Church Life

The Passion that Has Motivated My Journey

Last week I got into a bit of an email exchange with someone reading the first book I published so very long ago:

Tim: I’m reading the Naked church it’s probably an old unedited version because I printed it free off of one of your sites, and it’s in a three-ring binder large print. But it’s really hitting home where I’m at today and the people that I am encountering. I just wanted to say I’m glad you wrote it

Me: I still love much that is in that book. It’s just that so many illustrations in it are incredibly dated. But the lessons and passions in it were vital in my journey and still are! Thank you for taking the time to let me know how it is touching you.

Tim: I feel you did a fine job of stripping down the egos of title hungry men. I remember gaining a lot of insight into this years ago. It’s actually caused me to question all authority. I no longer respect the authority I once did as I see it all as a plot for power and control over others.

Me: Sadly, it often is, especially if they are building an institution or a “following” off of it. Look for those who are simply serving another person, helping them find the life in Jesus that’s real and abiding.

Tim: Easier said than done. The love of many has grown ice-cold.

Me: True, but the Spirit knows, and he can show you when you might need someone. But for the most part, you won’t. The Spirit in you will guide you.

Tim: I know that’s true I’ve been going solo for several years. But even if I die, I may never find the true expression of the church.

Me: Don’t think of a “thing;” think of the people around you that you could share the life of Jesus with. It isn’t an organization, and it’s not because people believe exactly the same things, but it is people in various stages of this journey learning to love each other and let Jesus take expression in them.

This exchange caused me to go back and retake a look at this book, reliving that part of my journey. The version of The Naked Churchon the left was the original cover published in 1987. I loved the stark black and white against the purple and red. The paragraph below reads, “Are you confused? Burned out? Devastated by the state of the church? The simple truth of God’s Word can restore your faith in Christ.” Yes, I would say that differently today, as you’ll note on the third book cover.

So, why are there three book covers here? Well, my first book sold rather poorly, but the publisher felt like perhaps the title had been too negative to connect with its audience. It was republished two years later as A Passion for God’s Presence. It was the same book inside, with a more positive approach on the outside. It didn’t sell much better, though both of those books found their way into the hands of some pretty amazing people all over the world, who have continued to share this journey with me. 

After my journey took a significant turn in the mid-1990s, I kept getting requests for the book since it was then out of print. So, I went through it again, revised it, and republished it under the original title with a purple cover. In the original book, a lot of my answers were systemic in nature. But having lived through the implosion of that system, I knew its frailties all the better. To republish it, I needed to tell more of the story, update some of its references, and offer a different set of answers that I was only beginning to live. 

Over the last few days, I read through it yet again, and my heart was touched by the same motives that caused me to write it the first time. I’m still that guy—still hungry for God’s reality, still willing to take the road less traveled, and I can say unequivocally that it has been worth every pain I’ve suffered in this journey. I have found God to be as real as I always hoped he might be, and relationships with others around the world that express what I always hoped church life could be. It all turned out so very different than I had imagined, but far more exciting and transformative than I could have conceived back then. That’s why I don’t recommend this book anymore unless people want to understand my journey better. No, I’m not going to rewrite it yet again. It will remain as a snapshot in time. Finding Church does a much better job unpacking how I see the church clothed in his glory and how others can find her too. 

But I still love the primary illustration of that book. It is drawn from Jesus’ words to the Laodicean church: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked,” I combined that with the Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes, where the Emperor is duped into buying imaginary clothes. He’s told that only people who are unfit for the jobs can’t see them. So, of course, the Emperor thinks he must be incompetent and pretends to admire them. So does everyone else, afraid they’d be exposed as unfit for their service. Eventually, he parades naked through the capital, convinced he’s wearing the most exquisite clothes. 

Let’s pick up from what I wrote over 33 years ago: 

In the middle of the Emperor’s parade, a little child whispered what had been evident to everyone else: “But he hasn’t got anything on.”

The awkward moment that followed was brief. The townspeople knew he was right. The Emperor knew he was right. In a split second, they had to choose between the illusion they had embraced and the reality that would set them free.

Rather than ask for a real coat, however, in which he could cover his nakedness, the Emperor only pulled his imaginary robes about him and continued the pretense. For the Emperor to accept his nakedness, he had to admit to having been swindled. He couldn’t do that.

I can imagine the townspeople quickly scanning the crowd to see if anyone else would own up to what they all saw so clearly. If anyone had been brave enough, they might all have jumped in. But the risk of being thought stupid by their neighbors was too overwhelming. The moment of revelation passed quickly, and soon they were again applauding the illusion.

And I love the passions in this original book. As misguided as my answers might have been, I find those same hungers are alive in my heart today. These are the motivations that invited me away from everything I had ever known and into a kingdom that has fascinated me ever since. 

Here’s one last excerpt from that book:

Anyone who does not gush with admiration for church institutions and activities today is accused of being arrogant, rebellious, or judgmental. That’s our modern equivalent of being stupid or unfit. So, even though our Christian experience feels empty, we think we’re the only ones to feel that way. To admit this is unthinkable, so we rationalize those nagging thoughts that tell us this can’t be what God had in mind. After all, there is always more to be gained by exploiting a system than there is by exposing it.

Today we are so impressed by our own efforts that through endless hours of talk shows and endless pages of fund-raising letters, we congratulate ourselves: “Look how much we’re doing for Jesus!” When we believe this thought, the trap is fully sprung. Our visions of a powerful and relevant church, with love enough for all and selfless sacrifice for God’s kingdom, are filed away under the heading “Too Idealistic.” We settle for the status quo as if it were all God intended—like a baby crocodile born in the zoo pond.

I’m outside the pond now and enjoying the wild where Jesus is ever-more real, and life makes so much more sense, both in the fallen world where I live and in the Kingdom, which has overrun it all. Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. Don’t be frightened when others reject the conclusions you come to and seek to exclude you from their company. Jesus is the Head of his Church and gathers his sheep how he sees fit when they are willing to follow him, however he might lead them. She’s growing in the world with immense beauty, infiltrating every nook and cranny of the world without drawing attention to herself. 

