Note: This is an excerpt from my book UPRISING: Time for Christians to Stop Waiting and Start Winning.
This site, and my ministry work, is dedicated to the understanding that believers are here, not to mark time and “do our best” till some random time we’re rescued, but instead to advance the Kingdom of God till the pre-eminence of Jesus is manifest in all creation.
When we embracing our God-given purpose of achieving Kingdom victory, it should compel us to look more strategically at how best to tackle the problems facing our world.
When we do this, we can see that for each of the enemy’s cultural strongholds, there is both a supply side and a demand side. There are people who produce pornography and people who purchase it, people who sell illegal drugs and people who use them, people who govern poorly and people who vote them into office, and so on.
Our human nature is to look for shortcuts – the perceived path of least resistance – and also to seek recognition for our endeavors. This nature generally leads us to attack the supply side of a stronghold; it just seems to be the logical way to bring it down, and we can certainly make a big splash by doing so. As a result, with all the best intentions, we picket abortion clinics, organize electoral campaigns, wage war against drug cartels, seek to outlaw pornography, and the like.
Now, we each need to do as the Lord leads, and there’s nothing wrong with any of these activities. If the Lord calls you personally to focus on the supply side of a stronghold, then you should do it with all your strength. However, if we as a Body embrace these tactics as our sole strategy for pulling down strongholds, and do so for any reason other than the leading of the Spirit, victory is impossible. How can I say this? It’s a simple lesson in Economics 101: For any given demand, limiting the supply simply drives up the price. For example, attack the supply chain for illegal drugs without addressing the demand – that is, keep the number of addicts the same, but make the drugs harder to come by – and you’ve only hiked the street value. As a result, you’re driving addicts to do even more extreme things to get them! Hardly sounds like the desired outcome to me.
Want to tear down the stronghold of illegal drugs? Just like every other cultural stronghold, removing the demand is the winning strategy. When former drug addicts would rather “get drunk on the Holy Spirit” than high on dope, the illicit drug trade will disappear! Instead, we’ve spent oceans of money and manpower fighting the supply … and how’s it working for us?
When men hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for the desires of the flesh, the pornography industry will collapse. Attack the supply – whether it be through shutting down pornographers or simply putting “porn blockers” on computers – and allow the demand to linger – and men will still commit adultery in their hearts. No victory there!
When our elected leaders are storing up treasures in Heaven instead of pursuing earthly riches, corruption will vanish. When the hearts of the electorate are turned towards righteousness, and they vote accordingly, the righteous will once again rule. Connect gang members to real, loving, edifying relationships and street violence will stop. When the truth of God’s love is known by all, then all religions and sects based on legalism, division or hate will fail.
Attack the supply side of any of these and you may get some temporary relief, but it’s no better than putting a Band-Aid on an infection. It may look fine on the surface for a time, but the real problem is still there, only getting worse.
When you get to the heart of these issues, you realize the ultimate supply of all our cultural ills is the deception of the enemy. Even those people who are agents of the “supply side” are, in their hearts, simply demanding gratification from something other than God, and they have believed the lie that they can find what they’re looking for through sin.
We must remember that our battle is for people and not against them! Any perceived shortcut is really a dead-end street. God’s Kingdom will come when we personally connect with the hearts and minds of individual people, one at a time, and turn them towards Christ. Victory will not be accomplished through blunt force, but instead through loving kindness. Put two and two together –“The meek shall inherit the earth”and “He who (conquers, carries off the victory) will inherit all things” —and it becomes clear that we will conquer through meekness. There is no other way.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
A note to my friends and blog followers:
This is my first post in a few weeks. I apologize for the long gap. My family has been tied up in a huge spiritual battle and period of unexpected hardship. Our local newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, wrote a story about our situation and ran it on their front page two days ago. If you’re interested in finding out more, here’s a link to the article. I appreciate your patience and prayers. – M.A.
I find it amazing how so many Christians simply cannot properly take – or assign – responsibility for the foul fruit of human failings.
It’s like they think, “So long as we don’t outright kill anyone or steal anything, or get caught breaking any of the other commandments, then everything else we do is irrelevant to the outcome of our actions.”
I’ve seen long-time ministers, who are indeed gifted at teaching the Word, live the most slothful lives and make the most foolish decisions – and then blame God (and/or the “immature” believers around them, who “don’t give enough”) for their poverty. Now, they wouldn’t outright say “it’s God’s fault” in so many words — rather, they seem to believe God is perpetually holding them in a “dry season” to “teach” them something – but it’s the same thing. Yes, God is trying to teach them something, like get off your butt and actually do something productive! The dry season they’re facing is not God’s fault; it’s the inevitable endpoint of the path they’ve chosen.
I’ve seen other long-time ministers form committees, councils, boards or teams of people who are incompetent, shallow, immature, conflicted and/or otherwise not trustworthy – and because they are “good Christians,” the organizer holds to an irrational belief that everything that happens will be “God’s will.” So when the group’s resulting action (or inaction) makes no sense or goes the wrong direction, the minister just follows merrily along, the blind following the blind, with God’s name stenciled on the mess.
The Lord gave me a vision onetime of a Christian farmer in a farmhouse, praying earnestly for a bumper crop of corn. This farmer has the most fertile bottomland in the county, the best equipment in his barn, it’s a wet year, and there is nothing standing between him and a record harvest. But a few weeks after planting time, this farmer’s field is still brown, while his unbelieving neighbor’s field is sporting healthy sprouts.
So the farmer gets on his knees and prays even more. He fasts, digs deeper into the Word, activates the prayer chain at “church,” and resolutely declares the “word of faith” that God is definitely going to give him a huge harvest this year. And yet another month later, when the neighbor’s crop is “knee-high by the Fourth of July” and growing, this farmer’s field is still desolate.
So our farmer pours out his heart to God. He puts a bigger check in the offering plate. The elders of his “church” pour oil on his head and pray over him. His touchy-feely, super-“spiritual” friend helps him dig into his childhood and analyze all the bad things that ever happened to him, seeking the “root of his troubles.” His holy-roller pastor waves his arms and flaps his tongue in a wild prayer of deliverance. But a number of weeks later, while his neighbor rolls out the combine and brings in a bumper crop, our friend’s field yields nothing but weeds and dust.
Finally the Christian farmer, at wits end, lays face down before the Lord, humble and broken. “Why, Lord? Why is it your will that I suffer, while my unbelieving neighbor gets rich?”
The Lord, with grace, yet a touch of frustration, replies, “My son, I gave you the best bottomland in the county, the best farm equipment there is, plenty of rain, and everything you needed to produce a bumper crop. But you didn’t do your part! All you needed to do was plant the seeds I gave you, and I would have made them grow….”
This scenario is more common than we may realize. Even as I write this, I am once again convicted of my own guilt in blaming God for the failures and lack in my own life. It is not His fault! He has given me more than I need, and I alone am to blame for the consequences of my own poor decisions. I pray God helps me see clearly where I’ve mis-stepped, because I know that taking responsibility is a pre-requisite for learning and doing better in the future. When I blame Him or anyone else for my mistakes, I am doomed to repeat them.
