I confess that today is the first day of the Spring Semester at NTS, and for the first time I will be teaching a class. The name of the course is Missional Leadership and Discipleship, and I’m co-teaching with Mike King. As part of the new module schedule, we will be going 8-5:00 for most of the week. I confess that so far it’s a small class, so if anyone wants to come visit for a day, take a look at the Seminary, and engage in a lively discussion about leadership and the church, shoot me an email.
I confess that I’m pretty pumped about the day, and the week. I confess that I have been forcing myself not to over prepare. When I feel even the slightest bit of insecurity, as is bound to happen when I attempt something completely new to me, my tendency is to become a perfectionist. This has been my game for a long time. If I do it perfectly, then nobody can criticize me or think poorly of me, right? Wrong. It has taken me a long time to learn that perfectionism is ineffective as a means of avoiding vulnerability. It has taken me even longer to begin to change my daily practices in light of that reality. I confess that showing up in my own life, doing my best work, contending for the things I believe in, living with passion and heart, those things will have to be enough. It’s not that I think done is better than perfect; it’s that I think perfect is an illusion.
I confess that on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I often confess how complicit I am in the lingering racism of American life. One of the ways I know I’m still complicit is that I am living in the suburbs. Among all of the good things about suburban life, the lack of racial and economic diversity is often troubling. In the suburbs, we have found a way to hold at arms length much of the difficulty of living together as human beings in the world. We cluster together for safety and buying power, and create a way of life that is typically affluent and materialistic. I’m not judging, I’m just trying to name reality.
I confess that in the suburbs, we push things we don’t want to deal with to the periphery of our community – things such as crime, poverty, violence, and a whole number of difficult or uncomfortable issues. For example, consider the practice of city planners when they arrange multi-family dwellings, apartment buildings, duplexes, trailer parks, and other low-income housing options on the edges of the community, typically near highways and busy streets. The people living in low income housing serve as a buffer from the hustle, noise, pollution, and unappealing aesthetics that could be a drag on property values.
I confess that I do not know how to change the trajectory of suburban life, back toward mercy and justice, but I think it’s important to confess our reality. I am a pastor, not a political activist or community organizer. What I do is worship with the people of God in the midst of the suburbs. For my church, we do so in the midst of one of the only dense pockets of poverty and diversity in Johnson County. To be fair most of us do not live in those marginal communities that absorb the sound and light and smell and noise of the city infrastructure. But our hearts are bending in that direction, and I think that is a good thing. I confess that I believe… help me in my unbelief.
I confess that I love my church, and my job. Not that it isn’t stressful or demanding, it is both of those things, but there’s a deep down satisfaction that comes with using my gifts while participating in the life of a church like Redemption. I confess that every week as we gather to worship, I am reminded what a beautiful bunch of ragamuffins we are, and how blown away I am by these faithful people. I pray that nothing ever diminished the sweet place this has become, and that we will continue to bear with one another with patience and grace, even as we fumble around – blindly sometimes – to try and live our lives while keeping faith with God and each other.
I confess that one of the most important lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning), over my years in ministry is that there is seldom one right way to do most things. As I watch people in our community live their lives, I’m blown away by their creativity. Participating in their lives has borne in me the conviction that in everything from parenting to pet ownership, breastfeeding to birth-plans, educating children to engaging spiritual pathways, philosophy of ministry to practicing friendship – people take such diverse approaches to their lives. I confess that I have become convinced that for most things in life, there’s no one right path, there’s just the path you take. No direction or approach is perfect. No person can (or at least should), make constant judgments upon the lives of their friends and co-laborers. The longer I’m in my role as a senior pastor, the more fun I am having watching the menagerie of approaches to life, love, friendship, parenting, work, play, and so on. People are so creative and thoughtful, I can’t help but smile as I watch with wonder, so glad to be a part of the kingdom of God.
Okay friends, I made my confession. Now it’s time for you to make yours: