Trucking for as many years as I did, being a part of the biker community for as long as I have, growing up in the midst of the Metal scene (of which I still embrace), and coming from an “un-churched” background as I have all combine to form a certain culture of me; a particular way of thinking. For nearly a dozen years now I have been a “pastor” (whatever that means), the last eight of which being “fulltime” (as if there is any such thing as “part-time”). This strange combination has made for some odd encounters, experiences, and relationships; not to mention much understanding, and many misunderstandings.
Many pastors find incredible comfort in the Sunday service called “church.” For them, the church culture is a safe place. Dressing up, playing the role of worship leader, fluctuation of the voice during the sermon, needing to be needed, and the ancient liturgy, etc. all combine to form a comfortable safety that they can receive nowhere else; a certain culture, a particular way of thinking. This is rather alien to me. “Church,” quite honestly, is not that way for me. It is, to me, a place of invitation and challenge, where ever you are – Church. It is an opportunity to invite people into relationship and to challenge them to invite others into relationship – the full expression of God on earth. The church building is a platform from which the Vision is cast, no more and no less. Sunday morning is just another day of the week, another hour that I get to talk to people. I bring my un-ceremonial, un-sacramental self (usually in leather) and talk about the Cross of Christ. Church is not a place to sit and relax, to me, but a place to cast and receive Vision; non-stop, not a day off, always inviting and challenging, and not necessarily organized.
Being “at church,” I find no comfort or safety. However, I find it necessary for the matter at hand, for it is the place where the “churched” gather; a people to which I’m called to cast a Vision. With the “un-churched,” without the building, I am also called, though I feel no more comfortable or safe than with the “churched.” Although I love casting Vision, neither is the comfort and safety found in the casting of the Vision itself, regardless of to whom I am casting it. Vision casting is a calling; it is suffering – completing the sufferings of Christ.
When I meet people I previously did not know, and they find out what I do, they almost always ask me what “biker church” or what “metal church” I pastor. While it is interesting that we must always categorize people we don’t understand (where I pastor is a melting pot of a mass of humanity), the point in this is not simply culture either. Culture is a variable, but not the reason for my point of view. I may be uncomfortable in a culture that is not my own, finding no safety in a place quite odd to me; but the thing is, comfort and safety are not why I’m a pastor and they’re not what I’m looking for “at church.” I’m a pastor solely out of calling. I’m a Vision caster because I love God and His Vision casted. When asked what I would do if the UMC no longer had a place for me as a pastor I reply, not that I would start a church somewhere, but that, “I’d say, ‘thank you God’ and get in the truck!”
Comfort, for me, is found “in the wind” – riding the ultimate two-seater, my bike – or when I was truckin’, to be in the truck, in some state; just the road to guide me. [Oh, how I miss truckin’!] Safety is being “at the house” – in my own home; my castle. On the bike, in the truck, at the house, that’s comfort and safety. Where I come from, Heavy Metal is the form of worship. The musically expressed dissatisfaction of humanity with humanity causes me to discern the Vision. I do not look for comfort and safety anywhere else. That is my culture. That is how I think.