Let’s start simply. While at Life Center (now called Journey church) I wondered about purpose. Both the purpose of all humanity and my specific part in it. Where do you even begin with questions like this? Not to mention being narcissistically stuck in your own head and having others opinions coming at you from all sides, while keeping an open mind. How do you honestly find truth and purpose?
“God….what do you want? What is your purpose with all this? What do you have in your mind?”
I came upon a book that would eventually help me get to those questions. It is called The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. I do not know Mr. Warren’s intention for writing this book, but I did not get the impression that it was for questions like these. Nevertheless, this is one of the many questions/prayers that came from the book. I am forever grateful for that book. I do not think that that book came to me out of sheer coincidence.
My friend Roger Samour gave me that book right before I moved to Tennessee for about two years. The book opened up my imagination to dream. Dream about what I wanted in this life. “If I could do anything that my heart desired when it comes to ‘ministry’, what would that be?” This, of course gave way to more and more questions. But something rather remarkable happened. At least I like to think so. Though most, I assume, would call it trivial. I began to get pictures in/from my imagination. When I read the bible I considered what life looked like with regard to context. It was amazing! Beautiful pictures of people living together, depending on one another for the simplest of things. Families, meals together, witnessing change in peoples lives as diverse as a spectrum, miracles small and overwhelmingly large. Just maybe life the way it was originally intended, if there is such an intention, which I believe there is.
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need. And day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved.” Acts 2:42-47
After moving to TN, praying and pondering these things further, I came upon another book that would prove to be a milestone in my existential rabbit hole. A book called Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola. It caught my eye while I was perusing the “christian” section of a book store. Obviously because of the provocative title. I read the introduction. I was like……YEAH!
It is a historical study of where our current protestant church practices come from. It is somewhat of a hard read unless this specific topic can hold your attention. Parts of it can still be a chore, but well worth the grind.
The Lord used this book to shake my world and turn it on itself. And that was only the beginning. A slight sting of the birth pangs to come. With regard to then and to now, that’s putting it particularly bland. I don’t want to frighten you from “the road less traveled” but it was all hard and still is.
For circumstances that I won’t go into now, I made the move back home to Russellville, AR. I was both excited and scared to share these things that I’d ventured into over the past couple of years with the people that had helped me in all my jaunts with Christ. Upon sharing a bit of these new perspectives, they were anything but welcomed. Though I don’t blame my listeners. It was my complete lack of articulation and my controlling nature that gave way to their occlusion (picture a kid not wanting to eat spinach). For that, I apologize.
Now, chewing on the idea that I have to be careful how I go about these ideas and to whom I disclose them to, I continued down stream with the status quo and kept my mouth shut, stabbing ideas wherever I could. I continued to study the bible and other books by other authors on the same types of subject matter, trying to soak it all in, praying all the way. Further and further down the rabbit hole I started to see inconsistencies with the life around me and what I was reading in the Word. Eventually my conscience got too substantial to bare, and I left the institutional church never to return in the same capacity. Done with church forever! It was a hard decision, but an important one. It has made all the difference.
Wesley – Nashville, TN