December 14, 2017

Into the Wilderness…

Alex Colville - Horse and Train

Alex Colville – Horse and Train

I left a good church last month.

It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

Why do I call it good? It was full of people whose hearts were in the right place. The leadership was comprised of quality individuals. It was a church that wasn’t satisfied with the status quo and was seeking to evangelize and disciple. The people there were welcoming, caring, and loving. The music was consistently well done. I was part of an awesome small group (the thing that made it hardest to leave). I could go on and on about the different things I liked about this church.

When we first came to the church eight years ago it felt like home almost immediately. I recall a conversation early on in our time at the church. “How long have you been at the church”, one lady asked. “About nine weeks”, I replied. “Wow!”, she said. “It seems like you have been here forever.”

I have chosen not to elaborate on the details about why I chose to leave, other than to say that over time the church and I started heading in different directions, both philosophically and theologically. Well-intentioned people don’t always agree. Two sets of people with the same goal might come up with very different approaches to achieving that goal. Christendom is full of examples of that. In the past, on this site, I have shared much of my theological and spiritual journey. I have formed some strong opinions about many things, and many of these opinions have come as a result of me changing my mind about something I once believed. I also know that a good percentage of the views that I now hold will ultimately be proven to be wrong, which make me very hesitant to criticize those with whom I disagree. Who am I to say that my ideas are right and others are wrong? Maybe both sets of ideas are right, or both wrong.

The divergence of opinion reached the point where I said to myself. “I no longer fit. I don’t belong here anymore.” It caused me no end of anguish when I came to that realization. It took another two years before I could bring myself to write a letter of resignation. I am not a person who wishes to sow discord or dissension, but when I saw the seeds of that creeping in, I knew it was time to leave. I tried to do it as gracefully as possible, but I know that some people were hurt by my actions, and I am truly sorry for that.

I am not convinced that I will find a church that is a better fit and I am not convinced I will find a better church.

More on that in my next post.

As usual your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Don’t Feel Your Touch

In front of a newborn moon pushing up its glistening dome
I kiss these departing companions – take the next step alone
I just said goodnight to the closest thing i have to home
Oh – and the night grows sharp and hollow
As a junkie’s craving vein
And I don’t feel your touch, again.

Bruce Cockburn – June 1987

Comments

  1. Rick Ro. says:

    During a bit of a “conflict” with leadership in my church several years back, I reached much the same conclusion as you: sometimes there’s no right and wrong (as much as we try to paint ourselves as “right” and the other side as “wrong”), but rather it just comes down to philosophical differences of opinion.

    In my experience once I reached that point of understanding there was no right and wrong, that the conflict was just philosophical differences of opinion, it actually became EASIER for me to make the decision to stay or leave. I remember a very cognizant moment when I told myself, “Nothing here is theologically right or wrong, there’s nothing ‘bad’ in what the other people are doing, it’s just that I disagree with the approach. Now, can I live with the philosophical difference of opinion?”

    The answer for me was: “Yes, for a while, with a wait-and-see approach.” My wife and I decided to stick it out and see what God was going to do through these philosophical disagreements, with a periodic “can we still live with this” discussion.

    Break-break…five years later, we’re still at that church, the church has changed significantly toward “healthy”…and this WITH and THROUGH some of those philosophical differences of opinion!

    My conclusion was: Don’t always think what I think is “right” is “right.”

    • Rick,

      My “wait and see moment” was probably three years ago. Two years ago it was the realization that it probably wasn’t going to work, but I would step back and see what would happen. Our paths continued to diverge.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        I understand completely. There were many times when I felt the philosophical differences and approaches were getting too wide to stay, but they never quite got wide enough, thankfully.

    • Sometimes there is no right or wrong, yes.

      But I know I’d probably stay at my church if I didn’t leave me angry and depressed and sad at seeing what it’s doing to my friends and the church every time I visit.

      The ability to “ngaf” and just leave church at church is something I’m working on.

  2. ” It was full of people whose hearts were in the right place.”

