my evolving thoughts on ministry, blue like jazz, etc.

When I was a pretty new Christian, the first christian-ish book I read was Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller.  That was about 6 years ago and I honestly don’t remember a whole lot from the book, but what I do remember was it’s rawness and provocative picture of God’s grace.  Because I had grown up in the church, but had no understanding of who Jesus really was, this book was a breath of fresh air to my new-found faith.  It not only confronts hypocrisy within the church, but goes a step farther when Donald (the author and main character in the book) faces this hypocrisy in his own life.  He’s moved to set up a confession booth at the “godless” university he attended in his attempts to escape God, where he proceeds to do something unheard of.  Person after person enter the booth, expecting to “confess their sins,” but when they meet Donald, he confesses and asks forgiveness for his own hypocrisy and on behalf of the church.  He apologizes for the ways the church has caused pain and wounded so many.  He apologizes for the way God has been misrepresented, because God is not a hypocrite.

sidenote:  I remember after reading this book, talking with my friend about trying to do the same thing on our campus.  I thought we should build a confession booth and set it up at spring fest. (no lies…though it never happened)

So tonight I finally watched Blue Like Jazz, the movie.  It well made, in my opinion, and powerfully portrays the message (I believe) Donald Miller was hoping for.  I had heard Christian criticisms of the movie, saying things like, “it doesn’t share the gospel clearly enough,” “it waters down the truth,” “it’s too much about personal experience,” things like that…  I get what these people are saying…I used to think that way, too.

But…in looking forward to this movie, I really was hoping for a “christian” movie that I could finally watch and not be able to say this afterward: “welp, they obviously felt the need to find some way (tactfully or not) to share the cookie cutter message of praying to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.”
I’m not saying films with that message are futile.  Of course I couldn’t say that.  However, to believe that “successful ministry” must include sharing the “four points” of the gospel at all times does so much damage to not only those we want to minister to, but to ourselves (as the church) as well. (which is a topic to expand on some other time)
Quite frankly, I wish I could apologize to the world on behalf of Christians that think this way (and this way only).  It breaks my heart to think that we can have such a narrow view of God and his gospel and the ways He works, because we can be so narrow-minded. (myself included)

I’m impressed with how well the film portrays real people who are experiencing real shit that happens in real life.  I feel like so many people could watch it and relate on a personal level.  It shows the journeys of  people, some who have been betrayed, raped, or hurt in the name of “Christianity”, running from God, facing their doubts, and asking tough questions.   I’m thankful for it’s uniqueness as a christian film, it’s rawness, and the freedom it gives people to ask hard questions about life and faith.  It’s gives a very powerful depiction of forgiveness and a taste of who God truly is…and I believe it does so in a way that is refreshing and inviting for skeptics and those who have been hurt by the church.

Anyways, it’s getting late, so maybe I’ll write more along these lines later.  I’ll leave you with a quote from the book and film:

  “Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.”

I hope y’all have a refreshing weekend.  As always, feel free to comment.  Cheers.


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