As some of you may have read in an earlier post, I will be taking part in the Futuregen conference here in Phoenix in March. From what I gather it’s a conference that will be mostly made up of Christian ministry workers and will focus mostly on how to reach young adults. I asked for some suggestions and many of you pulled through with some great comments and questions. In this post that I’ve split up into to two different peices, I’ll be taking a closer look into what it is my perspective really is and what useful ideas i may have, if any, to offer a room full of pastors.
Basically I’m at a point where I need to find a way communicate in some way my take on the perspective of those outside the Christian church culture. I’m in a very unique position in my life in that although I’m a Christian, I rarely hang out with other Christians other then when I’m with family members or the occasional bible study group. When I work, I literally travel and live with those I work with (all of them are great friends of mine). In this traveling group of secular misfits, I’m usually the lone “religious nut” in the room. As someone who is a Jesus follower but often finds himself outside the Christian culture socially due to my “secular” status, I get asked a lot about the opinions of those who are outside the Church walls.
I grew up in a church environment that was firmly in direct opposition to the secular world around me. No rock music, no rated r movies, no alternative radio, no tattoos, no earrings. Although not totally prohibited, drinking was frowned upon. No bad words, no hanging out in bars, etc. They even showed the junior high group the video “Hells Bells: The Dangers of Rock and Roll”!
Ironically, I’ve now found myself playing drums in a moderately successful secular rock band. I am currently living a life that is in direct opposition to what I was told was “good” by the church while I was growing up. Even more ironic is that I sense a deeper connection to God now than I’ve ever had growing up. As a young churchgoer, all the dos and don’ts got old. The villainizing of the secular world began to go in one ear and out the other. I began to sense that merely following a specific moral code wasn’t enough. I became suspicious of the church and packed my bags and checked out. (To be fair, I need to clarify that the people who I was surrounded by as a young believer were all very loving towards me. My parents, my sunday school teachers, my youth pastors were all amazing people for me to be around. I learned many great life lessons and useful wisdom from them during this time and for that I can only be eternally grateful.)
As I graduated from high school, my band ended up making a path for our selves professionally and started playing shows in the Phoenix area and eventually all over the country. As I ventured out into the real world and into the heart of secular America, my suspicions of the church were confirmed. I walked into dingy bars and slept on the floors of strangers’ homes and found a real world with real problems. I found people who, under the surface, were no different than those in the church. I found people who were honestly searching for answers in life but had been previously burned by flames of fundamentalism. I’ve met homosexuals who wouldn’t be caught dead in a church for fear of death itself. When interacting with these amazing, interesting, and wonderful new friends it became pretty clear to me: the God I learned about when I was a young believer was dead to them. In a way, I can’t say I blame them because that God was dead to me as well as I pulled away from church activity in high school.
It wasn’t until a few years ago, in my mid twenties, when I was shown a new picture of what God might look like through a new lens. Through many discussions with my friend John Chandler, sermons by Rob Bell, and books by Brian Mclaren and Dallas Willard did I start to see my relationship with God in a totally different way. It was a way of framing faith in a way I could approach with passion and conviction and not the embarrassment and doubt that choked my experience as a young believer.
Now that I’ve been given a glimpse into a fresh and renewed perspective on following Jesus, where does that leave me in my surroundings today? Has God placed me in the secular music world for a reason? If so, how am I to proceed in a world that is becoming increasingly resistant to what the Christian Church has to offer? I have further thoughts on this but I’ll put up the rest of the this post some other time. Until then, I’d love to hear more thoughts and suggestions.