November 9, 2022
By Jo Wiersema
Midweek Musings is a weekly Covenant blog with a variety of authors and a variety of topics.
I spend a lot of time wandering. Theo, my husband, and I live about 20 minutes outside of the city of Madison, so when I have an hour or two between meetings or events, I wander. I don’t have too many “regular” places, so I look on Google Maps and find a coffee shop or library or bar.
This might be a place I frequent regularly and know the person I’m sitting next to. Or like a few nights ago I was sitting at a bar I hadn’t been at in a few years with my current read (The End of Youth Ministry).
Religious books and Bibles in a bar in Madison are almost a guarantee to start a conversation. This book especially has started more conversations than I can count.
That evening, I met a gentleman whom we will call John. John took one look at my book, one look at me, and said “You know, I didn’t go to church until my kid was old enough to need the religion thing. Youth group was a big part of it”.
As we get to talking, I learn that John stopped going to church after high school, but when his son was in elementary school, he got connected with a church nearby - not because he wanted to reconnect with Jesus, but because he wanted his son to have community and morals.
I imagine John isn’t alone in this wandering back and forth to the church, but this stranger, this face of Jesus, was asking me the hard questions.
“Why are you in this job? Isn’t the field dying?”
“Who even goes to church anymore?”
“Is this really what you want to do for the rest of your life?”
These are pretty hard questions from anyone, much more from a stranger, but John came from a place of confusion and hurt. The questions weren’t mean spirited, but more of awe to see this Christmas sweater clad millennial drinking a Golden Ale and engaging in a religious discussion.
These questions made me sit and consider...
...what it means to be a church leader in the world
...what it means to be a young church leader in the world
...what do we do as Christians when confronted with our neighbor who asks us big questions
So, I answered in the most earnest way possible:
“I was called by God to be in ministry, I’m not sure what my job holds in 6 months or 40 years, but I know I need to be here.”
The implication of here being not only in ministry, but being a witness in my wanderings.
A witness to the spiritual trauma and spiritual exhaustion that comes from problematic churches and an overwhelming Christendom that somehow got twisted into nationalist politics.
I’m not here to bring the Kingdom, the Kingdom is already here.
I’m here to sit next to my neighbor where they are at.
I am here to listen to the stories and experiences of any person who stumbles across my path.
I’m here to honestly share my faith because we are called to.
I’m not talking about taking my Bible and professing my sermons in parks, but I can wander around Madison with my little book that causes a conversation here or there.
I don’t need to beat around the bush when people ask about my job or my schooling or why in the world would I read a book about Youth Ministry.
I can say, with my head held high: I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am dedicating my life to sharing the Good News that you are loved. You, even you, your sins are forgiven. You are loved. You are so much more than your mistakes because no matter what you believe or where you’ve been or when you last stepped foot in a church, you’re still loved. You’re welcome on Sunday mornings at Covenant, you’re welcome on a weekday afternoon at the bar I work at, you’re welcome to my dinner table, and you’re welcome to the Kingdom, because you’re already a part of it.
Christ doesn’t ask us to be perfect, but he does ask us to love our neighbor.
So, we pray for John.
We pray for people next to us in line at the coffee shop.
We pray for the family at the library.
We pray for an open heart and open ears.
We pray to be Christian in our words and deeds.