Actually, Non-Prophet neither looks like this or is from KC. But I thought it was a cute pic nontheless.
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a wonderful party put on by Mr. Non-Prophet at his residence. Even though it rained while we sat on the porch most of the time, there was good company and good food and beverage.
It was an interesting experience for me. Why? First of all, I am rarely if ever invited to parties, much less parties where I know nobody. I throw a lot of church parties for teenagers, but that is a little bit different environment and different social skill set.
As most of you know, I am a fairly introverted person. So I was a little nervous going to a place where the only interaction I have had with people in theological and philisophical debate online. But Non-Prophet was a hospitable host, and I soon found a few people to visit with. And I have to say I enjoyed myself a lot.
What was suprising, challenging, stressful, exhausting, and enlightening all at once was not that the environment was much different at the BBQ, but that the environment was much the same. Not to long after arriving and people finding out what I do for a living, I was inundated with questions about my faith commitments, my thoughts on theology and philosophy, and my journey on how I came to do what I was doing. So for around 3-4 hours I was standing on a porch, drinking a beer or two, and explaining my core beliefs and life commitments to folks that I had met five minutes ago. I was glad to discuss with them. It was a great opportunity. But I was a little saddened that I couldn't just talk and down a couple of the brats and beers I brought and just get to know people and make some friends and be normal. I left a little early cause I was intellectually exhausted.
And this exhaustion reminded me of a couple things. First of all, I was very thankful to be included in a circle of people that are so different from me in outlook of life and experience. Second, even though I believe I am a very down home, non-churchy guy, in this circle I felt like I was in a whole different cultural context right here in Colorado Springs. And third, I am not as smart as what I think I am most of the time.
Finally, as a minister it seems no matter where I go, I cannot escape being a minister. On the plane, in a home, at a restaurant, I am somehow marked by my call to ministry. Which is simultaneously a blessing and a curse.
Of course, there are also some things that did not surprise me.
First of all, despite what most conservative Christians may think, most of our neighbors around us do have a deep spiritual hunger. They want to connect with God. They want to have a life changing spiritual experience.
As I talked to a couple of the guys, it was very clear that they were not as much against Jesus as they were the church and church people. Which is totally understandable. I often feel the exact same way. But as I talked and listened to my new friends talk about the shallowness of materialism and greed, the importance of simply loving your neighbor, and their passion for an "authentic spiritual journey", I could not help thinking that many of the people in my church would be surprised to be in this situation and having this conversation.
What stands in my new aquaintences ' way is the same thing that stands in most folks way. What is that? The three S's
sex--Most can't relate to a conservative Christian sexual ethic. Even more, they have a hard time relating to the people in church that seem to carry such judgement around these issues. So they stay away.
substitutionary sacrifice--Most people can relate to the resurrection and the teachings of Jesus. Most people have a hard time with the Cross. The cross is always the stumbling block. It is fine to agree with Jesus. It is hard to believe that the cross is the only way to salvation.
surrender--Christians have put themselves in a battle for culture. Many non-Christians avoid Christianity because they feel they will have to surrender to a conservative ideology.
So, often I am left to go back to my study and my closet, and ask myself again, what things as a part of my faith are non-negotiables, and what things are simply preferences. Which makes me think about something else. As much as Christian people ask spiritual seekers to come and learn from them, how many Christians are willing to let the Spirit teach them through spiritual seekers? And if we are lot willing to learn, how can we be asking other people to learn from us?