I recently picked up Doug Pagitt’s book Flipped. This is one of those books I purchased with the intent of reading over the summer but never got to. Life happened. My family moved to the beach. I started a new job. Life just got in the way.
Doug makes the point that when new ideas or our assumptions are presented to us we eventually will Flip the way we not only view the world but also the way we view God. He uses the example of becoming a runner. This is something I can relate to (although I do not have the running resume Doug has). There often comes a time when our preconceived notions or long held beliefs about something change. This usually happens over a period of time with a capstone/straw breaking the camel’s back event happening in the end.
For me, this event happened almost 4 years ago when I met Tony Jones. I met Tony when he came to speak at Aldersgate on the topic of “Why the UMC is the Worst Denomination in Modern Day Christianity” right on the coattails of the 2012 General Conference. Perfect topic right?
Tony spoke at Aldersgate on the same weekend it was announced that I was taking the reigns of the youth ministry there. Tony and I sat in the back of the worship service on Saturday night and during one of the songs he leaned over to me and asked my why I was in the UMC ordination process. I have to admit this question took me by surprise. I was a newly minted seminary student, having just 1 year of course work under my belt and Tony Jones (the Tony Jones) was asking me ‘why?’
That moment when I either didn’t have an answer of my own or my answer wasn’t adequate (blame it on my old age that I don’t really remember) still stands out to me 4 years later. As I prepare to (hopefully) end my seminary career and continue working in the church, having left the ordination process, I often think back to the ‘why?’ question Tony asked me 4 years ago.
That moment, although the I didn’t know it at the time was my Flip.
The question Tony planted in my head, the question I didn’t have an answer to has stuck with me for the last 4 years. Not only am I talking about the why ordained ministry question, but a broader ‘why ministry?’
I’m not sure if I have an adequate answer to Tony’s question. But I do know that when I walked away from the ordination processes, when I left my job at Aldersgate, and when I went through to discernment process about returning to ministry that something in me had Flipped. I knew something was different. And I knew that I would need to be able to share whatever this Flip was with the people I would be ministering to.
As Doug points out in his book Jesus often said, “You have heard it was said… But I say to you…”. Just when we thought we knew where God was guiding us we find out that we were completely wrong in what we thought we were suppose to be doing and that we should now be focusing on something entirely different. And for me, in my experience that change or Flip as Doug calls it is reframing our teaching, service, and worship to Love. That’s Love and not love.
Love, with the capital L, is our response to the Love we have experienced in Jesus. I felt the Love of Christ when I was working at Aldersgate and while in the UMC ordination process but I don’t think I had quite figured out how I was suppose to share the Love with the students and families I was working with. Rather than it being a invitation to share in the Love and share that Love together, it came off as a here is the Love of Christ now take it. Here is how I’ve experienced the Love of Jesus you should do it that way too. I am the Youth Director and I Love you so do things my way.
The Love of Christ is not one size fits all. Yes the love of Christ is for everyone but it is experienced and shared in different ways. And that’s the Flip I think we all need. That’s the “You have heard it was said… But I say to you…” moment we are experiencing right now. More and more people are experiencing the Love of Christ, God’s grace, for the first time as barriers in the church are being removed.
Inclusivity is now a priority in many communities which means more and more experiences of God’s grace will be coming into our communities. More and more experiences of Love will be walking through the doors. And when the grace of God walks through the door and Love is allowed to be shared get ready to experience your own Flip moment.