Categotry Archives: Rantings

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Defined (Imprisoned?) by the Meetings

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

(If you have come to this blog because you’re still working through yesterday’s massive synchroblog on “What Is Missional?”…you can read my entry here.)

I’m finally making my way to the end of the book Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Michael Frost. Yesterday I read some things that have already started re-shaping my thinking. Here are a couple of quotes:

“Why can’t we think of churching together as a web of relationships? Why are we obsessed with the singular event rather than seeking the rhythm of a community churching together?”

“The result of nearly two centuries of Christendom is that Christians have become used to the idea that their faith is primarily about attending meetings–worship meetings, weddings, funerals, prayer meetings, and so on.”

In the same chapter, Frost shares how in a truly missional church, the corporate meeting is merely the “tip of the iceberg”, and one simply cannot gain a good picture of this kind of community by simply “checking out” the weekly gathering. There is so much more going on in daily life that shapes them.

Reading this book is helping me verbalize some things I’ve been processing internally for some time.

In a recent conversation with a friend, I shared how I am in a season where I am just not in the mood to attend a multitude of church meetings. Almost immediately the “don’t-forsake-assembling-together” Scripture was brought into the conversation. I tried to explain that “assembling” takes many forms and doesn’t necessarily have to always be in the churchy format we have gotten so used to. But I am not sure I was able to communicate what I was truly feeling, or that my friend “got it.” I almost wish I could now re-visit that conversation, because I feel now like I could communicate better.

Yes, the Bible tells us believers to assemble together (Heb. 10); and in Paul’s epistles (especially in 1 Corinthians 12-14) he gives some instruction on what sorts of things can/should happen when we “come together”. But I am coming to realize that the early church was not defined by their meetings the same way we are; their sense of community was much deeper, and their focus was not on the meetings themselves.

I’m realizing that most of our concepts of “meeting together” are still shaped by religious Christendom rather than the Scripture itself. Think about what happens when the church assembles. Regardless of the “flavor” of church we’re talking about…these meetings are almost always focused on a set of events that are occuring in front of an auditorium while most of the people look on. Whether pre-planned or spontaneous, these events constitute an “order of service” (another term not found in the Bible). When we think of “assembling together”, this is usually what we have in our head; this is what we think it means.

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Questions of heresy?

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), Rantings

In response to one of my posts about the mistaken identity of the church, I got an interesting comment from a guy named Michael who expressed some concerns because he felt I was using too broad of a brush stroke when I spoke of pastors and others getting fearful over people finding alternative methods of expressing their faith. I felt it was significant enough to devote a post to it. Let me quote him here:

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I Believe It, I Don’t Believe It

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Categories: food for thought, Rantings

Ever wonder why preachers just can’t talk normal?

“Praise God, the fire of God is gonna FALL in this place tonight, amen? We’re blessed beyond measure, we’re the head and not the tail. We’re gonna have us a TIME in the Holy Ghost. Can I get a witness in the house tonight?”

And that’s just the warm-up.

The sermon is usually full of the same kind of hype. If I hear one more preacher say, “How many know that _____________?”, I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ve gotten to the point where I almost can’t listen to a sermon anymore. (I like to preach ’em, just not listen to ’em.) 🙂

This is the deal. I believe, but I don’t believe.

I believe in the power of God, the gifts of the Spirit, and divine manifestations of God’s presence. I believe in healing, and miracles, and I believe Jesus intervenes in people’s lives and changes them.

I believe the substance. I don’t believe the packaging.

I just can’t look at some manic, spit-&-polish, hair-slicked-back, smooth-talking, FAST-talking preacher in an expensive suit with an eternal smile plastered on his face, and say to myself, “Now THAT’S real.”

If we could watch how some of these guys talk when they come away from the podium–how they talk to their wives or kids in the car, how they act in the grocery store when they don’t think anyone recognizes them–I think we’d be surprised.

I’m not even talking about secret sins (which do happen, too); I’m just talking about being real. Why can’t we just be REAL about our faith–or even about our doubts? Why do feel we must always portray to the public that we are in a perpetual good mood, or always in control, or never discouraged? Where did we come up with this “the-show-must-go-on” mentality?

To me, the danger is that when we see our leaders act this way, we often fall into the snare that we must be the same way. This is where the whole super-Christian myth comes into play. It’s not unlike the image of beauty that is portrayed in the magazines–airbrushed, photo-shopped models who are imperfect but made to look perfect–that prompts our young girls to starve themselves and go under the knife. Our women are killing themselves trying to live up to an image of beauty that is not even real.

