Vacation Interrupted

Monday, August 18, 2014

So, I signed up to write a blog on Interrupted, a revised edition of Jen Hatmaker’s 2012 book.  I love Jen Hatmaker, so I was eager to do it.  But I am weary of pastors and writers becoming celebrities; over-credited and celebrated for their words that are, essentially, reverberating the words of Jesus.  In time, people get so caught up in the words of other people, and less caught up in the words of Jesus.  So I’m not sure where to begin or how to do this, but I will preface this by saying that my “love” of Jen is really just appreciation for someone slapping me in the face and pointing me back to Jesus… That, and she’s hilarious.

So, where to begin.  I guess I could start with how I became familiar with Jen.  {Talking about her around the house, Tyler once asked me, “So, is this someone you actually know??”  No. Not at all. I just wish I did.}

Last fall, I knew of her vaguely from blog posts gone viral on Facebook, particularly this one, and had been hearing a lot of chatter about the book 7.  Then I was recruited by my friend Lindsey to attend a women’s conference in Tennessee last fall, with her headlining as one of the speakers.  I knew she was the latest hot Christian celebrity and was willing to “check her out,” and frankly I needed a break from my 8 month old.  So I willingly signed up, but begrudgingly attended, as the weekend fell during what ended up being a really busy few weeks.  Sparing you commentary on my bad attitude and annoyance at being surrounded by soccer moms who complained too loudly about stadium food, I will share that 45 minutes in a breakout session with “Jen” changed my outlook for the rest of the weekend, and for much of the next year.

Jen is a refreshing voice in the Christian subculture.  Honest and real and sarcastic, pushing the boundaries of safe, country club, American Christianity.  She has put words to an itching that has been sitting inside of me for years, and every time I read her blogs, I am thinking “Yep…yep….yes!!” and “mmmhmmm”-ing all over the place.  She has repeatedly voiced her frustration with churches “blessing blessed people” and being “keepers of the aquarium, instead of fishers of men.”

"Blessing blessed people eventually leaves us empty, and despite a church system designed to meet our needs, these words come out of our mouths: "I'm not being fed."

That said, her challenges to current Christian living have also terrified me.  She is not alone in this emerging movement of pushing comfy Christians out of their comfort zone, joining the ranks of David Platt’s “Radical” and Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love.”  I had openly, selfishly announced to my sister a few years ago, “I’m not reading those books.  I am not ready for them.”

Because I knew once I read them, I couldn’t just keep living my same, safe little life.  Read the Bible everyday, sure.  But not those books, else I be convicted! ;)

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”  James 1:23-34

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I was exactly 18% through Interrupted when I realized, I was reading one of those books.  Uh oh. Bring on the burden!

But instead of groaning conviction, I soaked in every word like a sponge, rejoicing in Jen’s ability to reveal scripture and our call as Christians to see beyond denomination and legality and theology, and truly live as Jesus called us to—humble servants called to love the unloveable, to care for orphans and widows, to serve the “least of these.”

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{I will also confess: I read this book on vacation, primarily sitting on a beach at an all-inclusive resort.  There is just something not quite right about reading a call to social justice laying on a beach, with unlimited amounts of food and alcohol. The irony is not lost on me.}

I have grown increasingly frustrated, the last few years, with divisive, American Christianity and our role as American Christians in the global picture.  One needs to go no further than my Facebook wall, swarming with posts from my Christian friends, collected along my lifetime in the Christian subculture, that run the gamut from non-denominational to Catholic to Baptist to Calvinist, Lutheran, and Episcopalian.  Loud statuses arguing over what is the exact, singular congregation size, budget, theology, and worship style that is acceptable to Jesus.  Everyone sure their way is the exact balance of perfection—one dollar more, one less parishioner would be a travesty.  No one arguing over how many mouths you need to feed or coats you need to give away to win favor with the Son of God—just as long as you use the right liturgy.  It feels like the actual teachings of Jesus get lost in the bickering, and the self-righteous tone displays no real evidence of life-changing grace.  It makes me feel tired, and frustrated, and defeated.

"As we engage a broken world, standing stubbornly on principle or privilege indicates an immature heart that prefers to be right rather than seek the redemption of his neighbor. When we lead with doctrine before love, we brutalize the spirit of the doctrine we're prioritizing... Theology very naturally follows belief, but belief very rarely follows judgment."

"Love has won infinitely more converts than theology.  The first believers were drawn to Christ's mercy long before they understood his divinity."

In Interrupted, Jen honestly and humorously walks us through her world being completely “interrupted” {get it?}—every judgmental, comfortable, legalistic, suburban notion of her life in ministry was shattered and re-built as she and her husband, Brandon, left their staffed positions at a large church in Austin, Texas to start a new “barefoot church” from scratch.  Every few chapters, Brandon pipes in with his perspective—offering unique insight into how a married couple merge and respond to individual convictions that came at different times.  The book moves through initial convictions, weaves through the difficulties and floundering of planting a church, honestly shares what they got wrong and what they got right, what they gave up, what they gained, and how they grappled with their new mission. 

Their approach was to take church to the people, instead of building and waiting for folks to come to them.  To partner with non-profits and city organizations, and reach across denominations to reach the people of Austin, and, frankly, mend the broken brand of Christianity.  Roots of selflessness, humility, and service to {literal} neighbors were the foundation of their church—not to comply with a nice moral code, but to authentically share Jesus with those who don’t know him.

"I don't want to be known for a great band.
I don't want to be admired for a great campus.
I don't want to be recognized for a great marketing campaign.
I don't want to be praised for great programming.
I don't want to be applauded for great theology and scholarship.
I want the church to be great because we fed hungry mommas and their babies. I'd like to be great because we battled poverty."

I hope that you read this book.  If you’re a Christian, it will hopefully challenge and encourage you in a new way to live out your faith that isn’t accosting strangers on the street or handing out gospel tracts.  If you’re not a Christian, I hope it will shed light on the source of Hope we have, and maybe change your mind about the Jesus we Christians have failed to represent, even as we desperately believed in Him.

The book wraps up with a charge to “live missionally.”  Though I agreed more and more with words and ideas of the Hatmakers with every turn of the page, I grappled with the practical implications in my own life.  What does it mean to be "on top?"  If it's better to be marginalized, if it’s easier to identify with the gospel, how do I make myself, a white American, marginalized??

“If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?  Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” James 2:15-17

“Missional living” looks completely different depending on where you live and with whom you associate, so there’s no practical reason for me to dive into all of my personal changes and life applications {nor do you probably care!}.   Reading this book will point you to Isaiah 58, Matthew 25, Luke 22, John 21… and help you realize that you don’t have to move to the slums of Calcutta to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.  No longer are we allowed to be wallow in shallow faith because it’s too hard to move to India.  While it may push our pre-established boundaries of faith, it will also push you to a servant-hearted life, investing in your neighbors for no other reason than to live out the Biblical calling to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God…

“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”   Ephesians 3:17-19

SO!  Fair reader, go read Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker.  It won’t take long and you won’t regret it!

{Disclaimer: no one paid me to write this. But they did give me a free book.}

*Quotes in bold reference Interrupted

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