Unless I can think of anything else to say on this topic, this post will conclude my series on The Path Toward Healing.
In my previous post, I talked about turning my gaze away from the woundings of the past as I walked away from institutional forms of church, and how, as I began to take note of my new surroundings, if you will, I found a new sense of community among other disenfranchised believers. As I kept looking forward rather than backward, I also began to see new opportunities to be “salt and light” in the world–opportunities I never would have seen when I still viewed things through the lens of institutional Christianity. As that lens came off, my outlook toward ministry and mission also began to change. I’ve written many blog posts about these changing mindsets, but let me summarize a couple of key things that I came to realize during this time (and each one builds on the others):
- Jesus is the Savior, not me. This might sound obvious enough, but it’s amazing how many Christians live like it’s the other way around–like it’s our job to save the world. It’s not. That’s Jesus’ job; we’re just here to help. This helped me realize that I could show the love of Christ to someone without always trying to convert them.
- I can serve and minister to people in many ways without preaching at them or carrying an agenda of conversion. This ties into the previous point; being released of the obligation to try and talk people into salvation, I was able to see just how many things I do on a regular basis that can be a blessing to others and serve kingdom purposes without wearing the cloak of religion.
- Ministry is a lifestyle, not an occupation. The mission of Christ can be (and should be) integrated into our everyday lives, and there are a lot more spiritually significant actions we can take besides simply praying and preaching.
All of these things taken together have totally revamped my view of mission and ministry. I no longer do “church as usual,” but I still consider myself a minister. I’ve just come to see ministry itself as a much more organic practice, and therefore I see a lot more places to minister outside the walls of institutional church than I used to find within them. Having my eyes opened in this way actually had a lot to do with why our family made the decision to relocate to a city that had a strong artistic community. Being creative ourselves, we wanted to be in a place where that creativity could be nurtured while also serving kingdom purposes.
Let me give some examples of what this has been looking like “on the ground”:
- As I have embedded myself in the local music scene here as a blogger, numerous times I’ve gotten reports back from musicians who were ready to quit until they read something encouraging I had written about them. In interacting with many of these people, I’ve also had the chance to encourage them directly in face to face conversations. This is essentially what I used to do in the role of “pastor”–it’s just that the religious backdrop has been removed.
- By spending time among non-believing artists who have actually been alienated by Christians, The Wild One and I have seen a softening of their hearts as they see us model a different attitude. It surprises us how much they care about our opinion sometimes. This is a connection that we could never have made in simply trying to get these people to “come to our church.”
- As I’ve begun performing music, I’ve seen people’s attention arrested, and watched them respond in much the same way that I used to see it while leading worship in church. I can sense the same unction, or anointing, and I believe it is God’s spirit stirring hearts, even though the lyrics I’m singing aren’t overtly “Christian.”
What does this all mean? Essentially, as I’ve continued on this path toward healing, I see myself less and less as an exile from the community I once held dear, and I see myself more and more as someone standing on the edge of a wide open harvest field. I am now spending less time thinking about the opportunities I no longer have in the church, and more time thinking about the opportunities I have in front of me to make a real difference.
Is it lonely? Yes. Do I miss the camaraderie? Sometimes–although I miss far less the stagnation and religiosity that so often accompanied that camaraderie. But I also believe that for all my journeying, I’m still in a temporary place, and for all the other believers who have found themselves outside the walls, I can’t help but feel that God has a plan for us all. I think that ultimately a common desire for authenticity will eventually result in fresh expressions of both community and mission beyond what we’ve seen so far. I look forward to that day.