Q & R: Am I Doing Something Wrong? Why Don’t They Get It?

Here's the Q:

Dear Brian,

I feel that you have been a voice and presence in my life for a long time- maybe twenty years. I started with your book “A New Kind of Christian” and have an entire section of my library of your books. I attended a workshop many years ago in Goshen Indiana at the college there where I met you, and found you a kind and tender soul. Your work has opened my mind to a way of looking at my faith through different eyes.

... I came to faith at a very young age, with a distinct memory of God touching me and forever changing my life. I grew up in a pretty Calvinist denomination. About 12 years ago I was able to become a “Licensed Pastor” which is a way for a person to be a pastor without a full seminary experience. My focus has been discipleship and small group study. I also preach and teach and do all the pastor type duties part time at my church. Some members do not like the fact because I’m a woman that I’m allowed to do this.
Because of that, I have found a voice outside my church community.... The goal for us as humans I believe, is to be self-differentiated and still connected to our community because of who we are in Christ.
I have been teaching/leading a small group of women who do not want to have anything to do with “church”. They love what they have been learning in our sessions. So here is my question- I have told them that they can do whatever they want with the Scripture reading, but it is the essence of what we teach.
I have a dear friend (well two actually) who don’t have any interest in who Jesus is or how He actually embodies ALL that we are learning. He is the source. They love what they are hearing but don’t want to read any Bible. There is a lot of resistance regarding God as “Father” and they think that Jesus is a really good man, but that’s all.
How do I stay true to my calling and state what I know to be true? They listen to me when I say that all I say and do is through the lens of Christ. They are not wanting to quit, feel loved and accepted by the group, and have seen growth in their lives.
The one friend has listened to all of the podcasts “Learning How to See” and she has read three of your books. I reminded her that you are a Christ follower.
I’m not sure what I’m asking you Brian, but I guess I’m asking for patience and love that they will understand all that God has done and is doing in their lives. I’m asking for prayers in this and any
 encouragement. I love these women, and am excited for what God is doing.
Thanks for listening Brian. I love your books and podcasts. I am always blessed by them and you!
Here's the R:
Thanks for this note. It reminds me of how I felt in the early years of being a pastor. People were having deep spiritual experiences with God, but they weren't accepting all the doctrines and understandings I "knew" they had to accept. It was very frustrating, and I was afraid I was doing something wrong. At times I tried to pressure people toward what I "knew" they were supposed to think, but it felt inauthentic and even manipulative. So gradually, I began learning what I think Peter learned in a story in Acts 10 (you might enjoy re-reading it) ... that God accepts people and isn't limited by what we humans think are requirements or prerequisites. For what it's worth, I think you're doing everything right already ... and if you just keep loving and supporting these women in their lives, they'll be moving in the right direction whether or not they are ever are as comfortable with some teachings as you are. In my two most recent books, I talk about my "Inner Fundamentalist," and it sounds like you have one too ... as do so many of us! I hope you can send him/her out for a long lunch break ... and keep up the good work.

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0 Comments5 Minutes

Do I Stay Christian? responses flowing in …

It was great to see my new book reviewed in a thoughtful article from National Catholic Reporter. You can read it here. 

It's also wonderful to receive notes like this ...

I simply wanted to say “thank you” for your most-recent book, Do I Stay Christian?. Of course, I've been a silent fan of your books. I am serving as an ordained minister in my beloved United Methodist Church connection. I carry fond memories of cherishing your books when I was a college student in Korea. With your books, I find myself nodding head, underlining and writing notes in the book, and taking moments to ponder. I appreciate your sincerity and honesty. I feel you keep in your heart and mind both God's Spirit and God's people.
 
Again, the reason why I took this courage to drop notes this time is because I couldn't resist myself appreciating the latest-published book of yours which couldn't be this powerful voice without your courage and love with which you embrace all pains of encountering how you were shaped deeply as a white, straight, 20th-century, American Christian man.
In your confessional, and thus prophetic words, I find answers to why I have been disturbed in my communities of religious leaders. It comes with a better understanding of why the struggles weigh on my inner being: that I cannot find my place in the society and church alike as they in the binary dualistic system seem to force me to choose one side and align every part of mine in the side. I do believe that it shouldn't, doesn't have to be not A or anti-A, but the ground, or the embracing space - the next dimension - is what my heart is striving for. And, I believe that my God is such an encompassing God, and it is the One who desires to see all the creatures - all on this beautiful planet - flow and flourish, move and interact freely to the fullest of life.

[In my congregation, I find] myself presenting my deep beliefs in Missio Dei (God's Mission), panentheism, liberation as salvation, post-colonial practice of faith, and so forth. 

 
Truly, the book was an awakening call, an eye-opening impulse, and a fresh-look on the matters of faith [for me and those I have shared it with, lay and clergy]. Again, I simply wanted to remind you that there are lovers of your book out here! Lastly, I'd like to say that voices of the oppressed are welcoming you and appreciating your voice of confession!
 
Overflowing Joy and Gratitude,
If you'd like to order the book for yourself or as a gift for someone, you'll find ordering information here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250853035/doistaychristian

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0 Comments3 Minutes

Homilists for the Homeless …

I'm honored to contribute to this book of sermons ... it follows the liturgical year (Cycle A), and all proceeds from the book go to help the homeless. Here's a description:

Once again, Clear Faith Publishing brings together some of the finest homilists to build a new compilation of homilies and reflections for Cycle A of the Liturgical Year. A Prisoner and You Visited Me breaks open the Sunday and Feast Days readings in order to provide insight, warmth, humor and spiritual food for the reader. Under the moniker ‘Homilists for the Homeless’ the gift of these preachers makes it possible for proceeds from the sale of every book to go toward charities that serve and support those who are living on the margins.

This would be a great gift for a priest, preacher, or seminarian in your life ... and you'll find it enriching for yourself as well! You can order here:

https://bit.ly/CFPLaunch

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0 Comments1 Minutes

A Table Grace for Thanksgiving

This table grace has been my companion for a few years now. If it is helpful for you, I welcome you to use it - just the first stanza, or several. The leader can say the first three lines, and everyone can join on the fourth line, We give thanks with all our heart.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

 

For this breath, for this heartbeat

For this meal with these companions

For the web of life of which we’re part

We give thanks with all our heart.

 

For sun and rain, for soil and season,

For ocean, mountain, forest, meadow,

For the web of life of which we’re part

We give thanks with all our heart.

 

For all to whom this food connects us

From field and farm to store and table

For the web of life of which we’re part

We give thanks with all our heart.

 

For bread and wine upon this table

For this deep mystical communion

For the web of life of which we’re part

We give thanks with all our heart.

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0 Comments1 Minutes

Do I Stay Christian? Four Stages Charts

Folks who listen to Do I Stay Christian as an audiobook have been asking for the 4 stages charts in the Include and Transcend chapter. Click here to view them.

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0 Comments1 Minute

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