About two years ago, a church I was a part of closed the doors and moved on to other things. Well, actually, we sold the building to another church and several members still attend, but for the most part, what we had with Calvary Fellowship is over. At the time that everything came to a close, I was somewhat numb to it all; I didn’t really feel the pain of the loss until some months later. It wasn’t until this past week, the beginning of my seminary career with George Fox, that I was able to figure out why.
At Calvary, I had a strong family of believers. They cared about what I was doing, where I was going, and, most importantly, how I was doing. It was a place where I felt more than known; I felt loved. In the months leading up to the closure, I knew that I would still be in communication with many of the members, so the family aspect wouldn’t really leave. What I didn’t know, though, was how much I’d miss the intellectual environment that Calvary also was.
Not everyone who went their was interested in theology. In fact, most people cared more about football than theology, which was totally fine. I love football. But what I loved about the atmosphere is that even if they didn’t give theology much thought, they wouldn’t think less of you if you happened to believe in something they didn’t. More often than not, they really wanted to hear what you had to say not because they were going to argue with you, but because they were interested in how you processed your thoughts. They were interested in how you interacted with Jesus with your mind.
Calvary Fellowship was a place where I felt safe to think in ways I hadn’t thought before. I doubt very much that I was thinking in ways that had never been thought before, but I knew I hadn’t done the intellectual exercises. When Calvary closed, I think I lost that safe place.
Sure, I was still meeting up once every other week with one of Calvary’s former pastors, but because both our schedules grew busier and busier, neither of us were able to spend as much time as we used to in studying Scripture the way we did at Calvary. We couldn’t have the classes that Danny taught, which beckoned us to see Scripture – and thereby see Jesus – through a different lens. We didn’t have the sermons that promoted communal involvement above communal self-righteousness. And we simply didn’t have as much fervor as we used to.
In the year between Calvary and Emmaus, I struggled to remain engaged with God on an intellectual level. Some might see this as a good thing because intellectualism is a bad thing anyway. But Jesus was clear; we’re to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And Jesus was very deliberate with His words.
Flash forward to a week ago, I was attending my first seminary class. And as I listened to my classmates’ questions and heard little tidbits about their experiences in communities where asking questions is almost shameful, I knew that I picked the right school. I knew that commuting for the first two days of class was worth it. And I know, full well, that I have found a home in seminary.
During each of my three classes yesterday, the professors took a moment to remind the class what George Fox is really all about: formation. One professor said that we could memorize all the answers, get nothing but perfect grades on the tests, but if we don’t emerge from this program formed more like Christ, then we didn’t achieve what George Fox’s primary goal is. The only time I’ve heard a similar message was when I was sitting in the pews at Calvary, listening to Danny share a story about Jesus.
Learning about God has less to do with answers and more to do with questions. When we’re given an answer, we don’t seek anymore. We don’t explore. We don’t put ourselves in a vulnerable position to trust God. We become one of the eleven disciples who stayed on the boat when Peter stepped off. But if we’re given questions, if our curiosity is piqued in some significant way, then we seek. We step out of our comfort zone of “knowing” and walk on the water toward Jesus.
Jesus said that if we seek, we will find. But He never said that how long it’d be before we found that which we sought. In our generation of instant downloads and live-streaming, we’ve grown to expect things immediately. So when we ask God a question, we expect an immediate answer. But God doesn’t work like Google; He doesn’t give us links to instant downloads of love, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control. Instead, He gives us a map of a journey we’re supposed to take in order to develop all those things.
George Fox Seminary is my map because it is a place where I am free to explore, free to step off the boat and walk toward Jesus.
What’s your map?