Over the last month I have been transitioning to a new ministry assignment (as is obvious by anybody who read the last, like, 8 posts). As is often the case, the time of transition has given rise to much reflection. A lot of that reflection has happened as I have spoken with kindred spirits, people who more or less share my occupation, calling and worldview.
Now, I am a proud member of the Wesleyan/Holiness tribe. More than many things, I take great pride in the push of our movement to insist our members befriend those who are fundamentally different from us.
After all the Wesleyan/Methodist movement really got going when John Wesley began befriending and journeying with those much poorer than him in 18th century England.
One hundred years later, Phineas Bresee, the founder of the Church of the Nazarene, moved to Los Angeles and grew acquainted with several homeless and poverty stricken families. The Church of the Nazarene was so named because Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a Biblical city known for poverty.
That same Jesus taught us that the call to love does not stop at family but travels through our neighbors on its way down through the least and lonely until it finds it telos in its enemy.
With that said, a couple times in my life I have become dear friends with those who are fundamentally different than me. They grew up in different parts of the country, have different skin colors, a different socio-economic status and vastly different testimonies than my own. I cherish those friendships.
But this post is not about that. It is about the other side of the spectrum, the friendships I have with those who are very similar to me in rank and culture and worldview. I feel that sometimes our tradition has gotten so caught up in advocating for love towards those different, we have forgotten to acknowledge that a very profound grace is at work when we sit down to coffee or dinner with similar souls.
For the last 3 years I have been surrounded by those who are just very different than me. Kindred spirits have been hard to find. Admittedly, I have matured a lot as I have journeyed through an entirely different world. However, that journey came with a great amount of loneliness.
As I emerged out of that lonely life, the conversations I have had in transition have been means of grace.
A few weeks ago I sat down with one of my mentors and discussed things as trivial as the length of worship services. We shared our similar discovery that short sermons have a profound rhetorical effect. Just last week I put that to the test by limiting one of my sermons to 700 words (the length of Lincoln’s inaugural). I will write about that later.
Around the same time I met with a peer on the district and we gossiped (healthily) about the successes and failures of common friends, our shared desire to see churches planted and the frustrations of pastoring broken people who attempt to break us.
Right before that I met with a pastor who spent many years working among military members. As I have just moved into a military community, the advice was valuable.
A week later I was again sitting down to coffee and soup with two dear friends who share my concern for missional churches that serve neighborhoods.
Then I met with a much older mentor and we shared our strikingly similar visions with each other.
I write all this in order to acknowledge what I think we sometimes forget: There is a very real power at work when we have conversations with kindred souls. I do not think that power is evil or anti-Christ. Instead, these conversations remind us that even though we are lonely, we are not alone. After all, the God who calls us also calls people like us to join us.
But do not despair, my Wesleyan friends. I still very much believe our kindred conversations must be offset by the call to enter into loving relationship with our enemies and with those who have nothing in common with us. After all, God’s love does not prop up love for one over/against love for the other.
But I also write all this as a form of giving thanks to the God who continues to empower us to love each other, those kindred and those different, in ever increasing ways.
I pray that this new season with be full of grace filled conversations that breathe life into your death and friendship to outlast your loneliness.