    I could never be comfortable in a place like that. I want to be with real sinners who realize that their hearts are not in the right place. But that they are loved and forgiven by the One whose heart is always in the right place.

    Good luck with your search, Mike. Hopefully you’ll find a place where the preacher has the guts to remind the sinners in the pews that they just aren’t up to the task. But that Christ Jesus is.

    • How do you always miss the point?

    • Here is how you miss the point Steve:

      “I want to be with real sinners who realize that their hearts are not in the right place. But that they are loved and forgiven by the One whose heart is always in the right place.”

      Maybe that’s exactly what Mike meant when he said “hearts are in the right place”. But it seems that with many posts, you start off in “preaching” mode. I’ve found that often when people are in “preaching” mode, they miss many points…

    • Why can’t you just charitably interpret a nice, very common sentiment, especially when he’s clearly hurting over this change? Why does it have to be an opportunity to preen about the self-righteousness of others, and how your theology is so very, very un-self-righteous?

      Maybe when Mike says their hearts are in the right place, he means that they are a group who does acknowledge that their hearts are NOT in the right place, and that they are dependent upon the grace and work of Jesus? That they aren’t trying to build an empire, or be rock stars, but just trying by God’s grace to be the church to a broken, despite their own brokenness?

      When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The Law/Gospel dialectic is NOT the only thing in Christianity.

      • And I’m starting to wonder if the Law/Gospel dialectic as typified by conservative Lutheran theology is strictly a very medieval thing and only relevant in the culture it was created in. Semper Reforma, let’s keep going.

        I may have German roots, but I’m not German.

        • Stuart, I have yet to hear anyone explicitly speak of law/gospel in the kinds of Lutheran churches where I was raised and that I now attend (albeit extremely sporadically). It isn’t as set in stone for *all* Lutherans in the US as some make it out to be. What I did hear a lot about was Jesus, and trying to live like him.

        • but in reality (being a German-rooted Lutheran), music is really one of the key things in our services (all those marvelous Reformation-era hymns, chorales and the like), and that has always “spoken” to me far more than any sermon ever could – not least because it’s participatory. Sermons come a very distant third to that, and communion, where I come from. And I’m content with that.

  3. Mike,
    Very poignant and painful.
    “I also know that a good percentage of the views that I now hold will ultimately be proven to be wrong, which make me very hesitant to criticize those with whom I disagree. Who am I to say that my ideas are right and others are wrong? Maybe both sets of ideas are right, or both wrong.”.
    The world, God, everything is so much bigger than our ideas. It leaves us with love alone to move us. Love, untenable and without the incision of ideation is what we are left dependent on to guide us. It is beyond ideas of right and wrong; without a camp. Who knows where your life goes now but based in love there are bright horizons for you my friend. That Bruce song made me cry more than once. All the best.

    • Ps The picture reminded me of another Bruce tune – You Don’t Have To Play The Horses. (Life’s a gamble all the same)…

      • You don’t have to play the horses (So I wait beside the desert) was originally the song at the bottom. I feel like the horse, rushing headlong towards a very uncertain destination.

        • But Mike, if that particular horse stays on that particular track rushing headlong toward that locomotive, its destination is not at all uncertain unless it veers off at the last moment. The locomotive is not going to veer off..

          I’ve been where you are now. We left a church we had attended for 29 years for another, smaller church in a different (but similar) denomination. After a couple of years there, out of the blue I was asked to become pianist at still another small church in yet a third denomination (the denom in which I grew up, actually – UMC) and have spent nearly five happy years there so far among some very loving people.

          Still, I need to tell you what my mother used to say: “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”

        • Yup.

      • The picture is on the cover of Bruce’s “Night Vision” album, which includes that song. Great album.

        • dumb ox says:

          Wonderful song. It was also on the “Waiting For A Miracle” compilation album. “The last light of day crept away like a drunkard after gin.” Bruce can really turn a phrase.

  4. I’m sorry you have to go through this. Best wishes and prayers for your search for a new church. May it end quickly and joyfully.

