I’ve never met Jeremy, but have been following his blog on and off for the past couple of years. It was only today however, that I took the time to read some of his story of what it has meant for him to follow Jesus over the past few years.
I attended a Christian school, then went to a Christian college. After college, I spent five years as a pastor before enrolling in a leading Christian seminary to get a four-year Master’s degree in Bible and Theology. While in seminary, I worked as an editor in a Christian non-profit publishing and conference organization. As I neared graduation, I put together my resume so that I could get back into pastoral ministry. The placement counselor of the seminary told me that he had never seen a resume like mine, and that I could basically write my own ticket to nearly any church on their list.
That’s when my world began to fall apart. As I began to look at these churches that might want to hire me, I realized that I didn’t want to pastor a single one of them. They all had nice buildings, and lots of smiling, happy people with thick wallets. If I got a job with one of these churches, I and my family would have led comfortable, safe, and secure lives. I probably could have risen in the ranks of church hierarchy, written a few books, and been asked to speak at conferences.
… But as I looked around these churches, there were no poor, no homeless, no prostitutes, no atheists, no drug addicts. There definitely weren’t any democrats. Apparently, such people could be prayed for, but were not allowed to actually attend church.
That’s when I realized that I no longer wanted to be a pastor in the type of church that would want to hire someone like me.
So I began to change how I prayed. And that was the biggest mistake of my life.
Jeremy continues to tell his story over the next few months and years in this post and elsewhere on his site. It isn’t an easy story. It isn’t a nice comfortable tale of a successful pastor selling some books and becoming a Christian celebrity. It’s a story of pain, of struggle, of darkness at times. Jeremy is no longer part of a conventional church, and yet as he studies the gospels with atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and Rastafarians, his story seems in many ways to echo that of Jesus that we see in those gospels.
I’ve been very moved by Jeremy’s story, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. I’m shocked by how he was treated by Christians who told him all the answers but refused to honestly discuss his questions. I’m scared by how his Christian friends and colleagues abandoned him overnight when they thought he had become a heretic. I’m humbled by the way those who are not part of the church are often more loving and accepting of those who don’t have all the answers. I’m challenged as to whether I would be willing to give up the “respected Christian” status in order to really relate to and reach out to those often rejected by the church. But I think most of all I’m struck by the parallels with the Bible, where simplistic answers and earthly pride so easily distract the religious, and they are oblivious to how God is working through humble people as they live in awe of him and relate vulnerably to those around them.
Jeremy’s story challenges me that God doesn’t fit in my box, in my work or in my church. While I am preoccupied with “working for God”, I don’t notice Jesus over the other side of the road hanging out with the homeless and the prostitutes.