Here’s the truth: God gave us the authority and mandate to establish dominion over the world. He freely offers Wisdom and Revelation to guide our steps. He promises provision and direction when we seek and obey His will. And He also gives us free will to do it His way, or not.
We must realize that He didn’t give all this to us so that we may have a free pass on the principles of His creation. Believers are not exempt from reality! Instead, the opposite is true: God established the fundamental principles of creation – scientific, economic, political, business, etc. – and gives us access to His very mind, so that we may master them. He wants his sons and daughters to rise up and take dominion over these things, not cede them to the unbelievers through our own foolishness, ignorance and inaction!
This truth applies to us, wherever we find ourselves. I see everyday believers “blame” God for their unemployment, yet they don’t hustle to find work, don’t present themselves well in interviews, and never took the time to master the skills necessary to be successful in their given field. No, their unemployment is not God’s fault! It is a result of their own bad habits and poorly-chosen path.
I see believers who actually believe their broken marriage is God’s will. Of course, it must be God’s will, and certainly has nothing to do with the fact that they’re lazy, self-centered, worldly, and didn’t put Christ at the center of their relationship!
I see Christian business owners “blame” God for hardship and failure, yet they continually ignore wise counsel, make stupid decision, and do not put a professional face on their endeavors. How is it God’s fault when they go out of business? Just because they’re a “Christian” business doesn’t mean they don’t have to compete in the marketplace!
Sure, there are legitimate “dry spells” and hardships in life. God teaches us through trials and fires. We’re not here to live it up in the here and now, and material outcomes are not necessarily any measure of Godly success. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about all the times that we miss out on God’s desired outcome through our own ignorance, stubbornness, foolishness, laziness, and bad habits – and then, instead of facing the truth, we chalk our failure up to God. I believe this is more widespread than any of us may care to admit.
Where this grips me the most is in “church.” Pews and pulpits today seem filled with folks like the Christian farmer in my little story. We are failing in our God-given mandate to bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, and we are becoming increasingly mocked and marginalized in the world. At the same time, frauds and phonies are reaping a bumper crop, leading multitudes down the path to destruction.
How can we honestly believe this has nothing to do with the fact that even the most “contemporary” of our “churches” today – compared to The Way modeled in Scripture – are legalistic, ritualistic, materialistic, tradition-bound, shallow, inbred and downright goofy?
Instead of facing the facts and returning to The Way, what is our answer? Redesign the bulletin. Rejigger the order of “service.” Play more modern music. Wear flip-flops on Sunday. That, or double-down on the archaic traditions of our denomination’s founders.
Fact is, we reap what we sow, and we don’t reap what we don’t sow. It’s time we step up and accept responsibility! Churchianity is failing, and yet our “church” leaders continue to inflict us with failing methods – and then blame God for the outcome.
As if claiming that our failure is somehow His fault were not bad enough, now we’ve come up with a pop theology to justify it all. The ultimate insult to our Lord and King, and the pinnacle of the “blame God” mindset, is the modern teaching that global dominion of the Body is not really inevitable, after all, and the best thing we can do is just wait to be rescued. The only one glorified by modern “end times” teaching about the inevitable rise of the antichrist is the antichrist himself! This is not Biblical in the least. Holy cop-out, Batman!
It’s time to grow up, stop blaming God, beg for wisdom, follow His lead, take responsibility for our failings, learn from our mistakes, plant the right seeds, and set our faces like flint towards finally establishing dominion over the world He created for us.
This is His will, and He continually gives us everything we need to do it. If we continue to miss out, it’s not His fault.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
I can be obsessive. The Bible says that whatever our hand finds to do we should do it with all our strength, and doing so is hardwired into my psyche. When I focus on something, I really dig into it and don’t rest till I fully get it. While my kids might tell you this can lead to some over-the-top board game competitions in my family, I don’t think on the whole it’s a bad personality trait.
The Bible also tells us to be wise and to take our thoughts captive. Doing the one without the other – that is, committing fully to something without being strategic about it – is a surefire recipe for a misspent life. In my youth, I gave myself to all sorts of projects and causes that, sadly, will not stand in light of eternity.
As a result, over the years I’ve learned to be deliberate about my obsessions, to guard my passions. I realize I’m past the midpoint in my life and I don’t want to waste my remaining years pursuing random, meaningless or selfish things.
As my recent string of blog posts reveals, for quite some time I’ve been focused on getting to the heart The Way that God desires for us to function as a Body of believers. Some folks have asked why this is so important to me, as it can seem like an obscure topic. No doubt it’d be easier for me to follow the herd and focus my attention on the latest football stats, celebrity gossip or political drama, and then sit in a pew and baaaa in unison with the rest of the sheep.
This pursuit has proven to be a challenge and a sacrifice, as it’s taken me into a territory where I often feel the need to tiptoe and whisper, lest I incur the wrath of those who are content with the status quo. But try as I might, I simply don’t think there’s anything more important for me to be obsessed about. This is where the Lord has called my attention, and I can’t rest till I complete my assignment.
As I see it, there are three main reasons why this is so important:
First is practical. For years I sat in pews, served on committees and paid my tithes at a local “church,” going through the motions of churchianity. All the while, we heard messages, sang songs, and participated in studies based on the Bible, which was said to be the inerrant Word of the God (the same God, we were told, who established this “religion” to begin with).
Call me a rebel, but I figured, if I’m going to give so much of my life to my “church” and abide by its rules for living, I should probably read its Holy Book and see what it says. In it, I found a number of crystal-clear promises like if I seek first God’s Kingdom and righteousness, He will provide for all my physical needs, and if I trust and acknowledge God above my own understanding, He will guide my steps. I also read that the Christian’s life is supposed to be marked by true and abiding peace, love, joy and contentment in all situations (which I certainly wasn’t feeling despite my devotion to “church”).
And so I decided to see for myself if all this stuff was legit. I mean, if the Bible is true and God is real, then He should be able to keep those promises, right? And if He can’t, then it’s all a big joke and we’re wasting our time with all this “church” stuff. If it’s not true, and there is no eternal judge or afterlife, then we’re fools not to live large and make the most of our time on earth. On the other hand, if it really is true, then we’re fools not to do every single thing He tells us to do, every step of the way. Living in the twilight zone in between these, as I did for so long, is a meaningless, pointless existence.
To get to the bottom of it all, I jumped into my part of God’s promises with both feet, and it wasn’t long before I saw first-hand that God is real and His promises are true. He’s given me everything He promises and then some, and has demonstrated His reality in countless, miraculous ways.
Grounded in this certainty, I’ve made my pursuit of the Living God and His perfect will my overriding obsession. I want to know Him more and understand – and obey – His Word as deeply as humanly possible. I’d be a fool not to. And since the thing we call “church” absorbs the lion’s share of the time and money we dedicate to God, I figured this was a good place to start digging into His will.
