Categotry Archives: changing mindsets


Jesus In the Everyday


Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought

So I’ve been thinking about the continuing dialogue going on in this blog about music and movies that have spoken to us. People are still commenting on entries I wrote days ago, and a lot of “secular” songs and movies have been mentioned in the lists. (That doesn’t really surprise me too much, because I started it.) But it’s got me thinking a little more deeply about this, because in reality it’s not so much about the movies and songs themselves, but about how we are interacting with the world, and how God is interacting with us in the midst of that experience.


The Point–and How We Have Become Experts at Missing It


Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, Rantings

I hope this post makes sense when I get through with it. Seasons of de-construction and re-thinking (like the one I am in) can sometimes be exciting and illuminating, sometimes scary. Sometimes I feel like I’m dwelling in utter chaos inside, with no point of reference, wondering which direction “up” is. Add a little sleep deprivation to the mix, and…let’s just say I hope this doesn’t end up sounding like I’ve been spending too much time in the poppy fields.

But as I take a different look at what I grew up in, and compare it to a fresh look at Scripture, one thing that seems to be showing up in my mind over and over is how much we (by “we” I mean the church) are missing the point. A lot of that point-missing, I’m convinced, is largely due to the institutions we (again, the church) have been encased in. And because I’ve been part of that system for so long, I have to include myself in “we” and admit that I’ve spent a great many years “missing the point.”

Here are just a few examples of what I’m thinking about…

  • The plan of most churches is to buy land and build buildings, set up programs that will draw people into those buildings–which, in turn, brings in more money, so we can build bigger buildings, hire more staff and have more programs to bring in more people and more money to have more buildings and more staff and more programs to… (ad infinitum). This cyclical pattern causes us to make church size the goal, and we measure our success by how many people are coming each week. Missing the point.
  • We build bowling alleys, tennis courts, state-of-the-art video arcades, and even things like merry-go-rounds (in the children’s department) for the stated purpose of drawing more people and helping the “community”. Most of the “community” we’re drawing are existing believers who come in from other, smaller, more struggling churches that can’t “compete”. Most non-Christians still won’t come to our bowling alleys because it’s “church.” Missing the point.
  • Because of the high costs of land and mortgages, as well as swollen payrolls and budgets, church leadership increasingly makes decisions based on the financial “bottom line” rather than how to best fulfill the commissions of Jesus. Pastors and leaders become financially dependent on their church machines, and instead of seeking ways to disciple people and help them be Jesus to the world, the goal becomes to keep people (and their money) in the church by whatever means possible. Missing the point.
  • Instead of letting Scripture be our plumb line and trying to interpret its meaning and live our lives by it, we become convinced of an opinion and “interpret” Scripture to back up what we already believe to be true. Missing the point.
There are many other ways I believe we are missing the point, but…you get the idea.

So…you might be thinking, “Okay, big shot, you’ve done so well at pointing out where we’re missing the point…so what is the point?”

Umm…I’m still figuring that out. (Remember, I did include me in “we.”)

Actually, I do think I know what “the point” is…it’s just that I can’t say I have all the answers as far as how to flesh it out.

For the church…I think the point is JESUS. To draw close to Him as individuals, and to help as many others as we can to draw close to Him, too. Everything else is just details. And the problem is not that buildings and programs are inherently bad, but that we are letting the details get in the way. And that’s how we miss the point.

But fleshing that out, as I said, is what this whole re-thinking process is for me. How do we get back to making Jesus the point and not get wrapped up in the details? The first step, I think, is to step back, look at the complicated mess, and see what we can do to simplify. For us, it’s gotten WAY simple. Doing house church for 8 years shows you what you really need as opposed to what is shiny and cool to have. It really changes your perspective on what’s important.

In future blog entries, I hope to tackle some of the “fleshing out” part of this. For now, though…let me just say that simplifying and returning to the “point” is more than just doing less stuff or streamlining our programs. It’s about simplifying our thinking, learning to keep the main thing the main thing–going back to what Jesus actually said and how He lived, and from that, find out how to live that out in our world and culture. I think it’s a lot more simple than what we’ve made it to be.


