Tag Archives: faith

Transitions

I will soon take over as Lead Pastor at the church I have served for the past year and a half. During this transitional period, I have been doing some reflecting and think that it is important to take time to do this when we experience a transition. Here is a list, in no particular order, of things I believe are important to consider before and during a transition.

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  1. Trust

I struggle at times with insecurity. Who am I to think I can pastor a church? Who am I to think I should lead a congregation? Who am I to think I should preach or teach? There are plenty of people who are far better at it than I, so why don’t I just stand by and allow others to do it?

This insecurity often sits alongside fear and can paralyze us. We decide ahead of time if we will step out and trust or succumb to our own doubts and fears, and let’s be honest…we all have them!

When I talk about trust I mean that you have an internal desire to do something combined with external voices that confirm this. One of the most beautiful parts of a community is that they will often see the gifts and talents you have more clearly than you do, and a good community will call them forward and encourage you in those gifts. When both the internal and external align, trust means taking the step despite insecurities or fears.

2. Priorities

Leading up to every transition should be a time to reflect and take inventory of where you have been and where you are going. Where have your priorities been and where should they be? What part of this transition will make it most difficult to keep your priorities in line? If possible, try to find the top three or four priorities and list them out in order. Below are mine:

  1. Family
  2. Health
  3. Job
  4. School

While I care deeply about the church I serve, I must consistently remind myself that my family is my top priority. Being a husband and father bring me the most joy and they are the most important thing in my life by far.

If I am not living a healthy life, everything else will suffer. Health is not often on the top of people’s list, but it should be.

It’s important to have a list of priorities because when things get stressful (and they will from time to time), we need to decide ahead of time what will suffer first, otherwise the things that matter most seem to suffer – crazy how that happens!

3. Sustainability

One of the biggest questions my wife and I have been wrestling with is:

How can we do this in a healthy and sustainable way?

If your single this is a little easier. For those in a committed relationship or a family, this becomes not only about you, but also about them. Perhaps you could do more and still be healthy, but will your family still be healthy?

The question is not can I do this for six months or a year, but how can I do this for years to come without running myself in the ground? This is also important to ask on a regular basis, because there are seasons where we need to work harder, but if those seasons last too long we are in trouble. It takes an enormous amount of humility, wisdom, and courage to recognize that the pace you have been going is not sustainable in the long run.

4. Spirituality

Of course as a pastor this is important to me personally, but I think this is important to most people. With every transition brings a change, and that includes a change to our spiritual lives. Will we have time to engage in spiritual practices or practices that connect us to the sacred? Will our practices need to change? How will I be able to tell when my spiritual life is struggling?

This is especially dangerous for clergy because sometimes everything we do can be seen as doing “God’s work.” We even refer to clergy as those “called to ministry,” a phrase I loath because ministry means serving and I believe everyone is called to serve (technically clergy are those who help equip others to do the real work). Spirituality has to do with the health of the spirit, and keeping the inner life alive. This is something our society often doesn’t recognize, but is vital. If we want to do whatever it is we feel called or led to do, keeping our inner life alive will enable us to pour out and serve others in more healthy and meaningful ways.

 

 

Construction – Deconstruction – Reconstruction

Construction –  the act or process of building something

Deconstruct – to take apart or examine in order to reveal the basis or composition of often with the intention of exposing biases, flaws, or inconsistencies

Reconstruct –  to construct again:  to establish or assemble again

This is almost like a part three of an unintentional series. If you are reading this, you probably have recognized the fluidity of the last three posts (part 1 here, part 2 here) and have also recognized that much of it is me thinking out load and wrestling through some thoughts.

I realize that by doing this it can seem disjointed, but I really started this blog to reflect upon some things I am learning, growing in, and wrestling with.

Construction

This is a phase of life where the individual builds or puts together a world view, belief system, or way of seeing the world. Everyone begins with construction as we each need a way to see and engage the world around us.

Deconstruction

Some move past the first phase and begin to take apart their world view or belief system to examine it. In my experience, this often happens because of a crisis or tragedy of some sort, but can also happen when someone enters into a critical thinking process and begins to raise many tough questions. Often people find the answers they were given to be lacking. This is a healthy phase of life as one takes apart the “system” to analyze it and find areas that just don’t work anymore.

Reconstruction

This is a phase that one enters after they have deconstructed their world view of belief system. In many ways this is putting back together a system using the remaining fragments or pieces that are left over. This is not a neat or easy phase and it can feel awkward, almost like a young teenager whose body has grown so fast that they are still trying to learn how to walk and run without tripping.

