I Don’t Want to Be a Prophet, I Just Want to Go Home

A friend once described my perception of Christian discipleship as eclectic, and he wasn’t paying me a compliment. He believed that I had drunk from too many different wells, had Rube Goldberg inventiondabbled in too many different traditions, and the result was a sort of “Rube Goldberg” contraption that made Christian life far more complicated than it needed to be.

In response, I suggested that his perception of Christian faith, arising as it did from the tradition into which he had been born, was far simpler than it ought to be. By that I meant that his restricted exposure to traditions outside his own and his limited experience with approaches to Christian faith and practice other than in the community of his birth left him with a myopic perspective. His view of Christianity, I believe, is not merely more simple than mine, it is simplistic. Continue reading

Goodbye to GWILT, at Least for Now

In conversation over lunch one day last winter, a friend and I agreed that there might be some interest, out here on the prairie just northwest of Columbus, Ohio, in a worship service that would combine a focus on serious Christian discipleship with liturgical worship forms. We had both served Mennonite churches and institutions, where we had embraced that tradition’s emphasis on faithful service as the mark of genuine faith. At the same time, we were both drawn to the beauty and mystery that are at the heart of the liturgical tradition in worship. I had even been ordained an Anglican priest in 2011. Continue reading

Could It Happen Again?

I had never heard of the term “epic fail” when I went through one in 1986.

At age 36, I was in my second year as pastor of a large Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, VA. I had joined the church’s staff as an associate pastor in 1982 and was 2called, by unanimous vote of the congregation, to succeed my popular predecessor, who had served in that role for nearly twenty years, when he moved on to a church in Pennsylvania in 1984. Two years into my term, things were not going well. I was exhausted—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—and discouraged. In early January, I resigned, fairly sure that I lacked the gifts necessary for effective pastoral ministry and maybe for vocational ministry of any sort. Continue reading

The Limits of Liturgy

Regular readers of this blog and people who know me personally are well aware of my strong affinity for liturgical worship. I love it so much that I have not been willing to compromise my relatively new-found convictions in this area, not even to save my job. That’s why I can’t wait to see what God might have in store for us through the “gatherings for worship in the liturgical tradition” which begin in Plain City, OH, on February 21. (Facebook users, click here for more information. Others can click on the “Gathering” button under the banner at the top of this page.) Continue reading

The Liturgy Saved Me

Six years ago, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving 2008, while sitting at a corner table at Panera Bread in Dublin, OH, I wrote an essay, later posted as a note on my Facebook page, which I called “I Quit.” I remember the date because I was on my way to the I Quit (1)hospital to spend time with my wife who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Actually, she was in the hospital because the chemotherapy she had been undergoing for three months had made her so sick, she needed more care and attention than I was able to provide for her at home. Continue reading

My Debt To Anabaptism

Today marks the 490th anniversary of the beginning of a movement, which arose as part of the Protestant Reformation, known as Anabaptism. I grew up as a Baptist, and I knew a little about the historical connection between my tradition and Anabaptism. For example, I knew that the “Ana-” prefix did not mean “anti.” Anabaptists were not “Baptist-haters.” (Don’t laugh. An ordained clergyman, who really should have known better, once said to me, in all seriousness, “What a terrible name for a movement. Why would they want to be known as people who hated Baptists?”) Continue reading

Prayer for a Vision: Empower It, Or Shut It Down

On two or three occasions in my life, I’ve had a strong inclination to pursue a particular course of action, but, at the time, I could not honestly say whether I was being led by God or driven by my personal desires and inner impulses. On those occasions, I followed a consistent pattern.

Take a different road.

Take a different road.

I told God (in a reverent and respectful way, of course) that I intended to forge ahead with my plans, since I felt so strongly about doing that, and if the course I had chosen was inconsistent with his sovereign plan, he could close the door or block the road. I wasn’t being obstinate or impertinent. I felt the time for movement had come, I was not clear about the will of God in the matter, and if, when it became clear, I needed to change course, I would readily admit my error and make the necessary change. I believe, over the years, God has honored that honest approach to knowing and doing his will. Continue reading

Turning The Corner?

It’s probably too soon to know for sure, but it just may be that I have finally “turned the corner” with regard to the course of my pilgrimage over the past five and a half years. If that turns out to be the case, it will be, in large measure, thanks to Arthur Lough. More Pfeil 180 Grad II Iconspecifically, it will be thanks to the soul-restoration I have experienced through the process of writing Arthur’s story.

An interesting phrase, “turning the corner.” In a context like this it means to pass a critical point in a process. It suggests that conditions or circumstances have markedly improved after a period of great difficulty or pain. It means that the clouds have parted and the sun has once again begun to peek through the gloom. Continue reading

Announcing Next Steps

I am using this post to bring you up to date on where things stand regarding the vision for a new church in or near Columbus, Ohio. When you finish reading, you may conclude that there is still a lot more to this vision that is tentative rather than definite. That’s true. These skyline (6)“next steps” are not yet anchored in concrete. In fact, what I am sharing here is more like the wooden forms into which the concrete has yet to be poured. But it is a start.

By the way, I am pleased to be able to write much of what I report here in the first person plural, as “we” rather than “I,” since I am serving as the voice for at least two other brothers who share this vision with me. This is a small “core” group, I know, but it is three times as large as it was just a few months ago. And one reason for reporting developments this early, where so much remains tentative, is to encourage others to identify with the vision in its formative stage. I want to provide sufficient information to show that the vision is developing in a thoughtful manner, with no desire on anybody’s part to impose a personal agenda on the process. We are, as much as we know how, waiting on God to direct our path every step of the way.

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The Surprising Satisfaction Of The Sacraments

I served as a minister in the Free Church tradition for more than thirty-five years, first as a Baptist then as a non-denominational evangelical then as a Mennonite. For all of those years, I believed and taught that the benefit to be derived from baptism and communion (also called “the Lord’s supper,” but never “the Eucharist”) was in their value as powerful symbols of “spiritual” truths.

Baptism (1)Baptism symbolized a believer’s faith in Christ as Savior and Lord and the personal commitment to follow Him as a faithful and obedient disciple. Communion symbolized the sacrifice of Christ in His crucifixion—His broken body (the bread) and His shed blood (the wine, or more likely grape juice). Both these practices represented something else. They were beneficial to the degree that a Christian knew what they stood for. They mainly functioned as “object lessons,” pointing to a spiritual reality but without value in and of themselves.

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