#SubversiveJesus — Chapter 3

Chapter 3 is a lot about what happened when Greenfield and his fledgling community opened their doors. He talks about the people they’ve invited into their lives and the repercussions both in society and in the church, sharing the initial responses from church people and the stories of people he’s met along the way. He expounds on the flawed charity model we’ve grown up with — I’d initially started writing a post about this until I realized there was nothing that I could add to that conversation. They’re things I know in my head, but things that I’m still working out in my life. It would all just be theoretical.

This live-blogging is not a meant to be a summary of what Subversive Jesus is about. What I’m doing is really highlighting things that catch my interest as I read the chapter the first time, and then going back to those highlights to think about it again. I’m giving you the thoughts that capture me at this point of time in my life.

To be inclusive you must learn to be exclusive. In order to be truly inclusive and welcoming to those on the margins, there will be times when you must be exclusive — to shut the door and take care of yourself — so you have something to give next time. Or you may need to say no to one person so you can welcome others. To be inclusive, we must ask God for the wisdom to know when to be exclusive. — Subversive Jesus; Craig Greenfield

I used to be able to say no to a lot of things. Not so much anymore. I feel the pull to always be doing more, be helping more, to be more present in everything. It’s tiring. It’s draining. The problem really is that I do too many things. Even right now, at this point, I have a list of ministries I should be involved in. Some of them, I do want to be involved in, some of them I don’t. Some of them I take on out of passion, some I take on out of frustration.

Where Greenfield has one focus, I feel pulled in many directions. Worship team? Drama team? Cell Group? Young Adults ministry? I’m supposed to be writing and my vision is to be in the arts, but half the time, the church (or at least certain people in the church) are asking me to come up with programs (you’re the drama person, we need something for next month, can you do it now? And get the people? and practice?) for the church and I feel bad if I don’t, even though I don’t get paid for it. That’s not a great way to support myself financially or emotionally.

When I felt God saying that it was time to stop worship leading, I had a tough time justifying it, even to myself. Like, was I busy at work? Was I still traveling? We don’t have enough worship leaders — can you come back and help? But I’d known it was right and I stuck to it, even though the pull is still there. The thing is, if, as I say, I feel called to the creative world out on the streets (well, not literally streets, but in the city), I cannot afford to have my weekends tied up in church. I need to be able to stop in at LUMA through the weekend when we have exhibitions. I need to be able to clear out my weekend schedule at will when manpower is needed. I need to be available at times when everyone else is busy at church. I need to be able to say yes to things that will conflict with a normal church’s schedule.

LUMA operates subversively enough and it’s hard to explain to a Christian group how this is a “ministry”. It’s hard to explain “impact” because they tend to think in terms of “salvations” and “how many people have you brought to Christ (or at least, the church)?” But that’s not our point. Our point is to be a light in the arts, adding our voices to the conversation about media and arts that’s swirling around us, making eddies, making change in our cultural landscape. Our point is to facilitate artists (Christian or not) and to give them a space and an avenue to speak positively. Because God knows Malaysia needs good news!

The name LUMA, in Latin, refers to the attribute of being bright, the letters also forming an acronym for the organization’s vision: Lighting Up Media & the Arts. The LUMA vision is about channeling media skills and creativity into bringing the arts into light, while creating an avenue to spur artists towards greater works and a greater contribution to society. The LUMA mission is about believing in people coming together to shine like bright lights; being generous with their talents, time & resources; and fusing a sense of community in creativity.

In the writing sphere, I would like to foster conversations about the intersection of faith and art. I’m tired of explaining over and over again, that there’s no need to have a “Christian writing group” or “Christian fiction”, but you need to have Christians who write and speak from Christ’s worldview, from a kingdom perspective, and it doesn’t need to be another thinly-veiled story of the Gospel. I want to have people who get it, instead of explaining a million times over that just because I don’t mention “Jesus” or I created a world with its own god, it isn’t “Christian”. Sometimes I get a clearer perspective on life and faith by reading Terry Pratchett.

I’m finding that the more I say yes to these things, the more I must say no to the church. Because the church is now a microcosm that can survive on its own. We end up preaching to the choir. I’ve grown up within the four walls of the church. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of conversations that circle the same things, going nowhere. I’m sick of the disconnect between church and life, the way we segregate “sacred” and “secular” as if we have multiple identities that do not intersect.

So if I’m to enter into deeper conversation, deeper community, with those who do not profess Christ, I will need to say no to the demands of the church in many ways. And not feel guilty about it.

Edith Schaeffer of L’Abri, a community committed to welcoming young people searching for truth, said, “Because there are more people than we have time or strength to see personally and care for, it is imperative to remember that it is not sinful to be finite and limited.” — Subversive Jesus; Craig Greenfield