For those wondering, a spiritual autobiography…


I grew up in a post-catholic country at the end of its dechristianisation process. After WW II Belgium had changed from a catholic country into a secular one, and when I was a kid in the ’80s the catholic school I went to was on its way from a dilluted liberal catholicism to some kind of secular nothingness. But that wasn’t my main influence for my faith: my father was active in a small pentecostel Church, and I’ve been going to pentecostel churches all of my childhood. To be complete I should add that my parents were not just pentecostals, they were originally converts of the catholic charismatic renewal movement coming out of a cultural post-catholicism.  All evangelical type churches I’ve seen were small (the biggest one in Antwerp is 250 people, most are around 30), and there are not much of them… And the catholic ones mostly have only have a small group of old people in it, and younger living groups are almost as rare as evangelical ones I think.

What I remember from the catholicism is that they did not seem to believe in anything very much; though I felt an outsider in school since I as a protestant wasn’t allowed to do my first communion. The faith in God that was presented may have been at the end of the slippery slope towards atheism, but the traditions were still very alive. But it was in my ‘real’ church that I learned about Jesus and started to believe. I can remember the atmosphere that only we pentecostels were ‘true christians’ because only we ‘had the Holy Spirit’ and were born-again. Another thing that I vaguely remember was the Jesus people influence, the last traces of the jesus hippie movement were still alive when I was young, and lost of people from the pentecostel scene were jesus people conversions…

When I was a teenager, my father, who had been a pastor (unordained, I hardly know any ordained pentecostel or evangelical pastor here) left the church we were in to get involved in a church planting project with Vineyard, which was a fairly new movement in the benelux at the moment. I don’t think I noticed the theological differences, but now I do. The Kingdom theology, and the relative eucemenical openness to the whole Church I readily accepted. It felt natural to me.

what I didn’t care for was the whole Toronto stuff… My father had been there in its early days, I think even twice (before the Toronto airport fellowship and the vineyard movement parted ways) and they did some holy-Spirit nights I think, but for adults, so I wasn’t there. And I never qualified for a good pentecostal, for till this day I never spoke in tongues… There were some controverses about the whole Toronto fire stuff in the flemish evangelical and pentecostel circles, but I do not remember well enough.

Also, it might sound strange for me as a musician, but I’ve never really been into the whole vineyard (or other) worship music hype. The thing is that I as a teenager had the opinion that music played towards God wasn’t something tolisten to and buy on Cd, but to play live to worship God. I must say that I only really got into worship with the discovery souljunks 1950 album, which may sound terrible to a lot of ears, but the honest, raw cries to God really resonated with me. I still am not fond of lots of woship and praise music (a style problem) but I appreciate its connection with God. But please keep your hillsong CD’s far from me…

As a young adult I was (and still am) active as musician and worship leader in our small vineyard congregation (10 years after we officially started it’s still just 30 people, but all evangelical churches are small here, and there are not exactly much of them -except for african and brazilian pentecostel churches in a few big cities, but that’s a third world enclave with not much connection to the flemish culture-) I tried to work out how to live out my faith, and out of my questions I started some kind of very primitive email-magazine ‘hallo medechristentjes’ (‘hello fellow christians’ in funny dutch), in which I wrote articles about thing concerning my faith, my questions, and stuff… I did that for several years; but it finally faded away when I ceased being the hopeless single and found the one girl who is now my wife… Relationships can take time, energy and inspiration…

but I started to broaden my spiritual scope. I first read a lot of evangelical, vineyard and pentecostel books, and a lot of C.S. Lewis, and then some catholic books. And then I got interested in a more radical Christianity, and discovered Christian anarchism (jesusradicals forum style) and read Jacques Ellul, and more stuff like that.  And I got married, in a controversial way for some, but that’s another story (part of it is contained in my emerging joneses and marriage post)
Then a few years ago came the memorable psalters concert here in Antwerp. I was the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen. And they were also extremely nice people with whom I had some theological discussions. They told me to read a book by one of their friends, called Shane Claiborne. Which really shaked me, and totally resonated with my way of thinking, though I’ve never been able to live it out until now. I need to work that out…

But from Shane Claiborne I came unto the ‘emerging Church’ discussion the last 2 years or so. I read some books and articles and blogs, and discovered I was more than 100% postmodern. I could read ‘a new kind of Christian’ as a native. I had words to describe my worldview and paradigm. I never was sure what ‘emerging church’ was, and I think I’m most attracted to the Kingdom emphasis, the neo-anabaptisch radical discipleship influence, the missional approach to faith, the humble postmodern epistemology and the new monasticism which still impresses me. I hope to one day join it…

But here in Flanders the whole emerging church is still under the radar, and even though there may be some influence in the mainstream of the NOOMA-stuff and some people reading shane Claiborne, most of it is still far away from our small isolated evangelical churches. And the world around is is so thoroughly secular, and the answers we have to give as a church and the questions people in the world have don’t always seem to match… So I pray that we’ll be able to find new ways to live out and bring the gospel, and bring a light to this society that is so lost sometimes…

Now I’m here… Still active in Vineyard (music and sometimes preaching) but looking for new ways to live my faith. I don’t know where we’ll go from here. I want to follow Jesus, and bring His Love and Life to these people… But it’s a long way to go…

Father

Let Your Kingdom Come

Let Yoy will be done

here on earth and in Belgium as in heaven

shalom

Bram

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