DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

If Only……..

Written by: on March 9, 2019

Reading this was cathartic to me. Life has been incredibly tumultuous for the past 18 months or so centered around deep feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, self-hatred etc. that resulted in severe marital struggles. I moved out for the better part of 6 months early last year and even when I was home, I refused to share a bed or almost any physical contact with my wife of nearly 30 years. I believed it was over. It is only in the past couple of months that God’s grace and the relentless love of my amazing wife finally broke through and I am on the road to healing.

I am certainly not alone. Looking back much of this stemmed from my own family situation and the messages, verbal and non-verbal, that underscored what Jonathan Grant in his book ‘Divine Sex’ suggests is ubiquitous in our misguided pursuit of ‘authentic’ relationships. Pent up since my early teens was an imbalanced impulse to secure parental (fatherly) acceptance through self-actualization and extreme independence, all of which was in contrast to my profession of faith in Jesus as savior. Grant hints at the challenges this drive toward an ‘atomistic worldview’[1]presents in a committed marital relationship when he says: “Modern authenticity encourages us to create our own beliefs and morality, the only rule being that they must resonate with who we feel we really are.[2]Unbeknownst to me the insecurities I felt toward my father were realized in my relationship with my wife….for decades. “Behind the confident mask of the ‘authentic’ self often lies self-hatred or a lack of self-acceptance.”[3]

Though I have been in ministry my entire adult life in one form or another, have had the opportunity to live in a cross-cultural context which fostered significant introspection and clarity regarding American cultural influences, I was still so deeply affected by the secular culture in which I was raised. “Even though we may believe in God, this secular vision has become the air we breathe, affecting our way of seeing and being in the world.”[4]

This is all more than you wanted to know but, I write as I am impacted and this text resonated with long term personal issues. So how should the Church respond? There is no avoiding the culture unless you choose to join the Amish and eschew any meaningful connection with the surrounding culture. As Grant recognizes; “Christian faith and secular culture exist in complex interrelationship.” [5]More exclusivism by Christians is not what the world needs. And if I, a middle-aged man, found myself so deeply impacted by misaligned thinking and misguided pursuit of false ‘authenticity’, how much more at risk are the younger generations? This has the potential to irrevocably alter the familial landscape in the U.S., not simply because of the law change permitting same sex marriage, but more importantly the widespread neurosis [6]that avoids discomfort at all times. Marriage is an ordeal not simply a convenient relationship that is there to fulfill our inherent longings.

The challenge for the Church is that it has largely lost its ability to communicate effectively to the culture and even when it does decide to make some form of stand in support of marriage it is perceived as out of touch. “The cultural environment makes the Christian vision of sexuality and marriage seem naïve, unreasonable, or at least unworkable as a real-life philosophy – even for many Christians.”[7]If those in our own congregations are not fully understanding the need for the sanctity of marriage then; “something in our approach to discipleship is not getting to the heart of things.”[8]Perhaps we need to pick up from last week’s reading and be willing to ask new kinds of questions and seek out different answers in order to communicate the message in a more effective manner. “We cannot afford to let sexual and relational formation remain a secondary concern within the church.”[9]

For too long we have predominantly ‘played’ at church and community. Even more so now that we have been inundated with hand-held computers. “Technology encourages us to personalize our religious experience, podcast our favorite speakers, plug in a suitable solo worship experience, and attend church simply for the social interaction and romantic prospects.”[10]It seems that genuine community is not the norm and yet that is the one thing that would be most attractive to this generation of 2 dimensional relationships. “The hope of the Gospel is that it invites us out of hiding……to root us in real community.”[11]The unwillingness of the church to adequately address issues of sexuality, familial relationships, marital fidelity, etc. because they are uncomfortable fails to recognize the centrality of these issues for living our God’s vision of “comprehensive human flourishing in all its fullness.”[12]]

I, for one, with a renewed and balanced sense of self, hope to lead in this area or at the very least help those preparing for marriage to avoid some of the pitfalls that had captured me for so long.