Fact is, if I found out “church” as we know it today is aligned with God’s desire, then I’d want to do it will all my strength. (And I’d want to know which one is right, because most claim all the others are wrong.) On the other hand, if the way we practice “church” is not what God desires, then why do it? If it’s for tradition alone, that’s a terrible reason. Think about it: If we’re off target with this, we’re flushing a massive, tragic amount of human time, talent and treasure down the toilet – and missing the full realization of the blessings God has in store for us.
So my quest for the truth of Church is, in part, fully practical. I want to know how God wants us to live, and I want to follow it to the best of my abilities – because I want to grab hold of all that He has in store for me, and I don’t want to waste my time on an activity He doesn’t endorse.
The second reason I believe this is a worthwhile obsession is because we are called, as ambassadors of Christ, to truly serve the needs of others, as He served us. This is the true religion that pleases God, and we are falling terribly short of it.
We were designed by God to fully thrive only when rightly connected to the Body, according to The Way put forth in Scripture. It is in and through the healthy Body of Christ alone that all our needs are truly met: financial, physical, emotional and spiritual.
Compared to the integrated, inter-dependent, egalitarian, dynamic, immersive, organic fellowship experience of the early Church, our “churches” today offer very little. Sure, there are often “fellowship” opportunities in the “fellowship hall,” and many are making headway with “home groups,” but these are insignificant in light of the richness of true Body life as God intends it.
The lifestyle of the early Church, as recorded in Scripture, is so foreign to us that we simply don’t know what we’re missing and how badly we’re failing. If only we knew how much better things could be for all of us – especially for “the least of these” – I believe we’d drop everything to grab hold of it. If the Body were to stand up in its full potential, we would transform the world overnight.
Instead, we live lives of disconnectedness … superficiality … lack … competition … fear … pride … despair. Scratch the surface of just about any “church” today and – if you are sober-minded and humble enough to admit it – you will find these in abundance. We should stop accepting this as our lot in life! It doesn’t have to be this way!
(Please understand, I say this in comparison to The Way that God desires for us. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone; I’m just trying to point us all towards Him. No doubt there are a huge number of “churches” that are much better than the cruel world. It’s just that to me, “better than” is not satisfactory when Christ came to give us the best.)
Here’s a hard truth: If you’ve sat in the same “church services” as someone for a long time, and you’re not integrally connected to each other – sharing possessions, truly serving each other’s needs, praying insightfully for each other, enjoying frequent fellowship, and so on – then you can call that place a lot of things, but please don’t call it a Church, because God sure doesn’t. Deep, all-in, intimate interconnectedness, where we come together to fully meet each other’s needs, is the heart of the Biblical definition of Church. But it’s virtually unheard of in “church” today.
This kind of interdependence is such an inborn need that throughout history countless millions of people have fought and died for corrupt, counterfeit versions. In reality, the promise behind communism and socialism is nothing more than an empty, evil, God-less version of the promise of true Church. There’s a reason this political paradigm is a continual, global force to be reckoned with. The meteoric rise of “social networking” is another testament to this universal human need. God made us to crave Body life!
We will never have our own needs fully met, or be able to meet the needs of others as we are called to, until we rediscover The Way. We will never be able to fully practice the true religion that pleases God, or unleash our full potential, until the living Body of Christ rises up, free from the shackles of division, human control and traditionalism.
Until we do our job, fake, shallow and harmful counterfeits will continue to flourish, and the people of the world – even “churchgoers” – will continue to needlessly suffer.
The third and most important reason I’ve focused so long on this topic is because I believe it’s central to God’s Big Picture, His original intent for creation and mankind.
God’s first words to mankind were the instructions to establish dominion, to conquer. Some of the last words in the Bible say that “he who conquers will inherit all things.” From beginning to end, and all points in between, the Bible gives us examples, instructions, promises and commands from God all pointing to His overriding desire for us – His children – to establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.
Creation exists, and we are here in it, for this one purpose, and the end won’t come till we are done. We are not here just to “do our best” or enjoy “prosperity” until some random “end of the world.” We are instead here to conquer the kingdom of darkness; to follow His step-by-step guidance, and make use of His divine provision and power, to continually and successfully advance His Kingdom into every sphere.
The more I dig into it, the more I realize that God’s Kingdom is synonymous with His Body. The uprising of the Body of Christ is the same thing as the manifestation of the Kingdom come. The Body is the Kingdom – the Kingdom of righteousness, love, peace, joy and contentment in the Holy Spirit. It is the living entity that will emerge when we all let Christ live in and through us, and allow Him to knit us together in the unity of the Spirit.
His Kingdom cannot advance separate from true, organic Body life. It will come not by might or power, but by the Spirit of God – inside-out and from the bottom-up. Ultimate victory will not come through building projects, committees, mass-market campaigns, strident activism, or any amount of time and expense sunk into the institutions we call “church.” These things only get in the way.
We’ve been doing “church” our way for centuries, and yet we’re increasingly mocked, marginalized and fragmented. I’m passionate about God’s Kingdom, and so I am passionate about rediscovering God’s strategic plan for His Body on earth.
Advancing the Kingdom is our God-given mandate and purpose, and our only path to an eternal inheritance. By His design, there is only one way to advance the Kingdom, and that is by following The Way.
And so, yes, I think that getting to the heart of this is a worthwhile obsession. I wish more Christians felt the same!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
I’m madly in love with my wife, even her little quirks. One is that, when she gets excited, she’ll often use a random word to refer to something, like “hurry, hand me the … uh … fork,” when she really means a hairbrush. I think after being married 18 years I’m actually learning to read her mind and can usually figure out what she means. But our children aren’t so good at deciphering her meanings, and sometimes it makes for a good laugh – like when she’s doing her hair and they actually bring her the fork she asked for.
Words are only useful so long as they stand for something that is commonly understood. If your meanings and mine for the same words don’t line up, we might as well speak to each other in a foreign language. That’s what a foreign language is, isn’t it – just a system of different words that refer, ultimately, to the same basic ideas and objects? When your meanings and mine don’t like up, things can get quite confusing. Just ask the builders at Babel.
I bring all this up to explain why it’s getting harder and harder for me to have a “normal” conversation about “church.” I’m even finding it hard to write about it.
One of my deepest desires is for my meanings of words to line up with God’s. That’s a passion of mine because it’s central to living a life of obedience. Aligning our meanings to God’s is a fundamental aspect of understanding and discernment. If God tells me to “jump,” I want to jump, and not run in circles. If He tells me to paint something blue, I don’t want to paint it red. If He tells me to be active in my local Church, then I want to do that, the way He intends it, and not according to a misguided understanding of that word.
Over many years I’ve studied, prayed, observed, and followed the Lord’s leading to gain a deeper understanding of the meanings of key words He uses. The root of my challenge is that my journey towards the truth has taken me further and further away from the meanings that are generally accepted in churchianity today. What this boils down to is, now that I’m learning the true meanings of the words we use, I simply can’t bring myself to use those words in the way most people understand them.