By the same token, we’re presenting a public face to Christianity that is virtually inaccessible to the common man–because in real life, not even the preachers act that way all the time. For those who believe it, it presents an impossible standard to live up to; for many, however…it just comes off as fake and hypocritical. And that does as much damage as the other.

This is just one more thing that I’m de-constructing in my own life, because I basically learned to preach from watching these guys. I have unlearned a lot of that packaging, although every once in awhile, I catch myself falling into that same type of rhetoric. It’s been a process for me, but one I’ve embraced, because the less I believe this packaging, the less I believe myself when I sound that way. Whatever I present, and in whatever format…I want it to be real, to be accessible, something people can grab onto and live with.

I want to believe–and believe.

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Be the Change

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Categories: church, Meanderings (look it up), Rantings

So as I was sitting at a dance recital (of all places) last night, mulling things over while watching what was happening on stage…out of the blue this thought came into my head:

“Be the change you want to see.”

It was so profound I wished I had my laptop there so I could blog about it in the dark and irritate lots of people around me. But something told me someone else had come up with this phrase before me, so I Googled it when I got home.

Dang you, Gandhi.

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A Conversation I Had Yesterday With a Nashville Producer, the Two Reasons I Think Indie Music Is Exploding, and Why I Am Telling You About It

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Categories: food for thought, music, Rantings

As a musician and songwriter, one thing I’ve been doing lately is to take steps to make my music more visible and accessible. One way I’ve done this is to create a MySpace Music page and use it for networking.

The other day I got a very complimentary message from a producer/songwriter in Nashville regarding my songs, telling me that he felt the recordings were rough (which I knew) but that the songs themselves had potential to reach a wide audience if they were re-cut.

So I called the guy. (What would you have done if you were me??)

What transpired was a long and eye-opening conversation. He was very nice, took his time on the phone with me, tried to answer all my questions, but more importantly tried to give me a realistic view of the music industry and what it takes to “make it.”

It was enough to make the faint-of-heart…well, faint. Here is a summary of the most significant parts of the conversation.

The days of sending in demos and getting “discovered”, he told me, are pretty much over. These days, there are so many people bombarding the record labels that for them to even look at you, you have to already have made a buzz, have some sort of following, and be able to prove you can sell records. (This is one reason, I believe, why indie music is exploding right now; it’s almost like you pretty much have to already have made a successful record in order to get signed.) In his words, with the music industry, it’s “all about money”–all about selling records–and they won’t take a chance on you with their money unless they are fairly certain they will make money on you, no matter how talented you might be. And speaking of money…it costs a lot–a lot–to make a competitive recording and get it noticed. A lot.

As potentially disheartening as this information might be, it does make some sense up front. The labels have apparently made it very difficult to get “signed,” and it’s primarily for their protection. But…as I mulled this stuff over, I looked at the fruit of what the major labels are producing….and overall, it leaves a lot to be desired.

There is a lot of good talent out there, and lots of records are being sold…but the truth is, we haven’t seen a new superstar talent of the caliber of Cher, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, or Madonna in decades now. (And Britney Spears doesn’t count.) You know what I’m talking about–the “it” factor, the talent and creativity behind the production, that makes an artist stand out above the rest. I think one of the reason American Idol and shows like it have been so popular is that there is a creative void, and people are getting hungry and even desperate to find the next big thing. But it honestly isn’t showing up, not the way it once did. The music is all running together, with more and more artists in the field, but fewer and fewer that stand out. Lots of technology and sonic wonderment–very little creativity. That’s what we have to show for the music industry’s current policies. That is the fruit.

So, why am I ranting about this here? Because in mulling it over, I found a startling similarity between the music industry and something else I talk about often on this blog.

It would seem that the American music industry is very much like institutional Christianity.

It is an institution, with policies, protocols, structures, formulas, exclusivity, and well-established mindsets of how things ought to be done–and a slough of unwritten rules to be learned and kept–just like the institutional church. If you play by the rules, you might find acceptance within the culture itself; but will you really be effective in what you are supposed to be doing? That’s the spitting image of the church today. Lots of exclusive clubs, very little effectiveness in reaching people with Christ’s love. And in a different way, we can see the music industry growing more and more ineffective in its own field, for very similar reasons.

I find this particularly interesting because when you realize what you’re up against, you have to make some decisions. When we see institutional Christianity for what it is, we have a choice to make: we can choose to stay within it and try to work for meaningful change from within; or we can choose to look for a better way outside its structures. My journey has taken me outside the walls of the institutional church. I can now see the music industry for what it is, too; I wonder if my journey into the music field will take a similar path to my journey of faith.