**********************************************

 

[1]Grant, Jonathan. Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, a Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2015. P. 120

[2]Ibid p. 30

[3]Ibid p. 51

[4]Ibid p. 122

[5]Ibid p. 25

[6]Ibid p. 19

[7]Ibid p. 16

[8]Ibid p. 23

[9]Ibid p. 25

[10]Ibid p. 34

[11]Ibid p. 53

[12]Ibid p. 17

About the Author

mm

Dan Kreiss

Former director of the Youth Ministry program at King University in Bristol, TN and Dean of the School of Missions. I have worked in youth ministry my entire life most of that time in New Zealand before becoming faculty at King. I love helping people recognize themselves as children of God and helping them engage with the world in all its diversity. I am particularly passionate about encouraging the church to reflect the diversity found in their surrounding community in regard to age, gender, ethnicity, education, economic status, etc. I am a husband, father of 4, graduate of Emmanuel Christian Seminary, an avid cyclist and fly-fisherman still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

16 responses to “If Only……..”

  1. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Dan!

    I will never forget this Blog. So honest and transparent, both in your life and the life of the church. You have taken us to a new level in our Cohort and I thank you.

    Your vulnerability will now certainly be attacked by potential self-doubt or even from God’s enemy. Stand firm and keep the faith.

    I am both humbled and appreciative of the journey you are on. God will be glorified though you and your marriage, as well as your ministry.

    Thank you again!

    • mm Dan Kreiss says:

      Brother/Roomie,

      I feel a level of comfort with the Elite 8’s that permitted the honesty. Being transparent like this, no longer trapped by the pretense of what I am supposed to be, has to happen in order for genuine growth and healing to take place. Thanks for your support and prayers.

  2. Thanks for this post, Dan. I really appreciate your authenticity.

    I so resonate with the idea of “playing church” in the USA. I have used that exact phrase myself. But I don’t know how to help my USAmerican friends understand what I mean. They are content with their mud pies because they’ve never tasted real pies. Real community is so rich, so lovely AND so hard, and so transformative. It requires serving out of exhaustion, loving those who hurt us, and also being able to receive those things from others (that interdependence to which you refer). And I believe that learning to live in community as the church has been salutory for me in many ways, freeing me from that place of harmful introspection and narcissism.

    What are some ways you could create community, pockets of “real” church that could begin to model the change you’d like to see?

    • mm Dan Kreiss says:

      Jennifer,

      Great question. I’m not sure I have an answer yet. I have only just begun to be more intentional myself about community and seeking real relationships. With life in transition again as a result of the loss of my position at King we are not sure what the future holds. I do know that where ever we end up establishing genuine community will be a top priority.

  3. Greg says:

    Dan,

    Too often we all play the game with masks on. The journey you have been on and continue to be on is/was/has not been an easy one. I think we love to hide our faults especially because we (I) feel like a leader should not be seen as weak. I so appreciate your ongoing authenticity as I think it will spur our cohort, your family, students….to be confronted with the brokenness that comes from living this life. I was in a lenten study yesterday. The leader quoted Richard Rohr… “Ask Christ, What is it you want me to let go? Then ask Is it other than what I think it is?” I was so touched that we often have our public answers to questions God asks us but was self reflecting on if my answers were for public consumption or was there other things Christ wants me to release. On the journey with you.

  4. Thanks for being so open and vulnerable enough to share your journey. I rejoice with you that God is restoring the years that the locusts have taken, and I pray that the future is cemented with a strong foundation for you and your family.

    You mention, “This has the potential to irrevocably alter the familial landscape in the U.S., not simply because of the law change permitting same-sex marriage, but more importantly the widespread neurosis [6] that avoids discomfort at all times. Marriage is an ordeal, not simply a convenient relationship that is there to fulfill our inherent longings.”

    Yes. “Some” Millennials and Generation Z avoid discomfort and remain single; however, some marry to avoid discomfort as well. For instance, the church is made for married people. Hence, the majority of ministries center around children and the gyms are labeled as “family centers”. I’ve witnessed more young people turn towards marriage as a way of acceptance.

