At the end of our summer, Lea and I were at the Alongside Ministries International Conference in France. While there, I had a great conversation with a fellow from California. We wrestled together through what it means for a man’s passions for struggle, sacrifice and risk to be excercised in the context of the Christian Church. It seems like we’re told to lay those aspects of our masculinity down when it comes to faith and worship. I couldn’t disagree more.
I think the Bible gives us many examples of risk taking, passionate, gutsy, blood-sweat-and-tears, men who were identified as servants and worshipers of the Lord without having to dress up and tone down. Unfortunately, these inate aspects of masculinity are also in high demand in the world and are quite naturally put to the service of capitalism, the exploitation of sexuality and war. What does it look like for Christian men to excercise these same passions in the context of the contemporary Church? I’m always on the lookout for
Last summer, our congregation in Viimsi celebrated the completion of a seven year construction project. Church leaders from all over the area came to offer their blessings. Among the congratulations offered that day, a representative from a local Bible School encouraged us that we now had “everything we needed for a revival.”
While I’m sure he meant well, his comment left me puzzled. I sat in my seat wondering what things we had now that we didn’t have before that could possibly account for the presence or absence of revival. The implication seemed to be that the Holy Spirit has some sort of checklist of parts and materials required to set the stage for his performances. Would the Holy Spirit be more welcomed, or the people of God more effective in a freshly plastered, modern looking church building than in an wooden planked, one room, furnace heated country church? Until recently, those questions simply irked me. But last week, after attending Winter Camp at a small church in a farm town called Rakke, I realized I’ve made similar assumptions.
Welcome to Estonia!
“Make yourself at home, but don’t forget that you’re a guest.”
Meeting or greeting
- Give a firm handshake with a few good shakes and bow your head slightly. Think “dignity”.
The following is a paper I wrote for Pastoral Ethics in the Fall semester of 2005.
When I first entered the mission field after graduating from college, I did so as an intern. I was sent to serve alongside a small congregation in Estonia working to support the youth ministry. I had committed two years to this project and wanted to use this time to test whether ordained ministry was a calling or simply an interest. I had no intention of staying another three years, no expectation of developing a love for ministry and discipleship, not even the foggiest idea that I would meet my wife there and eventually return to commit myself long term to cross-cultural ministry in Estonia. In these early years, I was referred to at home and in Estonia as a “missionary”. This was undeniably my function, but I balked at the title aware of the high expectations and responsibilities bundled with it. If I was a missionary, it was entirely by accident and fulfilling the function alone was not enough to convince me that I met the standards involved in the title. At the end of five years in Estonia, I was assured that mine was indeed a call to ministry and specifically to the pastorate. My desire was to return to Estonia to develop a stronger sense of discipleship in the church and to find ways to support struggling rural churches. But to do so required that I accept the mantle of missionary and all of the spiritual and professional responsibilities it entails.