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.