Stop making excuses. Follow the hungers God has put in your heart, even if it appears you’re going it alone for awhile.

In time, you’ll find yourself living in the increasing fulfillment of his glory.

You’ll never regret it.

The Pews Are Empty Again Today

“This pandemic makes Beyond Sundays even more relevant and applicable!!!”

That text came from a friend a couple of weeks ago when congregations were forced to cancel their Sunday services all across the country to flatten the proliferation of the coronavirus. This Sunday, once again, the pews were empty and on Palm Sunday at that. Even worse for some, they will still be empty next week for what many consider to be the most important Sunday of the year—Easter!

Some have even tried to continue their meetings in defiance of government orders and have been arrested for it. A pastor in my hometown was on the news this morning because he was requiring his congregation to come for communion this afternoon. He said we can’t let them call liquor stores essential and churches nonessential. I know it’s challenging in this season to give up things we all enjoy, but underneath the anguish of so many pastors seems to be a quest for publicity, a concern that people will get out of the habit of attending, or the fear that without offerings their congregation cannot survive.

A liquor store is not more essential than the Church, but gatherings in buildings are not essential to the life of the Church. She lives and breathes by the power of the Spirit, connecting us to him and each other in a billion different networks of relationships. I thought everyone knew that. I’m genuinely amazed that those religious leaders fear she cannot survive without the structures we’ve built around her.

For the most part now, people “attend” their congregation online, as many have begun streaming the staged elements of their service. These are the same groups who have said for years that you can’t do “church” online—you have to be present in the building. Now they talk about their Internet feed just like they do a regular church service. Even stranger, they conduct the same service to an empty auditorium as if the people were never critical to the event, after all. And how stuck they are in an old form that doesn’t change even when all the circumstances around it have. Wouldn’t these times call for a more creative way to celebrate the life of the church in a time of chaos? How would this understanding of the church ever survive a day of real persecution if it can’t stomach a few weeks of not meeting? It’s an excellent time to reconsider how we view the church of Jesus Christ.

Leaders from Christianity Today and the National Association of Evangelicals put out a statement a couple of weeks ago about canceling Sunday services. “It is not a question of mere expediency. The gathered worship service is central to the church’s identity, and therefore, cancellation seems to trample on more than tradition. It can feel like a threat to the church’s existence.”

I find that statement so unbiblical. As far as we know, Jesus never gathered with his disciples in any kind of “worship service”, nor did he teach them to do so. The early church connected in caves and homes, and conversations in marketplaces and temple courtyards. Where two or three gathered in his name were just as powerful, maybe more so, than 25 or 5000. How, then, has this “service”, which has no precedent in Scripture, become so essential that some leaders can’t imagine the church surviving without it?

Have we lost sight of the Risen Christ and his ability to sustain his church in such desperate times without the weekly service? If so, then these times can serve us well to remember that our sustenance does not come in a service or even a good sermon but from our connection to the Head. He has his church well in hand, and with or without Sunday services, he can lead us and equip us. We could better serve not by worrying about the survival of our congregations but by serving our fellow citizens in a society racked with fear at the possible health and economic impact of this pandemic.

I hope we can all ask if we have made more of the Sunday service than Jesus would? I have no problem with those who find the weekly connection with a congregation to be helpful in their journey. However, if you have become dependent on it to maintain your relationship with God or your connection with others, maybe it is time to rethink some things.

Our hardened religious structures have never looked more naked. The church is about relationships, not with a pastor who doesn’t know you through a video screen where he can’t see you. It is friendships with others who know you, care for you, and can share your journey with compassion, insight, and encouragement.

Not everyone, however, is fearful that these times will diminish the power of the church. Many are seeing an opportunity for God to shift some remarkably skewed priorities:

I received this last week from Michael, our contact for the work in Kenya:

This small article you wrote for some years back Why I Don’t Go to the Church Anymore, is being fulfilled. Across Africa and the world, those who believe the church is institutional buildings and altars are confused in this time of testing with the coronavirus. The pandemic has shaken the world. Your article is really the lesson that is needed for such time of this. Thomas and I have sent more copies to encourage the believers across east Africa, especially those who undergoing self- quarantine due to being locked down.

And this morning I woke up to this in my inbox:

Beyond Sundays by Wayne JacobsenBeyond Sundays seems even more prophetic in these days, as we are all locked out of the church as we know it. We face lockdown and isolation in the midst of the threat of this virus that has engulfed our world. Your book continues to be a source of inspiration and blessing. Written almost for these days, as God’s people, we find ourselves constrained in our homes and out of church. Church as we know it is unable to meet (and) your book keeps coming back as a fresh reminder His Kingdom is more than just church meetings ‘alone’ and the ‘structures’ we build. God is breathing fresh life, hope, and encouragement; something new is happening in His Kingdom, in the world, and the communities where we live.

What I have discovered in the last twenty-five years of living beyond Sundays myself, is that Jesus is an every-hour, everyday companion and the church is a constant reality of interconnected relationships, not a place to meet. Those who live in him can benefit from the teachings of others but are not dependent on them. Their relationship with God thrives as much in the world or locked down in their own homes as it does at a gathering on a Sunday morning.

His church is alive and well today and can shine with greater glory during this pandemic by letting Jesus take shape in his people as they demonstrate more concern for others than they are worried about their own institutions. If you don’t know that, maybe now is the time to discover it. his church can thrive in our communion with him and in our conversations with others even if we can’t meet in the way we’ve always done it.

If your spiritual life is hampered by not attending a Sunday service, maybe this is a good time to lean into him and discover again that he is the Shepherd of his sheep, and that he has all you need. If you feel isolated, think of some people to call every day as a way to encourage them, and especially think of those people who can use it most today. Seasons like this offer a great opportunity for us to take stock of our own journey and let God invite us to deeper places of love and trust.

