Tuesday, June 25, 2002

bio and context

It occurred to me that a bit of bio and context might be in order.

I am the founder of faithmaps.org, the moderator of the faithmaps discussion group, and assorted other online discussion groups, mostly small private ones, in association with faithmaps. Most of these are faithstories which are the equivalent of online small groups of no more than 12 people. We do nothing more than share our stories and interact over them.

I also co-lead the Learning Community Leadership Team which leads the Learning Community ministry at Grace Community Church in Columbia, MD. Learning Community is a spiritual formation ministry that looks like adult education meets small group and where the facilitator becomes a short-term (usually) spiritual consultant to the participants. The facilitators help participants figure out what the next step is in their spiritual journey. I'm very excited, quite honestly, with LC because we are trying to incorporate the insights of postmodern critiques of a modernized evangelicalism by putting together a transpropositional approach to spiritual formation that does not view spiritual growth as being the exclusive result of information transfer.

God has blessed me with a wife, Bethany Jones Shields, and three beautiful daughters: Michaela Siobhan (6), Skye Teresa (4), and Alia Noelle (2). We live in Ellicott City, MD, which is located in beautiful Howard County, MD just south of Baltimore.

I work for USA TODAY as a marketing manager and have been with the company since 1989 in a number of capacities. They have been very good to me and I look forward to going to work almost every day. I work in McLean, VA, just outside of Washington, DC.

While at Virginia Tech, I decided that I wanted to become a professor of NT or Theology and transferred to Bryan College where I majored in Classical Greek and Bible. After graduating I went to Grace Theological Seminary to get my Masters. Midway through seminary I decided that seminary didn't train people to be spiritual leaders and, though I loved and love academics (and think it's a legitimate field!), I did not think my chosen career was the most optimal utilization of my skillset. (actual professor quote: "We do not train you how to be pastors; we train you to answer Bible questions.") I almost dropped out, but instead decided that if I were to ever have a part in developing a better spiritual leadership training method the Masters would help give me credibility. Plus I wanted to finish what I started. So I graduated from Seminary and promptly took a job as a Spot Welder in a local factory and continued teaching in my local church. After my girlfriend broke up with me 'cause I couldn't get a grip on the whole committment thing, one day on the line my head jerked up and I said to myself, "Why are you in Warsaw, Indiana?" So I contacted Bruce McNicol and asked him to tell me about the best churches in the United States in metropolitan areas. He listed a number of churches in Chicago, LA, Detroit and DC. I contacted them all and visited a couple. I decided in the summer of 1988 that I wanted to work with Brian McLaren at Cedar Ridge Ridge Community Church and moved here with no jobs and no friends, renting from Brian's parents. Brian was wonderful to me and very empowering. I ended up teaching, preaching, leading small groups, administrating small groups, singing, writing drama, acting, etc. From July of 1999 until Feb of 2001 I was on staff part-time working with all the small groups and the adult education of CRCC but being diabetic, having a full-time job and three little kids (and a very, very, very tired wife!!!) wasn't really sustainable and I quit the CRCC gig after getting physically sick. faithmaps.org and the online communities I started came during the period of my recovery and here we are today.

Maybe later I'll share a bit more about my spiritual journey, but above hits a lot of the big stuff.

Thank you for sharing in my story.

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