Embracing the Mystery


Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought

There are a lot of reasons, I think, why I have entered on this journey of deconstruction and re-thinking. Some of it, I firmly believe, has been by the hand of God, because it seems He often leads and teaches me by experience. Some of it has been because of the experiences themselves, including extended times of trial, and the wake-up call. Some of it is because I have gradually realized I can no longer be in denial about what I’ve seen in my years within institutional Christianity.

But some of it is because I got bored.

In another earlier post, I talked about how I came to a place where I could no longer bring myself to have extended quiet times because I felt I’d worked my prayer formulas into the ground and nothing had worked. This was the place where my religion failed me. I felt as though I were backsliding, although I still loved Jesus very much. I couldn’t understand where my zeal had gone. And finally I realized what was wrong.

I was bored. I was bored stiff.

I was bored because I thought I had God figured out, and when it turned out I hadn’t, I had no interest in the old ways anymore.

I have a broad religious background, but my largest influence growing up was the Word of Faith movement. For a long time I’ve questioned the extremes of that movement, although I adhered to the basic beliefs. But the by-product of that way of thinking is that, quite simply, there is a systematic way to explain everything about God. If someone prayed and didn’t get healed, or continued in their lack, they just “didn’t have enough faith.” The Bible says what it says, and when you work things the way the Bible says, the Bible works for you. Despite claims to the otherwise, just about everything about my faith was reduced to a formula. If my prayers were answered, I was working the formulas correctly; if they weren’t, since God was perfect, it must be something wrong on my end of the equation. Simple, trite explanations for everything, giving new meaning to the term “systematic theology.”

When God wouldn’t cooperate on my terms after all my faithful prayers and confessions, I came to a place where I had to say, “God, I just don’t know.” My prayers were reduced to, “God, I lean on You to get me through today.” Day after day I prayed this, until He led me through my situations. And I discovered something in that season that my Word-Faith background never taught me: the mystery of God. I recognized that despite all I thought I knew about the Scriptures, there were things about God I did not know or understand, and I had to learn to be okay with that.

A lot of talk is going around these days about us entering the “postmodern age”. The main tenet of postmodern thinking–embraced by more and more people in our day–is that everything is relative, that there is no such thing as “absolute truth.” While I believe ultimately truth is found in God (Jesus is the “way, the truth, and the life”), and therefore cannot echo this claim that all truth is relative…I don’t think postmodernism is necessarily the enemy of the church. I say this because one offshoot of postmodern thinking that actually benefits our faith is that it is restoring to us the mystery of God. Postmoderns tend to embrace the messiness of mystery, with all its paradoxes and unknowns, and are actually far more open to an unfathomable God than the “figured out” version we can easily explain to them.

You see, the reason I’ve been bored is that when you believe you have God figured out–He stops really being God to you. If God is truly God, we will NEVER be able to comprehend Him fully in this life. He is beyond our dimensions, beyond the grasp of our limited intellect. I got bored with a God I could easily predict and had neatly boxed up. When God jumped out of the sytematic box I built for Him, at first I was devastated; but seeing Him outside my preconceived notions has caused me to become very interested in Him again.

I believe there is absolute truth, but I admit that I don’t know it fully. I also believe God’s Word is truth, and that the Bible means what it says; but I also recognize that there is so much in Scripture that must be interpreted that I cannot say I know what everything means anymore. And I have come to be okay with what I do not know. In fact, I am inspired and fascinated by this.

Embracing the mystery of God–recognizing how amazingly huge He is and how much of Him I cannot fathom–has cured my boredom.


Deconstructing "Quiet Time"


Categories: changing mindsets, Meanderings (look it up), My Story

I want to give a bit of a disclaimer about this next bit I’m about to write….

It is part of my story, my journey. It doesn’t necessarily have to be part of yours. In other words, by sharing what I’ve been going through and the conclusions I’m coming to, I’m not suggesting that this is how it ought to be for everyone. Just sharing, that’s all.

I grew up in a family that placed a high value on a daily “quiet time”–or some of you might call it, “personal devotions” or “prayer time”. It was understood that before you got going with your day, you would take some time to pray and read your Bible. If you didn’t, it was understood that things just wouldn’t go right that day–or at least, you wouldn’t want to make a habit of skipping it often.