Maybe now we can more clearly see the difference between the Church Jesus has been building in the world and the one that humanity has been making in its own image. I wrote Finding Church to help people consider that possibility if that’s a stretch for you. .

Yes, they do overlap at times, but at others their priorities seem to diverge significantly.  Knowing the difference will help you discover her beauty in ways you may not have considered, especially in days like these.

How Deep Our Faith

I was talking to a friend across the country Friday about California’s ban on gatherings of more than 250 people while they try to slow the spread of the coronavirus in our state. He said he know of a pastor who was already defying that order. He was going to have services as usual this Sunday morning claiming, “Church is the safest place for anyone to be!”

There is so much wrong with that statement. First, seeing the church as his building denies the power of the new covenant where each of us is a temple in which God dwells. Second, thinking that a gathering of Christians will be exempt from the potential to spread the virus is tragically absurd. Third, ignoring the opportunity to serve the health workers and the elderly in his community is uncaring and irresponsible. Finally, if he really thinks an institutional gathering of Christians is safe from harm, he’s never known the pain of betrayal, gossip, and judgment of religious people thrive in such environments.

The safest place to be right now is in Father’s hands, and that doesn’t mean some of his followers won’t be affected by this pandemic, but that he in them will keep them at peace and guide them through whatever challenges come. To equate that with a Sunday morning service that must go on against all wisdom not to is irresponsible.

I suspect there’s a dependency issue involved here. Someone’s either afraid that to cancel a service might expose the fact that people aren’t as dependent on it or him as he would like them to believe. People like him know the habit is critical to sustaining rituals. If services are canceled for a month or more, people might realize they are as dependent on it as they thought. Or perhaps he’s concerned that without a gathering they can’t take an offering and he is willing to put his whole congregation at risk to make sure he collects the money he needs. Oh, sure, people can phone in an offering, but we all know that what really puts it over the top are the “guilt dollars” given because people have an offering plate in front of their faces and knows others are watching. Of course, no pastor would ever admit either of those, even to himself. I didn’t when I was there. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that the people need the gathering or my sermon to cope with the current crisis.

If going to your congregation for the past twenty years hasn’t prepared you to spend some time at home in the quiet and know God is with you, then I’d question its value. If it hasn’t connected you to people you can call for encouragement and support when you need it, then it isn’t a family.

The changes in our culture over the last forty-eight hours would have been unthinkable a week ago. The amount of money being given up by sports teams, entertainment venues, the travel industry, and others as a way to protect the health of our nation is inspiring. This is a time to care for each other, not hoard a six-year supply of toilet paper, or keep meeting in ways that can spread the virus to greater numbers of people. This is a time to give up what makes me comfortable or happy to protect others.

I suspect the next few weeks will really test some people. What is life without sports on TV, a concert, little league, or a church service? If I’m using those places to hide from my own emptiness, it will be exposed now. Times of uncertainty and trouble are when we find out just how deep our faith runs. That’s a good use of times like this. If you find uncertainty upsets you, or that you have to fill every moment with activity to keep your fears at bay either from the virus or the financial ramifications of it, this will be a great time for you to get to know him better. What does it mean for you to rest in his presence and discover that Jesus is enough to hold your heart regardless of what is going on around you? He can navigate you through anything this world can throw at you.

Maybe this is where you find out that your faith is vested in the congregation you attend, or is vicariously lived through an author you admire. Those things will do you little good now. Take advantage of your social distancing from others, to draw near to him. And while you’re doing that, you can be aware of others and encourage them by phone or FaceTime. And, if you have extra resources, this is a time to be generous with people you know who will lose their income during this season.

On Friday, I also got a text from someone else out east: “I guess those who have celebrated body expressions in a more organic way outside the building type of gathering are lookin’ less goofy now, huh? 😉”

I don’t think he was gloating, but many of us have talked about how ineffective our big-box Christianity would be in a time of crisis or persecution. It’s why the earliest brothers and sisters met in homes and caves. For the first 300 years of its existence, Jesus’ church never thought of a building as a place to try to contain this living, breathing organism of the church. God was alive among them, and their close friendships of love and concern expressed his life among them powerfully enough.

If your relationship with Christ is defined by smoke-and-gold-dust worship experiences or corporate rituals in large groups of people, it may be time for you to discover that none of that is essential. As Paul wrote in Galatians 5, “The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love.” Everything else is fluff.

Don’t let anyone convince you that meeting in a large building these days with other Christians is safer for you or your community than giving it up for a short time so we can flatten out the growth curve of the virus. But don’t that that needs to diminish your faith or your fellowship.

In times like this, faith can deepen, and love can grow in surprising ways.

Sometimes It’s Right in Front of Us

I received an email last week from a friend in Israel. He mentioned how much he and his wife were learning to relax in Father’s love and care, but then added a hunger that had gone unfulfilled in their hearts:

During this time, the Lord taught us a lot and fed us with his love. We still have not found a group that we could call our home. We continue to pray for it. I have never felt such an acute need for simple communication and friendship.

I took note of his hope that some group would become home for them. I understand that hunger since we’ve all been schooled in the idea that we all need a fellowship we can call home, but it isn’t true.  So, I wrote back, “I don’t know that you need to be looking for a group to call your home. Let Father, Son, and Spirit be your home, and then you’ll be free to love others without needing anything in return. In time, some of those you love will love in return, and then you’ll find people who can enjoy the simple joy of friendship. Finding fellowship is a process to follow, not a group to find.”

Not everyone is ready to listen to something like that. Thankfully, he was, and it drew his heart to a work God had done before in them:

Thank you for writing me that my home is in the Father. Something inside me clicked and everything I have worried about lately finally came together as a puzzle in my head.