  5. With a dash of unchecked theological pride in the first few episodes, this could be the story of my Christian life. I have now made up my mind that I will never officially “join” a church again, because invariably when I do, I end up leaving after a few years. 🙁

    I am not convinced that I will find a church that is a better fit and I am not convinced I will find a better church.

    That’s probably the best place to be – at least that’s where I’m at right now, and taken the right way, it relieves a heck of a lot of pressure.

  6. Robert F says:

    The mutability of my beliefs makes me wonder if there is any stable and enduring core to what I call “my faith.” It seems to me that if nothing is fixed at the center of a constantly and pervasively changing complex of beliefs, it’s a misnomer to call it “faith.”

    The discomfort that this thought causes me sometimes makes me envy those who find their fixed center of faith in the sacraments; but it seems to me that, ultimately, finding a fixed center in the sacraments is sleight-of-hand, since there is a huge complex of beliefs involved in such an estimation and understanding of them, and I have not seen how this complex is any more stable and enduring than my own shifting faith complex.

    What is also astonishing and unnerving is that, however much my religious belief systems have changed over the years. my behavior and lifestyle remain remarkably consistent. This leads me to think that what really motivates me has little to do with what I call “my faith.”

  7. Richard says:

    I’m sorry you have come to this pass. I know from experience how much grief is involved in leaving a community. We are here, listening, to whatever you need to say.

    • It can take years to get over it.

      I’ve been researching therapists that specialize in PTSD, some former church friends have been going and talking about things we mutually went through together, and they’ve been finding a lot of healing.

      And grace.

  8. Almost 8 years ago I was penniless. I had nothing in the bank. I had alienated everyone. I was cutting myself and trying to die. I was drinking at least 100 beers a day along with a minimum of 3 fifths of the strongest rot gut I could find. My last eight days up without sleep ended with me almost succeeding. The whole time I was in some way talking to the one who brought me here. Brought me into being. It was bad. Things I wouldn’t begin to tell anyone. I learned.

    I got cleaned up and the lady who somehow still loved me was willing to stay by my side as I tried again. I crawled across the floor every morning tears falling telling Him I can’t do it anymore please help me. Be with me I need you. Somehow and I’m not sure exactly how he was and did. I just kept looking to him. I fell in love again. He brought some people beside me gave me a new church. The right one for me by 3 different people telling me about the place from 3 separate places of my life. I’m not so sure about the place anymore or the fit. I’m not leaving just yet besides I’ve been too busy working this last year and I’ve missed a lot.

    I still come to this keyboard every morning. I still write a poem, something he gave back to me 3 months into my crawling on the floor. Something I had quit in my teens. I seemed to hardly ever be out touch with him in everything I do anymore. I looked to him all the time. I fell in love. I’m in love. I forgive him even though he’s right and I’m wrong and he forgives me even though he’s right and I’m wrong. We have our moments. Never has he failed to elevate me. Things have fallen off and I am better but not there yet.

    I lately think about our thoughts and I wonder how much of it will matter in the end. I wonder about our theologies and how much further we will be brought in the instant we see when we leave here. I see wonderful thoughts and then I think about how much further he actually is. Everything is changing around me or is it the way I see it.

    I have seen so many wonderful things. I live in a beautiful stone house and have more than I could have ever imagined but these things came as I was looking at him. I say to him these things are great but you are greater and I can’t live without you. You are the most important thing I have. My wealth is Him. My prosperity is Him. All I am and could ever hope to be is in Him. When I feel separated it hurts and I am so empty but its not him it’s me. I know what a junkie’s vien feels like and being without God is 1000 times worse. Very few rocks are left unturned in my life so I have a practical understanding, My hands got dirty. Don’t much care about denominations I know how he feels about us. I think his hands got dirty too for you and I.

    Mike Bell, Mike Bell. Thank you for your time.

