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Momentum

Written by Nathan : May 28, 2008

For some time now, I’ve had the itch. The itch to do something more, something real. Something to make my faith more than mere intellectual assent or warm feelings in my chest. And the itch has been getting worse. Its like I’ve been rolling around naked in poison ivy. Sites like Jesus Manifesto, the faith of a Shane Claiborne or the challenge of a Thom Stark only make it worse. And the things I see around me everyday - people wasting their lives in pursuit of mindless consumption, or worse, at the end of a life spent alienated from loved ones due to apathy or pride, being unable to overcome the barriers - add a note of desperation to the itch. It makes the itch more than frustrating and uncomfortable; it makes it downright painful.

And yet the effort it takes to scratch seems almost insurmountable. The sheer inertia inherent in my daily status quo feels like a mountain. Predictably, this results in very little forward momentum and my faith remains nothing more than assent and warm fuzzies. I see the posts. I read the stories and books. I listen to the talks. I am challenged and uplifted, but only to quickly settle back into the quicksand that has me so thoroughly trapped. And what I’ve noticed is rather than making the itch worse, this is starting to make me numb to it. Instead of the ecstasy of a scratch at just the right spot, I’m losing sensation all together. Apathy and surrender are laying claim to the throne.

Why do I fail? More importantly, why do others succeed? How do they gain sufficient momentum to surmount the seemingly insurmountable? From what I’ve gleaned from their stories, I think it comes down to four things. First, they have a desire to see things change because they are not content with the world as it exists. Second, they have both the courage and the faith to move forward, even when risking significant loss. Their faith makes them bold. They are able to trust that God will provide for their loss as they have need. Finally, and in my mind this is the linchpin that truly holds it all together, they have a community that shares their desire and bolsters their faith & courage. They have people around them cheering them on, dressing their wounds, inspiring & encouraging them, thinking with them and lighting each others paths.

I now see that it is only in community that desire, faith and courage can work together synergistically to create momentum. And when one person finally overcomes their inertia, they start bouncing into other people which may be the little shove they need to overcome their own. I realize now more than ever, that I need to find a community that will give me that shove. Frankly, I need a cheer squad to get me taking those first few hesitant steps. Without such people around me, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to scratch the itch.

How do we find and build communities where we can start transferring momentum? Are we looking for ways to cheer each other on?

Author Bio:: Nathan recently had a son, finished nursing school and moved to Indianapolis. He’s trying to figure out how to live in allegiance to the slaughtered Lamb.




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Comments

Viewing 12 Comments

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    Nathan,

    My husband and I are experiencing a similar momentum pick-up right now. I have lived for over two years in this economically and every other way depressing area and have idolized the day when we could move out to greener pastures. Now, the possibility is almost a real choice, I find myself wanting to dig in and "start wildfires of spiritual imagination" instead of running away.

    ~Anna
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    To most of what's been said here, I can easily say "yeah, me too." There is a real disconnect between my values and those of my church. That bothers me.

    Part of what helps is seeing that commitment to a certain kind of community -- a peace church or some new experiment in intentional community -- is not really an option right now unless I start it, and I'm not ready for that. A certain kind of commitment to community -- warts and all -- is readily available. It's just hard. I'm not saying there's never a time to shake the dust of your feet and move on (or get all Jesus on the Pharisees) but I guess I see cause to ponder slowly.
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    Nathan,
    I'm there too. I have the itch and it's real bad! I totally agree that, for me at least, I need a community behind me. The hardest thing for me was to realize the the ones I thought were this community, had become numb to the itch and no longer desired to scratch it.

    If you find this community let me know. :)
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    Nathan, Daniel, Anna:

    It would seem pointless for me to say "Me, too". But it does appear that many of us are looking for that community, and drift to the net for support.
    I left a supportive church in the city, for rural life. I do not function well on pavement. While I maintain contact, I have moved even further into the countryside, following that "itch". Here I found a small community of support. What you need to do is take that step, like molecules in a pot of warming water, you will bump into those of community.
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    Somehow I lost count and read only three when you mentioned four. May I suggest that after the desire comes vision? It's hard to step out in faith if you have no idea what the next step might be. I'm not saying that you have everything figured out, just a general sense of direction and what actions might get you where you feel God is leading you (God has a way of changing the focus and clarifying things along the way). With a vision of what the next step is, it is much easier to locate a community. For Micheal, it will be a rural community that probably values nature as one of it's core foci. For Claiborne, it is the urban environment. When you start acting on the vision, God brings people into your life to cheer you on. That's the faith part -acting without knowing how you will be supported. The courage comes when you are very real with yourself about what your fears are. The more you know your fears, the more you can compare them to God's infinite provision and goodness, the more you can act on faith and see God's faithfulness. I believe a lot of the busy-ness, the entertainment, and materialism of our lives is just a means by which we try and avoid our fears. God is not going to send someone to encourage you to jump off a cliff, but if you do decide to jump, he will send his angels to fly with you.
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    I think you raise a serious point that I think am overlooking - while I certainly have the itch, its more of a broad, generalized feeling and not a clear vision. Praying for some specificity in my itching is probably exactly the next step I need to take. Thanks for your wisdom.
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    Nathan,

