I enjoyed a walk around the Sutton Salt Lake on Sunday.
We’d done an airport drop off and decided to keep heading west, to Middlemarch.
After lunch and a wander of the street/s, we stopped off at the salt lake.
We had visited once before.
As I led the way (a little briskly due to the promise of rain – both in the sky and forecast),
I remembered the sensation from our last visit:
of not knowing where I was going to end up.
The landscape appeared flat, yet there are also moments when you seem to be approaching a crest.
Surely, the lake will appear at some stage.
Also, looking ahead, it wasn’t always obvious where the path was.
But, if I kept looking into the shorter distance, there was always a clear way through the next part
– and that clarity was consistently present before me as I kept walking.
Life can be a bit like that, right?
We can have a sense of what our destination is,
and see a little part of the way forward,
but we don’t need to be able to see the whole track.
And that is OK. Normal.
I could have stood, debilitated, scanning the horizon, trying to see where the distant path was.
But there was no need.
All I needed to do was to follow the trail before me.
The rest was revealed as it needed to be.
The lake eventually appeared.
Was appreciated. Briskly (that potential rain, again).
The sounds of a family playing in and near the water.
And a continuation of the trail that led me back to the car.
It worked for a walk.
Why? Because there was somewhere I was going (or at least, I had a sense that there was a recommended destination ahead: in truth, the first time I visited, I had little idea of what that destination would look like).
There was a path that led me there.
I followed it.
It seems it might work for life too.
We have an idea of where we are going.
We take steps to get there, trusting that the path before us will continue to be revealed.
Here’s a link to an article I wrote last year for Catholic magazine, Tui Motu. In it, I briefly explore how Christians can, in the midst of their own vulnerability, help to draw others towards relationship with God.
It’s reassuring to me, and perhaps to you, that we don’t need to have it all together. We don’t need to have all the answers. Rather, it’s about what I call ‘relational authenticity’.
Have a read … and, as always, much more I could say!
Original article is from: Tui Motu Magazine. Issue 220 October 2017: 18-19
Why are previously unchurched people becoming Christians today?
That was the BIG question that I explored in my PhD.
What did I discover?
Here’s a bit of a summary… Within each of these brief headings and summaries lies much additional material!
Why ask the question?
Christian church attendance and religious affiliation in Western countries is declining. Decreasing proportions of people are raised in the Church. However, Christians are called to bear witness to the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. The purpose of this research was to investigate why some previously ‘unchurched’ people become Christians: thus, encouraging and enabling more effective engagement by Christians in conversion. Combining social scientific practice with theological reflection revealed a substantive theory of religious conversion contextually located in late modernity/postmodernity.
What did I do?
The research began with the lived experiences of previously unchurched Australians, who recently converted to Christianity. It used critical realist grounded theory to answer research questions about the conversion process; the roles of other Christians and God in conversion; and the deep processes occurring within these converts. Semi structured interviews generated rich data, which was analysed using iterative and in-depth grounded theory methods.
What did I discover…
About the conversion process?
The research found that following initial exposure to Christianity, participants experienced a catalyst that encouraged them to further explore Christianity. They began to engage in various spiritual practices, usually following a specific invitation. Having made a series of decisions to continue to explore and engage, they reached a point where they called themselves ‘Christian’.
About how they perceived other Christians?
Converts generally had a positive perception of other Christians, and understood them to have been helped by their faith; to live differently because of their faith; to share openly with others; to be deeply hospitable; and to allow room for complexity, doubts and questions in their faith.
About how they understood God’s role in conversion?
God was understood to be loving, powerful, patient, accepting and forgiving. In addition, God was seen to work through others; curate unique conversion experiences; be present; speak; help; grow the participants; and to have acted in the past in creating, sacrificing, redeeming, and Jesus dying.
What was going on deep inside?
Converts experienced ‘affects’ as they journeyed towards Christian faith. a yearning or wanting more; a desire to live better or become who they are; a sense that faith relates to everyday life; a sense of welcome, warmth, belonging and homecoming; a sense of knowing; and, because of their fledgling faith, they saw things differently.
So, what is it all about?
For those I interviewed, conversion can be understood as resulting from their desiring, observing and experiencing relational authenticity. Religious conversion is fuelled by a desire for authenticity. God enables authenticity to develop and flourish. Religious conversion is resourced by Christians who embrace and exhibit authenticity in their personal, social and spiritual lives. This genuine authenticity is relational in nature: focusing not (just) on the self but also on relationship with God and significant connection with, and responsibility toward, others. This understanding rightly challenges the notion of authenticity as a narcissistic actualisation that prioritises the self over external relationships and responsibilities. When relational authenticity is sought, and realised, healthy transformation results. This transformation sees new converts ‘becoming’ the people they were created to be: unique persons who see their worth and their responsibilities in the light of their relationships with God and with others.
Want to hear more?
There is a very brief article in here on the role of other Christians in faith formation.
And yes, so much more to write!
We (Student Soul) gave these out at Salmond College: encouraging students to remember and give thanks for those who have been a blessing in their lives to date.
It is good to reclaim All Hallows Eve as a celebration of good people!
Also, chocolate. Always good.
Hey world! It’s Halloween.
Halloween is the eve (e’en) before All Hallows Day (Hallow)…
It’s a day to remember people whom we are glad of:
people who have inspired us,
helped us grow … challenged us … made our world a better place.
In the past, I’ve engaged in a little reverse-Halloween activity:
knocking on neighbour’s doors to give away treats.
Today, I invite you to remember someone whom you are glad of.
What challenge or encouragement might they offer you today?