    • @ W…..I understand. There is something about crawling out of a bottle, where we have gone to hide the pain and confusion, and dropping it all in God’s lap to fix. Lord knows none of my own efforts did any good. I am not prone to grand gestures or ‘Road to Damacus’ moments, but on my knees, in tears and terror, I told God He HAD to get me out of there. He did.

      @Mike….we make stops along the road, learn what we need to learn, and move along. My faith has never essentailly changed (a Catholic I became soon after birth, and a Catholic I will die…) but my understanding, my prayer life, and my vision of this life have all changed over time. I presume it will continue to look and feel differently as I ease out of middle age and into my senior years, whether I have 30 minutes or 30 years left to get ready for the next step, when I pray I will see clearly and spend eternity with He who Loves me.

    • wow! That’s incredibly beautiful

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Is it possible to drink over 100 beers a day?

  9. Christiane says:

    for me, a Church is a place of peace and prayer . . . there is a sense of community with others but it is within the context of worship

    I’m not sure I can relate to an experience where people go to a Church seeking and finding what they need from others present . . . that social context is there but it was never ‘the draw’, no;
    and so it could not for me become a reason to depart from that parish

    when I think of the Church of my youth, I remember attending ‘en famille’, my father drove us there every Sunday for mass, and I remember the aesthetics of holy water, my missal, my beads, the kneelers, the candles, the beauty of the altar and the stained glass windows, the sadness of the crucifix, the ‘bells and smells’ . . . and yes, there were other families there with their fathers and numbers of children, some in my classes at school . . .

    but there was no ‘socializing’ there in that time before ‘coffee and doughnuts’ . . . that came years later . . . it was a time of prayer and of peace

    Church has remained that for me. It is the place I return to for strengthening, and the place I leave to go out back into the world to try again . . . it is a place of renewal . . . it started out that way, and it has remained so for me

    I am wondering how socializing got to be such a focus that it would be the ‘draw’ and also the reasons for leaving when things didn’t go well ? is it a search for a ‘family’ or a group of ‘like-minded’ folk as a refuge from the chaos of what we venture out into during the week? surely there is a shared sense of purpose in ‘the work of the people’ we call ‘the liturgy’, and this is felt strongly, and surely there is a shared strong sense of thanksgiving within communion . . .

    Is there so much difference out there among denominations in what is brought to Church and left there?
    And what is received there and taken out into the world?

    • Christiane,

      I am not sure how you got socializing as the “reasons for leaving”? Certainly not intended from my post.

      • Mike

        If Christiane comes from a more liturgical tradition difference in doctrine or vision may not even be something on the radar if that’s what you are referring to)

      • Mike – fwiw, Christiane is Catholic. As Ken stated, the focus is very different in liturgical churches. I know that i feel great relief as a Lutheran revert, after several decades in the evangelical/charismatic world.

      • Christiane says:

        Hi MIKE BELL,

        I’m sorry if I misread what you wrote, and misunderstood it. I was thinking about a neighbor who left her Church because of a situation that developed between her and some of the other women of the Church, which she had been unable to resolve . . . she didn’t what else to do, so she left all behind her and went away from everything that meant so much to her. It was more from thinking about her situation that I wrote my comment.

        I have spent times in my own ‘away’ from Church, but the longing was always to be there, so I suppose I never really ‘left’ in the sense that many leave . . . a physical departure is not the same when you carry the Church in your heart and in your memories and in your longing, is it? For me, it wasn’t. I can go into any Church of my faith, from the great cathedrals of Canada and our country, to the smallest chapels, and I feel that I belong there . . . so it isn’t a ‘building’ or even a ‘place’ or even ‘a group of people’ that I mean when I say ‘Church’, it is something ‘more’ for which I have no words. Maybe there are no words. I find peace there. That is what I do know.

        Thanks for sharing with us, MIKE. Your writing always causes me to reflect and, in this season of Lent, I need that opportunity and appreciate it.

  10. I’ve watched people go through this process (so far I haven’t changed churches except when we’ve relocated, but that’s another story). What I have learned is this: God allows disquiet in our hearts to pull us into opportunities we wouldn’t consider if we stayed where we were. When Paul and Barnabas split over John Mark, it was ugly, and yet it ended up as if God had planned the whole thing: Silas was discipled by Paul, John Mark was discipled by Barnabas and in the end Paul acknowledged Mark as useful.

