Monday, January 09, 2006

On Becoming Different

2005 was a year of spiritual change for me. Changes, for the most part, precipitated by 2004's changes: Losing a semi-lucrative job, gaining a sans-filthy-lucre job (stay-at-home dad), and the ensuing struggle with my identity.

But instead of boring you with all of those sordid details, let me bore you with my ecclesial history instead. I was born and briefly raised Catholic. I left the church due to the many transgressions that I saw within it at the age of 10 (or thereabouts). I joined a non-denominational church, a house church of sorts, that over the course of several years evolved into an Eastern Orthodox church. I left again, and at the age of 13 or 14 began attending another non-/inter-denominational church. The pastor of that church was Dr. Emerson Eggerich - of rising marriage-counseling fame. Rob Bell attended the same church, but as I didn't attend Sunday School, alas, the two of us never met. Our common genius is more plainly seen and understood, I assume, however, at this point. (I so often brush against impending fame and miss it completely - what's up with that? Good news for those of you who almost know me. Bad news for those of you who know me well.)

When I left for college, I attended Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. It was the home of Larry Crabb (well, not by the time I got there). I did, however, have the privilege of sitting under Ted Hildebrandt who has done some excellent work in the book of Proverbs and Hebrew poetry (Ted is no longer at Grace, but now teaches at Gordon College). I met and married my wife who is the daughter of a Grace Brethren pastor and so my stint with the Grace Brethren Fellowship began. The Grace Brethren distinctives include trine immersion (triple dunking) and three-fold communion (foot washing, eucharist, and love feast).

My wife and I moved to a city without a Grace Brethren church and so we attended Southern Baptist churches for the next 9 years. We then joined and are now a part of an Evangelical Free Church (not, by the way, free of evangelicals) - grace rather than dogmatism - a good place, but not without its faults.

I grew up with a very ecumenical perspective. I understood, and understand, the value of different theological perspectives. I understand some of their strengths and many of their weaknesses. I remain frustrated with their inability to see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ with whom they can have communion.

2005, however, was my discovery of this renegade group of truthless megalomaniacs who called themselves emergent. People who asked questions of my certainties. Hell, people who asked questions just to ask questions - incessant questioning. People who talked of walking as an explication of their doctrine. People who I felt inexorably drawn toward. I sensed a grace about them. I sensed a love for Jesus in their hearts. And so, I stepped tip-toe onto the shore of this Island of Misfits with all of the natives' uncertainties, all of their quirks, and all of their graces. I stepped so lightly that the natives are mostly unaware of my presence.

Just before I was fired, I joined up with four other families to start a church plant. The pastor, a good friend, has shared my journey into emergent-hoodlum-dom, I believe. He was actually three or four steps ahead of me the entire time, but was patient and a good sounding board for some of my uncertainties and questions. He introduced me to Blue Like Jazz.

And finally, I discovered, by others' recommendations, N.T. Wright, who has explained a thing or two to me. I'm exceedingly grateful for the Lord Bishop's work and witness. I have yet to read anything by Brian McLaren, though I have listened to some mp3's. I only know a little about this emerging conversation, quite honestly, but I'm learning.

So I don't fit in with the family as well as I used to. So I'm a little more different in how I think about things. It's not as if I'm a non-conformist or something. I'm just trying to do my best to follow Christ. And while the emerging conversation is probably not my final destination, it's where I find myself today.

That's the generalized and boring version of my journey and it leaves out some of the more intimate details. But if you have any questions about it, let me know. I'll probably not have any answers, probably just an incessant string of annoying questions, but I'll do my best.


Jamie Dawn said...

My hubby has always been one to question things. He got into some trouble in Bible college for that.
I am questioning a lot of things regarding my faith, especially in the past couple of years.
We truly do walk a journey, and we find ourselves in places we never intended to end up. I think it's best to keep trudging forward, asking all the questions we need to, instead of staying stagnate and afraid of getting answers we may not like.

Call Me Ishmael said...

I've tried to interact with Brian McLaren's work at

Scott said...

JD, I'm with ya.

Ishmael, thanks for the link. I appreciate that.

truevyne said...

Thanks for outlining your journey for us. Sometime share some of those intitmate details when you are up to it.
p.s. I don't fit in nice and neatly into any denomination or movement either. I believe it's for a purpose. What's your purpose?