Much of my adult life has been spent living and interacting within the areas of the USA commonly called the Bible Belt. Referred to as such because of the incredibly conservative/fundamental/KJV/charismatic roots that life has. Indeed, it’s not uncommon, even in this day and time, to see even traffic and restaurant flows more regulated by church/bible study service times than work, holiday, etc. One of the things that I’ve experienced, for better and worse in this area is the stigma of “working in the church/ministry” versus “working in the world.” There are levels of acceptance here. And usually, unless what you do is directly “for the Lord,” you can expect some amount of wrangling to make sense of life and your place in it.
This rears it’s face in what I do (Mobile Ministry Magazine). In some religious contexts, its perceived as legging too close to “what the world does with those computer thingys” or “something to get us up to speed because [the church] is behind the times in using mobile tech.” In non-religious texts, there is another side to this – MMM is seen as a profitable (to the spirit) understanding of the implications of mobile technologies. And, at least at this time, the emphasis on listening, teaching, and thinking seems to resonate well with people who would otherwise only know and hear the marketing messages around mobile (services, apps, devices, etc.).
Depending on the day of the week, either group is my audience. Some days, both are my audience at the same time or at various parts of the same day. There’s this going back and forth between those two perspectives that feels a lot more like selling wares in a neighborhood flea market than simply promoting a viewpoint. It’s exciting (and taxing).
It has required me to develop a faith that matures quickly in context. I’ve got to be more flexible when visiting churches and listening to doctrines, worship styles, or even approaches to technologies than when I worked for companies and only had the organizational vision to guide me. In this marketplace, faith (in it’s consistency) becomes my currency, while faith (in practice) establishes my stand. I cannot do or say anything terribly contentious unless there has been some relationship established, and even then, there are lines that I just won’t cross. This has often put my personal beliefs on a platter – sometimes smashed to bits, other times massaged to more growth.
And with that I have to live. I’m finding my place often around conversations where people are establishing roots, questioning roots, or getting ready to pull them up. Which is weird. At times, my faith is on the most weak of sands/moments, and it’s usually there that I’m called into account for what I live, what I believe. Finding my place merits critiques that are hard to take at times, and compliments that shock as well. Finding my place looks more like doing my best to be content with the moment, instead of looking so far ahead that I miss the bumps in the road.
This faith, in this marketplace, requires a bit of wrangling with myself, and with this life around me. The benefits though are that I experience a life that expands beyond the belt buckle more often than not. And if I am given an audience, I can promise that the faith I live with you will be honest and exciting.