As a result, my obedience to God has led me to be further and further out of step with many brothers and sisters whom I dearly love. It’s a situation that can be painful, frustrating and sad. I can’t abandon my pursuit of the truth and all the Lord has taught me, and yet I can’t abandon my fellow Christ-followers, either.
All I can do is try my best to communicate the truth, in love, and lead by example. And it seems to get harder every day, because when it comes down to it, we’re really speaking different languages. It’s almost like what happened in Babel: We’re called to build the Body and establish the Kingdom, and yet we’re talking past each other on the most fundamental of concepts, and so we’re getting nowhere. Except this time, the different languages weren’t sent by God but rather the enemy has worked them in over many centuries.
Thankfully, the truth is the truth, and if we’re all teachable truth-seekers, we should be able to get over this hurdle and finally work together.
In the spirit of unity, let me tell you the most challenging words I face on a daily basis and offer some suggestions for moving forward together:
Church – When you read this in the Bible, it simply means, “the called out ones,” with connotations of civic duty and authority. It has absolutely nothing to do with a time, place, building, meeting methodology, organizational structure, system of ordination or hierarchy, or anything of the sort. The things we’ve built and call “church” today have zero basis in Scripture, and simply are not what God means when He says the word. Belonging to one of the man-made organizations and/or participating in the traditional Sunday-morning gatherings is an optional part of a Christian’s life, and has no bearing on our obedience to God’s desire for us to belong to His Church; the two things are entirely unrelated.
You may notice in my writing that when I refer to the authentic Biblical meaning, I capitalize the word Church, and when I refer to the man-made structures, I put “church” lowercase and in quotation marks. But in the long run, that’s not good enough. It certainly doesn’t work in conversation. My proposal, and it’s a modest one, is that we re-name the thousands of fragmented, facilities-based organizations called “churches” today “Christian Clubs.” So it’d become First Baptist Christian Club, or Hallelujah Bible Christian Club. If this suggestion catches on, then believers would be freed up to pursue true Church, and not feel so guilty for not “going to church” on Sunday mornings. Whether you accept this or not, please, do me a favor and stop calling your local Christian Club a “church” – because it confuses those who are seeking the truth, and it sure as heck isn’t something God calls Church.
Church Service – This one is almost comical. Service is what we do to help someone. According to the Bible, it is the basis of true religion, which God says is “helping widows and orphans.” So, in God’s eyes, a true Church service involves the fellowship of believers pooling resources and working together to meet the needs of those less fortunate, like feeding the homeless or painting a widow’s house. In today’s language, however, a “church service” is when the local Christian Club gathers and performs a Sunday morning ritual involving a musical performance, a motivational speech and some fundraising. How we came to call that a “church service” is beyond me! How about we start calling them “Christian Club Weekly Rallies”? As in: “Hey, you want to come to my Christian Club’s Weekly Rally this Sunday?” “No thanks, I’ll be up late Saturday performing a Church service, and will need to sleep late Sunday after working so hard at the homeless shelter.”
Ministry and Minister – The Greek word means “service.” (See above.) It’s a menial job, and the title of “minister” (and “deacon,” which has the same root) is most closely translated as “bus boy.” To clarify this, I suggest we start calling ministries “grunt work,” and ministers “servants.” As in: “I want to go into full time grunt work. My servant thinks I’m called to it.” That’d clarify things big time.
Worship – Literally, this means groveling like a dog before his master and/or lying face down before a king. It has nothing to do with music whatsoever. (And no, “praise” is not fast music and “worship” is not slow; that’s silly.) True worship is intensely private. Yes, it’s a condition of the heart, and it’s a state of being that we can bring to all our activities, including singing songs. Just so we can all be on the same page, here’s my suggestion: Let’s start calling the music portion of our Christian Club Weekly Rallies “inspirational music sing along time.” Then, if our hired Inspirational Music Sing Along Time Servant wants to truly lead worship, he can lie down on his face while the other members of the Christian Club are singing.
Pastor – This word has no Biblical meaning, because it’s a completely man-made title and job description. It was made up by the Roman “church” during the Dark Ages to pertain to a facet of the pagan-inspired priesthood, and inserted in one place in Scripture by translators looking to justify the position. The word they stepped on is shepherd. This is a hard one to suggest a possible replacement, because there are a multitude of folks filling this position who have no shepherding gift or calling whatsoever. Even if they did, their full time job running the Christian Club would mainly be a distraction from the real work of shepherding as it’s portrayed in the Bible. I think the best idea is to start calling them what they are, and that is “CEO” of their Christian Club.
There are quite a few more words we need to change if we’re going to be able to journey together towards the truth, but I think this is a good start. When we get these right I think the others will begin to fall into place. Will you join me? Think it’ll catch on?
Oh … and I’ll see you next Sunday at our Christian Club’s weekly rally. I’m sure our inspirational music sing along time servant will put on a good show, and the CEO will deliver a great motivational message!
After that, if you’re up for it, we can put on our work clothes and join the Church service down at the old widow’s house…
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
I have a confession to make.
Many years ago, my wife and I decided to sell our first house. It was small, we had a growing family, we had an opportunity to re-locate back to our hometown, and the market was hot where we were. It was a good time to sell.
Problem is, we didn’t have a lot of money to get the place properly prepped for market. And so we took some shortcuts. Now, we didn’t outright lie or do anything out of the ordinary, I guess, but looking back at it, I feel bad for the ways we cut corners.
For example, part of the wood on the awning over the garage was starting to rot. A couple boards really needed to be replaced. But instead of doing that, I scraped out the rotten parts, filled them with wood putty and painted over it. I didn’t even wait for the putty to dry. Problem solved!
Then there was the spot in the yard, right near the front door, where we couldn’t get anything to grow. It was a real eyesore. So I dug it out, rimmed it with rocks, and every couple days I’d get a $2.99 flower-in-a-pot from the local grocery store and drop it in there. The flowers were bright and inviting and made the ground look fertile, but they withered up and died every couple days. As long as I had a fresh arrangement stuck in when folks came to look at the house, I figured it was all good – and I didn’t really care that it would be dead and brown by the time they moved in.
In real estate sales lingo, this is called making the house “show ready.” The old wisdom of “buyer beware” is still relevant today – and I’ve kept it in mind as we’ve bought subsequent houses, making darn sure to poke and prod every little thing. If I can cut corners to sell a house, anyone can.
At the time I honestly considered these superficial, short-term fixes to be smart business. And while I still feel a twinge of regret about my youthful “enthusiasm” in selling our house, in the big picture I know the folks got a solid house for a good price, even if there were a few “surprises” covered up.
It’s not like the foundation was crumbling or there were termites in the timbers. But in other circumstances it certainly could have been. It’s a facet of human nature that we often go to extreme measures to do this sort of thing – glossing over fundamental, structural, and possibly fatal flaws, while being content dealing only with things on the surface. It’s a trap that can suck away all our energy and expense, as it takes ever more putty, paint and potted plants to hide the rotten and dead spots.
