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Mon
11
Apr '05

A New Hermeneutic

I am speaking for the first time in about three months this coming Sunday. It will be at my father in-law’s church in Bremerton. It is funny because for the first time in a long time I feel like I am struggling with the message I am supposed to speak. Why the struggle? Because I am about half way through writing what I really feel like God has called me to speak to them and my recent changes in philosophy of ministry are nagging me.

I set out to just write a sermon like every sermon I have ever written before. The church is a very traditional Pentecostal church so the kind of sermon I would normally speak would be just fine. As I was writing it today I kind of started second guessing myself. Not about subject matter but about how I should be communicating it. Am I selling myself out if I “go back” and preach a message like I would have a year ago?

I kept asking myself if this sermon was me or if it was God directing me? I kind of think it has to do with something I have never put into words before….Something McLaren calls letting the Bible read you rather than you reading the Bible. It is something I have always done instinctively but never articulated. The concept is this: rather than reading the Bible for answers to all of our questions we should be “honestly [listening] to the story and put[ting] ourselves under it’s spell, so to speak…trusting God to use it to pose questions to us about us.”

It is funny how therapeutic writing like this is…In writing this I just answered my own question. The problem is that I am using scripture to answer a question…In this case: “How do I live a life of faith?” What I am not doing is something that I usually do when I speak…letting the Bible ask me the question and searching that out to it’s conclusion (if there is really a ‘conclusion’ to the question).

So with the revelation I have just received I go back to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show me where it is that he would have me “let the Bible read me?

Thu
7
Apr '05

Close Encounters of the Revelatory Kind

Revelation is always exciting. Personal revelation is, however, not always as enjoyable an excitement. The past couple of months have been a time of revelation for me; revelation about the church; revelation about modern Christianity; revelation about leadership tactics and techniques; revelation about my own faith. I have been reading a lot of books and articles by pastors that are experiencing similar revelation to my own and I think I differ from many of them in a very big way. My revelatory process has not effected my faith in the same way is many of those whom I have read about.

For many of them they found themselves in what many of them call a crisis of faith. For me it has not been a crisis of faith as much as a “purifying” of faith.

I spent three hours yesterday with a very good friend, Peter. My time with him is always challenging to me and enlightening as well. It is mostly this way because he really plays the role of “iron” in my life (iron sharpens iron…). In talking to him it is funny how many definitive moments we have both experienced as a result of the words of the other. The funny thing is that we never (at least I never) intend to “preach,” “teach,” or “correct” Peter’s thinking. It just kind of happens.

Yesterday as we were talking we were looking at Peter’s new iBook…which I must admit I was coveting ?. As we were talking about the differences in using a Mac versus a PC I was sharing with him some simple concepts about how you have to think differently with a Mac. You cannot think like “where do I need to learn to find the thing I am trying to do on this computer.” That is a PC way of thinking. On a Mac you need to think more like “if I were going to make a computer for people that knew nothing about computers where would I put that…” His reply to me was an interesting one. Interesting because I normally reject philosophical labels (especially when they are applied to me). He said,” You know Chris, all of this post-modern stuff is so easy for you to accept and implement because you have been post-modern for so long. “

I was not sure how to react. Remember that self revelation is not always comfortable. Am I post-modern? I hate the thought of that simply because it means I have to be willing to take on a “label.” I hate labels. I hate having people’s preconceived ideas, generated by societal and experiential connotations, applied to me. I don’t know why I have always struggled with this concept. Even as far back as grade school and later Jr. High. I want to be judged on my own merits, performance, and personality, not on what someone else has called me or what I call myself.

Set aside the title of “Post-Modern” for just a minute. Look at a more easily identifiable title that I gladly take on: Pastor. I know that for many people the title of “Pastor” has a myriad of connotations. For some it means weak. For others it means power hungry. For others it means fatherly. For still others it means leader. One of the reasons I am a little more accepting of this label is that many people are taken aback by the fact that I don’t fit the stereotypical profile of a Pastor.

Take for example the time myself and several friends were at this Australian Pub here in Seattle. We had gone there because it was winter and there was free pool. Winter means that we needed to smoke cigars indoors (the real reason we were going there) and pool became a side note. We each purchased an adult beverage and commenced with the pool game and cigars. As we were playing and smoking and really enjoying our conversation two gentlemen came in who happened to be plumbers by trade. The were still in their uniforms and driving a company van. We all began to talk and play pool. The conversation inevitably moved toward what we all did for vocation (come on we’re guys you have to talk about this). As my turn to reveal my profession cam around I said, “I am a pastor.” I felt like I was in one of those old western movies where they guy walks into the bar and states that he is there to kill someone. It may have been my imagination but the room seemed to freeze. Somewhere in the background you could hear a glass break and the bartender ducked behind the bar.

Ok maybe it was not quite this dramatic but they guy’s response was every bit that dramatic. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “No shit? Dude you’re shitin’ me!”
“No I replied I really am.”
“What kind of church,” he said looking down at the cigar in one hand and the glass of port in the other?
“Just a Christian Church.”
“Oh ok…”
And with that the topic changed back to pool. The funny thing is I LOVE that kind of moment where someone realizes that their concept of what a pastor is is being destroyed by my mere presence or activity.

Why then do I hate labels like post-modern? I don’t know. What I do know is that I am really enjoying this time of revelation and self reflection. Thank God that I have the freedom to do this without a denomination, or “boss” telling me that I am turning into a heretic. Balance is what I have always sought. Balance is where I will end up.

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