From last Sunday to Wednesday, co-pastor Rachael McClair and I were at our friend’s lake house on Lake Michigan, 25 miles outside of Chicago. Our friend had invited 5 people from around the country to help her on a particular aspect of her thesis for her Doctorate of Ministry program through Fuller Seminary.

Mind you, this was no hardship; we weren’t exactly suffering for Jesus.

Our host friend is an excellent cook, her husband only keeps good wine in the house, and the house itself is an incredible contemporary edifice that is shaped like the fish design early Christians used as code symbol to let other Christians know where they were meeting in times of persecution. The “head” of the fish points due north across Lake Michigan and the curved sides of the body are all 12 foot high glass so when you are in the house you are either looking at the lake or at the forest and dunes. Like I said, not much suffering for Jesus on this gig.

Our friend interviewed many more pastors and church leaders for her project but wanted to have an extended time with a handful. All those she interviewed were people like me who spent the first part of our ministry in denominations or non-denominational churches with strong ties to evangelicalism but had to leave because we were no longer in theological alignment with the larger group. Yeah, that’s the kind of trouble Jesus will get you in if you take him seriously about loving your neighbor more than you love your interpretation of the Bible.

In particular what struck our friend through her hours and hours of interviewing us was the shift in the locus of authority in our lives and ministry. As evangelicals, all authority started with the Bible which then informed the individual. She observed within her study group that authority for our actions and decisions didn’t start external to us in the scripture but internally.

In the vernacular it means we started trusting our gut instead of an imposed interpretation of ancient texts that kept creating a conundrum for many of us. The conundrum I could not ignore was how certain texts seem to imply that there are people outside of God’s love while Jesus instructed and demonstrated to us how to love not only our neighbor but even our enemies.

While we were having robust conversations in the warmth and beauty of this amazing home, the Polar caps were lifting and pushing out freezing cold air and sending it south. Over the course of those days we were able to actually witness Lake Michigan change from a body of water to an immense block of ice with no water stirring at all. It was frighteningly beautiful.

When we were leaving Wednesday in the hybrid car that had been having some electrical issues, the temperature with wind chill was 47 degrees below zero! The news was warning people not to let their corneas freeze!

25 minutes into our return drive the car just stopped and we had to pull onto the side of the road in -47º weather. There’s a whole other long and interesting story about that I won’t go into but I will say that, at least some of us who would identify as post-evangelicals, were silently praying to God like snake-handling fundamentalists!

Nothing but Love,

Mark