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marty troyer

Where do you see the gospel next door?

Month

May 2016

the miracle of faith for gay christians

My mom writes us kids the moment she hears results from her annual cancer test. I was terrified when we found out she had cancer, and each test holds within it the seeds of the same terror. My dad has annual tests too, though not to ensure remission but for early detection. More than one of his nine siblings has died by cancer, which makes his tests feel like a waiting game.
Cancer is awful, a great equalizer, proving perhaps we humans aren’t so bad off after all since no one would wish it on their enemies. My wife tries to wade through the supermarket fog and shop cancer-free. Hotdogs without nitrates, kids’ products minus everything that makes them recognizably a kid’s product, fruit sans Monsanto.
I always thank my mom after her reports because it means she’s taking care of her health. So far she’s 6-0 and a thankful member of the cancer survivors club.
Despite the horror of this modern plague, Haley’s mom wished she had terminal cancer. Haley was gay, and her mom thought cancer was preferable to having a gay daughter. That’s what she said, and not on the day Haley first shared, a day Haley remembers as being her day of freedom. Her mom wished cancer on herself months later, when every other metaphor she mustered felt stale and threats fell lifeless to the floor.
Can you imagine how much time and negativity it took to come up with such devastating words?
People had a relentless belief in the power of guilt to effect change, but it didn’t.Displaying
The church’s promise of hell hadn’t changed Haley. Friends turning their backs hadn’t cured her. Her best friend loved her, she had said, which was why she could never talk to her again. Haley was to them evil, misguided, a victim of Ellen DeGeneres’ world gay takeover. Her youth group asked her not to come back and Christmas was off limits at grandma’s. She’d been prayed for, exorcized, sent to therapy.
Her mother’s words weren’t a threat; they were her hope. “I’d rather die than have you as a daughter.” To Haley these words were as terrifying as an actual diagnosis of terminal cancer. And in that moment, in the most spiritually healthy decision she had ever made, she walked away from church and the faith that had been used to abuse her.
She anguished alone, unable to reconcile the choice she’d been forced to make between faith and identity. Until, that is, she discovered The Gay Christian Network and was told that being gay and Christian is NOT a contradiction. Once again, her faith began to soar.
I heard Haley’s story at the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference in January. And I’ve tried to tell it like I heard it, without interpreting it. It speaks on its on. Perhaps what makes me the most sad about it is how normal her story is – how painful families’ and churches’ behavior can be. Even how spiritually devastating.
It’s a wonder people like Haley ever open themselves to church at all. God, yes. But the church?lgbtq flag meme
All of us are created in the image of God, beautiful just the way we are. In fact, as I’ve said elsewhere, one of the least controversial things you could ever say is that gays and lesbians are created in the image of God.
It’s Christian Theology 101 topics like this that unmask Haley’s spiritually abusive actions. Affirming that lesbians and gays are created in the image of God is the foundation of faithful Christian action.
Let’s not ever loose sight of the beautiful truth that God lives in lesbians and gays just like Haley – and daughters like her everywhere. Stand firm in good theology – stand firm in this good theology – and Christian behavior will follow.

Marty Troyer

#TheGospelNextDoor
Purchase the book today! Read a free chapter here.

 

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creation care is neighbor care

I’ve got this neighbor who’s really struggling. Will you pray for them?

The change in climate is completely screwing them over, and they need help. They’ve been flooded out; and burned out. Drought has wiped them out. Conflict is killing them. They happen to live half a planet away, but I’ve helped cause their crisis. And it’s not getting better anytime soon. Thanks for caring!

#thegospelnextdoor

Learn how creation care is neighbor care in my new book The Gospel Next Door.

Marty Troyer

Church is not a building

They say I’m building a church.

I know what those words mean, even if I don’t agree. What they mean to say is that we are building abuilding, a facility.

A “church” is something far more than a place and something radically more beautiful than a building. Church is us, flesh and blood, a group of Christians committed to living life together in the presence of God. It’s easy to build a building. What is infinitely more essential is building up the body of Christ.