We can, in fact, get so wrapped up in this effort that we become downright defensive if someone questions our tactics. I believe the root of this is pride. I remember my wife asking if I shouldn’t just replace the rotten board and I snapped at her, “I know what I’m doing!”
This phenomenon doesn’t just apply to selling homes. Colloquially, we call it “re-arranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship,” or “fiddling while Rome burns,” or “putting lipstick on a pig,” or “addressing the ‘urgent’ before the ‘important.’” We do this with our health when we treat symptoms while refusing to acknowledge root causes, with relationships when we focus on keeping up appearances instead of dealing with real issues, and with business when we focus on short-term gain over long-term stability and growth. Indeed, we can do this with just about every area of life – education, politics, public safety, personal finance … you name it.
Often subconsciously, we buy into the lie that it’ll be just too painful or costly to rip out the layers of superficial “solutions” and get deep into the heart of a matter. We just can’t bring ourselves to admit that the problems are as deep as they really are. “No way I have cancer, it must just be a cold…” When we do this, the inevitable result of our short term gain is long term pain.
Sadly, I see this all the time in “church” today. The symptoms are plain for all “church” leaders to see: increasing irrelevance in society, less enthusiasm and commitment from congregants, lower standards for what it means to be a “Christian,” back-door losses, a glaring absense of the miraculous manifestation of God, and often even a lack of fire in our own bellies.
“Steering” or “vision casting” committees are increasingly common as we come to grips with these stark facts. Pastors ask for suggestions, seek out advice, and pray for guidance. Members – with all kinds of expertise, backgrounds and motivations – offer their best ideas. Often, there’s even a call to group fasting and prayer. Then all the ideas go to the “committee” and out comes…
A new design for the bulletin.
Or a rearranged “service” lineup with a new way of collecting offerings.
Or livelier “worship” and shorter “sermons.”
Or a new “member retention” program.
Taken to an extreme, in a modern, leader-driven “church,” this drive to deal with symptoms can lead to a more “contemporary” vibe – with pop music, watered-down “inspirational” messages, and all forms of flash and dazzle.
No matter how well these solve the short-term, superficial issues – sure you can push buttons to increase membership, fire up an audience or boost donations – it’s still putty and paint on a rotten board.
You can keep things “show ready” as long as you want, and people will keep buying it from you, but what’s the end result? Certainly not the Kingdom come.
There are age-old termites deep in the timbers of the structure we’ve built and call “church.” The foundation of our dearly-beloved churchianity is not Christ but Constantine, and it’s been crumbling from the very beginning. No amount of lipstick can help this pig.
What’s it going to take for us – who supposedly represent the Body of Christ on earth – to come together, address the failings of our current system, tear away centuries of tradition, refuse the short-term fixes, and really address the heart of the problem?
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Are you up for an adventure?
I am convinced there simply must be more to our faith than what we’re experiencing today, and I can’t rest till I find it.
I mean, we claim that we trust the Bible and strive to follow its instructions. So why is it that, when we read about The Way the early church functioned, it seems so foreign? Why does the way we follow our “religion” seem to have more in common with the Pharisees and Romans who persecuted our faith’s founding fathers – not just in practice, but in results. When’s the last time you saw a real, honest-to-goodness, in-your-face miracle? It was a daily occurrence back then.
Something’s just not right. I mean, we have the same Word they did, with the same promises of guidance, provision, power and victory. We have the same Father, the same Savior, the same Spirit and the same divine destiny. In fact, we’re more advanced in knowledge, technology and organization today than they were back then. And yet, compared to their vibrant, growing, influential, adventurous, miracle-filled Body life, we are by and large languishing in hollow, powerless, tradition-bound, entertainment-oriented, personality-driven social clubs we call “church.”
Is the Biblical record of the early church simply a collection of fables?
Did God change His plans, cancel His promises, or withdraw His Spirit from the earth?
Is The Way no longer how God wants us to function?
Is the enemy more powerful than Christ, and we’re not really “more than conquerors”?
Is our faith irrelevant in the modern world?
If we think we’re doing things “right,” then these are the only possible explanations for the fact our “church” is night-and-day different from the early Church.
If you, like me, reject these explanations, then we must come to the conclusion that the way we are practicing our faith and fellowship today is simply way, way off the mark. This is the only possible way to explain why what we call “church” is so different from what’s clearly spelled out in the Bible, both in practice and results: We have wandered from The Way.
I, for one, believe the Bible is accurate, God is who He says He is, His promises are still true, His Spirit is still present, Christ is supreme, we are more than conquerors in Him, and our faith is every bit as relevant today as it has been since the dawn of time.
And because of this, I march forward with the certainty that we can and should return to The Way God desires for us, and that when we do, our cultural tide will turn, signs and wonders will abound, and the Kingdom of God will once again advance towards dominion on earth as it is in Heaven.
Now I’m no fool. From personal experience and what I read in the Bible, I know that returning to the simplicity and power of The Way will be the most challenging journey we’ve undertaken. The enemy wants us to remain bound up in tradition, ritual, “religion,” and rigid organizational structures. The world wants us to sit nice and quiet inside our steeple-topped boxes. Our “church”-bound brethren will think we’re “rocking the boat” or have lost our minds.
The deck seems stacked against us. Getting from here back to The Way can seem like an impossible journey. But our faith demands we pursue it!
The Apostle Paul made clear that, in God’s eyes, under the New Covenant, those of us who have faith in Jesus are the true Israel. Because of this, I believe the experience of the Old Covenant Israelites in Egypt, and their journey to the Promised Land, is a divine foreshadowing of where we are right now, and where we need to go.
Like they were then, today we are slaves to a religious system that requires us to give up our day of rest to primp and rush to participate in a pre-fab, tradition-based, shallow, Sunday morning show. This system hoards the Lion’s share of our offerings to build opulent edifices and grand pyramids (that is, organizations built under positional authority). It exalts a select group of “clergy” whom we are to obey and bankroll. Worst of all, by controlling our language and traditions, this system has convinced us that to escape from it will mean certain spiritual death.
Yet our Savior came to set us free, and to proclaim a Kingdom to come, that is our rightful inheritance! In Him, we have a grand destiny, with the absolute pledge of divine guidance, power and provision as we push forward to claim it.
Yes, it will be rough. We’ll be forging into the unknown, facing unimaginable obstacles and hostile enemies. There will no doubt be times that some among us will long to return to the days of slavery, when being a “Christian” meant nothing more than sitting in a pew, forgetting how empty and weak we were under that system.
But we can’t go back, and we can’t have both. To pursue God’s Way demands we make a choice, go all-in, and never look back. We must summon the courage to face the unknown. Our loving Father has engineered it this way, so that our journey can make us more dependent on Him, stronger in faith, and more closely connected to each other.
