Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Journey over the Last Two Years

This post describes some of the pains and joys of the last two years of my spiritual journey and is to try and explain why I am where I am today on this adventure. Warning the first bit is poetic, it describes the pain of deconstruction in my journey.

Pain disappointment, discouragement, a dark patch surrounding me that I didn’t know why but I knew perfectly why it had enveloped me, taken me captive for a moment. That moment of perfect vision and perfect stupidity took me into its hold and spat me out, weary, confused and wondering how to move forward in my journey.

A few weeks earlier I felt like I could conquer anything, that I was the strongest in the room, no doubts in my head about who I was, the God I followed, how church should be shaped, everything seemed perfect, I was in a dream a perfect dream, but the bubble was about to be popped for the first time in years.

I went from belief to doubt in a few breaths, wondering why it was that I had gotten to the point that I had, I realised that I needed to rediscover my faith, my journey, my God, my saviour.

I had discovered a hurtful painful scary truth in myself, I wasn’t who I thought I was, who I had come to believe. I was looking at myself and seeing a hypocrite staring back at me, acting in ways to save face, to keep hidden what was going on beneath the surface. I knew that something had to change. I had to reorient my life again around Jesus. I had to look at the c.r.a.p (which I described to one person as “Church religiosity and practice) I had put in place of the truth of Jesus and rediscover that once again and find the truth there. In many ways I’m still doing this, rediscovering the arts of spiritual discipline, prayer, learning to love my neighbour, and not making big things out of those which are tiny in comparison.

At this point I read a lot of stuff about post-modern theology, post-modern ministry, theology in general. A lot of this had a profound impact on me, either for good or for bad (I’m still figuring that out for myself as I continue that journey.) I learned about post-evangelicals, about the emerging church, read from Brian McClaren, other Rob Bell and others to get an idea on what was going on both in church culture and Christianity, and outside the church. Still pretty confused, but accepting numerous ideas and trying to rediscover who Jesus was, what Christianity was to look like and what needed to change in my life.

Mostly the most stunning realisation that came was how much crap I had to deal with and deconstruct, reforming my understanding of God to a more biblical understanding, rediscovering that radical nature of Jesus’s message and teaching (something I still don’t have my head around today, as I’ve been learning in the last few weeks.) I kept searching out more and more about God. I did another theology paper, listened to ideas and kept discovering things about what Christianity was about again.

In this period, my cell group started watching Podcasts from Mark Driscoll. To be honest, when I first watched Driscoll I didn’t like him that much. I’ve grown to appreciate his knowledge of the bible, his pastoral heart for the community he pastors, his theological convictions (even though I don’t agree with him totally on everything!) I appreciate what I’ve learned from listening to him. The ideas he introduced me to about being culturally relevant yet staying strong to your convictions and to remaining true to Christ have had a major impact in how I attempt to live out my faith in action. At this point I remained though searching, excavating deconstructing, but keeping connected with people who could help me keep true to God and the bible (thanks Sym and others who have listened to and prayed with me.)

In the middle of the year I went back to Siberia. I had become convinced by then in the importance of mission for the Church and the need for us to move outside the comfort of our culture. I also was pretty convinced that we needed to be doing mission in our backyard, in New Zealand. Not outreach where we organise a big concert but living alongside others in thier space and form relationships, incarnating into thier environment. Organising groups to discover meaning together, to form relationships with one another and to journey with one another. This mission trip was a joy and allowed me to gather my thoughts better, form deeper relationships and practice missional life outside my home culture.

I was still looking, searching for what it meant to be a Christian in the culture and environment we live in. I also had reservations that the churches I saw in Wellington and around the country were engaging very well with the culture around them. How we shaped seems to at times miss the point, even though there are some great churches around doing some great stuff for God and I have had the priviledge to be involved with many sincere followers who really want to see the lives of those around them changed. I got in contact with my friend Mike Brantley. I knew Mike Brantley when he lived in Wellington and went to the same church as him for a number of years. I remember his sermons on culture and place, what it means to be a Christian today, etc. His radical call to engage with the lost had challenged me immensely when I was younger, and I knew I had to get in contact with him. When I heard that he’d moved to New Orleans for ministry I was again intrigued by this guy, he would do anything and everything to minister to the lost in the dark places. So I got in contact with him at the end of 2006 to see what gems of wisdom he had on church and Christianity. As with any conversation with Mike, I ended up having my paradigms challenged and shifting beneath my feet (something that I have been growing used to.)

