Starting a blog for a new “audience” is awkward.
This first post feels a little like a Match.com-ish plea for you to like me. Just so you know, I really do want you to like me. I love the approval of strangers. That said, I will pretend like I don’t care what you think of me. My shrink calls that instinct “self-preservation” and I am really good at it.
I’m thankful that Doug Pagitt invited me into the conversation on this blog. With no sense of false humility (just genuine, completely admirable and noteworthy humility) I can say that I am not entirely sure what I have to contribute here. I fancy myself an armchair theologian, but have no real academic credentials. Reading hundreds of books has made me a theology nerd with only a Bachelor’s degree in Bible.
The good news? No student debt.
Bad news? I’m not officially smart.
So read at your own risk.
I have been a church practitioner on and off through the years as a pastor and church planter. I probably have more to say about my failures in those areas than any perceived successes. I’m also the author of an allegorical fantasy novel called Between Two Kingdoms. (I find strategically working self-promotion into a personal introduction to be a little pathetic, but I can’t help thinking that if just two of you click on the link and buy my book I will be $1.12 richer. And just in time for Christmas shopping!)
And I am also a movie producer and actor. Again, I am far from finding my stride in this area of my life, but I’m pleased where it all is leading. (You can check out our production company at www.rebelpilgrim.com to see more about our recent films. We have a romantic comedy in post-production for a theatrical release in about a year.)
The above photo is from my comedy Hitting The Nuts, a poker-themed improvised mockumentary I produced in 2010. The beard is real. Don’t be jealous.
Ultimately, I’d like to have a significant voice in pop culture. My reasons for this are a mixed bag. But they aren’t going away, so I’m going to try to make it happen.
Here’s my life story:
I grew up an evangelical Christian in the American Midwest.
I felt “called” to be a pastor by age 12.
Graduated from Cincinnati Bible College at 22.
Started a church in Las Vegas when I was only 25.
I was quickly labeled as a leader in the post-modern emerging church movement (and later house church movement) of the 1990′s.
But I was secretly on the verge of giving up altogether on Christianity.
So I left everything. Including the conversation.
Around the age of 30 I resigned as a pastor, quit the church and began acting in a nightly comedy show in a casino while studying improv at the renowned Saturday Night Live feeder-school, The Second City. It was through baptizing myself in the world of improvisational comedy in Las Vegas that I found God again.
That’s weird, right? Or at least ironic.
I moved from Vegas to live in Hollywood in 2005. But four years ago I abruptly returned to vocational ministry (and to Cincinnati.) I noticed something strikingly familiar throughout the Biblical narrative of God, Israel, Jesus and the Church. The simple rules of play that I had learned and mastered as an improvisational comedian are found in Genesis One – and the other 1,188 chapters to follow. YHWH is an Improv God. Jesus is the King of Making-Stuff-Up. (Almost cussed there. Probably should have. You get the point.)
Jesus’s early followers mastered the art of improvisation under the direction of “God’s Unique Wind.”
It all got me thinking…
What if the God who is “the same yesterday, today and forever” is constantly changing? What if what makes him “the same” is, at least in part, his never-ceasing ability to improvise? What if following an Improv God is way more about listening and reacting than planning and producing? What if in the beginning God created…but he never stopped…and never will? What if there is way more freedom to improvise our way through life than most of us are comfortable with? Are we ready for that kind of God? Are we ready for that kind of Christianity?
I propose that the God of the Bible is that kind of God. And regardless of how ready we are, he is inviting us to start making up history with him, one scene at a time.
That’s why I’m writing a new book called Improvisational Christianity. And I’d love to flesh out some of the ideas here with you. We may together find out that I am completely full of it – that my premise holds no water and is as heretical as it sounds. In which case, I will probably still publish the book because I think it has a catchy title. But I will feel super conflicted about it.
My plan is to post here weekly – mainly on Fridays. I look forward to it.