I’ve been having a serious case of writer’s block the past few weeks. So this is an exercise of faith trusting that something good will come from just sitting down and typing.
The past few weeks have been profoundly clarifying for me. I can’t point to any one thing, but I can point to several very significant moments for me:
- Any desire/hope I had to use rural ministry as a springboard to something else is now entirely gone. I can’t explain how this happened. I’m not sure that prior to it happening, I would have even articulated any consciousness of using where I am now as a stepping stone. But I have sensed a solid watershed point of no return in terms of my calling to rural ministry.
- After the aforesaid watershed moment, I started seeing ways in which I had given up. I had simply quit trying in specific areas of my walk with God, my relationship with my wife, and my work in the church specifically. The best I can articulate is that I had subtly given up hope for change and essentially modified my behavior to match my “giving up.”
- Having really run out of steam leading into this summer, it has felt like both my civilian and military ministries are rebooting. The table is set for more to happen and on a larger scale. But I have just been tired and worn out, although I wouldn’t have used this word “weary” and “discouraged” describes the symptoms.
- There has been a sense of disconnect for me in the preaching. Distance between me and God. Distance between what I feel and what I am saying. Distance between me and the congregation. This summer I reached another watershed type moment where I determined I will not get up to preach on Sunday if I have not encountered God in the text. If I am not connecting with God in the Word, I have no business preaching. Bottom line.
- This year I was working on a project with a pastor, and told him up front I was egalitarian (meaning I don’t think church leadership is restricted to men). We would both say the gospel is at the center of what ministry and church and Christianity is. But by the end of the summer it became clear he was not willing to partner with someone who doesn’t hold the hierarchical (only men in church leadership) view. It is eye-opening to see two people who both say they are about the gospel, but clearly other things are important enough to be right up at the level of breaking what the gospel unites.
- Probably the last big thing I would put here, and if you follow me at all on Twitter you may be annoyed by my vocality on it, has been the ethical collapse to my mind of men and groups I would have just a few years ago bought fully into. Together For the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition failed to deal in any meaningful way with the very serious child sexual abuse charges which took place under the leadership of C.J. Mahaney, almost as if all this Roman Catholic drama over the past decade never even happened. The Gospel Coalition booted Tullian Tchividjian and mis-characterized why. Mark Driscoll flew too close to the sun then went plummeting into the ground. Basically the instincts I had about these groups and movements which led me to put some distance between me and them have started really coming out of the woodwork in very public ways.
What this all boils down to for me is that I have new sense of passion to really truly define myself by the gospel. For the gospel, for grace to be the defining mark of who I am and what I do. And the other piece of this is to not get too caught up in the fads among conservative Christians, but to really focus on taking seriously what it means to be a human and a Christian and a minister of the gospel in this particular time and place, this locality.