Tony Jones, My Missional Friend

My friend Tony Jones (Ok maybe he isn’t a “friend friend” but maybe more of an “acquaintence friend”) has finally done it. Yes, he’s written something that I can both a) understand and b) wholeheartedly support, endorse and trumpet. (Thanks to One Mo Blog for the heads up on this one).

The fact that he has written something that I can understand isn’t completely his fault. Tony is a very heady and smart guy, he occasionally uses really big and unfamiliar words when he writes, he discusses terms I am often not familiar with, and he is a student and lover of theology. The guy really loves the stuff and has a website dedicated to it called The Emergent Theological Conversation. I just took a casual read of the site and actually enjoyed most of what I skimmed. I think I just have to be in the right frame of mind to want to understand it. Theology reminds me too much of my university and seminary work….ugh!

Anyway, so what has Tony written that has motivated me to garnish him with praise?

In a post on the Emergent website called Pastor, Will You Help Us?, Tony addresses the concept of pastors marrying “churchless couples”. In this post, he refers to his friend Bill Yaccino, who is a pastor and has found quite a ministry among marrying those couples that come to him that do not have a church home.

Tony writes: When my friend, Bill Yaccino, first called me about this idea, I was a bit skeptical. I worked on a large church staff for many years, and we kept raising the bar on how hard it was to get married in our church, thus driving many couples to get married elsewhere. At the time, I bought the pastor’s argument that the church shouldn’t just marry any Tom, Dick, or Harriet who wanted to get hitched in our beautiful sanctuary. We should have standards. But the more I’ve talked with Bill, the more I’ve been convinced that his ministry is a truly missional endeavor: to marry churchless couples. Once you start hearing the stories about his conversations and ministry to these couples, you can’t help but be moved.

I couldn’t agree more. Beyond finally grasping the concept of what it means to be “missional”, this is something I have felt really good about since leaving church work. Little did I know I was being Emergent so many years ago when after leaving church work I would start performing more and more weddings for people that didn’t have a church home but wanted a Christian wedding.

It just seemed to make sense. These people didn’t want to run to Vegas, they wanted some type of “spiritual” aspect to their marriages. However, many times they would go to their local church and be turned away because they were either not members, or living “in sin”, or not willing to submit to several counseling sessions, or wanted to get married outside of the church building. So I have done weddings at colleges, bars, parks, backyards and of course beaches.

I reasoned that these folks were going to get married one way or another, so why not be involved. It was a chance to get to know them and provide some type of spiritual direction and focus for their marriage. Without a doubt, I have done more weddings since leaving the church in the past six years than I ever did as an “on-staff” pastor. These weddings have always been some of my favorite memories about being a real bonafide pastor.

Now if this is what means to be Emergent, then call me “emergent”. Like Bill says in the post, I think it is called just being “normal”. It is not worrying about whether or not people give you the “right answers” before you will talk with them. And it really isn’t about hammering out “theology” with people… you’ve got to get to know people no matter their church status, beliefs or attendance. As Bill reflects, I began hanging around people who did not attend church regularly – many spiritual, but not religious. You know, the type of people we all read about, but never meet because we are so busy being pastors!

Now where have I read something like that before…. hmmmm… I wonder.

You see Bill Yaccinno gets it. I echo Bill in this post and encourage each of you to give it a read. Also, if you know someone looking for a pastor for a wedding, send them over to Bill’s website and maybe they can find themselves one.

So just think about it. I have been “missional” all of these years without knowing it. Who’d of thunk it. Geesh, we make things so damn hard to understand. In the old days we simply called it being a “Christian”. I guess that’s not enough anymore.

12 thoughts on “Tony Jones, My Missional Friend”

  1. I’m with Zeke. You let fornicators marry, then all of a sudden you’ll be marrying homos.Seriously, though, everyone knows that, for many people, having children and “settling down” precipitates a return to the church, or a first-time engagement with the church. You’d think churches would be lining up to snap these folks up on their wedding days!

  2. Steve, I love reading this. I’m so glad you do this…I don’t want to cause a firestorm of controversy here…but I’m just curious if you’d ever do a ceremony for same-sex couples if you were asked?

  3. Steve, wow. In my eyes, you’re not a very good stupid church person then. 😉Thanks for your honesty and genuine caring about people.

  4. I can relate to Jeff and Ninja on this one. When it came time for my wife and I to be married, I was attending my current church, but you had to be a member to get married there. So we found a nice Evangelical Free church that was willing to marry us. It was going to so nice, getting married out on the church grounds, which since I’m in AZ is the desert. But they were getting their parking lot paved the same weekend, so there would be no place for people to park.We eventually did find a nice small little church near my dad’s house in Carefree, that is actually part of the local museum and that worked out even better. We just celebrated out 4 year anniversay this past Thursday.

  5. Ha! Jeff, we got married in a Methodist Church we weren’t members of either! (for a small rental fee–to pay for the cost of air conditioning, most likely–it was summer in Oklahoma, after all).So, I give props to Methodists, for keepin’ it real.The Baptist/Evangelical churches, however…those were the ones who took the “exclusive” view of their buildings.

  6. Oh, great… the logical extention of this failure to stand for the truth and defend God’s principles is that people will be marrying puppies and sheep in the church. Armageddon around the corner. Stop the insanity!

  7. We got msrried in a gorgeous United Methodist Church that we did not attend.There was no problem when we agreed to pay the church-rental fee…fair enough!!

  8. The Pete and I had a hard time finding a church to get married in, since we met and lived in Seattle, but wanted to get married in my hometown of OKC. So many churches were so uppity about wanting their pretty, expensive church buildings to only be used for the weddings of members. We already had a pastor who would marry us (a very dear friend, through whom we met), and had had several pre-marital counseling sessions, but that wasn’t good enough. Membership was required.Gee, remember when churches served the community, and shared their facilities with the community for traditionally churchy things (like weddings and funerals)? Now it seems to be an exclusive members-only country club mentality among many congregations.

  9. What’s happening here is that the shepherds are finally realizing that all thir sheep are not spotless and white. Some of us are speckled or even brown or black. It’s what Jesus talked about in going and getting the one sheep isn’t it? It’s what Jesus did when he went completely out of His way to talk to a Samaritan woman sitting by a well.But you know what? It’s not just something pastors need to realize. I think it’s something all christians need to come to terms with. God knows I need to. Sometimes I get so busy being christian with al my christian friends, I forget that there are non-christians out there who need me… not to be a christian around them. No, they just need a loving, faithful friend who won’t preach at them… just love them.I’m in that environment now. No, I’m not marrying people. But, it’s not just about marriage, is it? How many times do we disqualify potential relationships because they are not in our “felowship” or are “living in sin” or they cuss or drink…God has allowed me the opportnity, through a new job, to have genuine relationship with what the church would deem ‘sinners’. But, I’m beginning to embrace the beauty of the dynamic of these relationships. They’re causing me to grow. And I’m learning how to be missional without being God’s Amway salesman…Good post Steve. Glad to see you boys playing nicely together 🙂

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