One thing I am hungry for is to do something creative, fun, and meaningful. Yeah, I know, I gotta get a job and probably do the creative, fun, and meaningful stuff on the side like most of the rest of the world. I am cool with that. Maybe I am still in denial, but I feel like my current employment status, though not asked for, is actually a unique opportunity for me to experiment, to innovate, and to live into a more imaginative reality. What’s more fun than that?
In investigating the “how’s” of living more imaginatively I have had some really helpful conversations with some really gifted folks. There are a lot of people doing some really creative ministry with individuals and churches, but who are doing it as consultants. It is amazing to me how many folks I have talked to or read about who have felt confined in their previous positions in the church and who, in the cause of serving the church, have felt a need to leave various church positions to do so. Of course, this should give us some pause to wonder if perhaps our structures within the church should be more open to creativity and innovation so that many of these talented people could remain.
So, in all of my considerations, the one thing I am quite sure of is that I am called to continue the tremendous work I have been involved in for some time: to build leaders and teams that view political engagement as a vital aspect of our missional engagement in the world and a significant part of the discipleship of the Church. This work was never just a paycheck for me; it is something I am incredibly passionate about and see as an enormous need in the life of our local churches.
So, yeah, if that means I have to do that on the side as a “consultant” (or whatever) then I am down with that. But I must say that the one thing about creativity, in whatever form, is the amount of self-promotion that something like this seems to take. I have seen artful and inviting ways that folks have communicated the innovative ways they want to serve the church. In looking at the various websites or other forms of communication that have been created to communicate these services I have nothing but admiration for those who have creative and innovative spirits that institutional churches have not learned to properly endorse and effectively utilize.
But unfortunately I have also seen a much more narcissistic side of self-promotion that I find deeply troubling. This is the kind of self-promotion that seems dependent on the need to be known and popular. And this is not just among those who serve the church as consultants – I have seen this disturbingly up close inside the church structures for years. This is the kind of self-promotion that places oneself at the center of church’s mission rather than those being served. This is making being loved a greater priority than loving.
At the heart of much of the innovations and creativity has been the use of social media. But social media has also served to exacerbate the narcissism that exists as well. And it can impact all of us. As the numbers of our Facebook friends and Twitter followers grow so too does our sense of our own importance. We can feel tempted to stage our own righteousness to feed this darker and more desperate part of wanting to be admired and respected. Most of the uses of social media are, to me at least, opportunities for fun and creativity as well as means of more effective and dynamic organizing to move the Church forward towards implementing the changes in the world we need. But when I see, as I have at times, selfies taken at times that were meant for corporate worship or private contemplation in order to promote oneself, to promote their “radical and prophetic” image, it ceases to be innovative and it becomes downright Pharisaical.
All of this I am weighing as I seek the next steps in life. My sense of calling in continuing to build movements among people of faith to address systems of justice through incarnational existence among those directly impacted has not changed and is not dependent on a position or title. I just love building up leaders, building up teams and building up movements for missional change.
When you have a strong sense of what you are called to do life can really be exhilarating simply because there is so much freedom to create and innovate. But man, the particulars of how that gets lived out while also paying your bills can be challenging if not even a little stressful at times. But I know full well this is no individual path that I am walking. The networks of those I am now walking alongside are not as concrete as the networks I once had, but they can be more dynamic and organic so hey, that is a good thing too.
The only question I have now is this: anyone wanna walk this thing with me? I am ready to go!