Mike Duran took an unconventional path to Christian faith and ministry, but it was “unconventional” only in the sense that it wasn’t the usual coming-to-faith “cartoon” that’s presented as common to all believing Christians, as in, “I was a sinner, and I was saved one night.”
What Duran’s memoir, Discipl-ish: My Unconventional Pilgrimage thru Faith, Art, & Evangelical Culture, conveys more than anything else is how coming to faith lasts a lifetime. It includes breakthroughs, setbacks, problems, upheavals, victories, discouragement, and growth. Faith is life, and it’s messy and hard and sometimes painful, but it is also unbelievably rewarding.
Duran was raised in the Catholic Church, including attendance in Catholic schools and serving as an altar boy. But he always had a rebellious steak, a streak that took him at a relatively young age into drugs, the occult, and delinquency. What he didn’t know then was that he was on a pilgrimage to Christian faith.
He describes how he first experienced the call to faith; how he discovered gifts he didn’t know he had, like teaching and preaching; the churches he attended, including a heavy metal church; how he became and served as a pastor and how he left the pastoral ministry; and how he rediscovered ministry through working at a painting company, construction work; and becoming a maintenance painter at the local public school district.
He casts an honest eye on himself and the people who influenced his pilgrimage, for good and for bad. And he comes to recognize that “for good and for bad” is a misleading description of what happens to him and his faith over a lifetime.
Duran is a novelist, writer, former pastor, and speaker. His novels and stories occupy an unusual spot in Christian fiction – that of Christian horror and speculative fiction. He’s known for his penetrating insights into Christianity and its critics, both inside and outside the church, and he blogs regularly about issues and events (I’ve included his blog posts more than 50 times over the years on Saturday Good Reads). He’s also an artist, known for his wall crosses and other works. He lives with his family in Southern California.
Discipl-ish is honest, and often painfully honest. In telling his story, Duran doesn’t spare himself and his own actions. And this is what makes this story real and familiar: we ultimately see the reflection of ourselves and our own faith pilgrimages.