Like the Israelites advancing towards the Promised Land, our quest for The Way is really a long-awaited homecoming. Just as the Israelites dwelled in the Promised Land before they abandoned it, true, organic, dynamic Church is where we come from. Just like their original migration to Egypt, I’m sure our journey away from The Way made sense at the time; as famine drove the Israelites to Pharoah’s land, our early Church fathers were under brutal Roman persecution. And like the promise of property to settle near the Nile, Constantine’s offer of institutionalization probably seemed like a great blessing at the time.
And just like the Israelites in Egypt, the passage of time has brought us to the same spiritual bondage experienced during Moses’ boyhood. How much longer do we have to languish before we rise up and break free?
Staying in spiritual Egypt – that is, sitting silent in pews, stuffing bulletins and slaving on committees as acts of “ministry work,” trying not to sleep during the “sermon,” letting the bulk of our giving be squandered for buildings and staff, going along to get along – is just not a viable alternative. I’d have to flush everything I’ve learned, most of it the hard way, down the toilet. I’d need a spiritual lobotomy, and I refuse.
A great adventure lies ahead. We have a wilderness to endure, a community to forge, enemies to battle, a river to cross, and a Kingdom to establish. We can’t know what it will look like; thankfully, we are promised victory, and we can rely on the Spirit at every step.
Yes the advance of freedom will be hard. But the words of Joshua and Caleb, spoken on the banks of the Jordan as they gazed into the Promised Land, still ring true today: “If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’” (Numbers 14:8)
Will you join us?
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
There are some things that make no sense if you divide them up and try to understand them piece-by-piece. Cut a balloon in half and give it to someone who’s never seen one before. Think he’ll figure out its purpose? Like a piston without a cylinder, or a fuselage without wings, some parts have no use disassembled.
Scientists call this “irreducible complexity.” Things that can’t be reduced beyond a certain point and still work right are irreducibly complex. An eyeball, for example, requires each of its pieces to be in its proper place for the eye to see. A retina or cornea or lens by itself has no use.
We must remember this when we study The Way God wants us to practice Church. Irreducible complexity in the Body is a principle that was long-ago abandoned, as the trend toward elite clergy and distinct denominations took over. The “theology” of Christianity, as studied in disconnected-from-reality seminaries and implemented in churchianity, has become a vehicle for dissecting the Word, analyzing it piece-by-piece, and then re-assembling it in all sorts of odd ways. It seems every denomination and leading non-denominational “church” has its own unique angle on how they practice “our” religion.
Problem is, in this traditional way of doing things, we’ve come up with all sorts of Frankenstein-ish monsters. Instead of accepting God’s blueprint for Church as an irreducibly complex design, we’ve served it up al-la-carte, picking only those pieces that tickle our taste buds. In God’s nutritional plan, however, it’s only the full meal deal that satisfies; any selective combination of entrees leaves us hungry at best, and can even be toxic.
As I see it today, there are five elements of The Way that are irreducible integral to the proper functioning of the Body. If we don’t understand and embrace all the other components, each one by itself doesn’t make much sense, and can be harmful to practice:
- The first element is the fact that followers of The Way are called by God to have all things in common, fully sharing their possessions and income with each other so that there is true equality among the brethren. Practice this without the others, and you’ll likely end up in a cult compound somewhere, on the FBI watch list, with “tongues of fire” courtesy the BATF. Kool-Aid anyone?
- Second is that we are supposed to maintain the strictest of standards for those we include in the fellowship. Paul was very clear that we are to “expel the immoral brother.” Active maintenance of the highest standards for inclusion is absolutely vital to a healthy Body that has everything in common. The mutual vulnerability and interdependence that is central to The Way requires that we employ high barriers to entry and active filters. If we truly practiced Body life, we’d be blithering fools to establish watered-down “altar calls” as the only criteria for membership, or to “turn the other cheek” to a brother who persisted in sin. Our outstanding obligation of forgiveness, love, mercy and grace does not carry with it the obligation to blindly trust or foolishly include a wayward brother. Those who seek to practice this principle exclusive of the others, however, flirt with legalistic hypocrisy.
- Third, we are to follow the step-by-step leading of the Holy Spirit in everything we do. Each member of the Body is to receive his or her instructions from, and be obedient to, the headship of Christ, and nothing else. God wants the Holy Spirit – and not tradition, intellect, or the patterns of this world – to fill in all the blanks and call all the shots, every step of The Way. Like the others, when we practice this in part, with blinders on, it can lead to bad results. True Spirit-led community is free from rigid organizational structures and positional authority. When we seek to follow the leading of the Spirit inside the constraints of churchianity, we can end up with all kinds of cockamamie, hyper-emotional jibberish that we attribute to the Holy Spirit. That, or we can wind up seriously wounded and discouraged. My experience is that many pastors encourage us to “listen to the Spirit” only to the extent that it fits nicely within their pre-fab organization and “services,” and the encouragement abruptly ends when the Spirit leads us to question the fundamentals of “church.” As a result, our growth is stunted, and the full work of the Spirit is constrained.
- Fourth is the understanding and pursuit of God’s original, victorious intent for mankind, the Gospel of the Kingdom. Our Father is raising us to reign with Him for eternity. To prepare us for this, He has giving us the task of establishing the dominion of His Kingdom on earth as it in Heaven. Victory is our destiny – not merely to endure and escape – and He promises to give us all the guidance, power and provision we need to accomplish this, when we follow Him step-by-step. Because the Kingdom can only manifest in full when the Body is properly formed and aligned — and today it’s not – many theologians have written off the reality of miracles, signs and wonders. Also, those who think advancing “God’s Kingdom” is equal to expanding their man-made religious system — instead of a Christ-centered, Spirit-led community of love — can cause serious damage. Examples include the Crusades and the ham-handed tactics of the “Religious Right,” who often do more harm than good. Conversely, without the centrality of the Gospel of the Kingdom, any attempt at true Body life is ultimately pointless.
- Finally, the fifth component is authentic discipleship from seasoned Spiritual fathers who are fully submitted to God. Paul was crystal clear that, in the Body, apostles are first, then prophets … and administrators are way down on the list. It was the apostles who were used by God to spark Body life in communities, and who helped teach, encourage, equip and maintain standards. Those with apostolic and prophetic Spiritual gifts, however, are designed to function and thrive only in the context of true Body life, and have little or no real place in the churchianity we practice today. Our rigid organizational structures, which are built around positional (and not Spiritual) authority, are ripe for corruption, incompetence and abuse, and are not designed to accommodate true Spiritual fathers. No wonder true apostles and prophets are written off by many as long-ago relics, and the folks who claim these titles today are often viewed suspiciously (and rightly so, in many cases).
No, the principles of Body life, taken one at a time, do not make much sense. Combined, however, they form the basis of fellowship that truly reflects the Body of Christ, a tangible manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. Church as God intends it is a community that wholly employs these principles.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
(Only remember that salt — sodium chloride — is made up of two components — sodium and chloride — that are poisonous when taken without the other.)