As an adult, I understand that the purpose of this “rule” was simply to build good discipleship habits. As a child who longed to please…it might as well have been written into the canon of Scripture. (It isn’t, you know–you DO know that, don’t you?) It was so ingrained into me that I felt like it was a sin not to have my quiet time, like I might miss the rapture or something. (I related quite a bit to Brant’s post from a few days ago.) And even after I made it to adulthood a few weeks years ago, and I could rationalize it differently, I still felt somewhat unclean if I didn’t have that quiet time.

Never mind that all through my “quiet time”, my mind would wander terribly and I would waste hours at a time daydreaming, or that I remembered almost nothing of what I read in the Bible. Never mind the fact that The Wild One regularly acted more like Jesus than I did–without having a regular structured “quiet time” every day. If I had that quiet time, I felt “okay”, and if I didn’t–I didn’t.

Until finally I came to the point where my religion failed me.

I’ll spare the details for another blog entry, but for now, suffice it to say I was in an extended time of trial, and working all the spiritual formulas I knew to turn things around–all to no avail. And I came to a place where I had nothing left, and I got very, very real with God. All I could do was to throw myself upon Him, admit to myself that I didn’t know anything about real trust, and ask Him to teach me.

It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. My religion failed me, and I am now living on what is left.

So after that experience, I found myself at a crossroads. I would come to my “quiet time” in the mornings, and find I had nothing to say and no interest at all. It was a little scary because I was a pastor, and it felt a bit like backsliding. I honestly felt like all my praying and contending had done me no good; the only thing that had worked in my situation was letting go. So why go through the motions anymore? That was when I realized that’s exactly what this “quiet time” had been all those years–going through the motions. I didn’t want to do that anymore; whatever my faith looked like from now on, I wanted it to be real. Again, I asked the Lord to show me.

And this is where I have to say, this is my journey, not yours. I gave myself permission not to have a set quiet time. I didn’t give myself permission to walk away from God (and I didn’t); I just gave myself permission to relax. And in that decision, I found a sense of rest for the first time in nearly 30 years of being a Christian. I was free now to start over, to learn all over again what true discipleship would look like for me.

I am a work in progress, but this is what my devotional life looks like now, since I made that decision…
  • I pray, but not at a set time, or for a set time period. I pray as I go through my day, as I’m driving, while I’m working out. I involve God in my internal conversations, constantly aware of His presence. And I pray in a more focused manner when there is a need to do so. I do not pressure myself to intercede and travail if I don’t feel it.
  • I don’t read my Bible every day. (GASP!) But I do still read it.
  • I traded my “prayer closet” for new scenery. I used to hole up in my living room in the mornings; now I go to the gym, and then to a local restaurant or coffee shop to read and study, whether it be the Bible or whatever piece of nonfiction I’m working through at the time. Or lately… I use that time to write in this blog. A lot of what you read here is coming straight out of my new-and-improved “quiet times.” (I’m letting you into my prayer closet–don’t you feel privileged??)
I grew up believing that all that time of pressing in, praying hard, and diligent study would keep me close to God and make me more like Jesus. (Remember the Sunday school song? “Read your Bible, pray every day…and you’ll grow, grow, grow.”) But since I’ve deconstructed my quiet time, an amazing thing has happened–or, hasn’t happened. I haven’t backslid. In fact, I feel like I love Jesus more, because I no longer feel imprisoned or held hostage by my religious expectations. I am much more relaxed, much less anal (can I say that?), and overall much happier in the journey.

I still believe there is a time/place for fervent prayer and diligent study. That’s all still in the Bible. I just believe that for my own journey, God has given me a time of respite, because all of it was based on religion and not true discipleship. The truth is…I need to rest. 🙂 What did Jesus say? “My yoke is easy, My burden is light.” That’s the only burden I want to carry these days.

Interestingly, and strictly by coincidence, Steve over at Emergent Kiwi has written along a similar line with regard to reading the Bible. Leave me your thoughts about all this in the comments, then go check him out.


Third Place? (Sunday Summary)

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought

In our house church gathering yesterday, we borrowed a page or two out of Michael Frost’s book Exiles and talked about “third places”.

We began by discussing four Scripture passages, incidents in the life of Jesus: The wedding at Cana, the Samaritan woman at the well, the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus, and the time when Jesus taught the crowds by the sea by getting into a boat. By talking over these Scriptures together, we extracted a lot of insight, and we could definitely see the incarnational nature of Jesus’ ministry–that He was truly dwelling among us as He lived, taught, and healed people.

