What am I to do?
I am an introvert in a church tradition that adores extroverts and looks with suspicion on the quiet and the silent.
I embrace the spiritual in a church tradition that has pushed more and more to the academic.
I like to listen to my life for signs of God in a church tradition that thinks faith begins and ends with the Bible.
I am fascinated by 2,000 years of the best practices of the church in a church tradition that thinks church history started with C.S. Lewis.
I want to help develop community and find ways to serve my neighbors in a church tradition that says that these things don’t count for real evangelism.
I like my politics to reflect the Jesus I read about in the gospels in a church tradition that seems to back one side, Christ’s teaching be damned.
So why have I stayed in this tradition? Why have I been in the same church for more than 10 years and the same tradition that I grew up with? I can point to three ideas that have kept me tied to my church tradition and developed my sense of calling within that tradition:
Spiritual Heritage: One of my favorite books is Dakota by Kathleen Norris. In the book, this noted writer and poet with ties to the New England literary elite discusses her heritage in the Great Plains but also her Spiritual Heritage as a Christian and protestant. I loved the way she voices the idea that to be cut off from your spiritual heritage is to be cut off from your identity and your sense of place. I first read this many years ago around the same time as my spiritual breakthrough. As I began to search for deeper and more profound religious experiences, I was intrigued by other traditions and strands of faith as the way I must go but Norris’ sense of spiritual heritage just seemed like a worthy value to hold on to and pursue. It made me appreciate the finer points of my own tradition.
Balanced Faith: Also at the time of my spiritual breakthrough, I began reading Richard Foster. His book, Streams of Living Water, establishes the idea, from a scriptural and spiritual stand point, that the church established by Christ, was not meant to be an affinity group based on doctrine and personal preference but was meant to include six “streams” that have surfaced in various traditions. Foster envisions these streams coming together in a balanced, strong, and vibrant church. What if Charismatics became a little more Word-centered, what if the Christian social activists were a little more contemplative, what if Evangelicals were a little more concerned with social causes? By combining the best of all of these traditions, the Church finds its best footing and is better equipped to do what God wants done. This made so much sense to me. I didn’t want to abandon one affinity group for another, I wanted to be a part of bringing the best practices of Christ’s church back to my own church for the betterment of all the churches.
A Sense of Calling: Dallas Willard says that spiritual formation is becoming who Jesus would be if he were I, with my same background, context, and giftings. If this is true, then I am not called to be another Jesus, as we know him, but one that he would be if he had lived my life and participated in my history. This has brought out a deep sense of place and time for me. Instead of chasing some ideal of Christlikeness that “must” include starting my own church, or attending a certain type of church, or running off to an exotic location as the only real way of living out my faith, I began to realize that perhaps I was called to my church and my tradition to bring more balance to the faith, to bring more heart than head, to introduce practices that may be foreign to some, and present a different approach to the Christian Life that just might help others grow closer to Christ. I felt called to minister to my own church using the tools that I had learned from my readings and trainings in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship. This hasn’t always been easy, but time and time again, I have felt the tug of this call.