Categotry Archives: church

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Why God Shows Up Where We Don’t Think He Ought To

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Categories: changing mindsets, church

Heather started it…

She wrote this post a few days ago sharing her disillusionment with the quasi-charismatic hype she used to buy into. That inspired me to write this post about how I recognize God is moving in the ongoing revival meetings in Lakeland, Florida, but I have a hard time stomaching the churchy hoopla surrounding it.

Then yesterday, Barb wrote about how she got all troubled about this dilemma, and how God helped her to reconcile it. And that has inspired me to write this today. WILL IT EVER END???

There isn’t one particular quote in Barb’s post that sparked me (you should go read the whole thing); but just reading her process rekindled some thoughts that have gone around in my head for awhile.

Why is it? Why is it that God shows up where we don’t think He ought to?

Dang it, He does it all the time. Consider the following:
  • The charismatic renewal in the 1960s was born in the Catholic church. This made a lot of Protestants mad because many of them didn’t even think Catholics would go to heaven.
  • The Jesus Movement of the 1970s took place among the hippies. This made a lot of people mad because it was assumed God wouldn’t accept guys with long hair, girls without bras, or anyone who didn’t use deodorant or liked rock & roll. (Never mind the drugs and sex; that didn’t seem to offend us so much as how they looked.)
  • The “laughing revival” of the 1990s, sparked by the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne and Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, made a lot of people mad because, well…people were laughing. People were behaving as if they were drunk, rolling around on the floor, causing a commotion–behavior considered inappropriate, chaotic, and disruptive. “God is a God of order,” etc.
These are just three examples of many. In each of these cases, there were documented miracles and lasting fruit. But there were also a lot of people who thought those events should never have happened, that God should not have blessed them. But apparently, He did. Why?

I think perhaps one reason we struggle when God messes with our mindsets is that we do not have a good understanding of His mercy. Mercy, by definition, is undeserved.

Have you ever prayed for God to touch someone with healing, for example, and found yourself saying things like, “Please heal her, Lord; she is so faithful to You; she loves You so much; she has so much to give”? Without even realizing it, we’re trying to persuade God to act because we think that person deserves to be healed. As if the gift of healing could be earned. We’re asking for healing as an act of justice rather than an act of mercy.

How many other times does our sense of justice mess with our concept of God’s mercy?

Whenever we see a “hot pocket” of spiritual activity or “revival”, the ones who support it tend to justify it (“God is moving because we prayed”), and those who are offended by it tend to discount it (“That can’t be God; they are doing such-and-such all wrong; those miracles must be fake”). In each case, we’re being motivated by a sense of deserving the release of God’s glory, with almost no regard for His mercy or compassion.

When God shows up, there’s something in us that says He must be in approval of everything that is going on, or He wouldn’t come. So when He shows up in a context where there are things going on that offend our particular sensibilities…we get bewildered, we get angry, we doubt our own convictions…the whole nine yards. (Or for you Cinco de Mayo fans…the whole enchilada.) By the same token, when God shows up for us, we interpret it as His approval of our particular bent, and that’s where pride surfaces.

Here’s what God is slowly causing to dawn upon me: An act of mercy does not constitute an act of validation.

When God shows up, it does not mean inherently that He approves of or validates everything that we’re doing, or every method we use, or every doctrine we have. I think we need to consider that God shows up because He loves us. There simply does not have to be another reason. God has mercy on us. And sometimes, this is what it looks like.

If God waited to show up until we deserved it, we’d all be waiting forever. So no one really should take credit when He does show up; neither is He vindicating us when He does. He comes in spite of our actions, not because of them. And that’s why despite my concerns with the churchy “wineskin” in place at Lakeland, I can accept the fact that God is truly doing something there. It doesn’t mean I’m wrong about what I see; it just means that God wants to touch people there, because He loves us all so much that He’s willing to look past all our crap and bless us anyhow.

It is a sign of God’s great mercy and love. And because of that we should be glad. May He show such mercy to us all.