When my wife and I received an update in His love, our life became a daily adventure in Him. Every day, I got up and the first thought that arose in my head was “More.” I felt like a child who was circling behind the hands of the Father, and who is so happy and filled that he said again and again, “More!” In our life,     new people constantly appeared with whom we shared our path. We started spending more time with our children, having breakfast every Saturday, and spending time.

But at the same time, pressure was growing in the church we attended. We did not fit into the system and it spat us out. Unfortunately, then I did not understand many things that the Father revealed to us. I was not ready. We understood that Father called us to go out, but we were not ready to remain without a church in the way we’d known it. We were afraid for the children, afraid that they would not have friends. And besides, I thought that we needed to find a church with good, correct, deep, Christ-centered teaching.

In our new congregation, the meetings fell on Friday evening and immediately killed our dinner time and reading the Torah. It turned out that on Saturdays they had a youth ministry and we no longer had breakfasts with children. In addition, we were loaded with various ministries and endless conferences and seminars. And we are always in a hurry somewhere, but at the same time we had almost no close relations with anyone. More recently, we gathered with people at our home. We all had fun and joy, chatting, eating and studying the Bible together.

Because of my studies, we decided to stop the group for a while. I also stopped conducting classes in the children’s ministry. And now every Friday, I try to sit out the ministry. The only thing that inspired me is communication with my old friend.

After what you wrote to me, I realized that such a life we had before. We just let the Father fill every day and shared this love with others. But then we wanted to find or create a group and everything began to die. A thought came to me to stop coming to these church meetings. Just live filled with Him and loving those who are near. I will not make any quick decisions. I will ask the Father to show me if He really wants it.

He already had what he was looking for, but it didn’t count because it wasn’t the specific kind of group he was looking for. There are so many ways Father can connect us with his family. You can find that connection in a congregation if you’re not too worn out by the program, or you can find it elsewhere as you learn to live in his love.

Sometimes what we want is right in front of us; it’s just not in the package we were expecting.

______________________________

If you need help finding the church Jesus is building in the world, that’s why I wrote Finding Church. We often look for her in all the wrong places and get frustrated when we feel alone and isolated. She is all over the world, growing in his glory. She just doesn’t always look the way we think she should.

Let’s Stop Living by Our Labels

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Eureka, and someone read this portion of my book, Beyond Sundays, to me. They wanted to make some comments from it and ask me some questions. As they read it, I was reminded of how much I like this passage and how much it fits my heart.

Any title you wear be it pastor, best-selling author, or Done will do more to separate you from others than it will help you recognize the incredible family that Jesus is building. Claiming a label works against his prayer that his Father would make us one. The community of the new creation levels our humanity—from hierarchy and from our narcissistic notions of being in a better group than others. We are all sons and daughters of a gracious Father and that’s all the identity we need. (Matt. 23:5-12)

But once again, we risk being divided into “innies” and “outies” and falling into the false dichotomy our flesh so craves. Whether you go to “a church” or whether you don’t is a distinction without a difference. What matters is whether people are following Jesus and being transformed by his love. What I hope comes out of this study of the so-called “Dones” is those inside and those out recognize that the church is bigger than most of us would dare to believe and that his church takes expression wherever people engage each other with his love and purpose.

For those who claim that attendance at a local congregation is mandatory to be part of his church I hope they reconsider that false idea. Being part of his family is about following him not belonging to an institution. Over the last twenty years, I’ve found incredible followers of Jesus both inside them and outside. I hope this research draws all those into a conversation where “in” or “out” becomes less important than loving and affirming his kingdom however it takes shape in the world. But it will take a significant number of voices across the Christian landscape to fight for a better conversation than those we usually have.

I am convinced that people who truly know Jesus will want to reach across this divide, not exacerbate it. We don’t need identifying labels, especially ones that make us feel superior to others in the family. When Jesus becomes more important to us than finding identity in any particular tribe of it, then the conversations that most express his kingdom will grow in the world. Instead of demanding that others conform to our view of the church we will recognize her in the most surprising places as we find connection and fellowship with those who know the Jesus we know, even if they don’t follow the rituals we follow.

Then we won’t need labels to divide us. Brother, sister, and fellow saint will be more than enough identity for each of us and loving each other in a mutual celebration of Jesus himself will allow his church to flourish where we live.

Recently, I was in a conversation where every question or comment was about the church. People were looking for a model or at least validation for how they were doing ‘it.’ Something happened over the last couple of centuries that has made us more preoccupied with how we’re doing church than how we are following Jesus. I remember that trap well myself; it’s how religion has become more important than Jesus to so many of us. I paused to ask them how often Jesus used the word “church” (2 times) in the Gospels and contrasted it with how many times Jesus mentions his “kingdom” (121 times). Maybe if we were more preoccupied with his kingdom coming than we are about how we do church, we would see more of both.

Last week, I was in the Tulsa area with people who varied widely in their view of “church” and their participation in it. And you know what? It didn’t matter. What we shared in common—our belief in him, our desire to love in the world, and our desire to get to know each other—was more than enough. His church is a lovely family growing in the world—one that lives by love, not labels. If you want to be part of his kingdom, don’t look to the labels you wear or those others do, but for the fragrance of Father flowing from their lives.

Anyone who finds more identity in their institutional affiliation or lack of it, their doctrine or lack of it, their ritual or lack of it, proves by doing so that they have yet to find their identity and validation in Jesus and their relationship with him. Can you imagine what we would demonstrate to the world if we were lovers of Jesus and each other, first and only? Isn’t that what he asked of us in John 13:34-35? By that, he said, the whole world would come to know we are his followers.

She is Everywhere and She Is Glorious!

While on vacation in the Sierras a couple of weeks ago we connected with old friends we used to camp with in that area. The wife shared with us some pictures (one of which you can see above, and another further below) that she had taken on a trail we used to hike together. In fact, it was this trail over Potter’s Pass east of Huntington Lake that inspired the theme illustration I use in Finding Church

What if the church of Jesus Christ is more like wildflowers strewn across an alpine meadow than a walled garden with manicured hedges? Wouldn’t that change everything?