    You’ve been patient in waiting for God to reveal your next step. Now he has and you’re taking it, without unnecessary ugliness. He will direct the next step, and the next after that. Sometimes it’s only when we obey that we realize how faithful he really is.

  11. We left our church after being there 10 years, 5 of them being 5 years too long. We had great community there, were very involved, and our small group won’t kick us out….it’s a life group and we are doing life together…no matter where we worship…I love that!

    Like you, Mike, there was no heresy, nothing theologically ‘wrong,’ no glaring issues, just simply as you stated, heading in different directions. We knew finding another church would be difficult, even though where we live there are tons of ‘good’ churches. I decided to go to the Lutheran Church around the corner ‘cuz I could walk there, and we usually attend their Christmas eve services, anyway. I love it….small, intimate, communion every week, a simple sermon–not a lot of dragged out info, and serving the community. My husband hasn’t quite gotten in the church hunting mode yet, which is fine. Until he does, I love where I am worshipping.

    Obviously, you aren’t alone on this journey, and I so appreciated your post. We, too, are not convinced we’ll find a better church…

  12. My sympathies.

    I’m at that point again as well. I haven’t been to the church I’ve been attending for the past several years since November, had every intention of going again, but right now don’t plan on it anytime soon. I will never be a regular attender of that church again, as I disagree strongly with the direction they are going (satellite land grab), the aggressive marketing techniques they are starting to use (sheep shuffling), and regression in theology from the leaders (once fairly open evangelical, now slipping back to conservative baptist). Gave the new leadership over a year despite immediate misgivings over their rhetoric, and I just can’t.

    But like you, I also have a really good small men’s group that I’ve been doing life with that means so much more more to me than the church actually does. The group is fracturing a bit as most of us grow up, get married, have kids (our first child in the group was born last week!), discover as we all grow older we aren’t as welcome in the church as the younger guys (I’m the oldest at 29, which says something), but still loosely holding on. Actually going to see them all saturday for a birthday.

    5 years ago this May I escaped from my cult church. 10 years ago I remember being very happy, mostly sure about myself, enjoying life, and had direction and purpose…then I got involved with that old church, and it destroyed me.

    Now, almost 5 years out from leaving them, I’m slowly moving away from the evangelical world in general. In the past 5 years, I’ve found out that I can no longer in any way accept inerrancy, young earth creationism, dispensationalism, most charismatic theology, the strictest pro-life arguments, the complementarian position, the traditional views on hell, satan, heaven, death, etc…so I don’t know where I fit in anymore.

    So in my fellow friend’s baptist/pentecostal/charismatic/evangelical world, what room is there for an agnostic believer who rejects all that they hold to be TRUTH…and with good biblical, research backed reasons? who now leans christus victor, reads Enns and Wright, thinks a lot of the Bible is just political posturing, believes the devil is largely a made up post-biblical construct (as is the anti-christ), and wants to take jesus at his word about loving God, others, feeding the sick and poor, and who sees the most honest authentic believer in the world as a man who parties hard and rocks arenas nightly in a rock band? what fellowship can there be there? what equal yoking (lol)?

    Jesus is never enough. I mean, I already get shit from the IMONK community on Facebook, with people’s little underhand jabs about “not believing anything” and the subtle implication to just give up and be a full blown atheist or something, lol.

    Nor at this moment do I honestly care. Which is freeing me up to be a better, more stable friend, employee, person…a better Christian. I’ve found a few people to rely on, I’ve found a few sources of wisdom and inspiration I turn to, but the rest…the rest can just jog off.

    • “the rest can just jog off”

      While you make many good, valid points, there is a condescending tone that seems to pervade many of your posts (particularly directed towards the evangelical community). You criticize those who “take underhand jabs” at you, yet you do the exact same thing.

