Meet The EP: James Beyer!
Having grown up in the south it was not easy to escape Vacation Bible Schools at a Southern Baptist church. So as a child I gave my life to Jesus at least 3 times, each time feeling like I hadn't really ever given it. So when, as a 13 year old, I played baseball for a different Southern Baptist church and they turned our end-of-season banquet into an altar call I gave it once more. But this time was different. When they asked us to close our eyes and raise our hands my coach pulled me aside into an empty room. I cried a lot as we talked together about what it meant to be a Christian but all I remember was him saying, "Being a Christian means when your friends tell a dirty joke, you walk away." Now I got it. I would have to die, to give up everything I wanted for Christ. That time stuck.
I started reading all the Max Lucado books my dad happened to have on the shelf and then expanded my hungry hands into the shelves of the local family Christian book store. I became a Christian with a serious distrust of anyone who called themselves a Christian but seemed to live a normal socially acceptable life. But I still found my way into a very large Methodist youth group in Charlotte, NC and found some friends and mentors there. In campus ministry in college was the first time I was forced to deal with the diversity of experience within the church without simply dismissing those who thought "wrongly". And my relationship with God grew silent.
I couldn't give up on it though so the next best thing was theology and biblical criticism. Though I was majoring in Construction Management, I spent all the free time I could afford and some I couldn't in this rational and painful search for and wrestling with God. This lead to the wholesale deconstruction of everything God and religion-related in my life. And in that darkness I decided that without faith I was only riding out the wave of morality that my Christianity had splashed in my life. And so the long slow spiral upwards began.
Ever since then, I have been engaging in the mystery of God made known to us in Christ and it has never been the same since. Usually back and forth, usually with pain and joy, I am trying to rest in God through trial and error but things keep getting better as my heart is smoothed out and expanded with greater capacities to love and serve.
These days my life revolves around campus ministry, friendships with some middle and high school boys, the latest way I have discovered I can live in greater harmony with the earth, how to practice peace through nonviolent direct action and through simple daily gestures, how to understand a Christian construct of masculinity that is benevolent and constructive, learning what kind of authority scripture has for me and us, and releasing my control over my thoughts and feelings so there is more room for God. How's that for a run-on sentence.
I found out about EP through my pastor, Jason Byassee, who is a longtime EPer. Some of my heroes are Thomas Merton, N.T. Wright, Walter Breuggeman, John Perkins, Wendell Berry, Mother Teresa, and all those who served so quietly and faithfully that they lives were only noticed and remembered by God.