Maybe that’s why people get so frustrated trying to find his church, but they are looking at institutions, or home groups of like-minded people instead of simply loving the people God is bringing into their lives. The church Jesus is building is everywhere!  She is not a place or an institution; she is a real, living creation, and if we look for the people who express his reality around us, we’ll find his fingerprints at work.  The following is an adaptation from Finding Church

I realize such a seemingly amorphous view of the church will make many nervous, especially those who think it their God-given duty to manage a group of people on his behalf. The church takes her expression in relationships we have with others who are also following him—local friendships as well as international connections that he knits together.

We’ll first see it reflected in conversations where Jesus makes himself known. Some of those conversations will grow into more enduring friendships that become part of the fabric of our lives as we serve, encourage, and grow together. These friendships will lead to others, and out of that network of friends and friends of friends, God will have all the resources he needs to invite us to agreement in prayer and collaborative actions to fulfill his purposes around us.

Can it really be that simple? This is perhaps the greatest stumbling block to people seeing the church for who she really is. It’s too simple, they think, or too easy. So, they put their trust in the vast array of discordant institutions instead of the present work of Jesus. As we’ll see, finding those connections is difficult only because it is far easier than we dare to believe. In fact, you probably have those growing connections with people, even in the congregation you attend or have attended. I’m only suggesting that your interaction with them expresses more freely the life of the church than sitting in a pew watching the staged activity up front.

Admittedly this discussion about church is not easy to have. Most people want simple, clear answers to heavily nuanced realities. It would be easier to say that all religious institutions are bad, and smaller, more informal groups are good, except that it isn’t true. If we just had an organization that represented the one, true church led by the right people then we would know who is in and who is out, except that every group who has ever tried it has ended up arrogant and abusive in trying to keep it pure.

So, we are going to have to make a distinction in our minds between the church that humanity has attempted to build for two thousand years, and the community of the new creation that Jesus is building. They are not the same, though they can gloriously overlap on occasion. It’s just that our conformity-based structures cannot produce the internal transformation necessary for his church to take shape among us.

And as much as we have to see how our congregational doctrines, rituals, and structures can fail us, I’m not saying they are evil. This isn’t a matter of whether these are good or bad, but how we use them. If they enhance our growing relationship with God, great! It’s when they become a substitute for the relationship we lack that they are problematic.

I agree with the theology of the historic creeds and reading them inspires me. It is not our mental assent that’s important, however, but living inside the truth they espouse. Likewise, ritual can open our hearts into a wider world and help us reflect on him, or it can become meaningless repetition that only makes us feel more distant from the Living God. I’m not against structure, which is incredibly valuable whenever it gives shape to what Jesus is doing among a group of people. Everything I do has structure, from the books I publish, to the travel I arrange, to our work in Africa with orphans and widows. Structure is essential to coordinate people to accomplish specific tasks, but history shows us that no group structure can successfully reflect the life of Jesus’ church for very long. It happens subtly but, over time, people end up serving the structure. They become dependent on it, instead of following him.

In the end, however, no creed, ritual, or structure can contain the church Jesus is building. And strangely enough, neither do any of those things exclude the possibility of his church taking shape among them. Because the church finds expression wherever people are learning to live alongside Jesus in the new creation, it can appear almost anywhere at any moment.

The church isn’t something we can plant or build; we can only recognize it and make room in our hearts when she appears.

This book contains everything I believe about the church Jesus is building. I hope it is helping people get their eyes off the failed attempts of humanity’s doing, and see how Jesus is marvelously putting his church together through the interconnected friendships of people who are growing to know him. Whether or not that ever coalesces into a weekly meeting isn’t what’s important. It’s learning to be loved and to love others the same way. He has everything he needs to bring that family into fullness and life. It’s always been his job, not ours. And, I don’t have to participate in anything that is morally broken, condemning, or bound to obligation just because others call it “a church.”

I love being able to celebrate her reality wherever she takes shape around me, and I find her more breathtaking than any wildflower vista, whether it be in a conversation, a growing friendship, or a weekly gathering of people wanting to follow him.  Our task is only to recognize her when she’s there, and cooperate with his working however he may ask us to do so. There we will find community enough, mission enough, and discipleship enough!

You can get Finding Church in print, e-book or audio. For those who want the printed version for yourself or to give away to others, we are selling them from now through the month of September at a 25% discount ($7.99 per book, plus shipping).  For international destinations, please email our office for a price quote, since the online calculator is often wrong.

This weekend I get to wander in his meadow in western Canada (Calgary, AB and Kelowna, BC) to  see how his church is taking shape among people there.  I’m looking forward to it.

 

A Jake around Every Corner?

Sometimes, somewhere beyond the cosmos, our Father must look over at Jesus and with a big smile on his face say, “Watch this…”

This might be one of those times.

I’ve had an email correspondence over the last few days with a woman in Australia that has brought more than a few smiles to my heart. I love how the Spirit works, especially when we’re a bit clueless to what he is doing. This is the story she shared with me, pieced together from a few emails.  I love how the Spirit just keeps knitting his family together even in very unexpected ways.

I first bought your book So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore for my eldest son of six children when he was not wanting to go to church as a late teenager. I gave it to him to encourage him back into the fold, without actually even looking through the book to see what it was about.

He read it and said “Mum, did you even read this book? I don’t think it says what you thought it might say.”

So, I read it for myself, and laughed, and thought you were a bit misled. Fast forward a few years and I was in a totally different place in my relationship with God and re-read it after some friends had just read it and loved it. Then I “got” it. My youngest three (by now teenagers) were not wanting to go to church anymore as well.

For a whole bunch of reasons, including considering my children – we left the institution ourselves. I said to the pastor at the time “I fear for my children if I stay and I fear for my children if I go” My fear was that if I stayed, they would just think this is what Christianity looked like and eventually reject it altogether as too boring.  I knew there was so much more. My fear in leaving was the unknown, and the worry that we were making a big mistake that would have consequences in my children’s lives. They were being homeschooled and church was a source of socialisation. But it was a lonely place for them even in the midst of church  and for me too) as there were really no other young people there for friendship anyway. It certainly has been an interesting journey and this is by far the short version. It has not been a mistake.