      Honesty and authenticity are great qualities, but they are not greater than love. And while your honesty is appreciated, it is often at the expense of a “well screw you evangelical world” mentality. If you want others to take your positions more seriously, it would be wise to not be so dismissive towards those that disagree with you. Perhaps that’s not what your ultimate intention is, but that is certainly what is conveyed.

      On a side note, what do you mean by “satellite land grab”?

  13. Dana Ames says:

    Sorry for your loss, Mike. It is a loss, and there is grief, and God is with you in it.

    Dana

  14. br. thomas says:

    Hi Mike. Thank you for your post. The impression I have that this decision for you was difficult. I appreciate your perspective, your humility (acknowledging that your perspective/position on some issues may change down the road) and your deliberate response in reaching your decision (rather than just reacting out of hurt or anger). My sense is that this was a decision based on love and a healthy understanding of yourself as opposed to one driven by the ego ( I am right and they are wrong and I gotta get out of here).

    I was wondering if part of your experience relates to what Fowler describes as a transition from one level of faith development to another (I think he would describe it as moving from a Synthetic-Conventional faith to an Individuative-Reflective faith). Your experience, although difficult, does seem to be a normal part of our growth. Moving on does not make us better or more loved by God, rather it simply is an acknowledgment that we have outgrown old ways of believing and experiencing God in our journey. Although those who remain behind sometimes label us as heretics and those who have moved on can fall into the trap of ego-judgment and elitism toward those left behind who have not experienced our new-found truth.

    Regardless, I hope that this uncomfortable period of transition in time will yield for you a deeper trust and a refreshed hope in your life with God and whatever faith community you connect with. Shalom.

  15. Mike, sorry to hear that this is happening, though given some of your postd over the last few years, I’m not surprised that you’ve ended up parting ways. But, as Dana said just above, it’s hard, and grief is very much a part of the process. (Been there, done that myself.)

    Take your time re. the next step… i am sure you will need some time to heal and regroup, and that also is a normal part of the process.

  16. Mike, I’m sorry for the hard process you’ve been going through.

    Though you were clear that you didn’t want to get into the specific issues, I would like to hear some more about how you came to terms with deciding to prioritize the theology/philosophy of the church over the strong relationships you had. It must have been a very, very strong ideological rift for you to leave.

    I hope this isn’t sounding judgy; I don’t mean it to be. I want to highlight this dissonance because I think a lot of people are in the same place, and you are bringing something painful to the light that others might choose to avoid or push down.

    • Here’s my stake in asking you to explain a bit more:

      Last night at our church elders meeting we discussed several congregants who are not feeling well-loved or deeply connected, and we were able to make distinctions between those who were lacking solid friendships in the church and those who appeared unhappy because of ‘alignment,’ issues, i.e. the direction and/or theology of the church. The people in the latter category have not brought anything up to leadership, but instead are making comments to other members. We want to know if ‘alignment’ is the root issue, or if there is something else we could be doing better. And if ‘alignment’ is at the root, do we encourage them to hang in there with us, or find another church home that they will be more comfortable in?

      It’s real stuff.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        I can’t speak for Mike, but seeing as I completely understand his “philosophical differences” take on things, I’ll offer one that I saw at my church.

        My church had gone from ~600 members back in the early 80s to ~175 in the late 00s. With the drop in attendance came the obvious drop in tithes. As the dollars coming in fell, there was sense (very real) that we couldn’t afford our current property. The pastor began meeting with the board to outline a plan for selling our property and moving to a smaller, cheaper site, perhaps even a storefront site.

        I thought this was nuts (and I was not alone in thinking that). At one time early on, I thought this was NOT what God wanted, so I even viewed it as a “THEOLOGICALLY WRONG” thing. Several of us began challenging the Board and the pastor on this “give up” strategy and approach. It was sometime during my interaction with these people that I realized there was nothing WRONG with what they were doing, it was just that I didn’t agree with it. The light went on for me then, that I didn’t have to challenge them on any sort of “what you’re doing is wrong,” but instead just challenge them on whether they thought it was the best approach. That then freed me to relax a bit and just say, “You know what, you can continue to do what you think is best, and I’ll continue to challenge it, neither of us is right or wrong, and if it gets to a point I don’t agree with YOUR philosophy and approach, then I’ll have a decision to make.”

