FIRST, WHAT'S WITH THE NAME?
The River NYC has been inspired by an approach to spirituality which promotes a conversation about meaning, religion, and culture while helping churches connect with an increasingly secularized and pluralistic world. It's called Blue Ocean Faith. Originally taken from a business strategy, the name Blue Ocean has grown to represent so much of what we feel faith in Jesus can offer us. It expands rather than narrows our horizons. It seeks connection rather than separation. The ocean, after all, is what connects all the land masses on planet earth. Nobody owns the big blue sea. No one can claim to have plumbed its depths. It’s dynamic, always moving, always changing. It humbles us. And when you see a picture of planet earth from space, what you see is blue ocean. Here are 9 perspectives of Blue Ocean Faith:
#1 - THERE REALLY IS SOMETHING GOING ON OUT THERE.
It seems that we human beings have a mystical side - although we all express it differently. In our view, the universe is richly relational. That makes a big difference in how we connect with other people, but it also points us to a God who, we believe, wants to talk to us and guide us and encourage us and motivate us. That seems like an important place to begin the story.
#2 - EVERYTHING IS SHOT THROUGH WITH MEANING.
Where we once, perhaps, were tempted to believe that if we just studied enough we could learn the whole truth about everything, we’re now discovering that God’s reality is quite large! Taking a more humble approach offers us an encouraging sense of wonder about each moment and each person. The possibilities for growth really do prove to be immense.
#3 - WE NEED CONNECTION MORE THAN WE NEED ANSWERS.
We all have big questions about life, about the universe, about God. And yet we’ve found pursuing iron-clad answers doesn’t actually feed us. Instead, we’ve found what's even more meaningful is connection — with God, with our world, and with ourselves. When that connection exists, all sorts of great things happen. And, when it doesn’t, no amount of answers or insights seems to help us.
#4 - THERE IS NO BAD NEWS IN CONNECTING WITH GOD.
We wonder if this verse from Jeremiah 32 is God’s most-central mission statement towards us: “I will delight in doing good things for them with all my heart and soul.” We’ve found that there is only good news for us as we re-direct ourselves toward God. And actually, our lives seem to lose their shine when we veer off this course. This means that reality is the friend of religious and nonreligious people alike— it will always tell us how we need to course-correct. And God is cheering us on as we do.
#5 - EVERYONE IS US.
It’s tempting for those of us in religious circles to divide up the world into people like us (who share our culture and values and preferences) and people not like us who are either— at worst— enemies of the things we hold dear or are— at best— unenlightened people whom we should guide into our truth. But what if, in the end, there is only one real “us”— fellow human beings? And what if that take on the world, rather than somehow “watering down” our convictions, actually opens up powerful opportunities for the kind of potent connection and growth we’re so excited about?
#6 - JESUS HAS PROVEN TO BE A PARTICULARLY HELPFUL 'NORTH STAR'.
All of us in Blue Ocean Faith have had consistently positive interactions with Jesus. In our experience, he has proven to be delightfully responsive to our efforts to connect. Without this external reference point, we are burdened with being our own, which makes for a very small and self-referential system of thought and vision. We've found Jesus to be a reliable authority and a guiding teacher - one who orients us toward an ever-expansive view of the world around us.
#7 - MY DRIVE TO JUDGE OTHER PEOPLE IS A BIG PROBLEM.
Many of us come from religious backgrounds in which good people are expected to “draw clear lines” against evil people. But we’ve found that our quick urge to judge people has in fact been the bigger problem for us. Words like “love” or “humility” get very good raps in the Bible, while Jesus and the Apostle Paul are particularly hard on judgment. We find ourselves motivated less by “being a witness for the Truth” than by joyfully offering what we know of Jesus - even as we learn from those around us.
#8 - WE FLOW EASILY WITHIN SECULAR CULTURE.
Secular culture, like religious culture, has good and bad qualities. In the past, many of us with religious backgrounds have shaken our fist at it. But we've come to realize that, rather than defending God, we’ve often been defending things like “the way I grew up” or “a particular perspective that I assumed was universally true.” In addition, we often find that some secular person really helps us at a deep level— maybe they make a movie which blows us away, or they write a beautifully insightful novel or a wise and helpful op-ed...etc. We hope that we can offer our best insights within our culture even as we receive the best things it has to offer us.
#9 - WE GROW BY TAKING OUR OWN UNIQUE, HIGH-RISK JOURNEY.
We’ve found that spiritual (and personal, and intellectual) growth doesn’t happen as we might expect - it's not just a matter of learning interesting new ideas and insights. Instead, we’re each invited into the kind of adventure that Abraham had. He was called "the father of faithful people” and he left his comfortable spot in the known world to take a trip somewhere he couldn’t exactly place on the map. He took a journey that required close attention to a supernatural guide and periodic miraculous interventions. That involves some vulnerability and some risk-taking. It means sometimes we wonder if we’re on the right track. It means sometimes we might be misunderstood. Above all it means praying at a gut level rather than as an arid “spiritual discipline.” That’s the stuff of Blue Ocean faith.