I haven’t written much online in the preceding weeks. I am not sure why. It could be one of those things that gets pushed to the back burner when other pressing things become more urgent. In fact, the months of June and July have blown by in a furious pace. I really don’t know where the time went, but I know that I went to the Gaspe on a mission trip, hosted a special retreat week-end, organized The Big Give Event in Lindsay, ran a two-week basketball program, became certified as a basketball level 2 coach, and finished another seminary online course. I guess you could say that I did not have much extra time to blog.
You could also say that I am tired. I am.
Thankfully starting on July 29th I will be on holidays for two-weeks. Each summer we escape to the regions of the north for a two-week hiatus from technology and people. I love it. I look forward to quiet mornings on the lake fishing, and meals together with the family on the deck. I look forward to reading while drinking a morning coffee that’s been perked on the propane stovetop. Best of all, I look forward to no electricity, no cell service and no Wifi.
In those type of contexts I feel as if my spirit comes alive and my soul is refreshed. It is hard to explain to those who cannot fathom the scene or an afternoon without the internet. However, I need those times.
During my recent online seminary course we were asked to do a personality test. It was intriguing and eye opening for me. I had never done one. I discovered that my classification was an ‘Assertive-Advocate’ type personality (INFJ-A). That means that my individual traits lean more towards being Introverted – 53%, Intuitive – 59%, Feeling – 72%, Judging – 68%, Assertive – 76%. Much of these ‘rankings’ have to do with how my mind, body and soul engage, process and deal with those around me and the environments that I am in. They also indicate what I need to do in order to recharge.
You see, almost two years ago I was perhaps at one of the lowest points in my life and ‘career’ (if you can call pastoring a career). Without going down that road again, I can honestly say that I had just come through the most emotional, intense, bewildering, challenging and gut-wrenching years in all of my experiences with people and churches to date. Many in the church today have no idea of what ‘really went on’ and that’s fine. However, those five years took a toll, and beat my spirit down to the point where all I could see was nothing good. Imagine a pastor thinking, feeling and believing that! It’s true. But those years are behind me, and I am taking positive and more informed steps to wholeness and recovery.
The interesting thing about my personalty test is that it revealed that I was just over the line towards being an ‘introvert’ (53%). Huh. I would have never guessed that because I enjoy meeting new people, am not awkward in crowds and feel very comfortable around and in front of others. But that is not what makes an introvert and introvert. It turns out that my mental energy reserves can quickly become exhausted in high stimuli and social environments. In order to replenish them, I need solitude and silence.
That fact (and others) were very liberating for me. It almost allows me to positively engage ‘who I am’ without the need to feel bad about it or apologize. This is who God made me and how I am wired. Another interesting fact about ‘me’ is that I can become extremely bored, disappointed and disconnected due to the drain of the mundane. To put it plainly, I bore easily with the status quo and routines that are based around life-less tradition. Having those individual traits while being employed within a ‘religious’ workplace can definitely have its challenges. But that’s not the point of this blog. The point is that I am ready for something more.
One of the current debates within my ‘fellowship’ is a revitalizing process that is addressing much of what we have been thinking, living and doing as followers of God. Part of this revitalizing means the we examine ‘what we believe and why’. Imagine a group of dedicated Christ followers actually going back to the Bible to reevaluate the articulation of doctrine. I believe that a reforming movement was brought on by such a thing a few hundred years ago by a few key individuals and statements.
I truly find this revitalization vision refreshing and encouraging. There are those who obviously oppose. However, being a fourth generation Pentecostal kid, there is something within me that seeks to push the envelope to discover the wildness of God.
Coming from this ‘tradition’ means that I know nothing more than the reality and drive to encounter God via His Spirit. Being a Pentecostal meant that we specifically chose to engage God’s World and Mission through the lens of His charismatic and empowering Spirit. Having roots within the movement of Pentecost meant that believers cared more about what God’s Spirit was doing in the world and through our lives than anything else. What mattered was the fresh wind and blowing of God’s Spirit upon the worship meeting, gatherings, preaching and altar calls. I grew up on this stuff. It is in my DNA.
Having now pastored full-time since graduating in 2000, and serving as a lead pastor for the past 13 years, I can say that revitalization is definitely needed within our Denomination. From my experience and lens, much of our Denomination has settled into a religious routine that looks, feels, smells and sounds like much of the same. Regardless of our non-traditional past, Pentecostals in Canada have seem to become comfortable to fit within mainline Church tradition and embrace Evangelicalism as the be all and end all. But in my opinion, that is not ‘who’ we are.
This is not a guilt trip, manipulation or a stone being thrown in any direction other than at me. You see, I too have become somewhat comfortable or complacent in my own understanding, theology and expression of God’s life here on earth. Much of this, for me, is rooted in our comfortable theology. Whether it is about the end of days and a hope of being rescued from any and all tribulation, or the belief that ‘we are right and others are wrong’; much of Pentecostalism places its blessed hope in a secret coming for the ‘right ones’ rather than His Second Coming for His Bride. Regardless of your perspective on eschatology, the mentality of ‘sitting back’ and ‘waiting’ to be ‘raptured’ ought to go against the very s/Spirit within us. Are we not to be God’s empowering witness that wins the world?
When Jesus was asked to summarize all the Old Testament rules and regulations, His response was rather short and pointed. Love God and love others. As a Pentecostal, what does this mean or look like? It means that we have God’s Spirit available within us to speak the language of the culture around. On the day of Pentecost this happened. At Azusa street this happened. At the Hebden Mission it happened. The Spirit was speaking and the bonds of love were breaking down the social divide. A comment coming from the Azusa street revival was that ‘the color line has been washed away in the blood’. In other words, the Spirit was tearing down walls of separation that had been built up by the world. People were hearing a radical message of unity, love and acceptance. People were encountering a radical, wild Spirit that was transforming their very life. Is this not the path of the Spirit? This is the path I choose. I choose the way of love.
This past week I wrapped up a two-week basketball program that allowed me to invest myself into a group of young people from the community. One of the intentional events within the program is a give back opportunity. As a group we collected items and visited a local food bank to do some cleaning, re-stocking and general help. It was an opportunity to lead young people to express love, care and concern for others. I hope, pray and trust that this give back event and my talks to them throughout the two-week program will make a difference in their lives for eternity. Each athlete heard about how they were given a talent by God, and that my desire as their coach was to try and make them not only better basketball players, but better individuals and members of their community. I pray that they all felt build up and encouraged. My hope is that they would view, accept and believe that is on their side and is for them in this world. I pray that I will be able to meet them again and lead them into deeper waters.
Heading away on holidays will be a welcomed time to reflect and critically engage in matters of life, ministry and the Mission of God. I am looking forward to hearing from and allowing Spirit to speak. I need it, my family need it and so does my community. Now more than ever, the Spirit of God needs to break down dividing walls and usher us into the dynamic realm of fellowship, love and unity within our communities. Now more than ever we need to push past the mundane traditions and embrace the passionate life of God’s Spirit and Mission. Now more than ever we need to embrace the newness of our God and allow His Spirit to lead us to His life-flowing springs and river. Now more than ever we need to join the Spirit and call for Jesus to come!
I have said enough for now and have more than made up for the previous weeks. Please pray for me if you can. Please pray for my family. Pray also for the church I pastor and the community we live in. The road ahead has some very real challenges, and unique opportunities. I believe that God has poured out His Spirit upon me so that I can accomplish and fulfill His Mission in the world. I believe that His Spirit has been emptied upon you and others too. Wherever you are and whatever you do, please believe, trust, and ask the Reigning King of the Cosmos to open, give and speak to you. He does for me, and He will for you.
Until next time.