure in advance. He suggested that anticipation is its antonym. Anticipation is experiencing success in advance.

These are fascinating thoughts in the season of Advent. Advent is the time of year when we enter again into the story of Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, and Jesus. It’s the time of year when we force ourselves not to jump ahead to the end of the story but to feel the anticipation (and anxiety?) build. Read More…

Thoughts on Confidence and Certitude

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between confidence and certitude. These are not yet fully developed ideas but rather a few random thoughts that will likely develop into something more substantial in time.

I have railed against certitude. I think certitude is the fundamental problem of fundamentalism. Certitude is knowing something with absolute certainty. It is firmly believing that something is true. Emphasis on the firmly. When someone believes with certitude, he or she knows without any possibility of being wrong, without any qualification, without any doubt. Read More…

Uncomfortably Numb: a reflection

I am one of those people who sometimes has a hard time admitting how I feel. In fact, I’ve realized over the years that I will feel something for a period of time before I have the words to express it. This can be very frustrating for Vanessa. She’s very good at taking other people’s emotional temperatures. There are times when she’ll ask me if I am upset about something, and I will tell her “No,” only to realize later that I actually am. Before I have the words to name my feelings, I have a hard time admitting and expressing them.

Last night, I discovered the words to describe how I’ve been feeling lately: Numb. Uncomfortably numb, in fact. Read More…

Hope for the Depressed Pastor

On his blog today, Thom Rainer sites a Lifeway Research survey of pastors about depression and loneliness. What they found is that depression among the pastoral population is very common.

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.

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