Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My bio part 1

Here is the bio portion part 1,

John and Raquel and a couple of kids

Decided the make this in two parts, and to make it fairly brief.  If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask them.  The truth is, the 27 year journey from born again, Pentecostal evangelical, conservative to post evangelical, house church, pacifist, Christian anarchist, is hard to "sum up".  But I will do my best.

I was raised as a Easter and Christmas Catholic.  We really didn't have that much to do with the church, but we did the minimum.  Both of my parents were concerned that I got a good education however, so I went to Catholic Jr. and Sr. High School.  Net effect on my spirituality?  Not a whole lot, I learned a lot about church history, both the good and the bad, I learned the bible pretty well as we were tested on this, but as to how it effected how we lived our lives... well it didn't really.  Even in our morality class the practical application was pretty void.

While I was in high school my mother started going to a pretty conservative, but a bit out there church.  Every once and a while, to get in her good graces I would go, but again, not much impact.  Then one Thursday night a gal from the "sister" church in Pasadena came out.  I thought this girl was not hard on the eyes, and my mom saw a golden opportunity.  She hosted a few "young adult" meetings at our house, and I asked this girl out.  She said yes, and on our second date something very different happened.

It was a New Years Eve party, there were thirty to forty people there, and I was just amazed at the way they seemed to genuinely love and care for each other.  And not only that, but they seemed to love and care for me as well.  I liked that.  Then at midnight they sat in a circle and talked about how they had seen God work in their lives the previous year.  This was sometimes joyous, sometimes painful, and always honest.  I was blown away.  This actually was spiritual, it was real, it had practical implication, and I felt a "tugging" at my heart.  By the time it was my turn to share, I had decided whatever they were into I wanted in on it.  And that was my "conversion" story.

This is actually very important, as at a foundational point in my spiritual life it was not a traditional gathering, or ritual, but a group of people, meeting in a home, being honest about their lives, that made me take notice.

It wasn't long til I was listening to seven sermons a day on radio, reading countless books, and the bible from cover to cover.  I wanted to be a preacher, and I was gonna be ready no matter what.

For some complicated reasons I wont get into here I wound up going to another church that was a bit more traditional in its structure, but not its ideology.  The pastors there took me under their wing, and started mentoring me.  Butch Pluimer and Buddy Suitor changed my life, they took me in like a son. This was another thing that was very formative.  I was not sent away to bible college, but I was apprenticed.  It was, lets just do it together, until you can do it alone. 

At this church I really learned a lot.  I learned some great stuff.  I learned some not so great stuff.  I learned about church politics, and what happens when people have "spiritual" power.  I noticed it, but didn't understand it.

Then I met another great man.  Dave Everritt was this very quiet humble man who came to me for prayer for his neighborhood.  He lived in a ghetto that served as a war zone between two Latino gangs and three Cambodian gangs.  The gang kids were starting to come to his bible studies and the church kids didn't like it, and he said he didn't know what to do but if he had to choose he was choosing the gang kids.  I liked this guy and asked if I could come and see, and boy did I see.  He had been a commodities broker with a porsche and a high priced condo, and when he became a Christian he sold it all, which caused his wife to leave him.  Now years later he lived in this slum with his new wife trying to care for those most people were afraid of.  He asked me if I wanted him to be my mentor.  I said yes please.

So far in the story I have experienced a few things that are of note:

I experienced a practical, real, spirituality not part of a ritual, but part of community in a home.

I learned that apprenticeship and mentoring were of immense value.

I learned that people actually did take the call to get rid of it all and follow Jesus seriously.

I learned that social outreach need to go in and stay, not try to work from outside.

Part two will be tomorrow, and then we get into some of my more radical ideas :)



Joe S. said...

You felt there was very little spiritual benefit from your Catholicism. What was that little? You mentioned things that were more "academic."

What was the second "church" you went to that led to your conversion? Was it really a chapel? Was it Protestant? I ask, because I had a similar experience with Protestants...though obviously without the conversion. Very genuine, happy people who weren't trying to proselytize or convert but just be supportive of one another and build community.

I also had a mentor Jack Wright who was an elder of a local chapel. Still have fond memories of him and care about him a lot. Do you still see Dave? Do you mentor today?

john jensen said...

I guess most of what I learned in Catholicism was not really healthy. It made God seem far away and too "weird" The other thing is it seemed to take the work out of the hands of the people and put it into the hands of professionals. The protestants copied that. I guess the best spiritual value I got was just the idea of God, but yeah mostly academic.

The second church was a small Pentecostal chapel type church.

Dave is now in the slums of Phnom phen Cambodia, we don't talk much. But I have always continued to both have mentors and mentor others. It is the way of discipleship :)