Building the church, as Anabaptism has always insisted, is about spiritual growth, daily discipleship lived publicly, & authentic community. Building the church is NOT about making good church members. It’s about having Jesus as the center of our faith, community as the center of our lives, and reconciliation as the center of our work.

We don’t need a building or a budget to do any of those things. Religion says we do, but not Christianity.

I can lead you in singing but I can’t make you worship or move you from your head to your heart.

I can inform you about faith but I can’t form you, that’s your choice not mine.

I can build you a labyrinth but I can’t make you use it, let alone walk prayerfully into God’s presence.

I can appoint you to a leadership position but I can’t make you lead.

I can pass the microphone each Sunday but I can’t make you get out of passive mode and give us an encouraging word.

I can preach at you (I figure I’ve preached about 100 hours in my time here) about daily living but I can’t make you love your neighbor.

You get the idea. I think we’d benefit from seeing our building project as an apt metaphor for the true work of building the church. Building a new facility is not our agenda and it’s not our top priority. At its best it is a means to an end. Important work all the same.

Let’s not lose sight of that end, or the reasons we’re on that journey.

That shame voice in my head

Lately I’ve wondered if there’s time to become cool before June 20

I’ve never really had a sense of fashion, and no one’s ever labeled me hip. I’m a khaki with polo shirt kind of guy, no beard, no piercings; nothing that really stands out. For the most part I know my wife loves me and that’s enough.
But lately this little shame-voice inside my heart whispers that it’snot enough.
Yesterday I tried to read a book on Anabaptist spirituality while surrounded by about 600 magazine covers, and in particular about 80 magazines with men staring back at me. None of them wore a polo, and man were they attractive. (Talk about an unspiritual reading spot.)
Closer to home check out how cool my author friend Nate is; or this guy whose books I love and who has the perfect website. I’m a small drip coffee to their Triple, Venti, Half-Sweet, Non-Fat, salted caramel Macchiato with soy milk.
I know I know – who cares, right? I certainly don’t, and I doubt you do either. But that little bully voice apparently does, and I can’t turn him off.
“Authors are cool! Who do you think you are?”
“You’re still the same dork you were in Middle School; no one cares what you have to say!”
“Are you wearing hand-me-downs?”
Pathetic – absolutely pathetic.
That bully voice resonated with some deeply sensitive soul-wound still waiting to be healed. And I hate to say it, but every single one of us has our own shame voice that whispers lies into our heart of hearts. And every single one of us has some deep vulnerability clamoring for attention.
“All have fallen short,” says Paul – a truth I don’t think anyone has ever once needed to be taught. And so we pursue sports, success, or affluence (or apparently hipster fashion) to fit in and feel good.
All of which are dirty band aids we put on to treat the symptoms of what amounts to cancer of the soul.
As my June 20 book launch comes closer I’m committed to have these hard conversations with myself. In particular I want to continue the practice of solitude I started in Lent.
Todd Wynward believes that solitude is where we find freedomfrom the poisonous lies of culture and power to silence our shame voice. Where else but far away from those 80 photo-shopped faces, can we hear God’s voice of grace? He says in his book in our library, Rewilding the Way, “From solitude emerges identity and connection to the divine, assets unshaken by trends or shifting public opinion.”
Who doesn’t want more of that?
Let’s face it; it’s too late for me to upgrade my cool in a couple weeks.  And you’ll likely never make enough money to satisfy your want; or find the perfect job. But there is time – and it’s likely right now – to respond to God’s grace with faith. You can drag that voice into the light with some unusual self-honesty, then let God’s voice inside you tell you the truth about your identity and connection to the divine, “God’s Spirit tells our spirits again and again that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:16)
Success or failure, cool or polo-proud, I am a child of God. And no one can take that away from me. Today I choose, and I invite you to choose, to ignore the shame voice. Instead trust God’s voice – you are lovable just the way you are.
This is our hope. This is our faith.
Pastor Marty Troyer

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