Thursday, January 08, 2009

Who Am I - Faith/Ministry version

You should never encourage people who like to talk about themselves to talk about themselves.

I promise I'll keep this short and I'll be done after this one.

For a while at least.

It occurred to me that I'd given rather short shrift to my life in faith and my ministry in my last post. That would not be an accurate view of who I am at the moment. So a few thoughts:

I am a product of the late 60's - early 70's in the church. I can hear the eyes rolling in certain sections of the peanut gallery! Say what you will about that time in the church but those "hippie priests" as I like to call them (not that many of them would really qualify) made a deep and abiding imprint on me. They served God well in at least one young life. As a youth minister today I know what a victory that is.

While I hate the "numbers game" I must admit that I'm trapped by it. Part of how my success is gauged is by how many "butts there are in the pews" at youth events. I understand why some people do that, they need some way of quantifying what is done for financial reasons. I absolutely can not abide it in other youth ministers. It is ego pure and simple. How many kids do I get at youth events? As many as God sends me. Period. This is something of a hot button for me.

I don't read many "Christian" books and I listen to virtually no "Christian" music. I don't much like reading youth ministry books for that matter (but I am this year as a way of better serving others). To be honest they bore me by and large. I've enjoyed "Blue Like Jazz" and "Speaking of Faith" but they are not the norm in my experience. My wife loves praise music. I have a limited appreciation of it. Too much of the music reminds me of the love poetry of 13 year old girls. Rather treacly and swoony. On the other hand unlike a fair number of others who don't like this stuff I don't disparage those who do like it. If it brings you closer to God, if it helps you on your walk do it with my deepest, most heartfelt blessings. Most youth ministry books strike me as overly earnest and very much in the "Here's the magic bullet" mode. This year may teach me differently. My plan is to read around 25 youth ministry books and review them. (And yes if you publish youth ministry books and are willing to accept a completely honest review, send me your book and I'll put it in the queue)

I am moderately liberal in my theology. But my theological spectrum changes a little based on the issues. I have no trouble repeating the Nicene creed even though I know my understanding of some of the tenets aren't quite the historic understandings. What does that mean? It means I don't know if Mary was a Virgin or not but that I acknowledge that we have historically referred to her in that way. More importantly I believe that whatever characteristics God required of her, she had. And I believe THAT is all that matters. I have leanings both high church (I like icons and some chanting) and low (I could live without incense and my attitudes toward the clergy are really rather protestant).

I find the Bible to be a constant source of wonder and challenge and inspiration. It's also troubling and puzzling.
I don't read it as often I think I should.
I care far more about what the Bible means than what it says.

I am astounded that God called me to minister to young people.
I am astounded that young people seem to agree that this is what I should be doing.
I am further astounded that my heart of heart agrees.

I don't wear my religion on my sleeve. I don't wear a cross usually unless I'm serving as lector or chalice bearer. I don't invoke God's name very often. Normally if you sneeze or if I'm very angry. I understand that one of those is probably not a good habit to have. I take the direction to not flaunt my religious practice very seriously. At the same time I am finally comfortable admitting that I am a person of faith, a Christian even! That's a big change.

Church politics annoy (nay anger me!) even more than office politics. Yes, I honestly expect us to be better behaved than that.

My faith has made a difference in my life. I do not believe that I am a finished product or that I can rest easy. Faith is a journey, one that lasts every minute of every day for all of my life. I'm doing the best I can.

My hope for the next world (believe in it, yep) is that I'll earn a "Well done, thou good and faithful servant". They can give me the cheesiest robe, the most out of tune harp and a tarnished halo. Stick me in the back row of the heavenly choir. All I need is that.

I'm not as good a person of faith as most people think. I'm not as bad a person of faith as I think.

God isn't done with me yet.

But I need to be done with this post.



LeeThePisky said...

Yes, Jay, you are a remarkably good person of faith, and a remarkably thoughtful and eloquent one at that.

Never have a doubt that you're doing exactly what God has called you to do, and that you're doing it in just the way he'd have you do it.

And I can assure you that you won't be settling for a tarnished crown or a cheesy robe.

forsythia said...

Your post resonated with me.

DaYouthGuy said...

Thanks to you both. I wrote this with a certain amount of trepidation. Making statements like this can be dangerous when you work for the church. You're bound to tick someone off.

But then that was Jesus's stock in trade wasn't it? lol