I have been very quiet here and at Image of Truth as of late. Honestly, the majority of the semester had me in a mental fog, and my mood matched the relative lack of lucidity that I was feeling. Frankly, the burnout I have felt with seminary the past year has been a great stumbling block for me. My affection for the school itself waned after the Center for Christianity and the Arts at Southern was done away with, as well as my favorite professor, who headed up that department. Without the classes I enjoyed through that program, Southern has simply not been as exciting a place.
What has truly excited me in the past year and what has caused frustration for me at the same time has been thoughts of the future. My time being part of Sojourn Community Church has affected me like nothing has in my life. I know, yes know, that the Deep South has many churches, but few good ones. I want to leave Sojourn prepared to go with a group of brothers and sisters in Christ to southeastern cities to carry the gospel forward and, God willing, stir a fire in the long-dying embers of true Christian spirituality. God has given me a great passion for the arts and literature, and I would love to tap into the bohemian culture in some of those cities, as well as return to writing, painting, film-making, and such in my own creative expression.
Unfortunately, I want to do all that now, and it isn’t where I am at the moment. I will graduate from Southern in December with my Master of Arts in Theology & Arts. I will finish the Sojourn Pastors’ School next May. Then I will still wait for my lead church planting partner to finish seminary himself. It’s quite the patience builder. Meanwhile, my family wishes that I were back home (that is, back in North Georgia), and the fact that it will be a long time, if ever, that I move back there is hard for many of them to swallow. Try as the might, they don’t understand my calling… mainly because they don’t understand my motivation.
My motivation. My family has certainly been fuel for it because my family is like many families living in a culture like the South, much over-saturated for a couple of centuries with Christianity. Christianity has permeated the culture in such a way that even when the impact of the Gospel has somehow died out, the culture has maintained much of its Christianese language, highly legalistic mores, and such. Unfortunately, there is much that the culture has in turn inserted into its Christianity that is not so. For instance, much of my difficulties in the South stem from the notion that ministry is what pastors do, not making the connection that it is what every Christian is called to do. Another issue is the fact that most people I encounter there say they don’t read their Bible because they don’t understand it. The problem here is twofold. One, they usually have never tried to understand it (a good study bible is a small and worthy investment), and two, the blind and vehement persistence that the King James Version is the only real Bible has kept generations from understanding even the most simple passages of scripture by laboring them under almost four centuries of dated English.
A final issue comes as a result of the “easy believism” of the past century. There is a strong disconnect with the idea that faith has works. We are not saved by our works of course (though with all the legalism in the South, you would think we were), but our faith bears fruit… it produces a change in our lives, in our devotion to God and to our fellow human beings. If there is no Gospel change in our lives, no growth, then one must call into serious question that conversion ever occurred. Walking an aisle, saying some words in a prayer, or being submerged in water does not make you “saved.” Salvation occurs from the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, and that work is one that keeps working in you and through you for the rest of your life. It is not a moment. It is a journey.
All that to say, I am certainly antsy to go where I feel called to go. However, God is doing great things in my life here and has surrounded me with such incredible brothers in Christ who encourage me constantly, and he has put me in a church where my faith is being nurtured without end. I ask for your prayers for my patience, but I also ask that you praise God with me that he is doing a good work and will bring it to completion.