It may come as a shocker to some due to the things that I post and blog about, but I am a very spiritual person. I do not consider myself religious, because I believe religion divides rather than builds, tears rather than heals, blinds rather than illuminates, and goes to war rather than goes to bat. I will admit that I may have some bias in this regard, which I can explain below.
Growing up, my parents took me to a Southern Baptist church several times a week. My involvement ranged anywhere from helping to cook mens’ breakfasts to preaching — delivering my first sermon at the age of 16. Although I found myself very active, I never really “fit in” like most kids. Sure, there were people that invested in me, and encouraged me in my faith, but I largely was an outcast…often turning to trusted friends, alcohol, and drugs to fill the existential gap that existed from not having many allies on my journey.
I have been fortunate to see many young men come to faith in Christ. All these experiences were while I was in the Navy. There were a handful of comrades that were able to surrender to Christ on my watch. It was an honor, and not something I speak of often, because I want to avoid a prideful stance regarding the matter. In reality, all I did was make myself available, and speak Truth into their lives, and I know for a fact the one of them is still actively living out their faith, because we still hang out on the regular to this day.
As I grew in life via the military, a near-fatal car accident, and a few other tragedies, I became less connected to being a Southern Baptist, and went more toward a Charismatic/Interdenominational bent..which is where I still stand; but, not before I became a licensed minister under the Southern Baptist convention, and started a philosophy baccalaureate degree at a well-known Seminary. My biggest problem with the program, I realized I was a total existentialist, and that was a problem for many in leadership. What did I do? I dropped out the week of finals, waited tables for the summer, and started a book…my first book. It’s complete, and I am currently working on getting it formally edited and published.
With full measure, I jumped on the “I hate the church but love Jesus” movement. Honestly, I still find myself struggling with it 7 years later. Church is difficult for me because I believe in a Universal Church, and see the local church as a hindrance to the work of the Gospel. Yes, I know how strange that sounds to many of you, but I would rather see faith worked out through everyday situations unhindered by bureaucracy and committees, but I also have come to an understanding that this bias is largely due to being involved in many deacon-run Southern Baptist churches.
My wife and I are plugged into an interdenominational church here in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. We are new, but committed. We also continue to have friendships with people from other churches…continuing to function with the Universal Church mindset. I am not perfect, but I am continually growing in my understanding of faith, love, and hope…not just a temporal hope, but an eternal hope founded in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. To me, this is the simplest of faith, and I don’t think it will take much more than that to make an accurate and viable impact on this broken world. For those that read this and think, “heresy” I still love you. For those that understand exactly where I come from, know that you are not alone.
My parting thought for this blog: I do everything I can to avoid self-identifying as a Christian. Acts 11:19-26 talks about how the Church was scattered as a result of persecution, specifically the stoning of Stephen under the supervision of Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul. As the Christians dispersed into the world, they were first called Christians at Antioch. This means that they didn’t go around telling people that they were Christians. In fact, they would have identified as followers of “The Way.” I would hope that as I live my life people would come to me and say, “I don’t meet many people who are the real deal [with regard to faith], but you are, and I appreciate it.” This warms my heart, but at the same time, I do the things I do because I believe they are right in the eyes of the Lord. I don’t work for an Earthly reward, but a Heavenly reward. It’s easy to lose sight of this sometimes, but it is true, nonetheless.