The Bible says the Body of Christ is supposed to function under His headship, and be knit together by what every ligament supplies. It says we all have a role to play, and that it won’t work right until we do. It says it’s the saints’ job, in general, to do the work of ministry, and the leaders’ jobs to equip them, and not the other way around. It says God is giving to the Church “first the apostle, then the prophet.” That said …
What if the prophet of God is artsy, has long hair, and talks with a stutter? The one God has given the gift of clear Spiritual sight, and to whom He reveals the plans of heaven, has been beaten down emotionally all his life because he’s “odd” and so can’t bring himself to speak up during the organized, orderly Sunday Morning ceremony, and has never been invited to participate in “church” leadership?
What if the one called and gifted as an apostle has an MBA and left the organized “church” years ago because his gifts were unwelcome? Apostles, in the model God intends – the ones He says should be first in the Kingdom lineup – simply don’t fit well in the stiff, pyramid structures of todays “churches.” Just a little too passionate to sit quietly and play “nice” in the face of stubborn ignorance, I guess.
What if the smartest person in the congregation is a geek? The one with the gift of healing is a shut in? The one with faith that can move mountains smells bad because she has 100 cats? The deliverance warrior who can face demons head-on never sat through “membership” class because he finds the Sunday “sermons” to be like watching Barney reruns?
What if God gives a revelatory word to a child, or a divine vision to a newly recovering alcoholic?
What if God is calling a body of believers to do something the IRS would consider “for profit” (like make tents, or own a fishing company, as early apostles did), and so the “church council” is aghast at the very idea? (The infamous BTK serial killer was a respected member his “church council,” remember.)
What if we as a body defined our “religious service” as a ceremony we conduct on Sunday mornings, instead of as God does – and that is, rolling up our sleeves, working up a sweat, and giving sacrificially to help those in need?
What if we defined “worship” as singing? What if we thought “church” was a building, or a defined organizational structure, or a set time of meeting? (If you’ve sat for years during “worship service” in the same row with a person, and you don’t know the most intimate details of their life, you don’t know their true giftedness, and you’re not sowing into each other’s lives on a regular basis, then you can call that place a lot of things, but don’t call it a Church, because God sure doesn’t.)
What if the founder of our denomination or congregation was indeed called by God for a reason and a season, but because of our way of doing things, he went further and solidified his position for the long term through a formal legal, organizational or theological structure? What if the person wielding his positional authority today was selected by an appointed or elected committee, for who-knows-what real reasons?
What if the guy with a “seminary” degree and “ordination” certificate went that route because he was a failure at everything else, or because his fiancée wanted to be a “pastor’s wife”? They’re out there, I know them personally (you probably do, too, unawares), and today they’re good little “pastors” at nice little “churches.” (Not surprisingly, they’re often the first ones to claim that God stopped calling apostles and prophets 2,000 years ago … and the sheep just follow along out of empty, dangerous tradition, because “pastor said so, and he’s ordained.”)
Seriously, what if the nice, charming guy who is decent at administration and who is a great public speaker and fundraiser is really not the one God wants calling the shots? Those are gifts of a politician, not a shepherd. Yet our model of “churchianity” has thrust them to the top.
What if there is a growing body of passionate, faithful, mature brothers and sisters who are truly led by the Spirit, and who regularly gather with other believers to serve each other and advance the Kingdom, yet … they sleep in on Sunday mornings (to obey God’s command to take a real day of rest each week) … they don’t ever enter a steeple-topped building … they can’t stomach listening to the weekly McSermon … they don’t recognize the Spiritual authority of a man who claims it simply because he holds a man-made title and “ordination,” and … they don’t belong to one of the Christian country clubs that man calls “church”? (Darn back-door losses! What is this world coming to?)
I don’t have to ask “what if” for any of these questions, because this is the reality we live in today.
No wonder Christ is increasingly mocked and marginalized in the world. Look what we consider to be His “body” today!
No wonder we’ve lost our influence in the culture. We can’t even influence our own selves to clearly discern and be obedient to His Word, because “the old wine tastes better.”
No wonder we have to fake out folks with a Sunday morning rock concert and stirring motivational speech just to get them to join our “church.” We don’t offer them much else anymore.
No wonder youth ministry today is typically little more than cheap, worldly, “cool,” entertainment with the name of Jesus occasionally slipped in when it’s not too creepy. We simply don’t understand the fact that their deepest desire is to be real, because we ourselves don’t know what real is.