Imagine for a moment I have a vending machine for selling sodas. Just for fun, I post the following instructions:
Insert coin(s) in slot
Jump three times, spin around and pat your head twice
Sing a song
Tap out a rhythm on the front of the machine
Push the button for the soda you desire
Retrieve soda, open and enjoy!
I’m sure there are quite a few folks who would follow these instructions and have fun doing it.
And it just might happen that word would get around: “That’s a cool machine over there. It’s a lot of fun to do, and really entertaining to watch others.”
Folks would come from miles around. Over time, the jumping, spinning, singing and drumming would take on a life of their own, and various styles would emerge. Many would take great pride in their performances, and form clubs around their preferred styles.
It wouldn’t be long before the whole thought of getting a soda would become secondary and eventually fade away. The show itself would become the point, folks would schedule specific times and places to gather and perform their routines, and they’d forget all about the fact that the whole purpose of the exercise was once to get a cold drink.
Think this is crazy? It happens all the time. Take competitive duck calling. Yes, there really is such a sport. Real duck calling – as in, using a call in the wild to attract ducks – is a true art, requiring great nuance and years of woods-wisdom. Competitive duck calling, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing to do with calling ducks. Sure, competitors use the same equipment, and may even wear camouflage when they do it, but it’s evolved to the point that judging is all about how loud, fast and long a fellow can blow a duck call. It’s all a show, with no bearing in reality. Were a world champion competitive duck caller actually try to call a duck, the darn thing would fly away in a panic, as the caller’s “skill” has evolved to the point of absurdity.
Back to the soda machine. Say in the midst of all the hoopla regarding the ritualistic routine, I walk up and really do want a soda. So I put my money in the machine, push the button and pick up my pop. Think the folks would relate to that? Rather, I imagine they’d consider me something of a party pooper. There’d probably be some who didn’t even know the machine they danced in front of had sodas in it to begin with. If I told them all I wanted was to get sodas, and that I thought their routines were pointless, you think they’d let me join their club?
With duck calls or silly soda machine scenarios, or anything else that’s evolved to the point of absurdity, it’s really no big deal. Live and let live. If guys get their kicks making loud, unnatural noises with duck calls, so what? More power to ‘em.
The problem is that this same phenomenon has happened with Church. Compared to the way God intends it, Jesus modeled it, and His early disciples practiced it, what we call “church” today has evolved to the point of absurdity, and the real purpose has been long lost.
Sure, we’ve become masters at building the Christian country clubs we call “church” today. We can erect beautiful buildings, organize committees, entertain and motivate audiences, raise money, train and ordain clergy, and make a big deal about it.
But underneath it all, we’ve lost the heart, the real meaning. The soda has been relegated to long-ago stories that many folks think are fables, and when we blow our calls the ducks fly way.
I was thoroughly steeped in churchianity and well into my adult life – and even in full-time ministry! – when I first heard the words “God” and “relationship” in the same sentence. The very idea of having a literal, back-and-forth relationship with the Creator is foreign today, and Jesus saying “My sheep know my voice” is a puzzle. The Gospel of the Kingdom – the good news of the unimaginable power, global victory and royal destiny promised us in Christ – is rarely taught from pulpits, as it is unknown by most “pastors.” The idea of actually sharing everything we have with our brethren, so that “he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack” is shocking.
The real purpose of Body life has been eviscerated, and replaced with religious rituals, bureaucratic organizations, rules for living, “prosperity,” popularity, and spine-tingly sensations when the music is played just right. “Ministry” is outsourced to the professional clergy class, and “church” has become a place to go and a thing to do.
Strip away 2000 years of layer upon layer of tradition and distraction, and underneath it all there’s still a soda in that machine, and it tastes really good. In fact, it’s just what our Body needs right now. Once upon a time, that was the whole point of it all. Once upon a time, the people experienced the raw power of simple Body life, and the manifest reality of the Kingdom come. That time can come again!
What if someone who grew up thinking the whole purpose of a soda machine was simply to serve as a location to jump and spin were to finally get the revelation of the soda inside, and that all the traditional showboating was nothing more than a distraction that kept people from finding what they really need?
I imagine that person would have a hard time in many ways. For one, when he went and got his soda, and then sat by and drank it while all his former buddies went thirsty through the useless rigmarole, he’d probably feel he was missing something, like a part of him had been amputated. He’d have fond, thankful memories of the good times he had jumping and spinning, the esteem he felt among his friends when he did it just right, and the wisdom he learned from his club leaders. Still, once he tasted the soda, there’d be no way for him to go back, yet his joy in the soda would sometimes seem bittersweet.
He’d also feel frustrated for all his friends. He’d know that, back in his jumping and spinning days, if “one of those crazy soda drinkers” would have tried to persuade him to stop the ritual and just drink the soda, he’d have felt the guy was a divisive troublemaker and written him off as a hack. And now he realizes, he is that crazy soda drinker, and all the people he loves the most write him off as a hack. The challenge, frustration and heartbreak could drive him to militancy, or silence, or exile – or probably some confused mishmash of the three. Yet when he looked at the good, well-meaning people trapped in his former pattern, even in the face of their painful persecution of him, his love for them, and his passion for the truth, would keep his hope alive.
This is how I feel about “church,” and I know a lot of people who feel the same way. It’s not woundedness that compels us, or anger. It’s love and hope for people, passion for the truth, and a burning desire to see God’s Kingdom come the only way it can: By abandoning the Christian “religion” and returning to The Way of authentic Body life.
If our words seem divisive, that’s because there IS a radical difference between what God desires and what we generally practice today. But that’s not division, it’s discernment. Fact is, true unity can only be found in the truth, and will never be found in the structures, rituals, hierarchies, and traditions of man.
We’re not rocking the boat, we’re trying to bail water, because it’s sinking fast. If you’d stop rowing it so fervently in the wrong direction and tried to “be still” for a moment, maybe you’d realize this, too.
Please God, I pray your people will finally stop jumping and spinning, and just push the button and drink the soda.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
My heart aches for the multitudes of strong, capable, faithful people who limp along, bound up in traditions, believing that’s the only way we can walk.
It reminds me a portion of the movie Forrest Gump. As a child, young Forrest’s mother was told he had a spine ailment, and that wearing metal leg braces – “magic shoes” – would correct his condition. The boy grew up resigned to accepting the hindrances of the clunky, unnatural superstructure. The prosthetics held him back from so much, forced him to adopt all kinds of odd habits to get through his day, and caused him to be an outcast.
Like young Forrest, the enemy, the patterns of this world, our traditions, and our own insecurity tell us the Body needs a man-made support structure to function. Our prescribed “magic shoes” include “church” buildings, pyramid-shaped organizational charts, central coordinating committees, designated clergy, pre-set “service” times and formats, one-size-fits-all orations that pass for real teaching, pre-fab “programs,” and all the other things we generally think of today when we say “church.”
None of these things were practiced or implemented by Christ or the early apostles. They knew the health, strength and growth of the Body, as God intends, is only hindered by such things. Jesus spoke vehemently against them, and they were anathema to the Apostle Paul.