    You also mention, “The challenge for the Church is that it has largely lost its ability to communicate effectively to the culture and even when it does decide to make some form of stand in support of marriage it is perceived as out of touch.” The majority of churches that I work with uphold marriage as an idol above their relationship with the Lord. They equal the sanctity of marriage as the presentation of spiritual maturity. What has been your experience with the PCUSA church and their “support of marriage”? I’ve seen singles cast out of the doors of the church and limited in their ministry roles. However, I’ve seen churches bring up men in ministry simply because they’re married with children, as though their sex life has prepared them solely for leadership.

    • mm Dan Kreiss says:

      Colleen,

      As I mentioned in my response to your blog I lack real understanding of the issues regarding singleness in the church but I am open to learning and listening. I know that the Church lifts up marriage and family as an idol many times and thus communicates that singleness is a form of brokenness. I don’t think this is intentional by any means but the message is loud and clear. Our relationship with God is not dependent upon a marital connection, nor is any person’s ability to lead.

      Please continue to lead the church in this regard, not because you are single, but because you are a Godly woman who has insight and perspective that most in the Church lack.

      • Thanks so much for that great support! It’s encouraging to see so many leaders rising up and questioning the church’s preference towards marriage and exclusion of singles. We’re definitely in the midst of shaping the church to look more like Christ.

  5. Dan,

    I deeply appreciate you sharing your challenging journey which is a common experience to many.

    My wife and I have a sardonic joke we tell each other about how if you stay married to the same person long enough, you’ll eventually wind up with oh, about seven, unique relationships. Kind of a serial monogamy with the same person, but both parties evolve so much over the years that you end up with someone you never dreamed of. 😉 Each new stage requires a recommitment to staying and it often isn’t what you signed up for at the front end of the relationship.

    You quoted, “The hope of the Gospel is that it invites us out of hiding……to root us in real community.” Marriage is one place to discover this life beyond ourselves.

  6. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Dan,
    Thank you so much for your ability to be personal and real within the context of our reading. This book affected me for different reasons but your connection brought back some painful memories of my own and it really will force me to read this book again from a different perspective.

    Thanks for your post.

    Jason

  7. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Dan, your courageous and vulnerable blog is wonderful. Thank you for trusting us enough to share. There is something cathartic and healing about honesty and authenticity. Giving praise and thanks that you are in a better place. Knowing that this book touched you in an important way, how can you integrate this important topic into your own ministry teaching with young, idealistic students?

  8. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Dan, Thanks for your vulnerability. I am so glad for your healing and hopeful for your continued ministry to others. The next generations need people to be honest about their woundedness and healing who will disciple them with depth about following Jesus in their relationships. I am wondering what you see as important beginnings for those conversations/teachings? Do you agree with the methods of Grant in his practices at the end of the book?

  9. Hey bro, your post has definitely inspired the 8s to lean into vulnerability and transparency without shame. I am honored that you would trust our cohort with your private journey and I hope this external processing has been healing for you. I would be honored to have a heart to heart convo with you if you ever feel the need to process, get support, or just have someone to listen and affirm you. Message me anytime and I will give you my private cell number. Love you brother and will be praying for you and your wife!

    • mm Dan Kreiss says:

      Jake,

      This is unusual for me but I feel a level of comfort and openness with our cohort that allowed me to be vulnerable. While the timing has been terrible for this program of study the connection I feel with all of you has made it all worthwhile, even if I keep quiet most of the time. I honestly don’t want it to end because I love meeting with everyone each week in Zoom and anticipate our time together in the residencies.

      Thanks for your prayers. I’ll connect with you through fb messenger to swap contact info.

  10. Chris Pritchett says:

    Thanks for your vulnerability on this, Dan. I know it has been a rough go for you for the past year and a half and was so glad to read about how God is bringing you out of the season of disorientation to a season of new orientation. How are you going to make room for God to use this season to help others?

  11. Dave Watermulder says:

    Dan,
    Thank you for this post and for your honesty with our group. That takes guts, man. I’m writing this after spending a few days with you in Seattle and now I see why you told me that I had to read your post and that it was the topic of much discussion on the zoom call! God bless you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *