As you may have guessed from the banner, I’m kind of keen on the many definitions of “regenerate.” Not to mention the whole yin/yang thing (minus the implied heresy) it has going on with “degenerate.”
The word “regenerate” is a verb, an adjective, and a noun. As a verb, it means “to reform spiritually or morally.” As an adjective, it means “spiritually or morally revitalized,” as well as “restored; refreshed; renewed.” As a noun, it refers to “one who is spiritually reborn or reformed.”
With as much enthusiasm as I can muster (which can actually be quite a lot, when backed by copious amounts of sugar), I endorse all forms of the word “regenerate” (I endorse the liberal use of parenthetical comments, as well, but that isn’t as blogworthy).
This blog began with a focus on the transformative power of arts and entertainment, but has now broadened to include my other areas of interest which also focus on renewal — counseling, coaching, and above all faith in Jesus Christ.
Over the past several decades (well, okay, probably all of recorded history, but work with me here…), many good-hearted people (and maybe some not-so-good-hearted) have spent far too much time decrying “degenerate” art and far too little time celebrating “regenerate” art.
The arts have tremendous power to shape the culture and simply criticizing “degenerate” art gets us nowhere. Instead, we need to pay heed to two quotes of debatable origin. “Criticize by creating” is good advice, regardless of whether or not Michelangelo was the one who first said it. Similarly, “Give me the songs of a nation, and it matters not who writes its laws” may or may not originate with Damon of Athens, but rings true regardless here in the nation’s capital. I firmly believe that by fostering redemptive art, regenerate artists can bring about a morally and spiritually revitalized culture.
So, whilst making my own feeble attempts to engage in artistic endeavors bringing renewal to my own little corner (“in my own little chair…”) of the world, this here website is one place where I more broadly engage in lofty attempts to reform the culture, celebrate signs of cultural revitalization, and praise and encourage the regenerates in our midst. Go team.
As one who considers himself a “wounded healer” (in Henri Nouwen’s memorable phrase), I seek to share the healing I’ve found in Christ with others around me. This takes place both in one-on-one interactions and through facilitating and leading recovery programs. This also led me toward further education in counseling, but after reading How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals About Personal Growth by Henry Cloud and John Townsend I diverted to seminary in pursuit of a thorough theological grounding.
Whilst attending seminary at Regent University, I took a class in ministry coaching with Dr. Joseph Umidi and discovered a newfound passion. I subsequently went through the coach training program at Lifeforming Leadership Coaching and obtained a certification as a Lifeforming Leadership Coach. In addition to coaching a random assortment of people, I also began training coaches at my church, National Community Church in Washington, DC, who provide care and support to our small group leaders.
Faith in Christ undergirds and upholds all of the above. Art is redemptive to the extent that it reveals Truth, knowing that all truth is God’s truth. Counseling brings renewal as it draws people to Christ, helping them to understand and grasp His love for them and their identity in Him. Coaching brings revitalization as people discover and live out God’s purpose for their lives.
So, who am I, anyway? (as if the above wasn’t enough)
My name is Ryan Zempel and I’m the editor of regenerateCulture.com. I previously worked as Deputy Editor and Writer for a politics and news website where, among other duties, I edited the Books & Entertainment section. I’ve fumbled my way through interviews on the O’Reilly Radio Factor, WABC-TV in New York, and The Path Christian Radio Network, getting progressively more articulate as I went (sadly, O’Reilly was the first and therefore the worst).
My own particular realm of the arts world is that of the performing arts, specifically musical theatre. I’ve been known to sing, dance, and act, but have done none of the three to any special acclaim. I’ve performed on numerous stages in the Washington, D.C. metro area and once even got paid to do so at a dinner theatre. I’ve twice stepped behind the curtain to produce shows, both times producing a musical revue of my own creation titled God on Broadway, which highlighted spiritual themes in Broadway songs. Although I still haven’t lost the performing bug, I may have a go at directing at some point, as well.
Not that I have time for any of that, however. I have a full-time paying gig managing websites and am now attending seminary part-time, leaving me little time for arts activity of my own. I do some informal counseling on the side and some coaching (and coach training) at my church. My spring 2011 graduation can’t come fast enough, but in the meantime I engage in as much counseling and coaching as I can find time for, and I try to encourage, support, and live vicariously through others as they engage in artistic endeavors.
Those others include my wife Heather, who recently returned to the theatrical stage after several years absence (although folks in Mobile, Alabama still fondly remember her as the Wicked Witch of the West) and who frequently commands the stage as a speaker at many conferences and church leadership events. She serves as Pastor of Discipleship at National Community Church, maintains a blog providing resources for other pastors overseeing small groups, and has authored Sacred Roads: Exploring the Historic Paths of Discipleship. We live on Capitol Hill and make frequent trips to Times Square to see shows on Broadway.