In May last year, my husband and I were taking a trip with some friends to the centre of Australia and had to take a huge detour because of floods. This meant we called in on some acquaintances who run an art gallery and they sent us on our way with CDs of your Transitions teaching. My, the lengths God goes to sometimes! My husband doesn’t normally listen to CD’s but because we were travelling long distances, he had nothing better to do. The teaching really spoke to him in a life changing way. I keep listening to them over and over – so much good stuff in there and I just want to absorb it all into my spirit. I have since passed them on to someone else.

I would never have imagined myself in the place I am in now. I have grown up going to church every week and we have always been very involved and busy with the various programs. But that was another aspect of  us leaving – in many ways I felt like I had hidden myself from the world in the church. I was so busy with the church, I didn’t have time or energy to invest anywhere else. I gradually got myself out of all the rosters and then joined the local soccer club committee as my children have all played over the last 20 years, and my youngest son still plays. I considered that I had spent so many years serving God in the church, now I was serving Him outside of the church and it gave me an opportunity to get to know and  love some other people in the community. A friend once asked me, who gets to benefit from your gifting if you are in church?  Interestingly, I feel like I’m actually using my spiritual gifts as the secretary there.

We attended a wedding last weekend and a friend of the bride was asked to share a short address during the wedding. As I listened to him speak about the most important thing the bride and groom, and all of us, need is to know how loved we are by our Father God and to then just love others. I recognised a fellow pilgrim on the journey. I had never met this man before but my husband and I were able to sit with him and his wife during the reception. I began to sus him out and when he confessed that he”actually doesn’t attend church anymore”, I said ‘welcome to the club”. When I asked him for his story, he just said “Well, you know Jake don’t you?”  Indeed I do!

My husband said later, “We just keep running into these people…”  God is definitely up to something!

The journey continues but thank you so much for allowing God to take you on the journey and then share it with others.

Do you hear the click of his knitting needles as the Spirit brings Jesus’ church together in the world?

Who Is to Blame?

The quote below was written by a Jewish rabbi and theologian in 1955—thats two years after I was born.  And yet, this process has continued, not just for Judaism, but also for Western Christianity.

I hear complaints all the time about the decline of Christian influence in the societies of western culture. by Christians who blame it on increased secularism, the agenda of cultural elites, and the distortion of media for its losses, but we really need look no further than a mirror that reflects how we’ve taken the wonder of the Gospel and reduced it to another human-engineered religion.

It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion – its message becomes meaningless.

Abraham Joshua Heschel in God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism

The Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be consigned to a creed, a discipline, or a habit; it is a real relationship with the Living God and when it loses that, it has nothing left to offer those around it.  As G.K. Chesterton wrote in 1910, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” (What’s Wrong with the World)

When I read voices from the past challenging the irrelevance of our faith so clearly, I am amazed they had no impact. These are not obscure quotes. They are very well known, but nonetheless ignored, and the wonder of the Gospel is even more obscured in our culture today, far more by the emptiness of our religious structures than anything the world has done.

What the world needs to see is not more religion, but a people won into the love of a gracious Father, learning to walk alongside him in the unfolding circumstances of life, and being so transformed over time that in word and character they are gracious and compassionate to all, with no need to manipulate those around them, forgiving when wronged, aware of the needs of others and willing to lay down their lives for the good of another.

That’s the kingdom Jesus foresaw and its one most of the people in our day have yet to see.

 

When Is THE SHACK Coming to Your Country?

Brad Cummings, a co-writer on the book and producer on the film just put out this information:

THE SHACK MOVIE crossed the $50M mark on Tuesday and it continues in wide release, so that’s fantastic. And it’s set to be released in BRAZIL April 6th–where the has sold some 5+ Million copies. Octavia Spencer is down there on a press tour and is being incredibly well received. Pray for the impact it can have on that nation, and many others!

It’s already been released in: ISRAEL, JORDAN, IRAQ, LEBANON, EGYPT, VIETNAM, The PHILIPPINES, LATVIA, POLAND, ARUBA, CURACAO, the WEST INDIES, and SURINAME.

This next week begins some of the global roll-out:

3/30/17 in GREECE
4/6/17 BRAZIL, GERMANY, SWITZERLAND, ARGENTINA, CHILE, COLUMBIA, COSTA RICA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, EL SALVADOR, GUATEMALA, HONDURAS, NICARAGUA, PANAMA, PERU, SINGAPORE
4/7/17 AUSTRIA, TURKEY, MEXICO,
4/13/17 URUGUAY, SLOVAK REPUBLIC
4/14/17 ECUADOR, VENEZUELA
4/20/17 PORTUGAL, THAILAND, BOLIVIA
4/26/17 SOUTH AFRICA
4/28/17 BULGARIA
5/13/17 JAPAN
6/9/17 UK
6/16/17 SPAIN

If your country isn’t on this list, I don’t not have more information at this point. Be patient. It will get to you eventually. I have no idea how these decisions are made or why it gets to one country before another.

But I do hope you all get to see it at some point, and multiple times, too. I’ve seen it 13 times and continue to pick up new insights as familiar as I am with the story.

Of Course It Would Be a Family

Sara and I are just winding up a beautiful vacation in the Sierras, and that included an extended weekend where our family was able to join us, as well as a few others who often hang out with us when we get together. Our last meal was pizza on the deck and looking around at those who sat around my table that night and listening to the laughter and expressions of love for each other, I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for the people God has surrounded my life with in these days. I love them all so much and am blessed by any time we get to share life together.

