Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pack the House #2

Where did Heathen Church come from?  Good question.  The answer is a complicated one.  However, I will answer it as best I can, not in chronological order, but rather the order that will be most conducive to understanding it.  Now I know this all sounds terribly mysterious, but it really isn't.  It's just how my poor, feeble mind works.

Throughout my life when I look back at all of the churches I've attended/served, the vast majority have been fairly affluent.  The idea of affluence in this context, really should be taken two ways.  The churches generally appealed to a more affluent congregation and or they had more money in the coffers than they knew what to do with.  In most cases it was both, but not all.

It's always amazing to look back through the lens of hindsight to see how God may or may not have been working in our lives towards a specific trajectory.  I recognize that from my current vantage point it is very easy to see the steps that led me to this place and it all seems frighteningly clear.  I think there's a lot of currency in the road map as I see it simply because everything about this place where I now sit is so contrary to what I wanted while on that journey, virulently so in some cases, and yet here I sit marveling that so few understand why I count myself so blessed and joyful.  I mention all of this because I am also aware, painfully so, that if I were sitting in an office in any of these other churches or churches like them, I could probably carve you up a pretty compelling case as to why God led me there as well.

In each of those places there was always something stirring within.  Something that made me uncomfortable and unable to sit still.  In some of those places, it was incredibly painful.  There's nothing like feeling the undeniable push of God and not knowing where or why He's pushing.  This discomfort often led to irritation, agitation, and unfortunately disdain.  Let me be clear, I don't believe these feeling were the intent of God, but rather how I manifested them.  I constantly felt spiritually unsettled, always looking for what it was I felt God pushing me towards.  And I'm going to be really frank and really raw, but looking back, there were times where I could be such an ass as I working through these things.  I think I was generally loving and certainly well intentioned, but at times a loving, well intentioned ass all the same.  God was stoking a fire, I was growing anxious, and not always responding how He probably hoped.  It's a horrible feeling to know that there is something more, that you are being pressed towards something, and you want to obedient, as a matter of fact, you want nothing more than to be obedient, but you have no earthly idea what it means to be obedient in the unknown.  Admittedly, I hate to sit still, so this was torture for someone like me.  (Let me state that ministry is obviously as needed and as valuable in those contexts as it is in the context where I feel that God was leading me.  It's just that I was called to something else.)

It all started to come into focus (other things had happened prior to this, but remember, we aren't being chronological) in the summer of 2010.  I was serving as a stage chaplain at the Ichthus festival in Wilmore, Kentucky.  Given my long hair, tattoos, and my perpetual status as "resident wild man of wherever I find myself”, I was immediately assigned to the "Deep End" stage where the heavier, more "outside the norm" Christian acts performed.  I was surrounded by people who made me look like a choir boy.  Goths, people covered in tattoos, piercings, and outcasts.  On the surface, these were people that would have been/would be immediately dismissed by the Church.  I could hear the commentary of the contemporary church in my head, “Sinners one and all, lost, damned, and condemned”...until the worship started.  I was home.  I had NEVER witnessed such powerful worship in any church I had ever been in.  I stood with tears in my eyes watching the Church manifest right before me in those who would have been outcasts in every church I had ever been in.  The gears began to turn and my life, ministry, and heart were forever changed; I found peace.

The idea of ministry that was intent on casting aside the pretense that so often defines us, ministry intent on chasing after those that "no one" else wanted, and those that Jesus would have hung out with...I accepted my identity in Christ.  The seeds of Heathen Church had unknowingly been planted.

I'd be remiss if I did not mention a conversation I had with Veronica Benton of the White Collar Sideshow (she probably doesn't remember this) alongside the main stage during this event that provides a pretty powerful illustration of what I'm getting at.  Before I begin, if you've never seen WCS, seriously, make a point to do so.  They are absolutely incredible and their witness powerful.  

I was assigned to be their chaplain when they played the main stage that night after Skillet, for whom I was also assigned.  If memory serves, it was TD's birthday that night (Veronica's husband) and they were going to surprise him, so I was standing alongside the main stage talking with her about the instructions for the surprise.  We stood there watching Skillet perform, highly polished with a crazy light show, fireworks, and smoke.  It was obvious that a lot of money and resources went into their show; they had the absolute best of everything.

As this was going on, Veronica said something to the effect of marveling at the production of it all and I can remember so clearly being a little taken aback as I answered honestly, "I'd much rather watch you guys."  She responded, "Really!?"  I said something that I probably remember as sounding far more powerful and eloquent than reality will bear, but I replied with something to the effect, "That's all just for mass consumption, what you guys are doing is changing lives and truly setting people free."

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