We got into a conversation about church and I got to write a few epistles to him on ecclesiology and evangelism, one of them you can find on his blog. He challenged me to read the book Exiles, which is one of most life changing books that I have read. Frosts material (both his book and some sermons I have) have had a severe impact on me, leaving me both very uncomfortable but also challenged for the road ahead, it has given me significant ideas for ministry opportunities over the next three to five years and the ideas I have for this year. I was practically moved into a time of rethinking where to go next, where to move forward. Mike had given me a number of options to take with contacts he had given me, and I had found a number of other options I could take, now it was time to narrow it down. One option who he gave me was to talk with Phil Crawford who he told me was setting up a community in Wellington. Which I would latter find out was a Mosaic plant (the plant which I’m now involved in.) I had coffee with Phil one day and was blown away (and frightened) by his vision for a community in Wellington. I said that I would get in contact with him but lost track as he was overseas and I was busy trying to get my life sorted.

I moved into a time of basically hard thinking and looking at my options. It was my honours year, I had a lot of my plate mentally and time wise. I spent a lot of my time though hanging with university mates, getting to know people deeply and trying to share my life with those around me in deep read ways. Just being there listening, talking and being a friend.

In the middle of the year my mate Matt Mansell from Capital Vineyard asked me if I wanted to taste and see his vision for Karori. I spent about two months with the crew from Sanctuary Vineyard tasting their vision and seeing how they are going about the motions of creating a community in Karori. I also spent a lot of time in prayer about whether it was the place that God wanted me, I also spent a whole lot of time speaking to mates about the Church plant. I found that God was telling me quite explicitly that it wasn’t where he wanted me to serve. The great thing that came out of this though was the ability to develop a friendship with Matt who I hold a whole lot of respect for because he has followed Gods call and listened to the heart of God. I know that his humble heart will see his mission being blessed by God.

A while after this I got back in contact with Phil Crawford from Capital Mosaic. He was heading off to L.A at the time but he said I should check out Mosaic. I went along not knowing what to expect. I found a group of saints that I have decided that I want to journey with. They have a similar heart for the city that I do, particularly with concern for those within their twenties to thirties (but like them I don’t want to restrict it to that). My heart resonates with their call to be missional, to see people become disciples of Jesus, to follow the call of Jesus into the city so we can see it transformed. We are a community who wants to embody Jesus in they way we live and the way we relate to people. I weep over the city of Wellington just like Jesus weeped over the city of Jerusalem. I have a heart for Wellington because it is a significant city of culture and power within New Zealand. I believe that Jesus can be a positive influence in this city, changing people through his saving grace so that they can be positive influences in there spheres, whether as bar tenders, artists, musicians, buisiness owners, politicians, parents


Mike said...

Great Post! Thanks for sharing your heart so honestly and without reservation. I like the C.R.A.P. acronym. It's a good reminder of what we need to shed in order to get to Jesus.

That Brantley...he does have a way to cause you to wrestle some more.

Thanks for sharing your journey. I really enjoyed it. I will pray for you, sounds like God has youright where you need to be. Peace.

Nathanael Baker said...

Thanks again Mike,going down the rabbit hole and disovering the real nature of "the Matrix" has been difficult, as you have probrably seen by some of the posts i've written at times.

I like the C.R.A.P acronym too!

Thanks for praying for me, its really really needed!

Jake Belder said...

Yeah man, thanks for being so bold. It's great to hear where and how God has led you, and it will give insight into where you're coming from in future blog posts, as I'm new to your blog!

Nathanael Baker said...

Thanks Jake, Its a real adventure these last too years, it has had real big twists and turns. If you suggested that I would be where I am today 2 and a half years ago I would have thought the person saying that was crazy. Its incredible to say the least!

Its a pleasure having you along for the journey.