When family life is good, it is very good. It encompasses people of all ages that have lifelong connections, however long that life has been. It was only five years for my grandson and so many more for my ninety-one year-old dad. Many of us spent as long as a week together without any of the drama so many families experience. We lived together, cooked together, cleaned up together, and played together with everyone pitching in to help and no hurt feelings or people pushed to do what they don’t want to do. It was free-flowing, enriching, and loads of fun. Life in a family like that is so renewing, of course the primary image used to describe the church in the New Testament is of a healthy family under the most amazing Father in the universe.

At the same time I am well aware that this isn’t every family’s experience. Sara and I have both had some challenges in our extended families over the years that made such gatherings awkward and at times even painful. In addition my email is filled with people who are suffering from the pain of dysfunctional families—with absent or uninvolved parents, manipulative siblings, and constant expectations and hurt feelings no one can satisfy. When family is good it is very good, and when it is painful it is incredibly painful.

Whatever your experience with family, painful or not, we all have a better family we belong to. Jesus is building his church out of people who are learning to live in the love of his Father, so they can share it freely with others. You’ll notice it taking shape around you when you meet people who don’t hold expectations for you or seek to manipulate you to their own ends. They love others as freely as they have been loved by God, and look to share their lives in helping care for others around them. If you don’t know people like that, let God make you a person like that. Only those extravagantly loved can love with extravagance. Learn to live in that reality and you won’t need to use others to meet your own needs. Then we can uncover the glorious treasure that other people are around us, even at their most broken, and find ourselves in a family as full of care, love and joy as the most healthy family on the planet.

And if you have family life like that, keep an eye out for others who could benefit being involved with yours and invite them to join you. There is no greater environment to discover God’s love and for people to relax into his life than a family that knows how to love, laugh, and celebrate God’a life together.

Some other notes of interest:

This coming Thursday, August 18, Sara and I will be gathering with brothers and sisters just down the mountain where we’ve been staying. We’ll meet at a private home in Clovis, CA. If you want details you can get them from our travel page. Just email Amy to RSVP and get details for location. We would love to have you join us.

Also, I was recently interviewed for The Love Cast, a podcast hosted by a friend of mine, Jamal Jivanjee, who has an interesting journey of his own paying quite a price to help encourage the church Jesus is building in the world. We talked about my journey of learning to live loved. Our conversation is Episode 8. We finish the conversation in a second part that will appear next week as Episode 9.

Ignoring Jesus!

If there are words Jesus spoke that we have ignored more in Western Christianity than Matthew 23, I would have no idea what they would be.  Every day in almost every Christian institution we live as if he never said these words or at least didn’t mean them.

Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’

Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. 

Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.  

Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.  (Matthew 23:4-12 The Message)

Can you imagine what the church of Jesus Christ would like like in the world today if we had just followed these incredibly simple instructions? But we didn’t and instead created another religious system that exists as if Jesus was never here and if he didn’t die on a cross to change the entire relationship between shame-based humanity and the Father who loves us. Our institutions today and those who seek to lead them still violate all that Jesus warned the leaders about in his day not to do.

We still package the life of Jesus as a set of rules and expectations and demand people conform. Our so-called religious leaders still fight for celebrity, take the place of priority among the family, and encourage other people to be dependent on them rather than God himself.  We create an endless set of titles to  maintain the illusion that those who want to lead us are not simply brothers and sisters in a growing family.  And our failure to heed Jesus’s words not only horribly disfigures the bride of Christ but it also keeps people from finding the courage and freedom to find their life in him and to follow him as he leads them!

And it isn’t just the fault of those who set themselves up as experts in the life of Jesus, but those who seek out such experts to tell them what to do, rather than to learn to listen to and follow Jesus as he makes himself known to them.

And your expert doesn’t have to be a pastor, it can also be a popular speaker, author, or podcaster.  There are no experts, only brothers and sisters who serve you well only to the degree that they encourage your own relationship with the Father, rather than make you increasingly dependent on themselves. And those who seek the spotlight don’t really have a clue who he is.

Do you realize all that has been twisted in our Christian institutions would unravel if we only followed the simple things Jesus told us to do?

Why don’t we?

 

Letting Jesus Build His Church

Yesterday, I published a new audio at FindingChurch.com called My Hope for His Church. (If you missed it, you might sing up for updated on that website. We are about to launch a book discussion of Finding Church and will be anchoring it there.)

It includes a twenty-three minute audio clip drawn from my opening comments to a group of people who gathered in London last month.  This is best recorded statement I have about my heart for the church Jesus is building and how I view her taking shape in the world.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the amount of response I’ve already gotten to this brief clip and want to make sure people on this blog don’t miss it.

Some of the thoughts included there:

  • Let’s use the term “church” only the way God is uses it—as an endearing term for the family he is shaping in the world. He calls her a bride for his Son, prepared for his Son and his hope in her is that she will demonstrate the character and wisdom of God not only to the world, but the spiritual principalities and powers that underlie it. A people living in love will topple the powers that hold humanity captive.
  • There are two churches in the world, the one that humanity is building in its own image, and the one Jesus is building in his. Sometimes those realities can overlap, but not always.
  • Our institutions are often more preoccupied with their own needs and managing political power instead of helping people learn to live loved.
  • The church is not something humanity can build; it is the fruit of a new creation where people learn to live in the reality of his love and share it freely with others.
  • When our preoccupation is on the church instead of Jesus, we’ll see less of his church and less of him. The bride’s focus need to be on the groom, because the groom’s focus is on the bride.

Wayne Goes Nomad

During my recent trip to the UK, I was asked to join Tim Nash and Dave Ward on their Nomad Podcast, to discuss Finding Church. I had just arrived in Coventry, England only way from Scotland to Wales.  We borrowed a friend’s office as we sat down to discuss the church Jesus is building. They had some great questions and the engagement was generous and passionate as we discussed the difference between the church Jesus is building and the one humanity has been trying to build for him. I can’t imagine a better summary of how I hope Finding Church encourages and equips other followers of Christ. 