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  • Here’s how this looks in my own life

Construction – I was given a great religious foundation from a loving and caring family. I am very grateful for my conservative upbringing. The problem with remaining in the phase of construction is that it can become merely a belief affirmation system. In other words, we simply welcome and learn from those who think like us and if someone thinks differently they are quickly rejected or worse called a heretic and thrown out.

One can see this played out in the conservative/liberal divide within Christianity. Conservatives are great constructors, but are very cautious of entering into the deconstructive phase – usually because of fear. Fear that one will “loose their faith”, become liberal, be deceived by “the devil”. All of this fear is based upon their belief in hell and that if one doesn’t believe the right things then they will spend eternity here.

Deconstruction – believe it or not, I entered this phase while completing my bachelors degree in Biblical Studies at a conservative evangelical college. While my program was primarily focused on the construction phase (belief affirmation), I found that the answers didn’t make sense. What was actually meant to enhance the construction phase, propelled me into the deconstruction phase. So, while those around me were bolstering their belief system, I was finding it just didn’t work for me anymore.

For me, it wasn’t a crisis or tragedy, but an intellectual curiosity – the world was this great big place and if God did exist than I have nothing to fear!

Here’s a summary of some questions I was deconstructing:

What about the obvious errors in the Bible? What about the human aspect of the Bible’s authors that was becoming so clear to me as I studied Scripture in more detail? What about the influence of other religious traditions and cultures on people who wrote the Bible? What about the fact that the Bible doesn’t always agree and it’s authors say different, sometimes conflicting things? What about the violence (esp in the Hebrew Scriptures) and how does that align with Jesus in the Christian Bible? Do people really go to hell who haven’t heard about Jesus? Are gay people condemned? Why does science point to evolution and it seem like we have to throw it out to believe the Bible? What about the good people I have come to know of different religions? How could we (Christians) be completely right and they (other religions) be completely wrong? Why do so many people who hold this view seem judgmental? Why do I seem so judgmental? Doesn’t it seem that Jesus loved, embraced, and included people while I am doing the opposite?

As you can see, I was given a black and white world view but the world was quickly becoming multicolored. This was frightening. Most of the people I knew at the time looked at me with concern – again they feared for my eternal security. I was walking down the slippery slope to relativism. Despite this, I saw something new, and I could not stay in the phase of construction any longer – I was quickly thrown into the deconstruction phase and found that so many answers and ways of seeing the world no longer worked for me.

Reconstruction – I think I entered this phase in my first year of seminary, but to be honest I probably bounce back and forth from deconstruction to reconstruction on a fairly regular basis – at least in the last two years.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, nor do I claim to be far along in the reconstruction phase. If anything I am in between. Sometimes I dip my feet in this phase only to leave it because I have again found something that doesn’t work and I need to deconstruct it.

That being said, here is my hope and intention as I reflect upon this.

The construction phase is helpful and necessary, but someone living in this phase lives in fear and feels threatened by anything different or unknown – I was just to curious to stay here and constantly being “against” everything else was exhausting. Often conservatives never enter the deconstruction phase and instead insulate themselves and reinforce their beliefs, values, and world view. On the flip side, progressives can get hung up on the deconstructive phase and never move beyond. My hope is to move beyond. I have spend the last two years in a deeply formative deconstructive state and have read from many great thinkers, but I have also found that many of them lack something. It’s hard for me to put my finger on what exactly they lack. I would say depth, though not intellectual depth – something beyond this.

I think this is why I have been drawn to contemplative spirituality, but I don’t mean to suggest that this is the reconstructive phase. In part, I think the reconstructive phase is more open than closed, is ok with tension and paradox, moves toward a more non dual understanding, embraces differences and different faiths, and while engages the intellect understands that one cannot know or explain everything. In this regard, they are open to mystery and are people of wonder and awe. They find the sacred in ordinary life and seem to see all of life on a deeper level.

In a way, I have a growing sense that at least part of my calling is to help people through the deconstruction and reconstruction phases of life. As someone who is a pastor and in seminary, I am faced with the reality that culture, society, and religion is shifting. We seem to be moving through a major transition that none of us can fully comprehend.

People will need new ways to think about God. People will need new ways to understand what it means to be a Christian. We can’t remain in the deconstructive phase forever. Something is pulling us forward. My desire is to be a part of this process of rebuilding and reconstructing.