“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)
I don’t know how many of you are ‘regular readers’ of the Relevant Christian blog and how many of you just happen to be tag surfing or accidentally googled us. I don’t know how you got here, but I am glad you are here.
I don’t know where you are, either. That is, maybe you are a Christian, maybe you are not; it doesn’t really matter. I don’t know, and I won’t presume to have all the answers to all your questions or concerns or problems. I don’t know where you are in life, but I am glad you are here. I hope you can and will engage us in conversation regardless of where you are.
There is a far better life that is the life of faith. It is a life that has decided to be done with religion and to get on living in Christ. It is a life that has decided, in the words of Graham Cooke, to ‘live in Christ and not in circumstances.’ It is a life that, again in the words of Graham Cooke, ‘loves his life more than [your] own.’ It’s a life that has decided to follow Jesus.
My name is jerry. My friend Joe invited me to blog here and I’m glad he did. I love writing and blogging has afforded me an outlet to enjoy my habit and hobby unfettered by the chains of deadlines, budgets, and someone else’s vision of my work.
My name is jerry. I am a sinner saved by grace. I am also a preacher, by calling and not by choice. People ask me about my ‘calling’ and I tell them frankly, “I can’t explain how I know. I just know. I didn’t choose preaching, it chose me.” I can’t explain how I know I am a preacher, I just know.
But I’m a frustrated preacher; a terribly frustrated preacher. You see, I love preaching. I am never more alive as a christian than when I am standing in a pulpit, in the power of the Spirit, under the authority of the Word of God, and authorized by Jesus preaching the Gospel. When I get up to preach, however, I am a basket case, a bundle of nerves and anxiety, ready to throw-up at any minute, and weak. Then I get started and the Spirit of God gives me strength and the words start pouring out of my mouth and I wonder how it happens and where it comes from. Then it’s over. 30 minutes preaching is nothing like 30 minutes listening. When I go home on Sunday afternoon, I am exhausted.
I am a frustrated preacher and this has led me into an area of my life that I’m not yet fully understanding: I am a frustrated Christian. I can’t explain it yet, but I am working on it intensely. I will be sharing with you some of my history in a several post series blog entries. These post are aimed at serving two ends. First, they are cathartic. I need to share what I have been learning and the path that I believe the Lord has set before me in recent days. Not that my particular story is special but that, second, I know there are people in the world who have the exact same sense of frustration and anxiety over their faith walk. I hope to engage you in conversation or be an encouragement to you.
As such, I am writing from a particular point of view: the pulpit.
I think it happened this past Thursday evening when I went to a conference where the speaker was Graham Cooke and the worship that led up to the speaker was decidedly Pentecostal in flavor. I’m from a traditionally conservative (read: boring) worship tradition so being involved in a Pentecostal worship service was rather like leaving the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and entering a mosh pit at an Anthrax concert. I spent most of my time trying to worship, but mostly sitting slack-jawed and observing the worshipers.
There were people barefoot dancing. There were old ladies with hands uplifted. People in wheelchairs. Old men. Young men. There were young people laying on their faces. There were open eyes, open mouths, open hands and open hearts. There were babies. There were people who desperately wanted to wave their banners and flags and bang on their tambourines (space considerations had driven the leadership to put a ban on such things that evening.) People had a joy in their eyes that I knew could only come from their hearts and from the Holy Spirit. I took in as much as I could. I was amazed.
But I was sad and a large part of me suffered mightily during that worship. I didn’t have that joy that literally everyone around the room had. I felt terribly out of place and alone. I texted my wife something to that effect. I told her that I hadn’t had that sort of joy for a long time. Then I texted her again and told her why: preaching in a local church had robbed me of joy. I thought about it through the next song only to have my suspicions confirmed: Even my preaching had recently been reduced to a mere religious exercise and not an act of Holy Spirit inspired Faith. It’s not that I needed the experience to validate or create the joy but that I think the joy will lead us into a fuller experience.
I have allowed, in one way or another, the Holy Spirit of God to be quenched in my life. And I can attribute that quenching to only one thing: Paid ministry.
In the next installment of this series, I will give you a little bit of background on how I got from ‘there to here,’ that is, some of the journey I have taken into the dark cold world that is the paid ministry.
I have no illusions that everyone will agree with my conclusions. That’s OK. I’m giving voice to my journey because maybe there are others who feel trapped in paid ministry and maybe there are some who are considering paid ministry as a vocation. Todd D Hunter wrote, “We don’t need to add ‘spiritual’ activities to our life as much as we need to make our actual, everyday life spiritual. What we typically think of as ‘spiritual’ often ends up creating a false dualism” (Christianity Beyond Belief, 115).
My aim is to help prevent someone from creating such a false dualism in their own life.
Links to things or people or other referenced in this post: