I didn’t grow up in a Jesus-centered home.
As a kid, I went to an Awana program with a family who lived two doors down … but never understood Jesus as my Savior. During middle school, our family moved to a new city and we made friends with a Christian family who lived down the street. Throughout high school, they would pick my brothers and me up every Sunday and Wednesday to make sure we were in church. At that tiny (independent, KJV-only) Baptist church, I was taught that Jesus was my “ticket” into heaven after I died. If I wasn’t “right” with God, I’d burn in hell forever. It was a guilt-laden, Genesis 3-first, fire insurance faith. Every chance I had, I went to the altar … you know, just to make sure.
After high school, I was hired to work for a ministry that had me travel full-time around the country. In those 2½ years, I visited every kind of church imaginable and I came to realize how deep and how wide the Christian faith was when it came to style and theology. When I moved back home and got re-involved in my home church, I began to feel that if I continued in that church environment, my faith would stagnate. At that tiny church, my faith wasn’t alive. I wasn’t growing. So I left.
I didn’t know what I was looking for so I picked a church that had a strong reputation in the community where I lived. Their leadership was in the process of launching a Sunday evening service geared toward young adults like me. Two leaders invited me to join the service launch team and one of our assignments was to read and discuss A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren.
Two things stood out in my reading:
- It felt like I was reading my own spiritual story.
- I’d never encountered a Christian faith expression that was both thoughtful and thought-provoking as what I read.
In McLaren’s story, the main character finds himself essentially sick of being a Christian, aware that something was wrong with the way his faith was being expressed. If it was going to continue, a new framework would have to be built.
After reading A New Kind of Christian, my own deconstruction process began, and it was painful in some ways. I had to let go of the parts of my faith didn’t lead me to Jesus. Things like the way I treated people who were different than me (theologically, spiritually, politically, etc.) and the way I viewed what I thought Christ wanted for me.
So for the last 14 years, I’ve been attempting to reconstruct a spiritual framework around Jesus, whose every moment spent here on Earth was meant to show us what God and his Kingdom are like. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is what God wants to say to the world. I’ve been awakened to the idea that the story of salvation actually begins in Genesis 1 when God made this world whole and good. Jesus longs to have that kind of wholeness for me.
Becoming a mature follower of Jesus is about creating conditions in your life that produce growth. Here how that works out for me:
- I participate relationships with people where they’re given permission to speak grace and truth into my life … and vice-versa.
- I see life as a gift and endeavor to live it in service to others. Am I making someone’s life better?
- I read the Scriptures … always looking for ways the authors are pointing toward Jesus.
- I practice generosity. My wife, Linny, and I support our local church and currently sponsor two Compassion children in Ethiopia. We also look for other ways to bless others with our wallet and our schedules.
Practicing the few things on this list and measuring them, I believe, create the conditions for growth.