by Erik Hall planter of Barnegat Anew inBarnegat, New Jersey
I came to faith in Christ in an unlikely way. I was a 24 year-old, life-long atheist studying analytical philosophy at a state college in New Jersey. I thrived on the intellectual gymnastics of academic philosophy and considered faith and religious beliefs to be hold-over superstitions of a bygone era. The professor I had for a philosophy of religion class, Roy Clouser, turned my world upside down.
His lectures came from his book: The Myth of Religious Neutrality. The thesis of this book is (and I am super-oversimplifying) the foundational theories of science and philosophy, (and all other universally respected disciplines) have, at their base-level, presuppositions about the nature and origin and source of Universe. Further, these base-level presuppositions are not ‘proved’ but are taken as self-evident (i.e. taken on FAITH like any other foundational ‘religious belief’). Clouser’s work is a fascinating account of how faith is at the very core of human theory-making.
Okay, if this sprinkling of philosophical jargon is starting to cause your eyes to glaze over, here is my point: all my life I had rejected the belief in a Creator God of Grace, Redemption, and Salvation because I thought I too smart, too sophisticated, and too intellectually adept than to believe in a bunch of superstitions from a bygone era, EVEN THOUGH I regularly witnessed people and events in which grace, redemption, and salvation were evident. Clouser’s work gave me permission to begin an earnest search for God in Christ that was both rigorously intellectual and deeply spiritual. This is because I could see (in Clouser’s work, witness, and example) how the Christian faith could be lived out in the fullness of an authentically philosophical life without compromise. The Gospel GOT ME because it was being communicated and lived out in a rhythm I could appreciate and even embrace.
That phraseology of living out the Gospel ‘in the rhythms’ of a particular community or context, comes from Alan Hirsch, who is one of the most influential missional church leaders today. My understanding and practice of being a missional church is greatly influenced by his work. His book The Forgotten Ways is, I think, a must-read for all church leaders. As strange as it may sound, I probably would have never come to Christ but through the medium of analytical philosophy, a rhythm of life in which more people lose faith than gain it. It just goes to show the power of the Holy Spirit, and of living and communicating the Gospel in a rhythm that resonates with particular people’s lives in the immediate vicinity.
Waretown/Barnegat Anew is on a mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world BY STARTING NEW PLACES OF FAITH. As we see it, being a ‘missional church’, is first and foremost a matter of communicating and living out the Gospel in the rhythms of particular people’s lives around us. Many of our new ministry starts occur because someone from WITHIN our faith community sees and shares the same rhythms of life as people NOT-YET-WITHIN our faith community. That is fertile ground for a new place of faith indeed.
People are coming to Christ at Waretown/Barnegat Anew because, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they can appreciate and embrace the Gospel in our rhythm. What’s your beat?