Am I doomed to the outside?

I was up at George Fox Seminary for my weekly Pastoral Counseling class and I started to think about the way I come across, how I communicate - how my sisters and brothers in Christ view me.

At the Seminary, I might be something of a novelty. Maybe "the cute little Emergent guy." I don't know, and I don't say it with any malice or discontent: I've made this bed...

I was talking to an acquaintance from a prior class - a big Texan, about my age, currently a youth pastor in Portland. He asked, "Commit any heresies lately?"

I replied, "I can't seem to avoid it these days." We laughed and headed for our respective classes.

But I got to obsessing over my particular calling and path in ministry. I wonder if there's a reason the Lord hasn't released me from my current employement (as much as I've prayed and kept my eyes open for paid ministry opportunties) and why he keeps blessing me professionally while clearly calling me to Seminary and ministry.

Yes, Paul was a tentmaker, and that's probably my lot in life because I can't imagine a church that would be comfortable having me on staff. More and more, however, I'm starting to worry if there are many churches that would put me into leadership (aside from my current one... well, maybe that's my answer) knowing how "rebellious" and "impertinent" I can be.

I love the church. I'll say it again: I LOVE THE CHURCH. I'm passionate about her. I know how silly it sounds to say, but I cry over the church - her sordid, sorry state. And even that sounds arrogant, as if I'm not sorry, sordid and spoiled, myself.

I don't know what my specific calling is. I think it sounds prideful to suggest I'm a "reformer," but maybe that's just a nice way of saying I'm a Devil's Advocate. It's scary. I worry that I'll find myself on "the outside" for much of my life if God continues to lead this way. And for an affirmation-craving people-pleaser, "the outside" is a terrifying place to remain.

read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at

Bonhoeffer's "Life Together"

A friend and mentor of mine, Ted Gillette, pointed me to this excerpt from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together on Sunday morning. It shocked me when I first read it. I’ve since re-read it five or six times…

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.
He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both.

A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves this dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians which his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together.

When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first the accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.

I’ll admit wanting to take one line out of context and argue it if it stood alone: “God hates visionary dreaming.” I think this is harsh and not universally true. But I do think Bonhoeffer has a point within the framing of this community discussion.

Has anyone else bought into one-dimensional idealism? I have, often.

Has anyone rejected the dirty, messiness of genuine community in exchange for a fruitless vision?

Or do you find Bonhoeffer’s words sour or cynical?

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