Let me cut to the chase. My new friend Shane is letting me do a guest blog for the sole purpose to promote “Ragamuffin Retreats” a three day retreat on the Love of God. So as to not waste your time here’s the quick shout out: The word Ragamuffin might resonate with you from Brennan Manning’s book “The Ragamuffin Gospel” or maybe from Rich Mullins album: “Liturgy, Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band.” Or maybe you like cats? You’ve just googled ragamuffin, and now you are staring at a picture of a cat. It’s awkward. Especially if you don’t like cats. Or maybe you are of the select few that have seen the movie “Ragamuffin” that was based on the life of Rich Mullins. Either way, at the heart of the movie and our retreats is not about Rich or Brennan. It’s about Jesus. What we’ve seen so far is that it seems that God is using these “Ragamuffin Retreats” in a variety of ways. For some it’s rest & spiritual renewal, but for others it’s fellow ragamuffins opening up their brokenness and experiencing God’s “furious” love. Ragamuffin Retreats at it’s core is a three day retreat to have a conversation with both those who know and don’t know yet about God and his great love for ragamuffins. We are just continuing the conversation that started with the movie, and actually started long before the retreats. We aren’t re-inventing the wheel here. If anything, our hope is simple, that whomever might find their way to one of these ragamuffin style retreats they might discover what our friend and brother Brennan preached for over four decades that “God more than loves them He actually likes them.”
If you are still reading, knowing that Shane invited me to do a guest blog, I was wondering what I might write about. I even asked him what he thought I should do for his blog. I decided that I would write about a simple experience that I had at the last Ragamuffin Retreat in Pennsylvania. I was on a walk with my friends Matt & Sarah during one of our breaks, having a smoke. I can’t really remember what we were talking about other than we needed to quit smoking because it’s going to kill us one day. Of course I’m convinced that the insane amount of Mcdonalds I have will kill me first. But I just had a beautiful baby four months ago and I want to be around so, like many new parents, I want to get healthy so my wife doesn’t have to say “Your Dad couldn’t see you graduate college because he liked putting tar in his lungs.” If you are of the camp that is wondering why I’m not mentioning smoking is a sin. We’ll, if it’s not obvious I’ll spell it out. It’s not a sin. Not anymore than the big mac’s I eat. Both are trying to kill me. And yet, as C.S. Lewis once said, “Anything in excess can be a sin.” I could go on with the argument, but not just because I’m bored with arguing about this topic, but also that’s a rabbit trail I just don’t want to continue. That’s another blog, for another time. So if you do think smoking is a sin. In love, let’s just agree to disagree. Anyway, I don’t remember how it came up, but we started talking about the movie “Ragamuffin.” Most of us are in awe that God has used it to such a great extent that He has. It’s mind blowing really. Going from nothing to a thing. Because after all a movie is just that: a thing. Then going from a thing to being some-thing that God would use to change hundreds if not thousands of lives. Love it or hate it, that is exactly what God has done. And trust me I feel the same way about the movie. In a lot of ways I love it, and yet it is definitely filled with flaws that I utterly cringe about. I hate those flaws. Matter of fact, even those that despise the movie, I probably have more against it than anyone. But it’s funny. I’ve come to love the movie way more because of the flaws. I think God knows how prideful I can be and how easily I can take credit for His work. If by some miracle I was able to make a movie with no flaws, there would be a high risk that with all the lives being changed by God through the movie (and not by the movie) that I would go “Look at what I did.” But the plethora of flaws in the movie help me to go, “Awesome look at what God is doing through the movie, despite the movie.” And here’s an even weirder fact. I actually love the flaws now. Because both in front of the camera, and behind the camera they have become part of the story. The story of God’s grace. Why would I want them out? So I can go after my glory? Continue to build my kingdom. Don’t hear me wrong, I’m not advocating for failure and imperfection and shoddy work. Matter of fact I think, we, the church have done decades of damage in Jesus name because we do things poorly and lazily. Claiming, “Well it’s for the Lord.” So it’s okay that it’s crap? Poor sermons, poor evangelism, poor music, poor movies…But that’s another blog, for another time. So we were talking about all these sorts of things, when my friends tell me something wonderful. “Hey, my friend is a Pastor at this church, and they saw the movie and wanted to bring you in to speak.” “Cool,” I said. “But than they googled you” and their ‘board’ said no.” I smiled and said, “Okay.” My friends continued to tell me that they saw my acting resume, and saw some movies I had done when I first got started and decided to not have me come because I shouldn’t have done those movies. As my friends went on talking I abruptly interrupted them and said, “They we’re right. I shouldn’t have done those movies.” Matter of fact I’d encourage you to NOT google me. When some people sin you don’t have the luxury to look it up via the internet. With me…you do. I came from a context of Christianity where I was simply told “Christians don’t go to Hollywood.” I disagreed. I think they were wrong. I still do. But here’s what was sad. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know any Christians in Hollywood. They were there. I just didn’t know where. What I’m trying to say I didn’t know where the trail blazers were who we’re showing us, teaching us, how to be missional with our faith if you are an actor or in the entertainment industry in general. I hadn’t heard the wonderful sermons by Tim Killer yet on “Contextualizing vs. Contending the Gospel”. All of this mixed in with I had sinful rebellion in my heart. Rebellion not in the context of “I shouldn’t do this movie and I’m going to do it anyway.” Rebellion in I’m not going to listen to them (The Church) because they don’t think I should even be in Hollywood so I’m just gonna figure this out on my own. This mixed with a whole lot of stupidity. My thinking at the time was “Well, I know this movie is bad, but if my character isn’t sinful than I can do it and be a witness.” Stupid I know. But I think in some ways I genuinely had a good heart when I was making bad decisions. I did witness. I did share the Gospel. I was a light in some respects. But, years later I heard a great sermon when the pastor simply said, “Just because God does something good through your badness, doesn’t make you good. It Just means God’s good.” Simple yet it echoed some of my past thinking even if I didn’t verbalize it. God changed me. Thankfully. Years later I had some good wake up calls from friends who just plainly told me I was making bad decisions. Then I got plugged into a church, and had the pastors give me some great guidance, and advice how to make decisions in the future. It’s still not crystal clear all the time. Sometimes it is. Sometimes its an obvious sin issue. Sometimes it’s a conscious issue. Sometimes you have to ask yourself is this a time to “Contextualize the Gospel of Jesus” or “Contend” for it? I can still hear Tim Keller’s voice when some podcast I heard on this sermon (Look it up in case I’m quoting it wrong)…in the middle of this sermon he was saying someone once asked him “Where’s the line between contextualizing and contending for the gospel?” And his response was, “That’s ministry.” I assume he meant that’s the whole point of ministry. That what we are doing (The Church) we are trying to figure that out constantly. I know I am. Yeah we need to test the spirits, and especially our own. Test the motives of our heart when we make decisions in our work, and opportunities that come our way. Is this for His glory? Or mine? Is this to make Jesus famous or myself? Not everyone will agree with you. And they don’t have to. Your lives should always be lived in community, but should still be lived for an audience of one.
So I say all that to say. Here’s why I was so happy. When they told me this: “That this church decided to NOT have me come.” I smiled. Why? Because ten years ago. I would have been crushed. The people pleaser in me would have been going crazy. I would have been so angry, even with the tears in my eyes. I would have wanted the pastors number, I would have wanted to flown to that state and spoken with the board myself. To prove myself. To explain to them why I made bad decisions in the past, and the good God I serve loves me and has forgiven me…and would they too? Not so I could have a speaking gig. But so they would like me, and not think bad of me. Strangers. As far as I know they don’t even exist, except in theory. And yet, I would have been on a mission to get them to “think good of me.” What is that all about? Well, it’s a familiar idol I tend to worship. And that is the idol of people liking me. I praise Jesus and give Him glory, because when I heard the news that I was banned from coming to speak, I was okay. I wasn’t upset. And I realized ‘Oh, thank God. He’s been changing me. He’s truly been sanctifying me in this area. Growing me. Helping me find my identity in the Gospel of His son. Versus my own Christian Resume.” We tend to do that don’t we? To think there is such a thing. Even if we know, that we know, that we know the gospel of Jesus. We still tend to think that there is such a thing as a “good Christian.” Remember the story of the Prodigal Son? One was lost in his Un-Righteousness and one was lost in his Self-Righteousness. The only hope for either of them is have an identity that is the gift of Christ’s Righteousness. The only thing on our Christian Resume should be: Forgiven. But why do we do it? Well, I don’t know…except to say Martin Luther once said, “Religion is the default of the human heart.
At this same retreat, we had a special treat, a very popular Christian, speaker, activist, etc…and when I was introducing him I told the small group of ragamuffin retreat attendees…”I’m not having this guy come speak because he has some impressive ‘Christian Resume’…because in the light of the Gospel of Jesus…no such thing exists.
Thank you for your time. And thank you Shane for letting me be a guest on your blog. Pray for me as I continue to learn what it means to both Contextualize and Contend for the Gospel and continue to let Jesus be my object of worship and not be on a Crusade to get people to like me.
Jesus Christ is crazy about you,
David Leo Schultz