Welcome to my web site. My name is Keith Jagger. I am Lead and Teaching Pastor at Grassroots Church in Thunder Bay, ON.
This is my personal blog. It focusses on Christians finding a way through post-modernity.
My Top Posts
If you are new to my site, click here for a starting page of well-liked blog posts.
About Keith: The Short of It
Pastor, New Testament Scholar, Community Developer
I lead a faith community in mission in Northern Ontario, emphasizing unity and holiness, the formation of faith, hope, and love, Jesus’ authority, and anticipating new creation. We are neither conservative or liberal, progressive or traditional. We are working out modern distortions of Christianity in a post-Christian culture. With a lean towards the contemplative tradition, I want to help people experience the same inspiriting power of the early Christian movement and find a way through our post-modern times nourished by our ancient faith.
About Keith: The Long of It (for those interested)
Thomas Merton, the famous 20th-Century Trappist Monk, struggled for years with needing more solitude. I like Merton. He had this undeniable draw to the life of a lonely monk, finding God among streams and trees and in a well-tended cottage. I tend to look toward the peaceful hills of some ideal ranch. And yet, as his ministry of writing blossomed, God allowed Merton to gain influence in the secularized public life of his day. A famous monk with a worldwide reach. All in one day Merton could be found in manual labour at the Abbey of Gethsemane near Bardstown, KY and hours later he would be writing a letter, condemning the horrors of modern war.
Later in his life Merton found some peace within this pull between public and rustic. Reflecting on the Virgin Mary’s gift of contemplation, how Jesus’s mother would treasure up for herself all that she had seen and heard, Merton writes of Mary: “She comes bringing solitude and society, life and death, war and peace, that peace may come out of war and that my solitude may place me somewhere in the history of my society. It is clear to me that solitude is my vocation, not as a flight from the world but as my place in the world.” He found out—about solitude—that it has nothing to do with isolation and everything to do with a sense of his world being right, at peace, whatever his situation, for the sake of God’s Kingdom. “For me,” writes Merton, “to find solitude is only to separate myself from all the forces that destroy me and destroy history, in order to be united with the Life and Peace that build the City of God in history and rescue the children of God from hell. Christ is to be born. He is the hermit who is the center of history.” A hermit at the center of history! Yah. Solitude is never ultimately private, and our mission requires us to barricade ourselves away from all that would destroy us.
A Bit of My Past
Similar to Merton, the simple life of homesteading inspires me. My childhood memories gather together around adventures in wooded bluffs overlooking the Upper Mississippi River Valley. I spent summers and winters bush crafting and collecting merit badges. I also have a deeply-sown sense of God from Saturday afternoons lost in the woods and Sunday mornings kneeling and standing and sitting and kneeling in the Roman Mass, in that perpetual sacrifice of acrobatic devotion. It was good.
But, with some twists and turns, I stumbled into the fellowship of European Protestants. That’s how I became a scholar (please don’t call me an academic; that’s a different thing). I studied world religions in university with a focus on the beginnings of Christianity and have finished a PhD in Christian Origins. I studied Luke’s version of Jesus’s baptism scene, and its stress on God’s presence on earth—a dove descending in bodily form—within the research frameworks of my supervisor, N.T. Wright.
At every step of the way, during these last 12 years, God kept me focused in local ministry in one form or another—sometimes a volunteer, other times a short-term missionary, sometimes an administrator-movement-maker within a North American seminary community, other times a writer of church curriculum, sometimes a student of the art of spiritual direction, other times leading small groupings of men and women in the formation of faith, hope, and love.
I’m not sure what this all makes me. Easily distracted, maybe. Or spending a few too many years needing to prove myself to the people who have left their indelible questions marks on my heart. I regret some of my false starts and mis-steps, but I don’t believe that life gets wasted like that.
I live on different hills now, and yet with some of the old questions that have matured a bit.
- What made Jesus so inspiring?
- What gave early Christianity such traction in the Roman world of the first few centuries after Jesus?
- How did early-Christian worldviews interact, spark, and align with other worldviews in the first few centuries after Jesus?
- What were the features of faith, hope, and love for the first Christians, and how do people grow in faith, hope, and love today?
- What happens (with our faith, hope, and love) when we put ourselves in explicit relationship with the first Christians?
- Or, to say this differently, how have distortions of the Christian faith affected our growth as children of God, and how can studying early Christianity restore our faith, hope, and love?
- How do the insights of the Western contemplative tradition nourish or love for Jesus?
- How can we stay devoted to Jesus and on HIS mission in our post-Christian Western world?
My enduring interests, approach to ministry, and research questions all sort of hover around these questions.
I hope that by riffing on these questions and their themes here that any person of faith wanting to settle into Jesus’s kingdom can find their way a bit more clearly as we pass through post-modernity.
I want to help guide people of faith through the deep questions of truth and God and human flourishing. And I believe that we have yet to imagine what kind of world we might steward where modern technology meets the living and transforming faith of the ancients.
What You Might Want to Know About Me Today
Currently I get to lead a community who calls me pastor. They took a chance with me and are helping me figure out how to be a shepherd in Jesus’s name.
Our faith community on mission here in Northern Ontario, emphasizes unity and holiness, the formation of faith, hope, and love, Jesus’ authority, and anticipating new creation. We are neither conservative nor liberal, progressive or traditional. We stand resolutely against racism and aspire to keep a rigorous personal ethic. We take social evils seriously and submit ourselves the authority of scripture. We are fighting for the awakening of human reverence and justice and want to share Jesus with the world. We emphasize God’s love, seek a life of rich prayer and want to stay on mission. We are working out modern distortions of Christianity in a post-Christian culture.
Summing it Up
Christians wanting to make any movement through post-modernity, I believe, must be in tune profoundly with what inspired the first Christians. We do not have always to adopt their strategies. But we must understand their faith and the stories that they believed they were bringing to climax and the character of the king they sought to follow with all their hearts. We must be courageous enough to measure tradition against scripture critically, and masterful in drawing secularized men and women into the presence of God. I’ve tried to learn everything I can about all of these things, and I find solitude whenever these threads interact and weave beautifully.
So I invite you, if searching for the future of Christianity, to come along. I’d love to hear your thoughts and meet fellow sojourners. You might find me these days thinking about such things in the woods of the Boreal Forest. But what better a place to meet. Email me, or drop a note some other way; I’d love to learn from you and encourage you if possible.
My Contact Information
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org