        At some point, most of the congregation sort of objected to the approach, so the Board backed away from the “sell everything” philosophy. The pastor retired, we went through a couple of pastor iterations, re-focused some of our ministries and became “healthier”, and now we’re doing much better.

        • I can sympathize with any ministry wanting to tighten their belt and reduce unnecessary overhead. Efficiency can be a powerful tool for effective ministry. Churches are often too unwilling to admit their failures to live within their means, and I believe this holds them back from being effective in some ways.

      • Rick Ro. pretty much nails it. Not my situation, but a similar concept. I aired my disagreements privately for the most part, and Sean I would give your “alignment” people an opportunity to do that. Sometimes people just need to know that they have been heard to get them on board. Sometimes compromises can be struck.

        • Amen to that. It never hurts to listen, I have been surprised at how many conflicts have worked themselves out quite easily simply because I took the time to lend an ear. Some of the early complainers in my current congregation are now my strongest supporters, by a long shot, partially because they know I’ll take their concerns seriously, and even if I don’t completely agree, I’ll still work hard to help them out.

          Some differences will always be irreconcilable, and life’s too short to let the other ones lead to such, but sometimes it can be hard to tell which is which.

  17. No, nothing makes sense
    Nothing seems to fit
    I know you’d hit out
    If you only knew who to hit

    And I’d join the movement
    If there was one I could believe in
    Yeah I’d break bread and wine
    If there was a church I could receive in

    ‘Cause I need it now
    To take the cup, to fill it up
    To drink it slow I can’t let you go
    I must be an acrobat to talk like this
    And act like that
    And you can dream so dream out loud
    And don’t let the bastards grind you down

    Oh, it hurts
    What are we going to do?
    Now it’s all been said
    No new ideas in the house
    And every book has been read

    And I must be an acrobat
    To talk like this and act like that
    And you can dream so dream out loud
    And you can find your own way out
    And you can build, and I can will
    And you can call can’t wait until

    You can stash and you can seize
    In dreams begin responsibilities
    And I can love, and I can love
    And I know that the tide is turning ’round
    So don’t let the bastards grind you down

    -U2, “Acrobat”

  18. DennisB says:

    Hi Mike,

    I hope you will be able to align your time in the wilderness with the wilderness of Lent. Maybe you could check out some of the writings of St John of the Cross ? This will be a good time for you to focus on the “inner man”.

    What you mentioned resonates a bit with my situation, in that as I’ve embraced patristic witness and re-aligned myself to “Holy Tradition” rather than “Sola Scriptura”, it has placed me in an uncomfortable position in my local church (which is in a low tradition). I can agree with a lot but there is a sense to me that the fulness of faith is missing and I cannot express the treasures I’ve found, or practise the faith in a “fuller” sense.

    This inhibits me from getting involved practically as well (although I have a young kid who also takes a lot of time). What keeps me going is John 17 & what I believe is a mandatory revelation of God’s will, ie moving towards unity. I take it that if I leave simply because I disagree with some theology, I am taking a stand against God’s purpose in eternity. However, the difficulty is that if I take patristics seriously, there is a lot of churchianity out there that I cannot go along with either. I left another “low church” a few years back over the Eucharist.

    It seems that I’m having to “draw lines in the sand” in different places now compared to when I was a Pentecostal. There is a cost in attempting to be a “patristic” Christian & if you are in protestant circles, there is a chance you’ll be making more enemies than before… The good that has come out of this is that now I can see God working in my Catholic & Orthodox brothers & sisters. Now my family has become bigger and my view of God has changed and also the way I relate to Him.

    Anyway, your journey is probably quite different to this. I hope you’ll be able to find a place that can help you contribute to John 17.

    Cheers