I am Jay McNeal and, as a minister, I am doing something different. Any minister who’s tried to do something different can appreciate how dangerous it usually is. It is important to me, however, to stand with people when they are right even when it means telling truth to power, even when it means protecting people from people of religion.
While the term “serve and protect” in the U.S. usually invokes images of police officers, I also feel called to serve and protect some people and places. Maybe you do too. I want to serve and protect people who want to ask genuine, courageous questions, especially as it regards spirituality and even morality, because these impact how we live together. It effects how we treat one another in every relationship – in our homes, schools, churches, work places and government chambers.
The place that I want to protect and serve is a digital, online universe called Be Kind Humans. It’s a little bit like Facebook but totally off of social media. Everyone needs to be safe, kind and inclusive.
There are groups, events, chats, courses and feeds/walls that are personalized to your interests and activities. Uniquely, there is a neighborhood (area) to find an individual faith leader and another neighborhood to find a faith community. Yup, there can be whole congregations in their own digital space. It could be a congregation that is starting from zero or hundreds of members. It could be a congregation with or without a physical building or street address. It’s not quite The Matrix, but the technology is impressive and improving all the time.
In fact, embracing the available technology is part of the rebirthing of today’s spiritual growth and health. Fear of technology and change has negatively impacted the availability of faith leaders when people have been looking for answers, literally where? On the internet.
In the decades while church membership has declined, fewer church dollars have led to fewer paid pastors. And yet people have continued to get educated and trained religiously and spiritually. Perhaps we didn’t know there would be few jobs or we weren’t motivated by the employment potential (or lack thereof). The point is, there are probably far more people who have felt called to serve people spiritually, far more faith leaders “in hiding” than there are employed in ministries or congregational work.
Until now, launching one’s own ministry (congregational or otherwise) was cost prohibitive. There are also many faith leaders who resigned from ministry hurt, wounded, burned out or disenfranchised with their institution or people. If they are healed, credentialed in good standing, and still called to something specific then they can return to serving without the broad burden of being a pastor, a generalist who does all the pastoral things for all the people. In Be Kind Humans, a faith leader who feels called to a specific thing can do JUST that specific thing if that is what they choose.
Be Kind Humans was once perceived as a business that helps couples trying to get married to find a wedding officiant. As the person responsible for casting the vision of my ministry, I will take responsibility for that sad, limited understanding.
Even if we only talk about the United States, where I have the most familiarity, more than 332 million people live here. Now more than half of the population does not have a person they call their pastor or a community of faith. That’s 166 million Americans.
I am not talking about Christianity, not alone. I am talking about all faiths, religions, and spiritual beliefs, any tradition or practice that supports one’s spiritual health
My aim is NOT to convert anyone to believe what I believe. My aim is to support you on your personal spiritual journey. It is my calling to trust your integrity. As long as your behavior looks like kindness and goodness then you are probably on a good path. Anyone being destructive, exclusive, hurtful or unloving 1) may just need some help or 2) probably strayed from the call of most traditions to love creation (all people, the planet, the universe, nature, the interdependent web, etc.).
The primary ways that I mean to support you on your personal spiritual journey are by providing you with access to: diverse faith leader experts in various traditions and to other good people in the general public.
I am not the grand wizard of anything and I am not positioning myself to be the senior pastor to 166 million Americans.
In the ten years since my ordination, however, I have been attempting to recruit faith leaders and faith communities to join with me in serving the general public. They have not felt called to join me in this endeavor, with a few exceptions which I can count on one hand.
I have realized that I have had the success that I have had working directly with the public that they have not experienced when they may have dipped their toes in the water because they do not feel called to this work the same way that I do. I am not more talented. I am not smarter. But I can see the need and I can see how institutional faith leaders and faith communities are failing to show up online in the ways that the general public is looking for us.
Yes, there are a few faith leaders inside Be Kind Humans on this day (September 12th, 2023) and they represent a few traditions. I cannot promise you now that the faith leaders or faith communities of all beliefs and traditions will take advantage of the opportunities that I am offering them to serve you.
If they do show up then I will protect you from them. I will not tolerate any pressure to adopt their (or my) particular faith or non-faith beliefs. They, like anyone, can invite you plainly to an event or service and everyone’s “no” must be respected. Before anyone tries to teach you about anything (unless you’ve signed up for such a class) they should ask your permission.
Regardless of any other faith leaders showing up, I will do my best to serve you by listening. While I have created a space of mine to be a community for people looking for me, it will be a “nontraditional” “church,” at least in the short term. I still have another day job and will not be preparing a “classic” weekly service.
I’ve put ‘nontraditional,’ ‘church,’ and ‘classic’ in quotes above because those of us inclined to do “nontraditional” ministries can be condescended to with those terms and there is nothing ‘lower’ or ‘higher’ when doing ministry or church.
So, while I am not a professorial scholar, nor charismatic, nor sophisticated, I am thoroughly trained and educated. I’m educated enough to know that high I.Q. people are very often wrong, even when they’re winning an argument.
I know that 166 million Americans is enough to fill the largest NFL stadium more than two thousand times. I know that every person should have access to at least one person they trust as a pastoral person (better to have several). I know that lots of people that do have a pastor or faith community are scared to ask their real questions or be their real self.
I know that English, the internet and mobile phones are reaching more and more of the 8 billion people on the planet. Everyone wonders who God is, why do bad things happen, why can’t we all just get along, what’s a Bible. Everyone has questions someday about sexuality, marriage, death, money, hell, love and hate. Asking diverse, real, mature, trained experts in various traditions that will not judge you or treat like a heretic for asking, is a gift I hope you receive perpetually inside Be Kind Humans.