“You might want to think about shaving your beard,” he said. He was right and I appreciated his candor. If I were to break into the secular business world, I would probably need to “clean up” a bit. But, after having a beard in some form or another for the better part of a decade, it is not just a fashion statement. For me, the hair on my face says “I am not completely opposed to civilization, but I am not completely controlled by it either.” I know that may sound a bit dramatic, but that is the emotional response that surfaced when that advice splashed into my soul.
Although I have done full-time ministry for seventy-five percent of my “professional” career, I have never quite felt completely settled with it. Maybe it is the beard. Physically I have been able to keep it, but in many other ways I have felt like I still needed to shave every day. Shave off that part of my theology. Trim that edge of my personality. Fade that so it is more in line. I can shave, but I am starting to be really bad at it. I keep missing a lot of hairs and they are noticeable.
I am tired of shaving. Some of you are tired of shaving too. You have had enough nicks and cuts. You are done with going to church and coming away with razor burn.
Not everybody. This is not an indictment of organized religion. Many of us go to churches that fit us well – churches, whether small or large, that are authentic and doing a great job of making disciples. Paul described us as the body with each of us being a different part that plays a different, but equally viable role. I do not think it is too much of a theological stretch to apply this same principal to groups of Christians (churches) in addition to individuals. The large, wealthy church plays a role and the small, less financially nimble church plays an equal and yet different role. Both are good. Both are needed. Neither can do everything nor reach everyone.
Me? I am drawn to the hairy people. This is not about exclusion. Quite the opposite. It is about expanding the borders of our church communities and ultimately the kingdom. This is about inclusion. This is about making room for the person with the hairy theology, the stubbly world-view or the 5 o’clock shadow of a past. I am drawn to the people that others think have lost their faith when in actuality they are just struggling to articulate it because of fear or confusion. I am for the ones who say they are spiritual and not religious. That is just a nifty cliché that really means they have not found a community with whom they feel safe exploring life’s hairiest questions. I am with the ones who have decided to just not go because they are tired of shaving.
We (my family) are about to partner with a small faith community. A community for the hairy people (*not actual mission statement). One that reaches that ex-youth group kid with the deep soul that disengaged from church long ago. One that calms the anxiety of that person who needs community, but resists conformity. A faith community that is known more by what it is for than what it is against.
We are moving to the Denton, TX area to join Venture Community Church. But, it is going to take more than us and the committed people there. We need some friends. People who love us, believe in us and believe in building what I just described. We need our friends to become “Friends of Venture” by prayer and, yes, by funds (contact me). I have already reached out to some of you and will continue to reach out until we see this through. But, if this resonates with you and sort of stirs your soul a bit, we need you. I would love to hear from you.