Hi, I’m Joe Burnham and I’m a spiritual misfit and abundance cultivator who rattles cages and drops keys. It’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it? I start with that because it directly shapes our relationship, whatever form that might take. But first, a bit of background, because everything I do today flows out of who I was in years past.
In the summer of 2006, I graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. In my hands was a Master of Divinity degree and in my heart, a bravado ready to take over the world for Jesus. Well, I claimed it was Jesus.
Truth is, I really wanted to take over the world for me. I thought if I could thrive as a pastor, I might feel significant as a person. While on the surface I displayed a vibrant energy and vitality, inside was an abject brokenness. My refusal to face, let alone heal from childhood sexual abuse and years of bullying made being alive painful. And since I’d long written off suicide as an option, I found other ways to cope. I choose to soothe myself through bravado, a performance fixation, and compulsive sexual behavior. It is a life that ultimately destroyed two marriages and cost me my career and my reputation.
The most public ugly moment came in December of 2010. I hadn’t taken over the world, rather, I’d brought the world of everyone closest to me crashing down. I wasn’t sitting on top, rather I was sitting in a jail cell after an arrest for soliciting a prostitute. In the days to come, the name Joe Burnham wouldn’t be featured in leadership blogs or as an influential pastor. It was however all over the local news and websites highlighting the moral failures of Christian leaders.
I wish those days sparked an incredible and instantaneous turn-around in my heart and soul, but that would be disingenuous. There was a desire for change, just an inability to manifest it.
Over most of the next decade I tried every trick, tactic, and methodology I could find:
- I dove into therapy, including individual and group counseling, somatic and story work, EMDR, various retreats, and trauma-focused acupuncture.
- Going back to school, I earned my doctorate in Leadership and Spiritual Formation.
- I pushed my body. It started with running a marathon. Then I moved on to three Spartan Trifectas in three months and a year later completed a Spartan Ultra.
While all of this helped and the timeline isn’t nearly as clean as what’s presented above, transformation accelerated when radical relentless love finally broke through my resistance to grace.
In late summer 2015, I sat in front of a blank computer screen that was supposed to contain brilliant words of wisdom in the form of my doctoral dissertation. Instead, I sat painfully aware of my own spiritual deformation. Sure I could make things look ok publicly, by my inner world and relationships were a wreck.
In the months that followed I began to question everything, but for whatever reason (most likely because my dissertation required me doing so), I returned to the Bible as a source of spiritual wisdom, but I began reading it from a different perspective. I encountered a God that was both willing and able to restore me to sanity (for more on this, listen to my 2019 breakout session at the Gospel of Relentless Love Conference).
As this divine embrace penetrated my very being, it brought about three significant realizations:
- Because I’m loved by God as I am, I can stop looking to other people for affirmation and acceptance. This also gives me the freedom to accept them as they are.
- I realized that if I’m loved by God as I am, then I’m free to live from my authentic self. There is no need to try and be someone I’m not.
- My understanding of grace shifted. While I grew up with a faith that amplified shame while dismissing guilt, today divine love disempowers shame and sees guilt as an invitation to transformation.
Joe Burnham Today
And that brings us to today, where I cultivate abundance by rattling cages and dropping keys. What do I mean by all of that and how does it impact you?
- An abundant life is one lived by soul (your authentic self) in a spirit of love (embodied through honesty, vulnerability, empathy, and compassion).
- To cultivate this abundance in the lives of people, organizations, and broader communities I rattle cages (challenge the status quo) and drop keys (invitations to an alternative way of being). Those terms come from a poem by the Sufi mystic, Hafiz, that a soul guide/spiritual director once read it over me.
- Most of this cage rattling and key dropping comes through deep connection (relationships) and creative communication (speaking and writing).
How do I live this out?
- THRIV3: Through substance-free psychedelic breathwork and holistic life coaching I’m available for one-on-one exploration of your own soul story. While I work with all kinds of people, I focus on men and those going through Christian (de)construction.
- Abundance Reconstructed: A place for spiritual misfits who realize that Christianity is broken but Christian faith doesn’t have to be. You should definitely click the link and sign up for my weekly emails.
- Officiating Funerals: While I’m open to all services, I specialize in those that are particularly challenging, be it an untimely death, suicide, or one brought on by addiction.
- Public Speaking: I am available for your event, worship service, or podcast. You can hear samples on my media page. Contact me for details.
- Working at Xero Shoes: This one might sound odd, but as owners say, “The only reason to start a footwear company is if you start one to change the world.” What we do fits right in with cultivating abundance.
- I’m human, and everything that comes with it. Everything I offer comes out of my experience.
- My lifestyle nurtures my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
- 20 years of ministry in a diversity of settings with people of all ages
- Certifications in Holistic Life Coaching, Breathwork via Screamwerk and Cosmic Sexuality.
- 2016 Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Spiritual Formation from Portland Seminary in Portland, OR (link to my dissertation)
- 2010 guest professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Pretoria, South Africa
- 2006 Master of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO
- 1998 Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with Director of Christian Education certification from Concordia University in Seward, NE