A Map of My Faith Community

I took a class last term called “Education and Pastoral Imagination” with Dr. Helen Blier.

One of our assignments was to make a map of our faith community that shows where knowledge is, and how one gets there. Dr. Blier passed out large sheets of paper, some National Geographic magazines for images, glue sticks (I still have mine – whoops!), and pencils and crayons.

This is my map. (Click to enlarge, or keep reading for close-ups).

Full Map

I decided to do the churches I grew up in rather than the ones I’m in now. I know that map better.

The map starts in the bottom left.

left sideempty heart

I don’t quite remember why there’s a guy in the heart on the left, but it’s empty because in the view I grew up in, if you didn’t have Jesus in your heart, your heart was empty.

That’s also why there’s no cross (cross with a line through it) – because people who aren’t Christians don’t believe in Jesus. Either that or it was because Catholics had crucifixes and they weren’t going to heaven.

No passing

Between the left side and the right side, there’s this huge chasm. You can’t get across by yourself.


Then there’s this explosion. That’s the only way you get from the side with no knowledge to the side with knowledge – from the desert to the side with water and knowledge.

The explosion represents a radical conversion experience where before, you didn’t know The Truth, but now you do. If you don’t have the explosive experience, it doesn’t count and you’re probably still on the wrong side of the chasm.

The chasm also represents the “longest six inches in the world between your head and your heart,” which means that even if you “know” the message is true, unless you have the experience, you’re not “in.”

Right side

This is the right side of the chasm. There’s water here. Over here, you have a heart and can start climbing the hill toward God.Top Section

This priest is the pastor.

Pastoring, as you can see from the caption, is “not for everyone.”

He (always “he”) mediates knowledge of God (purple dashed arrow) through the Bible. He interprets and gives knowledge down the hill to the people.

There is likewise a chasm between God and the people, one they cannot cross, and the pastor stands in it.Full Map

As you can see from the larger map, God (in this perspective) lives in the Bible. (God is the African woman on the upper left). The pastor and the Bible mediate knowledge of God – but the pastor mediates what the Bible means.

When I showed this map to a classmate, she noticed something: I had made God an African woman.God

“It looks like maybe you still believe there’s something to this. Like all of this that you don’t buy into, you made God real – more the way you re-imagine God now – because that’s not how you would’ve imaged God before.”

I hadn’t thought of that.

“Where are you on the map?”

I wasn’t sure.

I thought about putting myself on the left side of the map, without Jesus, and with the empty heart. The people on the right side certainly wanted me there.

But God isn’t on the map. God isn’t in the Bible, like the map shows.

Maybe I’m in the explosion.

And maybe that’s how you become a pastor. Maybe Martin Luther was right, that one does not become a theologian by understanding, reasoning, or speculation:

“It is by living — no, rather it is by dying and being damned.”

So that’s my map.

Did you notice anything I missed? What’s on yours?

About David M. Schell






Join the conversation!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.