This mercy thing is rocking my world right now, but it’s too much for one post. So stay tuned…

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A Pragmatic Approach to Disenfranchisement (Whatever That Means)

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Categories: changing mindsets, church

So in the past few months, as I’ve processed my own thoughts on this journey outside of the parameters of organized church–and as I’ve read what others are going through–I see that this has become a journey shared by a lot of people who have come to this place for a variety of reasons. I tend to call this group of people the “disenfranchised”–those who no longer feel they can connect with current church systems. Some of these have left institutional Christianity (IC)completely; others still attend IC, but they are unsettled, and at best hold a loose connection to it.

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Mile Marker Reflections

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

(So, yes, Glenn at re-dreaming the dream just happened to schedule this synchroblog on my birthday. This post is part of that synchroblog.)
Glenn asked for a basic assessment of the latest chapter in our stories, and it seems fitting to do so on a day that is a mile marker for me.
Here are the questions Glenn asks:
_____________________
How are you doing?
My family and I, after a long season of trials and struggles, found ourselves in the hands of God, and He has given us a season of rest from our struggles. Last year was probably the happiest season we have had in a long time. But since the beginning of this year, a divine unrest has come on us, a deep stirring of the soul. It has been quite unsettling at times, but we feel very strongly that it is of the Lord. We don’t know yet all that it means, but it has brought a strong sense of anticipation that He is up to something good.
What are you doing?
We hold house church in our home, which we’ve been doing for about 8 years now. We also are working on developing a creative community of worshipers and holding monthly public worship events, and looking for ways for our community of faith to be more missional in our approach.
Part of this holy stirring has been a personal conviction that we need to be focusing on our God-given passions. This has prompted my wife, The Wild One, to begin a course in professional photography. It has also prompted me to jump-start the musical aspects of my life, so I am learning guitar to sharpen my writing skills, promoting my music a bit more on the Internet through MySpace, and will hopefully be going into the studio soon to record some new demos.
What are you learning?
I am learning a whole new way to look at ministry, church, and the kingdom of God. (Pretty cool, huh?) In the past year I have read more books than I have in the past 10 years. I am also learning more intangible things, like the value of living in the moment, the value of relationships, as opposed to the driving goal of being a “ministry success.” In the past few years, terms like “church”, “ministry”, and “success” have all been completely stripped back and redefined for me.
What are you dreaming about?
I still have some deep desires to do contribute something meaningful in the field of music and worship. I have a heart for worship, and have experienced some amazing things in the corporate church worship setting, but lately I have grown–I hate to say it–bored. I don’t want my music to be defined as just providing a musical backdrop for existing “worship addicts.” I get a real sense of satisfaction in seeing the light come on for someone when God encounters them in a life-changing way. I long to see more believers come into the heart of worship, but I also have a heart to bring not-yet-Christians into a place of encountering God. I know this desire is going to fuel much of the endeavors we undertake in the future.
I am also dreaming about missional community–about seeing a group of people deeply committed to one another, yet engaged together in bringing the love of Christ to people who haven’t yet experienced it. I envision this happening without the religious trappings so common to ministries today; I want it to be such that people do not readily recognize it as a spiritual endeavor, yet infused with the truth and love of Jesus. In other words, I want people to see Jesus not by how we structure it, but by our deeds and the fruit of our lives. For me, it looks like some sort of creative community, something that attracts artists and musicians and enriches their lives as they share common interests.
SUMMARY
When I crossed the threshold of age 40, like many my age, I began to take a serious inventory of my life. Today I am 41. So I recognize some of this stirring might have something to do with what some call mid-life crisis–although I think I’m steering this feeling toward God and not away from Him (I’m not buying a motorcycle or trading in my wife–I like the wife I have, thankyouverymuch). What I do feel is a deep desire to make a difference, and to fully redeem the time. I want to shed things that aren’t that important and focus on things that are.
A lot of my journey out of institutional Christianity has been about wanting to shed things that I think are losing their effectiveness–things that don’t work anymore–and find more creative, more effective methods. I don’t have time to waste on building another typical churchy construct, something that will compete with other churches for membership, when all I’d have to show for it is a reputation for having built something “successful” in the eyes of the church. I’ve grown up in that setting, and I know I could either create that kind of thing, or be part of something like it–if I’d just “play ball.” But there has to be more to it than that, and I want to find it–I want to find what that looks like for us. And that is leading us down less-traveled roads.
So that’s where I’m at. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks, Glenn, for asking.
OTHER SYNCHROBLOG PARTICIPANTS
Alan Knox: You Are Here
Barb: One Year Check Up
Erin Word: My Turn
Glenn Hager: Feeling Free
HW: May Synchroblog
Jeromy Johnson: Our Story- Chapter 10
Kathy Escobar: It Stinks Down Here, But I Really Love The Smell
Lyn Hallewell: Your Turn
Mike Victorino: Lost Or Found (Depends On Your View)
Sarah: Glennโ€™s May Synchroblg
Tera Rose: May Synchroblog
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The Oldest Church in Texas