I don’t know the answer to that one yet. What I do know is that it would be wise for some folks in the music industry to start thinking outside the box. I believe the other reason why the indie music scene is exploding is because creativity is going to find a way, and because the public, little by little, is discovering that freshness in many of the upcoming artists who are making a way for themselves without the help of major labels. Just as there is a quiet shift going on in the church right now, there appears to be a similar shift taking place in the field of music. The shift in the church, I believe, is part of God’s plan; the shift in music may or may not be. But the reality is, when institutions of any kind make forward movement impossible, at some point, movement will find its way around it.

It’s just very interesting to me how similar the two are.

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Why Are Christians Mean?

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), Rantings

I made a statement in a recent post that some of the nicest people I’ve known have been non-Christians. I followed that by sharing how my early childhood illusions of Christians being always nice and friendly were shattered when I saw increasing numbers of them being grumpy, snappy, and sometimes just plain mean.

I know it isn’t true of all Christians (and I bake myself in this pie, too), but this phenomenon is prevalent in our Western culture. While I no longer expect Christ-followers to be perfect, I do think something must be wrong when there are so many people in this culture who can identify Christians in a crowd by the scowls on their faces.

So, if we hold the belief and tell others that following Jesus is so life-giving and fulfilling, why is it that so many professing Christians don’t reflect that sense of life in their temperament? How is it that Christians can be mean?

I have some speculations–and these are just my opinions and observations, not some scientific study or anything. Here are just three possible reasons why Christians develop an ill-temper:

1. They are isolated and contained together, away from non-believers.

In my other post on this subject, I alluded to this, saying that water that stays in one place and doesn’t flow, stagnates. Let’s use a more crass analogy. When sheep stay bottled up in a sheep pen and never go out to pasture…things start to stink.

Christians today tend to be more and more engaged in their churchy culture, away from the world–and church activities can keep us so busy that we don’t even have time to think about implementing the Great Commission in our own lives. More and more Christians don’t even have non-Christian friends in their circles. Without places to pour out the life we have received, we begin to stagnate. And when all we do is hang together in close quarters, pretty soon all we’re doing is stepping in one another’s crap. That’s enough to make anyone grumpy. We need to stay connected, to be sure, but I think we need outlets outside of Christian community to let Christ’s love flow out from us. Without that, we are unfulfilled in our purpose. I honestly think that can create a latent dissatisfaction in us–like a constipation of the soul. (I’m sorry for the crass analogy–no, I’m not.)

2. Christians are religious.

I am absolutely convinced that when Jesus came, He never intended for man to create a new religion and call it Christianity. He came to give man opportunity to have relationship with Him, relationship with the one true God. It is astounding how simple a truth this is, and how far we have missed the point over the centuries.

People think of religion in general as a pathway to whatever god they are worshiping. The Christian religion is no different. We mistakenly think that the rituals or disciplines of our faith will bring us closer to God. Or we mistakenly think that being devout in our practices will earn God’s favor, and get Him to do good stuff in our lives (which, if you think about it, is actually a form of manipulation).

Religion can never bring us closer to God. Religion can never fulfill the deepest needs in our soul. Only God Himself can fill that void. When Christians devote themselves to the practice of their faith rather than the Person their faith is supposed to be in, they remain unfulfilled inside. No matter how devout you might be–there will still be a gap. Again–that’s enough to make anyone grumpy. Christians need to lighten up and just love Jesus–and let Jesus love them back. That will do worlds for our attitude.

3. Christians tend to think themselves superior to the rest of the world. Ouch.

Teachings about the authority of the believer, while having some Scriptural merit, have been taken to an unhealthy level–to the point that some Christians carry themselves as some sort of superhuman race, elevated above “unredeemed” man. Even Christians who don’t subscribe to this teaching often act superior simply because they feel they know the truth about God, and others do not.

Despite Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourself…when we see ourselves as better than our neighbors just because we are a believer and they are not, we will not treat them with appropriate humility and respect. We will feel easily put out when the cashier accidentally short-changes us or the clerk bags the meat with the vegetables. We will be offended when the waitress doesn’t move quickly enough or forgets our ketchup, and we’ll show her our dissatisfaction by not tipping. Or worse…we’ll leave her a tract instead of a tip. (Don’t EVER do that. Christians have the worst reputations among restaurant wait staff because of these kind of shenanigans.)