No wonder the most popular “pastors” are either tradition-bound, toothless types who don’t want to shake things up, or prosperity hustlers who encourage their flock to live it up in the here and now. Give ‘em what they want, because what they really need might make them uncomfortable.
No wonder the general consensus among Christians today is that our best hope is for Jesus to come back soon and take us home, in some heretical idea of a sudden “rapture.” Kingdom victory is why we’re here. It’s our God-given assignment and destiny. But with today’s churchianity model, it’s simply not going to be possible.
“It is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:14-17
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
NOTE: If you’re waiting for Part Three of the “I don’t want it” series, you’ll have to wait a bit more. I don’t want to write it myself — I want the Lord to write it through me. He’s given me bits and pieces, but not the whole thing yet. It’ll come, just like the past two…
I’m going to start writing from time to time on the theme of “Bringing UPRISING to churchianity.” This is the first of what may become a long series…
God has blessed me with the opportunity over the past 10 years to lead something of a youth ministry movement. The group He used me to build, CTO, is a powerful, fruitful, life-altering ministry that is WAY outside the box of the current way most youth ministries work. Last year, the Lord showed me it was time to move on to the next chapter in my life. There are several plotlines to this new chapter, and a big part of that is writing, and thus my book and this blog (and other books in progress).
Another part of this chapter is working to bring the things we learned through CTO into the four walls of traditional “church.” Talk about a challenge. Over the past decade, I’ve spoken to literally hundreds of pastors and youth ministers who wanted to work for CTO because, they felt, it was IMPOSSIBLE to bring our fruitful methods into the traditional American “church” system — and they were either going to burnout and quit their career, or sell out and stop trying to make a real difference. So, bringing these methods into churchianity is a real challenge, and one that has washed out many a good man.
By His grace and wisdom, God opened the door for me to an incredible “laboratory” to work on this very thing. At the same time I was turning the page to this new chapter in my life, the Army called the youth minister of a local church up for active duty. The pastor of that church, who read UPRISING and said it deeply affected him, asked me to step into that role on an interim basis, to work to bring UPRISING to the community, starting with our youth. I’ll chronicle these efforts here.
My first effort has been to shift the “center of gravity” from the appointed “clergy” to the body. The youth of our group (whom, I would submit to you, are very much like the average pew-sitting Christian) were used to being catered to, 100%. The adults would cook a meal, and clean up after the kids. They’d organize the “program” for the gatherings and make sure everything happened on time. The kids wouldn’t clean up after themselves or contribute anything real to the gatherings (other than the expected fill-in-the-blank answers that kept things on track). So I’ve been working to really mix things up.
First, I established a rule: “If you don’t help cook or clean, you don’t help eat!” (Paul said something very similar in the Bible, after all!) It took a few weeks of grumbling, but now it’s part of the culture. Just last week the building manager pulled me aside to tell me the building was left cleaner than it ever had been. He was shocked when I told him that not one adult lifted a finger, or even supervised the effort! So we’re making progress.
Next, I’ve been working to shift the ”program” to a dialogue; a real conversation with the youth. So for most weeks I’ve intentionally NOT prepared for the evening! The first time I sat them down and said, “ok, what do you want to talk about?” the blank stares on their faces were priceless. There was a long, awkward moment of silence before the ice started to break, and we ended up having a great conversation. Still a lot of work to do here, but we’re making progress.
My big thing right now is to raise up a core team of youth leaders, and give them authentic ownership of the group. I can’t disciple 50-60 kids. Maybe 5-6, for real. The only way we’re going to make this a meaningful ministry (as Jesus modeled it, and the early church practiced it), and truly make a difference, is to get the kids discipling other kids, and that starts we me discipling the leaders. Fruit comes when you think SMALL, not big!
This week will be the second gathering of our leadership team. Last week I asked them to think about their vision for our group, and we’re discussing it tonight. Below is a post I just put up on the leadership’s team FB page.
I’ll let y’all know how it goes.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
No, I haven’t gone all kooky on you. Don’t go sell all your stuff and start carrying signs saying “the end is near!”
