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  • Santosh Ninan

THE JOY OF OBSCURITY



Saskatoon: the Paris of the Prairies


The Move


We have moved into our new house in Saskatoon. And by new, I mean this house was built only three years ago. New houses are still being built in this area, which is a massive wave of suburban sprawl.


The move has been somewhat painless so far. Our biggest stressor is the slow movement of our goods. We likely won't see our stuff arrive for another month or so. Sleeping on an air mattress seems to have deformed my back for good. The costs of the moving company have also ballooned far beyond what we had budgeted for.


But, here we are: living in Saskatoon Saskatchewan. After living in Vancouver Canada and Ithaca New York, we find ourselves back in our hometown. (I say our because Felicia grew up here too).


It feels right to be here. We live half a mile from my parents which is an easy walk. In fact, we walked there for Sunday lunch today. I have a part-time job writing for a mission agency called Worldserve They work among the persecuted church. I can work from home completing assignments as they are assigned to me. It is quite enjoyable but quite a shift from being a local church pastor.


Obscurity


I have decided to take a self-appointed sabbatical for 12 months. (God might shorten that by calling me to serve a church, but I am in no rush). I still need to make money to provide for my family so I have taken the writing job. I am still looking to supplement my income some more. Right now I am looking at working at the post office or Costco!


I have worked as a pastor in a local church for the past 20 years, in Vancouver and then Ithaca. In both cities, I built up large networks of friends and acquaintances. Now, in Saskatoon, I find myself relatively unknown. I have a smattering of friends who knew me when I was growing up here - but I will be living and working in relative obscurity.


And I am relishing it! In fact, I call it the joy of obscurity. I have been pondering this for quite some time. When I was in Vancouver I met with a Christian leader who had had a national profile. Due to a personality conflict, he was pushed out of his rather prominent role. He went on to found another ministry - but so far it has not come anywhere close to the national significance that his previous role afforded. He confided in me that he wrestled with God about serving him while remaining in obscurity. He came to peace with it and is serving God faithfully in a less visible role.


And then more recently I heard a podcast between two well-known Christian leaders and they discussed the reality that they will become obscure and forgotten over time. There was almost a sense of panic in their voices!


I have been socially conditioned within American evangelicalism which is in a manic pursuit of platform, fame, influence, etc. Christian leaders are judged by how many conferences they speak at, how many books they have written, and how large their churches or ministries are. And I was seduced by this social reality.


Now trying to extricate that mentality from my consciousness, which is easier said than done. I still feel a tinge of envy when I see another leader my age or younger speaking at a large conference or has a book published. This envy and comparison need to die in me. And I am trusting God will work as an undertaker on those parts of my flesh that still hang on. (I will write some more on this in upcoming posts).


The Small Church


As a family, we have been "church hopping" as we seek a new church home. We were not going to do this for long. The plan was to visit 4-6 churches and then make a decision.


Here are the ones we visited:


2 large churches with excellent programming and branding

a church of 100 that was fairly straightforward and had a very good preacher

a church of 40 that was liturgical


And we have decided on the church of 40!!!! St. Stephen's Anglican is going to be our church home for the foreseeable future. I love the Anglican liturgy and the priest is a talented pastor and very good preacher. The kids are a bit wary about a church that appears to be made up primarily of seniors. There were only 2 other families with kids our age. The rest were older saints. But, they do have a small youth group, and the priests' sons go to the youth group of a larger church - so maybe that will work for our kids.


Attending a small church fits in with my exit from fame-based evangelicalism and entrance into a deeper, historical, and more thoughtful church experience. I am excited about joining this small but beautiful community.


In the pursuit of obscurity, I will only be speaking one more time this year. Around Canadian thanksgiving, I will deliver a sermon on that theme. For the past 8 years, I have spoken 20-30 times a year (which adds up to approximately 200 times). I was also very engaged in conversations around racial justice - doing a lot of talks on this theme throughout 2020.

And now my voice will be quiet for a season.

And that is ok.

And that is good.

As I stop speaking, maybe I will be more attentive to the voice of God in my life.


I will continue to keep this blog going. Not to gain an audience, but more as an outlet to process my thoughts and interact with those of you who wish to engage with me on this journey.


Grace and peace.



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