Editor’s note: I decided to do something unique with the first post of Contemplative Monk. As this is a community platform, I invited Jason Hess, CJ (Company of Jesus) to Guest Post. Jason, who’s a Franciscan Monk, agreed to share a little bit of his journey as a Believer. He’s a contributing writer for Red Letter Christians, Sojourners and Everyday Christian.
1. Selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles
2. Composed of elements drawn from various sources
1. One who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus
Eclectic Christian (eckSermonator definition)
- One whose belief in the teachings of Jesus are shaped by various doctrines, methods, or styles pulled from the spectrum of the universal Church
I didn’t grow up in a local church. Yet somehow I was convinced, obviously by American culture, that in some ways I already was a Christian. After all, I was American and I believed in the all-powerful “man upstairs”. I believed the lie that because I was born in a certain place at a certain time that it somehow made me something, in my case a Christian. The reality is I was merely a Gentile Caucasian American from the state of West Virginia who had an ingrained fear, albeit a blurry image, of the Almighty.
In October 1997 when that blurry image finally became clear in a small country church I took my first step into Christianity…and then I settled. I settled into the world I was introduced to, a world where tongue talking, being “slain in the Spirit”, and Holy Ghost hoedowns were the norm…the Pentecostal church.
Don’t get me wrong I appreciate the foundation the Pentecostal expression of Christianity has given me. For a number of years I even held ministerial credentials in one of the largest Pentecostal denominations. I deeply value the things instilled within me. Like the belief that God is still at work in the world, that miracles still happen, that the Spiritual gifts are just as much for today as they were for any other time. However, there are those things I don’t cherish…the necessity to be a pre-tribulation believer, the necessity to speak in tongues to prove the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the overly spiritual stuff like gold dust, holy laughter, and some of the other stuff that television shows use as fodder when making fun of anyone outside of the liturgical branch of the Faith.
In 2005 while serving as a youth pastor at a church in Mesa, Arizona, I was introduced to something I had only in passing glanced at…the Messianic movement. A movement that said there was more to Jesus than the typical Caucasian American portrayal of Him. A movement that said, appearance-wise, Jesus (aka Yeshua) looked a lot more like America’s Middle Eastern enemies than its European allies.
As I began to evolve my thinking I shook free from the slumber I settled into when I first entered into the Faith. The more I began to explore the Jewish roots of Christianity the more alive the Gospel’s, and yes even the Old Testament (aka Tanakh), became to me. I started to see Jesus in a different light, and understand his parables in ways that I hadn’t heard in the denomination I was affiliated with. Much like how a gem has multiple sides I began to realize so does Messiah (aka Moshiach) which led to a mental awakening…an awakening that said no single denomination has the market on this Jesus thing. They all have a piece of the whole…thankfully for the most part the biggest part of the piece is the fundamental core, the bedrock, of the Faith.
I began to see the value of the five books of Moses (aka Torah) and how at the end of the day it really was, and always will be, about faith. Now of course there’s a need for caution here because some have stumbled and adopted the belief that though they were born Gentile they’ve magically become Jewish. Some have also bought into the belief of “one law” for Jew and Gentile alike and forget that the Bible as a whole, not just the Torah, is very nuanced and should be carefully examined and studied. Don’t blindly accept it all and try to apply everything to your life, and don’t foolishly toss it all aside applying nothing to your life…balance is the key, study to show yourself approved.
In 2011 I again took another step, this time becoming a third order Franciscan in an ecumenical religious order that is firmly anchored in the Anglican tradition of the Faith. While this shocked some I feel as if I was being prepared for it throughout my journey. As I’ve evolved my thinking over the years I began to fall in love with liturgical elements, and began to see value and truth in the Catholic Saints…as far as their words and the impact their lives left on this world. St. Francis of Assisi has arguable left the hugest impact; after all he’s loved by both believers and non-believers.
For a moment my wife and I seriously considered transitioning back into a denominational setting and becoming Anglican. However, there are some things that don’t sit well with me and so we remain post-denominational eclectic Christians. Besides…in recent months we’ve begun digging deeply into Anabapist peace teachings and so once again there is an evolution to our thinking occurring. This journey is not always easy, or comfortable, and honestly not for everyone…but that’s okay. At the end of the day we live for Christ and in Christ. We are called to be men and women of faith, and that can manifest itself in whatever way you feel comfortable with…and the Lord leads.
My favorite television show is a British science fiction program called Doctor Who. The main character, known simply as “The Doctor”, travels around in a machine shaped like a Police call box that can go anywhere in all of time and space. Anyways, it’s bigger on the inside. The inside of this machine, known as the TARDIS, is in a pocket dimension. To the outside observer the box isn’t very big but to those that enter its vastness is mind blowing…well, Christianity is the same way. To the outside a Christian is just that a Christian, but to those of us on the inside of this Faith – WOW! – It’s quite expansive and the truths to be discovered are vast and can cause you too to evolve your thinking.
Jason Hess, CJ is a husband, father, ordained minister with Next Leadership Association, and a third order Franciscan.
Additionally, he is in the very early stages of planting a church through Anchor Mission USA.