I most certainly do NOT believe in some secret alarm clock in Heaven that will someday go “BING” and then the world will end. There is not a mysterious, unknowable timeline for the apocalypse. God’s not playing cosmic musical chairs with us, to see who He can catch off guard at “the end of the world.” There will be no sudden “rapture,” either, and no far-out numerology or astrology will figure it out. Studying headlines or watching Middle East politics will just drive you batty and distract you from the work at hand. The prerequisite events that will trigger end of time are not in the hands of the enemy or “antichrist.” Instead, they are in the hands of God’s sons and daughters, intentionally put there by our loving Father. “No one knows the day or the hour” because it’s in our hands, and we have free will!
Jesus said the end will come “just as it was in the days of Noah.” Noah had a building project, and so do we! The very first thing God said to man in Genesis 1, after He made us, was “go and conquer!” In Revelation 21, He says that “he who conquers will inherit all things.” In between, the entire arc of Scripture paints the picture of God raising up victorious sons and daughters who gain the character necessary to inherit His eternal throne by conquering the enemy here on earth.
The Bible says seven times that Jesus is currently seated in Heaven, waiting for this to happen. And Paul said God will continue to give gifts to men until it does. God has given us an enemy to vanquish and a Kingdom to establish, and the end won’t come till we are done. The Bible plainly spells this out for those with eyes to see.
Noah could have refused to build the ark, and God would have raised up another man. The flood came one week after the ark was done. Yet, had Noah taken a two week vacation sometime during that 120-year construction project, he wouldn’t have drowned in the flood. Instead, God would have delayed the flood by two weeks! And Jesus said the end will come ”just as it was in the days of Noah…”
The first generation of Israelites could have chosen to trust God, count the cost, and cross the Jordan, and they would have been victorious! Or, the second generation could have turned around like their parents, and God would have raised up another generation, and another, till He got His people where He wanted them. Yes, in the mystery of eternity, He saw the end from the beginning — because it’s always NOW in eternity — but that fact did not negate their free will.
Some generation, someday, will finally grasp the Gospel of the Kingdom — the universal, uderlying message of the Bible, and the message that Jesus said was His very purpose for being sent to earth — choose to trust God, count the cost, and will gain victory over the kingdom of darkness once and for all.
When they do this, it will trigger the end of time, and usher in the new heaven and the new earth. Only then (as it says in Revelation), “the angels (will) rejoice because the Bride has made herself ready,” and (as it says in Ephesians), Jesus the Head will join the Body that has finally grown to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” on earth. Like Noah, we have a building project. And also like Noah, we have a choice.
I’ve worked with youth full-time for 10 years now, and have been blessed to lead hundreds to Christ. I’m not talking about getting them to raise their hands and say a prayer, or sign up to be members of a church group, or sit in a pew, or listen to “Christian” music, or even accept the factual truth of the Bible. I mean, God has used me to introduce Himself to them, personally and deeply. It has been a tough, costly and often lonely road, moreso than I ever imagined, but well worth it. I’ve also talked with hundreds of youth ministers over this past decade, and seen countless youth minstries in action (or inaction, as the case often is!). What I’m saying it, God has shown me a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t, and why.
We have to be REAL with young people — stop trying to fake them out, and start getting them out of the fake. They don’t buy the same old churchianity that’s worked for generations.
They’re the most sophisticated generation ever. Their entire world is made up of advertising messages of one form or another, and they’re highly jaded, skeptical, and disillusioned. They are HUNGRY for REAL and know it when they see it — because they’ve tried everything else. It’s just that most have just never seen it before!
When we meet them at their level — which is HIGHER than what we’re used to intellectually — leave out the religious traditions and jargon, stop trying to be “cool” and just be REAL, they respond, in a big way. Meet them where they are, personally introduce them to the Living God, and BAM — watch out!
I have genuine hope that THIS is the generation that will deliver victory. But how will they believe if they don’t hear, how will they hear if we don’t tell them, and how can tell them if we keep assuming they’re shallow and irresponsible?
I wish every youth ministry in America would trash the freaking X-boxes, skateboard ramps, pop music, pre-packaged programs and cutesy names. I wish youth ministers would stop diminishing themselves trying to “fit in” and be “cool” — trying fruitlessly to connect on a shallow, fake level, when the kids really want something REAL and DEEP.
Instead of trying to entertain them and slip in a little Jesus here and there, just sit down and BE REAL with young people! Stop playing “church” and start playing to win! Personally introduce them to the Living God, and let Him (and them!) take it from there. I can testify to you from first-hand experience that it works. They will go deeper, harder and faster then you ever imagined. Try it — you’ll be surprised! The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these!
We can choose to be the last generation!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!