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Categories: church, Meanderings (look it up)

I don’t know why this came to mind this morning…but I drifted back about 9 years to when I still lived in East Texas. As part of a project I was working on, I went to different towns to research some of the spiritual history of the area. One of the points of interest was a particular church near Palestine, TX that claimed to be the oldest Protestant church in Texas.

The oldest church in Texas was actually a bit difficult to find, because it was not in the usual place you expect to find a church, and wasn’t found on the maps. When I actually found it, its location was very interesting, and very telling.

It sat smack in the middle of a huge cemetery.

The church building was a little red building, not much larger than a shed. That’s not an exaggeration–I don’t think more than 30 people could have fit inside. The doors were padlocked. It was the custom years ago for churches to bury their dead in a cemetery adjacent to the building. And so since the 1830s, the church had been burying its dead, until it was surrounded by acres and acres of dead parishoners.

It is safe to say that the oldest church in Texas had more dead Christians than living ones.

The building itself was a reconstruction of the original 1833 building. The church was supposedly still in operation, but there was no phone number listed in the directory, no pastor to call. Guess they were happy with the amount of people they had–descendants of the people in the cemetery, by my guess. And there they sat, tucked away, nearly hidden in the East Texas woods, their only claim to fame being that they have been there the longest.

This makes lots of thoughts go through my head. What thoughts are going through yours?

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Re-Defining vs. Rejecting

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Categories: changing mindsets, church, food for thought

There is a great deal of transition going on right now. More and more people are at different stages of re-thinking the institutional forms of church that we’ve had for centuries. That process can be admittedly a bit messy at times, even within our own souls. We may change opinions frequently as we try, with God’s help, to figure things out.

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Questions About House Churches

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Categories: changing mindsets, church, house church

In participating in Glenn’s synchroblog a couple of days ago, Tera Rose left a comment on my post sharing a negative experience she’d had in trying to do a home fellowship, and asked some excellent questions about house church. They were so good that I felt it was worth writing a post to respond to her. Below is an excerpt of what she wrote:

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The Great Shift–and My Unwitting Part In It

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Categories: changing mindsets, church, My Story

(The following entry is part of a synchroblog sponsored by Glenn at Re-Dreaming the Dream.)

Two or three years ago, a national Christian magazine published an article about the growing number of “stay-away saints” in America–millions of professing believers who are not regularly attending organized church anymore, but many of whom still maintain a vibrant faith. The article attempted to cover both sides of the trend, quoting people who expressed concerns about it and those who felt perhaps it is the sign of healthy change. But interestingly, the underlying theme of the article, and indeed the entire issue of the magazine, was this: “Come back to church.” Instead of addressing the issues that caused these Christians to feel disillusioned, discontent, or out-of-place in institutional Christianity, the message was just that these people should return to the very institutions that had alienated them, for more of the same.

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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… ๐Ÿ™‚ …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.

THE INCARNATE CHRIST
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.

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BUT WHAT ABOUT…Assembling Together?

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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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