Yet somehow, over time, we have bought into the diagnosis that we are crippled and incapable of functioning without these unnecessary, man-made prostheses – to the extent that we think real life as the Body of Christ is impossible without them.
And, like Forrest, as a result, we have resigned to accepting the hindrances of the clunky, unnatural superstructure we call “church” – even though it holds us back from so much, forces us to adopt all kind of odd habits to function, and causes us to be increasingly outcast from the very people we are supposed to be serving.
A moving scene in the movie is when Forrest is walking home from school with his friend, Jennie, and a group of bullies begins mocking and throwing stuff at him. It is clear they wish to beat him up, so Jenny shouts, “Run, Forrest, run!” – and he takes off down the dirt road, waddling awkwardly in his brackets, chased by the bike-riding bullies. As they get close to overtaking him, the brackets fall off his legs, and Forrest is finally able to outrun his pursuers.
“You wouldn’t believe it if I told you, but I could run like the wind blows,” says the older Forrest, narrating the story. “And from that day on, if I was going somewhere, I was running.”
I just watched that movie clip online to research for this message, and found myself moved to tears in two different places. At the beginning, they were tears of sadness, because having seen the movie before, I knew the true capabilities that Forrest possessed. Beneath his unwittingly self-inflicted shackles, he was strong and able. He just didn’t know it – and so he just accepted the handicap and bullying as par for the course. It didn’t have to be that way!
These are the same tears I, with Christ, shed for our brothers and sisters who are so bound up and blinded by churchianity that they cannot accept any other way of functioning. I don’t care how big and popular their “church” is – compared to the glory and magnitude of the Kingdom Come, every single one of them has resigned to marginalization and mediocrity, and they don’t even know it. It doesn’t have to be this way!
Because, like Forrest, the true strength of the Body of Christ is far beyond anything we can comprehend. We are called to conquer, not merely endure. We are called to manifest the full stature of Christ – the King of Kings and name above all names – on earth as it is in Heaven. We are called to establish true dominion over every aspect of this world, through the powerful attraction of the peace and love that exude from the Body of Christ when it functions properly.
The second point I cried in the clip, it was tears of joy when the braces fell off Forrest’s legs and he took off down the road like a bullet, leaving the enemies in the dust. These are the tears I, with Christ, long to cry for all our brothers and sisters who are bound up in the unwittingly self-inflicted shackles we call “church.”
Some generation, someday, will throw these braces off the Body, and when they do, we will run like the wind blows. From that day on, whenever we go anywhere, we’ll be running. Victory is our destiny!
The question is, how bad will it have to get? How much more persecution, marginalization and mocking – and “church” politics, division, conflict, woundedness and waste – will we have to put up with before we finally break from the shackles and run free in the full potential God has given us?
Let’s make this the generation! Run, my brothers and sisters, run!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Just like any other counterfeit the enemy offers, the Christian “religion” can be an addictive drug. Like licking your lips on a windy day – which provides temporary relief but only makes the problem worse before long – participating in “religious” activities can give us a burst of euphoria. Problem is, this quick fix is no fix at all.
When we fall into this trap, we see our only course as doing more of the same. Drug addicts look to take more and more of their drug of choice. “Religion” addicts seek to sit closer to the front, sing louder, put more money in the plate, get involved in a “church” committee, etc.
I’ve known people who even went to seminary and/or into full time “ministry” for this very reason. Needless to say, they generally end up hitting a brick wall before long. Because no matter how much you pursue an addiction, you’ll never find what you’re looking for. As Solomon said, it’s like chasing the wind.
Those who are responsible for feeding others can take one of two general approaches. They can aim to truly edify (the Greek word for this means to build up or construct, as in a building) by serving a balanced, nutritional diet. Or they can seek to give their charges a sugar high – a quick burst of spiritual fervor that quickly fades to black. “Minsters” who do the latter – who are all, I’m sure, well intentioned, but trapped in tradition – are little more than drug pushers. They offer a counterfeit “religion” in place of a true, functional relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of “church” activities today are geared towards giving folks nothing more than sugar highs. Our entire churchianity system is built accordingly. “Religion” addiction is job security for “clergy,” because druggies need a pusher, and kids who are addicted to sugar need a candyman. Otherwise, if folks were to connect directly to The Source — operating, individually, under the Headship of Christ — then the whole basis for our ”church” buildings and institutions would crumble.
If you’re in ministry, you’re no doubt familiar with the yo-yo effect. Folks come to an event, “church service,” concert, rally, conference, camp, retreat, etc., and get full of “the Spirit” – and then soon after, they’re back where they began, if not worse off. This manifests itself in many ways, including folks repeatedly answering altar calls, or appearing as Sunday-only (or Easter and Christmas only) Christians, or in backdoor losses, or even in suicide attempts. They “get it” during the activity, and then quickly lose it when they walk out the door.
It is this phenomenon that made Billy Graham’s best “retention rate” no more than five percent. He could get crowds into a “spiritual” sugar high, and lure multitudes to raise their hand and walk to the front of the assembly, but when it all came down to it, fewer than five out of one hundred of them really got it. Makes for great fame and fundraising, but where’s the fruit?
I’ve dealt for decades with ministries and ministers, and am sad to say that way too many are unwitting facilitators of this phenomenon. The paradigm for most formal Christian activities these days is how people were “moved” by the event. So we play the music and dim the lights just right, bring a moving message, put on a multimedia show, stage skits, facilitate “deep” thought, load folks up on Bible trivia, “move in the Spirit,” etc., all to make an “impact.” But like giving crack to an addict or candy to a kid, it’s often all just a temporary high.
The alternative, of course, is true edification – The Way Christ and the early apostles modeled it. That is, building up each person, one at a time, through deep, personal, long-term relationship. Growing them over time through providing proper spiritual nutrition, from milk to red meat.
In The Way, we don’t seek to give folks a sugar high; instead, we introduce them to the Living Water and Bread of Life. In The Way, there aren’t quick bursts of “spiritual” euphoria that quickly fade to black; instead, there’s a constant connection to the Spirit that gives us true peace and contentment in every situation, every day, and that only grows deeper with time.
Folks who are used to sugar highs can think this Way boring. They’d rather go from high to high, and if you’re not providing it, they’ll go to the “church” down the road that puts on a better Sunday morning show. They’re chasing the wind.
“Ministers” who are trained pushers of the Christian “religion” can’t relate, either, as The Way doesn’t fit into our “church services,” or fill the plates, or pack the pews. You see, “ministers” who are raised in the sugar high culture need their own high, too – but for them, it’s become the “amens,” or raised hands at the end of the “service,” or growing membership, or bigger buildings, etc., that give them their fix. Like any addict, they believe they need more of these counterfeit “results” to keep going. They, too, are chasing the wind.
The Way builds on The Rock, it doesn’t chase the wind. The Way chooses edify over sugar high, every time.
No, The Way is not sexy. But it is the only way we can bring God’s Kingdom to earth as it is in Heaven.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!