We also looked at church history and saw that there were these renewal movements, like in the 13th century, when Francis of Assisi heard the whisper of God, "Repair my Church, for it is in ruins." In a lot of ways, it was humbling to realize that we weren't doing anything truly new. It was fresh for today, but rethinking what it means to be the church is something that happens over and over every few centuries.

What we learn from the monastic tradition is that it begins with the single-minded pursuit of God and neighbor -- "to will one thing," as Kierkegaard said, wholeheartedly seeking the kingdom of God. Monasticism has often put together beliefs with practices and lifelong commitments, so that Christianity is more than a presentation of ideas. It becomes a lifestyle.

You are known to cite Kierkegaard, the 19th-century Danish religious thinker. There are certainly ways in which I can see his critique of Christendom in what you wrote. How has Kierkegaard inspired you? And what are some other major inspirations?

There are a lot of really great thinkers, yet Kierkegaard is certainly one who critiques our façade of what Christianity is. He also communicates the idea that academic Christianity, theology, can be a way in which we insulate ourselves from the true gospel and protect ourselves from it. Those are things that we certainly begin to see in evangelicalism. As a kid from the Bible belt, I was kind of suffocated with Christianity. In a lot of ways, where everything is Christian, nothing is Christian. That's something that Kierkegaard was really pointing at. When our money says "In God We Trust," but our economy looks like the Seven Deadly Sins, then the character of God is challenged. That's the essence of using the Lord's name in vain, having the façade of Christianity without the heart of it.

And of course Gandhi and so many others pointed out the same contradictions. When Gandhi was asked about Christianity, he said, "I love Jesus; I just wish that Christians took him more seriously. They look so unlike their Christ." Those are great critics who can remind us what our faith is truly about.

Other inspirations include Jacques Ellul, who critiqued the technique or forms of our faith when they don't have love and justice at the heart of it. And Paulo Freire in Latin America and others who have done popular theology to change the way that we learn our faith.

I also find heroes in the black church in the United States. One of the signs that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world is that the black church has been able to survive the shameful things that white Christians have done in the name of God and justified with scripture. So I admire folks like John Perkins, an 80-year-old legend from the Civil Rights struggle who has been a mentor and teacher of mine.

You studied youth ministry in college. When you began down the path toward becoming a minister, did you have a sense that God would call you down the path He has? Or has this all been one adventure after another?

It's been one adventure after another. I love the scripture that says we work out our salvation "with fear and trembling." There's a sense of not really fully knowing what's next. When you look back on your life, it's easy to think, wow, that was in the works, and you see what seems like a pretty clear path to bring you to where you've come.

But a lot of it has been a gentle whisper, and a nudge here and there. Everything I have experienced and participated in has been with community -- like going to India, going to Iraq, living in Philly the last sixteen years. All of that has been in the context of other people doing life together.