We need to remember that Jesus sees every soul as precious, someone for whom He died. Christians could use a good dose of humility and remember what He has done, not only for us, but for the person who does not yet know Him. We are not better than anyone else because of our faith, so we don’t have the right to be annoyed by an “inferior.”

So…those are just three guesses as to why Christians are mean. Do you have any thoughts?

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Shiny Happy People

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Categories: food for thought, Meanderings (look it up), Rantings

Some of the nicest people I’ve known have been non-Christians. Just sayin’.

 

Oh, I’ve known some pretty mean, crappy non-Christians, too–make no mistake. But I’ve also known unbelievers who were genuinely nice, friendly, welcoming people–people who often acted more like Jesus than a lot of Christians I know.

 

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Jaded? Or Just Hungry for More?

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), Rantings

Heather began her latest post with a monologue of hype many of us churched folks have heard–about going to the next level, getting fresh vision…well, heck, read it for yourself:

“I’ve decided. I’m going to the next level in God. I’m going to be empowered by an incredible, enthusiastic, visionary leader and take this city for Christ. I’m going to be a vibrant, passionate, charismatic believer who takes excellence seriously. I’m joining a vibrant, contemporary, growing church with a powerful message that impacts the world and has a vision statement that involves loving life, loving people and loving God. I’m getting connected to a small group that will move me into that next level and take me into the unknown, teaching me to drink that living water and walk by faith. I have a vision for this nation, I’m going to see revival sweep across this land.”

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What It’s All Going to Look Like

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), Rantings

After the bajillion cards, letters and emails sent to me by inquiring minds all over the globe* with the pressing question, “What’s This All Going to Look Like? What Will This Re-shaping of the Church Look Like When It’s All Over???”….

I’m happy to say I am finally ready to give you the answer you’ve all been waiting to hear:

(drumroll…….)

I haven’t got a freaking clue.

*Nobody sent me any cards or letters or emails asking this question. I was just being dramatic.

The Wild One and I were just talking yesterday about how we know we have certain gifts to bring to the table, and how we thought we were going to find a niche in the Body of Christ a certain way, and then it turns out God is shifting everything, and…what do we do NOW?

Here’s just one example. I’m a worship leader; I know how to do that. It’s not a boast to say I could get a job as a worship leader in just about any church that needs one–that’s just my skill-set. So what does God do? Yanks me out of the institutional church. Says everything is going to change. Hm.

Don’t get me wrong. I love where He’s brought us so far. I love the non-traditional community of faith He’s gathered around us. I think everything He does is beautiful in its own way. But I just know there is more–something He wants to add to this–something more… Something more we are to do. Even with the house church. I know God did this, but I’m coming to realize that getting us all out of traditional church into a living room was not a destination unto itself; it’s a step in the journey. There’s a reason He called this meeting. I’m hungry to know.

I can see the stirring in the hearts of our people, too. There’s a growing hunger for a shared sense of mission. We’re seeking, both as individuals and as a group, for God-ideas. That’s really awesome. It’s also really scary at times–for me, anyway–because it’s such unfamiliar ground.

Anyway…just wanted to let everyone know that I have no idea what it’s all going to look like.

One thing I do think, as a closing thought. I believe whatever God is doing, it’s going to be very diverse. In other words, I think He’s breaking the molds and patterns and formulas, and we’re going to have to stop copying each other. I think as the church “melts” from a solid to more of a fluid, it’s going to take many shapes, and the church is going to be a lot more contextual. That’s going to require us leaning on the Lord for guidance for ourselves, not going to a seminar to learn how to be more “emergent”, “missional”, or some other label. I’m not against those, and I read a lot of books, too. I’m just saying at the end of the day each of us has to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd for ourselves, and not expect it to look like what someone else is doing.

Whatever it’s going to look like….it’s gonna be gooooooood……

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The Search for a Better Way

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Categories: food for thought, Rantings

I’m reading a book right now that, quite honestly, is ticking me off.

I’ll withhold the title of it until I’m finished with it, then I’ll write you a nice scathing review. But it’s one that’s been going around and talked about, and one that a number of bloggers have already reviewed, about some things that traditional church does that have nothing to do with the Bible. Knowing what this blog is about, you’d think I’d be all over this one–and it does contain some useful information–but the overall tone of the book is just ruining the experience for me. It’s preachy and dogmatic, and even angry…and the authors’ solutions for what the church should really look like are, in my opinion, just as legalistic as the traditions I’m trying to get away from. Something inside me keeps saying, “Yes, we need to re-think this stuff…but nah, THIS isn’t the way to go about it.” What good is it to trade off one form of legalism for another?

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