We noted that all of these incidents took place not as staged meetings or “crusades”, but they happened as Jesus just walked through life. We noted also that these all took place in public gathering places–a well, the beach, along the road, and even at a party. These places are what we call “third places”.

The “first place” for us is our home; the “second place” is our workplace. In our culture, these places are on the decline as far as having meaningful conversations with other people. With the exception of things like house church, most people, even believers, only tend to have people over to the house that they already know and like; and most people restrict the content of their workplace conversations to preserve proper decorum. But our “third places” are the places we gather to socialize, to interact, to relax, to let down our guard. Third places can take a variety of forms–a local restaurant or coffee shop, the gym, the bowling alley, a special interest club like scrapbooking–any place people get together casually outside of work or home. Third places are the most likely places to meet new people and form new, meaningful relationships.

We noted how much of Jesus’ recorded ministry took place outside of the temple and synagogues, out among the people, in third places. We talked about how third places are great places to walk out Jesus’ love among people. And we talked about how so many Christians today simply “don’t have time” to hang out in third places because the institutional church has become their third place, keeping people so busy with ongoing church-related activities that they become isolated from the very people Jesus wants us to bless.

As we talked about this, several people began to get stirred in their hearts and started brainstorming about how we could even create meaningful third places, places for meaningful interaction with people other than just ourselves. We ended by challenging one another to find ways to be present now in the existing third places around us. This is what Jesus modeled for us, and this is what He wants for us.


Re-thinking Evangelism (and lots of other stuff)

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, Rantings

I’m looking at the top of the page, and I notice that “re-thinking church” is in my blog title. But the truth is…I’m in a season right now where I’m re-thinking everything. Doctrines, beliefs, and practices I’ve taken for granted for most of my churchy life are getting taken off the shelf, dusted off, and looked at to make sure this is really how Jesus wants it, or really what He meant when He said _________ (fill in the blank). Some stuff is getting reaffirmed, and some stuff is getting reworked. It actually feels very healthy.


Sunday Summary: The Incarnate Christ

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Categories: changing mindsets, church

For the benefit of some of our out-of-town friends that can’t make it to house church but want to know what we talked about… 🙂 …we’ve been discussing the idea of doing an online video summary. Something fun that condenses our complete discussion down to about 10 minutes or so. That’s still in the “thinking about it” stage, but we have the technology. The Director (my son) is standing by. But for now, I thought I’d start the ball rolling with a blog summary from time to time of what we talked about in house church the previous Sunday.

We have talking about the humanity of Christ, how so many of us acknowledge that Jesus was “fully God and fully man”, yet we act more on the “fully God” part than the “fully man” part. When we treat Jesus as purely divine, He is only one to be worshiped from afar, but not really followed. We can excuse ourselves from doing what He did by saying in our hearts, “Well, that was JESUS.” We act as though the “Son of God” thing gives Him an unfair advantage. But He did everything He did on earth as a human being–and in doing so, He set an example for us. It is Jesus’ humanity, not His divinity, that challenges us to live as He lived.


BUT WHAT ABOUT…Assembling Together?


Categories: BUT WHAT ABOUT...?, changing mindsets, church, food for thought

(Continuing the “But What About…?” thread…in this series we’re discussing various concerns people have about the growing number of people exiting insitutional churches for more organic forms of expression.)

When I was deeply entrenched in institutional Christianity–especially as a leader–I would categorize someone who migrated away from “church” in one of four ways:

  1. They are backsliding.
  2. They are deceived.
  3. They are rebellious.
  4. They have their own issues.

In my mind–and I believe in the minds of many within institutional churches–leaving the church is essentially breaking a cardinal rule of Scripture. Many of us know the Scripture by heart…



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Categories: changing mindsets, church, Meanderings (look it up)

I am a skeptic by nature, but I am not a cynic.

It is difficult to persuade me; but once I am persuaded, it is difficult to un-persuade me.

Once I am convinced of something–even if it ultimately proves to be wrong–I tend to hold onto that belief until it draws its last breath in my life.

This is why I say I am not a cynic. I am an optimist. I tend to keep believing in something long after it stops working. This is something that can be a virtue but can also work against me.

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