London Calling (part VII)

As I see the end of my time in London taking large strides towards me like a long awaited loved one, their arms wide open to embrace me, I am struck by the loud crashes behind me forcing me to look back. I am stuck now between turning and embracing the rest and peace after a long a difficult journey and the need to see the explosion behind me to ask “Was that me?” On my journey I have, like all journeys, made decisions to take certain paths and they have all been made with honesty of the situation and with integrity. My decisions have effected people and situations and not all of them were positive.

In my last days of this journey I have found myself asking an important question, which, by me writing this, answers in part.

To blog or not to blog, that is the question?

I have been created as an honest, undivided person who’s principles in ministry is a desire for holistic, raw and real experience of people. If I, as a leader of a community that wants people not just to profess a faith but to live it, allow it to seep into every crevice of life then I need to embody that. If I want people to tell me what’s on their heart, to ask deep and important questions of themselves, of me and of the world around them, then I too need to do so. If I want to preach that Christ ministers to those who can face up to themselves as fallen and broken people then I want to encourage people to see me facing up to myself as fallen and broken.

Journalling,as a spiritual discipline, is important to people like me for whom this is the way that we process experiences. No-one is in doubt of the strength and purpose of this spiritual discipline. How is blogging different from journalling? Blogging is making that which is private public. Blogging is like writing your journal and allowing others to see it. This leads, obviously, to some difficulties in terms of relationship with others. We all have disagreements with those around us. We all struggle to see eye to eye with those who, on the face of it, we are meant to be united with and when someone journals, it is natural to vent, rant and explore those feelings. No one is in doubt of the strength and purpose of this. To blog, however, is to make public that which was private.

As a future, Christian leader, there’s a strange struggle between what I make public and that which I keep private. There are, as usual, many different options of handling this struggle; to keep everything private, to make everything public or various shades in between. As a person who desires, unmasked, raw, real relationship I will naturally side with the not with-holding of information; not to put on a mask. I am fully aware, however, of the need of privacy for others and agree that it is an individual choice whether to make something of individual importance public or not. To put someone in a situation where they are forcibly unmasked in public is pastorally insensitive (I have fallen short here before and for which I am truly sorry!)

So why do I feel the need to make public that which is private?

In lots of instances I choose not to for reasons such as the privacy of others, the safety of others and my understanding that people need to control which masks are worn when.

Why do I feel the need to publish my inner thoughts?

Partly, it’s a pride issue. I own that, acknowledge it and this is a thorn in my flesh; that desperate need for people to look at me and pay me attention. I’m sorry for that but I am human and I need God’s grace afresh. But when it comes to my masks, I want to embody what I believe and get rid of them. I talk a lot about asking questions, of heading into an understanding of faith that does not have one answer but one that is relational and explorative. I want people to know that I am genuine in my search and for people to be encouraged to engage with me in questions and and discoveries.

I don’t have the answers. I am human. I am fallen and broken and I struggle with life. Why do make this public? Because I want to boast in my weakness. I don’t want to be a different person at home than I am in a church community. If this means it’s complicated and difficult then that’s what it’s going to have to be. If this is scary then that’s what it has to be. Jesus’ struggles are public, Jesus’ crucifixion if public, Jesus’ identity is questioned by Himself in public (My God my God, why have you forsaken me?) My personal leadership style, and it is my personal style so I don’t want people to think it’s the only way, is to be the same person behind closed doors as I am in open ones. I want people to see me broken, in pain and struggling in order that they can appreciate my God who makes me strong. I want people to truly know, through my example, that they, broken, lost, confused can experience God and be loved by Him. I want, more than anything else, for people to know that God wants us for who we are not what we’re told to be.

Faith is not a set of doctrinal beliefs but how you live your life. I can agree that money doesn’t make me happy but does it stop me seeking after financial gain? I can agree that God is my refuge and my strength but I can’t say it if I struggle when I’m not at home or with my wife. So do I continue to profess these things when I know I don’t live them out? Sometimes. Should I? No.

My struggle with life and ministry continues. How I work as a leader with both a public life and a private one is a continual struggle. How I earn the right to meet with people and share my faith is ongoing. To blog or not to blog… I want to make public my private struggles because I hope they are an encouragement. I hope they prompt questions in your mind. I hope that by witnessing struggles of faith you will know that you are not alone and that those people you put on pedestals are actually disciples of Christ. I hope that my blogs allow you to turn, face up to your own questions and say

‘To doubt is Divine.’

A lot of the thoughts and reflections I am having in this wrestle come from an interview with Peter Rollins when he visited Mars Hill Church. The recording is below and is 45 mins long. It’s well worth a listen and will piece together, I hope, many disjointed and rambling approach to articulate my current train of thought.

Power of Story

Next time I will try to tie together my reflections and feelings of my wonderful, powerful, difficult and life giving placement in London!