    What's interesting, and I think you hit it at the end of your article, is that it requires numbers. So many of us try to surmount the insurmountable by ourselves. Individualism in American culture, which has crept horribly into the Church, has helped segment us and keep us separated. We're concerned about individual, spiritual salvation, rather than corporate, communal, imminent salvation. We want to go it alone, and now we're feeling the results.

    Also, what's so interesting about scripture is that so much of it is addressed to communities, even those texts we often rip out of context and apply individually (that's what is missing from Greek to English translations--"you" doesn't convey the plurality in Greek, for example). We need each other in order to survive, in order to succeed.

    Find those people who help you do this, and stick with them through thick and thin. Most of the time, though, you won't find them in your local church, because they've long since left the shallowness and hollow community which they found there.

    On a side note, where do you live in Indy? I'm a resident of the south side.
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    I think you are absolutely right. The supporting community makes all the difference. Knowing that if you fail there will be a place to fall. Knowing that if you succeed there will be a place to humble you.

    I've come to wonder if finding that community where all these things can come together involves *leaving* the church. While I think there are churches involved in doing such things, they seem to be few and far between. I've often wondered if parachurch organizations or justice-oriented organizations are doing more of the work of the church than the actual church. It's so modern of us, don't you think, that the church seems to have delegated all the hard work to ancillary organizations and groups. That way churches can focus on what's really important: getting bigger and entertaining the people with really crappy skits and adult contemporary music.

    Sometimes the sarcasm takes over. I apologize. I can't help it.
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    thank you for this post. this is something i have been struggling with a lot lately. i need to be able to find that place that is willing to be this kind of community. sometimes i wonder though, if i am being called to make the community rather than find it. it is definitely a harder proposition, but one which could have greater rewards.
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    Pastor Chad & David, I'm kind of wondering the same thing myself. Having just moved into town I haven't had any opportunity to check out the local congregations, but based on my previous experiences I'm (perhaps inappropriately) doubtful that I will find anything but more of the same. But Dustin raises a good point about the impact of American culture's ego obsession on the church. I flirted with Orthodoxy for a while and one of the arguments against Protestantism that I heard over and over was about its fractious nature - there are 20,000+ denominations or independent churches in the US alone. Is starting another independent church (or parachurch ministry) the answer? Should we start, like Luther, with an attempt at reformation? Or do we skip both of those and work both within and without our respective church communities, perhaps in some kind of network or cellular structure?

    I'm struck, though, by the generally negative tone that we all seem to share about the local church and its commitment to anything more than its own programs and growth. That is, to me, both discouraging and coming off as an opportunity; there have to be many more people who are similarly disaffected and there has to be a way to translate that into real change.

    (Dustin, I'm just a bit north of downtown - heard of any good churches in this area?)
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    Nathan,

    That's thought-provoking, definitely. I hadn't thought of things that way, necessarily. I guess, I was speaking of what I see as the state of things: that the church has abdicated, but perhaps, lone rangers have cut the church off at its knees by not trying to work through it. Or perhaps it's a mix.

    In honesty, I see more hope in nonreligious organizations than religious ones. I think of the Berkeley Free Clinic where my wife volunteered for several years and other radically justice-oriented groups that weren't in any way religious, but nevertheless was doing the work of the church.

    But I think you raise a good point. Does striking out on one's own undermine the church? Probably so.
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    Running away cannot be an option. Christarchy has been a big help for us, although 1 night every month or two doesn't do a ton for 'community'. But it's better than what we had.

    Getting to know our neighbors has been another big step. Building some of the relationships that are beginning to grow out from these comments are another. But it's not fast growth, but I don't think I could realistically handle fast growth.
 

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