I became a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ in 1986 at the age of 17. I immediately knew that the meaning of my life was to be found in helping others to discover the grace, forgiveness, and life that I had come to know. I eventually became an ordained elder in the Free Methodist Church of North America. My wife and I pioneered a new church and pastored there for three years until the unthinkable happened. I was overtaken by a wave that had been building for many years; I lost all faith in Americanized Christianity and much of her church system. I resigned from the pastorate and today am learning what it means to live in authentic community with others with Jesus Christ alone as our magnificent obsession.
After resigning from the pastorate I spent a year and a half disconnected from any body of believers. God did a lot of things in my heart and mind during this time, but much of what He wanted to do required that I be in relationship with others. Though He was very present in my wilderness, I remained angry, bitter, and judgmental of others during my season of disillusionment. When we did finally relocate to another city we connected with a healthy body of believers. But because of my season alone I connected in a quite unhealthy way. All of my anger, bitterness, and judgment followed me into relationships that could and should have been beautiful and life-giving.
I know I am not alone. Every year hundreds of thousands of people across America are overtaken with a conviction that to preserve their faith, they must leave the church system. And it is out of this shared experience that God has reaffirmed the nexus of my life and inspired me to form the Sojourn Community online, hopefully in my own city, and across the country. My hope is that this can be the kind of community that I needed, but did not have. Perhaps God will form a place here for church refugees to work through their pain and disillusionment in environments of shared struggle and flagrant grace. And perhaps God will move among us in such a way that we re-emerge as whole, spiritually vibrant followers of Christ who can reconnect with healthy faith communities or even forge new healthy faith communities out of our relationships with one another.
There are four rhythms of life in the Sojourn community: Focus, Detox, Discover, and Live. I'll spend some time introducing you to each rhythm.
We are learning that before He has called us to any organization, activity, affiliation, or theological persuasion, Christ has called us to Himself. He desires to be the nexus of our life, our first passionate pursuit, and the enduring magnificent obsession of our human experience. And we are rediscovering that all we longed for and found lacking in the church system flows freely and abundantly in an intimate relationship with Him nurtured by life-giving disciplines and authentic relationships with other sojourners. When we gather, we focus not on our disillusionment but on the person and the way of Jesus.
We've come to recognize that there are toxins circulating throughout the body of Americanized Christianity. These toxins have poisoned our understanding of the nature of God, His Kingdom, the purpose of the church, and the life He intends for us to enjoy as His beloved ones. And our recognition of these toxins has sent us on our journey out of the system. We detox together by returning, with fresh eyes, refocused minds, and open hearts, to the scriptures He has given as a revelation of Himself to broken humanity.
The pursuit of Christ is a journey of discovery. We've determined that our spiritual selves are not well served by sermonic presentations, doctrinal constructs, or denominational statements of faith that are seemingly disconnected from the breath and pulse of our daily lives. We discover the nature of God and His Kingdom, the way of Jesus, the meaning of church, and the purpose of our lives by walking close to the Spirit of God, asking questions, pressing against paradigms, and never settling for today's spiritual depth when deeper waters await us tomorrow.
Leo Tolstoy once wrote, "Without knowing what I am and why I am here, life is impossible. The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity." The way of Jesus illustrates that life is most fully lived when it is lived in passionate pursuit of him and selfless love toward those around us. As we sojourn together we learn to fully live by learning to fully give of ourselves for the good of others. We find love by giving it, we find provision for our needs in meeting the needs of others, we experience forgiveness as we forgive, and we experience the fullness of God's Kingdom as we make it known to those around us.