Confession Of An Everyday Pastor
By Nathan Bryant, Pastor & Blogger
Most of us live in a shadow of what’s really intended for us. We spend most of our days secretly thinking that if we work harder at life we’ll become satisfied but, if we’re gut level honest, we end up empty. We lose heart, relationships get jacked up, and we slowly tap out while the world continues to do the same to others.
But what if it doesn’t have to be that way? What if there is a way to find more peace, purpose, direction, meaning, and love?
I believe there is a way to do just that. I have always believed it, but recently I have come to understand that I should not just believe it but also expect it.
There is hope. There is life. There is satisfaction. There is meaning to our longing.
Though there are many things that separate the Christian faith from the faiths and belief systems of the human experience in the world today, the one major tenet is our belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
“He is risen!” is a common announcement in our church services, usually echoed by the refrain, “He is risen indeed!”
The resurrection permeates our liturgy, as it should, for it certainly permeates the Holy Scriptures.
Perhaps our favorite verse to quote, to plaster on billboards, bumper stickers, and a football player’s eye paint is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life.”
Eternal life is another dearly held belief, not unique to Christianity, but certainly central.
I believe life is meant to be an adventure. It is meant to be amazing. It is meant to be a worshipful response to who God is. Who is he? He gives life. These two core beliefs, resurrection and eternal life, when properly married together, creates a whole new meaning to living day to day with Jesus.
In the 2016 movie, “Risen” when Clavius is interrogating the disciple Bartholomew about the apparent resurrection of Jesus he asks, “What does this rebirth mean?”
Bartholomew answers, “Eternal life! For everyone. For everyone who believes.”
At first, that bugged me. The resurrection of Jesus means so much more than just eternal life. We can’t just boil it down to that. I know John 3:16 does, but that’s just because we don’t memorize the entire context of that verse. There’s so much more going on in that conversation than just a promise of eternal life.
And, if I am being honest, when I look at my life and the lives of those closest to me, when I look through the lens of history and see what this human experiment has led to, what life really looks like in the mundane, hurt, pain, and routine… part of me, if I am being honest doesn’t really get all that excited over an eternal constant of this.
I know I am not alone in this. I have heard too many stories of pain and misery. I have witnessed too many half lives, men and women walking around as empty shells of who they could be. I have witnessed the shadow that death brings upon a family, the sting of cancer, the heartbreak of war, the depression of a lost job, the meaninglessness of a 9 to 5 clock punch.
“Life sucks and then you die,” is surely a phrase that has found its way out of our mouths at least once. Unlike words spoken aloud that dissipate after a few seconds, these life thieving words seem to echo in the chambers of our hearts, poisoning our attitudes and passion for the world that God has given us to enjoy.
I long for a redemption that can encapsulate all of this and heal the deepest wounds of my soul… I long for something else. So, I go to church. I choose to become a part of something bigger than myself, to join a community of faith, and worship God with others who are on this spiritual journey as well.
That is what we are supposed to do right?
“The local church is the hope of the world,” are more words that I grew up hearing and believing and holding onto just to keep me moving forward.
But I have come and gone, come again, and found myself still asking the question… “This can’t be it, can it?”
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good worship service. I enjoy feasting from the pages of the Bible and soul-enriching words of a sermon. I love to sing (most) of the songs we sing together. Celebrating the sacraments are without any question, THE greatest moments of my entire week.
But I am still left wanting… I still walk away wondering if the last ninety minutes of my Sunday morning are really what Jesus had in mind when He said, “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
I have to confess, the peace of Christ is not ruling in my heart if all the church has to offer is a well produced worship service and a midweek Bible study. (Col. 3:15)
And again, I know I am not alone.
Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it,” (1 Corinth. 12:26)
A worship service, no matter how intentional, cannot, will not, ever be ‘Church’ and all that Church is meant to be. No matter how many bible studies we attend, promote, and engage in… growing in knowledge of texts will not ever be a substitute for living the text out in our Monday through Saturday lives.
“Who we teach people to love is more important than what we teach people to know.” – Seth Wilson
Discipleship is not about attending a Sunday School class. The call to discipleship is a call to live the Word of Christ out in the Spirit of Christ by humbly and authentically incarnating ourselves into the deepest parts of humanity just as Jesus did. In other words, discipleship means being present in the world as the people we are and striving to be more like Jesus each new day. We serve and love, unhindered, unconditionally, and collectively.
We have settled for half-baked discipleship within our Christianity and therefore we have missed what Jesus said and did. We are missing out on the life of Jesus (and the REAL hope of eternal life), by being too preoccupied with what we think we need here and now. We have allowed ourselves to become consumers rather than practitioners, nobles instead of servants, moralists instead of humans.
I point the finger as much at myself than at any institution or ministry. Because I have suffered, I cause the body to suffer. Because I have missed it for so long, I have led others to miss it. I have not given people hope, because I have not had hope to give.
This all is changing for me though. I realized that the “life” I had in my mind for so long is not what Jesus has in mind at all.
It’s not an abandonment of the church, as so many leaders in my generation have succumbed to, but it is a different expression of the church. At the Zoe Project we are experiencing Christ in everyday life, and pursuing Him relentlessly, together. We don’t meet in a building with a steeple. We meet right where you would meet a friend or colleague to catch up on life. We don’t follow a traditional liturgy or order of worship, but we do practice the spirit of the great traditions of the church. We practice confession. We give time and space to unburden. We pray the Scriptures as much as we teach them… and most importantly, we can’t do this alone.
We can’t promise much, but we know Jesus does. If you are ready to experience LIFE full and genuine, we would love to meet you and invite you along into this journey.
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