I am on a Christian journey. Some have been blessed to know the Lord since childhood, according to my neighbor. I, Jeff Burris, on the other hand, while blessed by Him in many ways, gravitated toward science, philosophy, and metaphysics until I was well into my 40s, rather than truly knowing God. “Surely,” I suspected, “whatever truth there is can’t possibly be accurately contained in the seemingly archaic religion of my own forefathers.” Either men up until now were primitive altogether, or at the very least one of the myriad other religions must be closer to par. “It’s easy,” I thought, “to be bigoted, chauvinistic, or xenophobic and think your own people are the good guys, the right guys. I’ll be free-minded, modern, and by embracing others and their cultures, I’ll be wiser and more enlightened!” Indeed, it wasn’t difficult to find a lot of people who thought Western religion was too dualistic and wasn’t hip enough to the seeming insight of inter-connectivity of Eastern disciplines.
It wasn’t until much later, after finally giving the Holy Bible a fair shake, I realized what shallow rhetoric that really was. A Taoist might be surprised to find out how much of his own philosophy and more is woven throughout a comprehensive understanding of the mature and complete teachings of Scripture. I am someone, for better or perhaps worse, who also needed personal signs before believing in my Christian journey. I thought faith was blind, but after settling down and living more of a decent life (in honest retrospect) and praying to God a second time for some kind of signs or proof which would penetrate my skeptical, rational sensibilities, I was unexpectedly walloped with more proof than I ever thought we were allowed. And it never stopped! Everything I never dared to hope or dream was true… was! Every time, as well, that I thought something like, “Well, maybe that means an anthropomorphic God is real but not Jesus Christ…” I was given signs to steer me back on course. Repeatedly. Christ is real! In Him, the triune God, there is our creator, our redeemer, our protector, our comforter, and our Lord who disciplines and ultimately judges us.
When I see unbelievers scoffing, I am torn between wanting to vehemently scoff back but also empathize with their frame of mind, having been raised in the same environment. And so it is I feel called to witness and spread the gospel to all. But especially, I feel called to appeal directly to agnostics and atheists while so much of their thought processes are still so fresh in my mind. Sometimes I dream that, when I was a baby, I knew significant things that got pushed out of my mind and that I forgot them all being born into this world. Now, being born again, how long might it take before I can no longer relate to all of those godless, modern points of view? I feel better able to speak to certain people while their own frames of mind are still easy for me to remember and relate to. Common ground can greatly facilitate open-minded discussions. I want to tell people like me that Faith isn’t blind, after all! In my almost atheistic agnosticism, I used to tell believers that it was a pretty big deal to go around genuinely believing in God but not making a big deal about it, daily… going around acting the same as everyone else. “If I really found out for sure there was a God lie in the Bible, surely I’d become a monk!” – and perhaps I might have if I had believed in Catholicism or applicable orthodoxies etc. Instead, I researched the most practical and feasible ways to both learn and become qualified to minister to others.
Because of the way internet search engines work, at first I found Christian Leaders Institute’s web address listed alongside either farcical ordination sites (yet technically legal thanks to what amount, almost, to abuses of freedom of religion) or, on the other end of the spectrum, fancy, admirable yet unapproachable brick-and-mortar seminaries I could never afford the time and money to go off to and attend. There were also online schools costing a pretty penny who weren’t worth the time and money they’d cost. While Christian Leaders Institute is becoming well-known, I hadn’t yet made a lot of Christian friends on my Christian journey and hadn’t heard of them. Nevertheless, I eventually read some great reviews of Christian Leaders Institute and came to know what a perfect fit they were for my life. It was another, prolonged “Aha!” discovering CLI was the right place to settle in and study and Christian Leaders Alliance the place for my ordination credentials. I found out what good CLI is doing worldwide, that I could earn certifications, even transfer my existing college credits toward a degree or two in Divinity, and finally give my beloved Old Man a real college graduation tassel to hang on his bedroom mirror – one with a degree honored and accepted at numerous universities I know to be top-notch.
I said that I was called to witness to agnostics and atheists with whom I could still freshly remember useful, common ground, on this Christian journey of mine. But I’ve already begun seeing the need to know how to minister to very different needs. As soon as I even passively began telling people what I was pursuing in life, I started to receive a trickle of people suddenly telling me all about their personal details – people who seemed to need me to pick out what it was they needed to hear either about the Word of God or directly from it. This is no small task, knowing how to handle this honor and privilege, aptly mediating accurate Scripture and doctrine to folks divulging their personal details to you and waiting for you to reveal something special or useful to them. God provides, so does CLI, and so shall I. That rhymes! God provides and so does CLI and so shall I… Too corny? NAH! God Bless!