Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bio part 2

So while all of this was happening I got married to the best woman in the world, Raquel, and we had two beautiful daughters.  The interesting thing is that we didn't pull away from our world, or our ministry to focus on our family.  We made sure our children were part of our lives, that we didn't neglect them, but we also wanted them to grow up knowing that the world is too big for it to revolve around them. Remember this is a summation so as blunt as that sounds it was lived out in the midst of caring, compassionate love.

Buddy Suitor at the leading of many people decided to move to another city and start a new church.  Raquel and I went with him and were his youth pastors.  Only there weren't many youth.  We would hang out, get sodas, and talk.  Slowly we wound up attracting a group of about thirty young people many if not most of whom did not have parents at the church.  We did normal church stuff, went on church camps, and learned to love each other.  This was very formative for us.  When we had thirty kids in our group 27 came from broken homes.  We were learning the healing power of community, and we were also learning what it meant to have an "open house". 

I began learning about "cell groups" and "house churches" and how they were important because they taught community, involved everyone, and were the best mechanism for growth.  (I will address this later, but at that time we still believed it was our call to convert everyone so they would not burn in hell forever, or the more pleasant way of looking at it was so they could go to heaven)  I also realized that the man up front talking, while everyone else sat and listened was not a very healthy model. 

Through much scheming we came up with a plan.  We would start a church service that had "cool worship music", had a Christian rock band play a set, and then I would teach a very short message that is applicable to anyone whether they were Christian or not.  The idea was to make a very fun night, where non Christian people would enjoy hanging out, and then through relationships with people in the group, not any altar call from the stage, people would be drawn into a relationship with Jesus and join our real church which was the small group.

It kinda worked.  It wasn't long before we had a church full of people.  Sometimes as many as 150 kids rocking out.  Thing was they were all Christian kids from other churches.  Took a lot of pain and soul searching before I realized that most Christian young people don't really want to hang out in church, why would someone who is not a Christian want to?  So we shut it down for good.

We then took our youth group and started a church with them.  It was a good thing, the church realized we were becoming something different, and they wanted a more traditional youth ministry.  They helped us and blessed us, it was not a church split at all.

It was around this time I started understanding a bit more about how this all worked, why community was important.  I began to understand that what Jesus was on about was more than just fire insurance, but teaching us a way of living that could change things in the here and now, not just later. 

There were two major influences in this way of thinking.  The first was the book "Anarchy and Christianity" by Jaques Ellul.  This book really resonated with what I had seen and lived.  It made sense, and seemed biblical to me as well.  The other book was by Jan Hettinga, I think its title was Follow Me.  This talked about the idea of the kingdom of God being the focus of Jesus message.  Now Jan might be a bit upset at where I took all of that... but seeing that Jesus was talking about the kingdom of God as a present reality not just a future destination that really got me on a radical path.

We began to take steps in this direction.  We tried to have less hierarchy.  Less issues of power.  We tried to see Jesus in community, in our neighborhood.  It was a wonderful experience.  Our first church plant was called the Belonging, and the name has set the tone for our whole life.  We should be a community that allows people to belong.

I then began reading more and more Christian anarchist stuff, writings of Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker, Tolstoy's the kingdom of God is within, and most influential to me was Dave Andrew's books "Christianarchy" and "Not Religion but Love".  These latter two took all of the theory, and showed us how to live it out... well atleast how to fail gloriously trying to live it out :) 

During this whole period of time we also were continually confronted with the fact that Jesus seemed to base his time on earth among the dispossessed, the poor, the marginalized.  He talked about a down is up way of living.  We began to see that a call to follow Jesus is a call towards downward mobility.  Living sustainably on less, in an economy of enough.  An economy that says there is enough for our need but not our greed.

Two more big influences on my life happened while we were in Australia.  The first was a young man named Jarrod McKenna, who took me down the road of non-violence.  I added to his voice the voices of Dorothy Day, Shane Claiborne, and Fr John Dear, as well as the crazy revolutionary activist Ciaron O'Reilly  To love your enemies, and do good to those that do bad to you takes away the possibility of violent reaction.

The other was the works of Walter Wink in Engaging the Powers that speak much about non violence, but also the idea of spiritual warfare as seeing the spiritual behind the physical.  This is very powerful because we begin to really see the corrupting influences of things like consumerism, individualism and nationalism. 

Now we are living in Long Beach California, trying to sow all of these fragments together.  How can we be an authentic community following Jesus, by entering into the plight of the oppressed, living simply, and non violently as we stand against a world system that is bent on destruction.  Ched Myers is currently my mentor, and he seems perfectly suited for tying this all together, and we are so thankful for Ched and his wonderful wife Elaine Enns.

Things learned in part two:

the importance of community to growth as a human being

we weren't supposed to call people into the church, but live out the church in our neighborhoods

That just as Christ prioritized the marginalized, we should be found with them, standing for justice.  Not reaching down to help, but climbing into solidarity.

That we are called not to have power over others, but to empower others

That we are called to be non violent resisters

that the kingdom of God is now and not yet, and we must be the change we want to see in the world as Gandhi put it

And that there are powerful forces in the world that shape policy, and even our own thoughts, and that these must be seen, and resisted.

Anyways, that was abrupt as could be, please feel free to ask any questions



Anonymous said...

really enjoyed reading this.

I completely agree! I ditched the saving people from hell / get into heaven model a while back. It wasn't until I realized that people didn't need Jesus, but my service that things turned around in "ministry" for me. Jesus didn't come to save us from anything, but to basically show us that giving was the way to live. Now I care much more about where the homeless man is going to sleep tonight than if he knows some dude from 2,000 years ago. It makes a huge difference! Keep the blogs coming!

Buddy B said...

Welcome Back JOHN!!! These are important words at a cross roads point in my life. Something to think and pray about.


David said...

I visited various churches for a few years up until my wife left in Nov 2009. I guess I was seeking some form of community and support during a period of marriage difficulty.

I found most church members to be cool and un-willing to engage in discussion, particularly with "outsiders". Christians seemed particularly reluctant to form relationships with those they considered "too hard" - i.e. older people and people with a tertiary educational background

I've pretty much given up on the church now. I really do believe it is irrelevant to my life and the lives of those around me.