The podcast is titled, What Sort of Church Is Jesus Building?  You can click on the link at left to stream it or use this one to download. It is an hour and 15 minutes long, and the interview begins at the 6:10 mark.

It was posted yesterday and already a friend from Springfield, MO, heard it and wrote me this note:

Absolutely enjoyed your interview/podcast with Nomad. I listened today and will definitely listen again with my husband! Seriously, they asked you every question we’ve all been asked at one time or another as we’re on this journey! Your answers were heartfelt and spot on! Thank you for being such a great representative for those of us on this journey.  I loved it!

 

Life Happened Here Once

It’s an amazing moment when a butterfly hatches from her chrysalis, flexes her wings until they dry, and then takes flight discovering what it is like to be a butterfly instead of a caterpillar.  We get to enjoy this little miracle in Sara’s garden almost every year. But it never happens at the same place twice.

Sometime next month thousands of people are set to gather in a stadium in Southern California on the 110th Anniversary of the beginning of the Azusa Street Revival in hopes of gathering 100,000 people to   call down a great, last-day revival.  This is only the most recent of numerous attempts to get God to act, all driven by “words from the Lord” and interpretations of dreams in hopes that some day “stadium Christianity” will take over the world where gatherings of Christians will replace sports contests in our largest stadiums.

Everywhere I’ve gone on this trip I’ve been asked what I make of all this and if I’m involved.  I’m not. Honestly, I don’t find the prospect very engaging for a number of reasons. Jesus seemed to want us to make prayer a private matter not a public display. He seemed to indicate that praying with 100,000 people has no more power than two or three agreeing in his name.  I also find it strange that the 110th (really, not 100th?) anniversary of a past moment of God’s visitation would be significant to God in any way.  I also find a large crowd of people trying to “call down” revival seems more reminiscent of Baal’s prophets trying to call down their false god, rather than Elijah’s simple proclamation that God simply make himself known as the one, true God. (I Kings 18)

Jesus never indicated that praying in large gatherings would usher in a world-wide revival. He said that when we were loved enough by him to love others in the same way the whole world would come to know who he is. That’s where I want to invest my time and attention.

Thus I am not looking for some great revival as just another “event” that will have it’s day in the sun then fade away like all the others. In fact, I see revival happening all over the world right now.  I see spiritual hunger emerging and tens of thousands of people that I know, opening to God in a fresh way, learning to live in his love and share it with others freely.  Something amazing is already happening that is not controlled or promoted by humanity and yet is filled with the richness of the Living Jesus. I find that much more engaging.  So, no, I’m not involved nor do I have any hope that this event just won’t be another in a long line of prayer meetings, summits, and rallies that smell more of human effort than the fresh wind of the Spirit.

Of course, I could be wrong about this. God might actually be leading them and something significant will happen that day. I’ll be the first to apologize if I’m wrong, but I’ve never seen this kind of thing fulfill the promises of its organizers. It may feel spectacular while people are there, but they will go back to their homes and wonder what it was all about. This is not the way God seems to work.  And by that I am not casting aspersions on the hopes or motives of those who feel inclined to plan or attend these events. For the most part I know them to be well-intentioned people who sincerely want God to do something in our day.  But I am not hopeful that this is the means to the end that they want, or even that the revival they are looking for is very different from what he is already doing in the world to draw people to himself without named celebrities on the stage.

I don’t chase these things around any more than I hang out beside a spent chrysalis hoping another butterfly will emerge. Life happened there once and it will not do so again. When another butterfly hatches it will come from another place, at another time.

Maybe our traditions are simply hanging around old places where God worked once, hoping he will work there again rather than following him to see what he is doing now. How much energy and effort is wasted by those who hope God will do something he did once again and again in the same way and come away disappointed and disillusioned when their efforts bear little fruit?

Maybe God has moved on and life is happening somewhere else. Because, as Jesus said, “My Father is always working.”

Maybe we’re just looking in the wrong place.

cocoonempty

You Can’t Put It Back In the Box

It was one of the most exruciating “worship services” I’ve ever endured. As part of the conference I attended last week we were subjected to an experience that was put together by a worship design studio, whatever the wacky thing that is. There was singing, talk of God, and even communion. It was supposed to show the conference new and innovative ways of “worship” and I’ll admit that everyone around me seemed to be enjouying it. At least they were participating, but so was I. Unfortunately it never allowed any of us sustained engaement with God. We were constantly being interrupted to do little worship activities that seemed more suited for a five-year old. No, it wasn’t childlike, it seemed childish, and incredibly tedious.  

How far out of the box have I wandered? 

They started the service with asking us to write a six-word definition of worship. I know they were meaning “worship” as a service, but I see “worship” as a lifestlye, so I wrote, “Our lives lived in loving engagement.”  It’s not what we say or sing to God it’s how we live in him and share his love with others around us.  At the end of our ninety minute experience, however, I crossed out my original definition, to write what I had just experienced:   “Groping for reality in contrived illusions.”

And I wrote it with sorrow.  There were hungry hearts all over the room, people really wanting to connect with God, and instead of being given that opportunity they were put through a host of excercies and instructions and told this was their connection to God. I thnk many of them believed it and I honestly wanted to cry. Has our engagement wiht God become so abstract that we need activities to keep us amused or an ever-shifting set of exepriences to keep us from getting board.  I find wherever God makes himself known and people are genuine and authentic, that is more than enough to keep people’s interest.  

Yes, there were moments I could lean into God and have some time with him, but it would soon be interrupted with our time to lament, or to focus on our brokenness.  It got so I hated to hear the voice in the microphone offering me yet another thing to do. 

When it was over I turned to the person next to me who used to be a worship leader before they became a “done.”  I showed them my new definition of worship and they laught heartily with a knowing nod. And then she leaned over to me and whispered, “Once you take things out of the box, it’s impossible to get them back in again.”

It was my turn to smile.  True as true can be!  

I remember groping from reality in so many contrived and artifical settings. Yes there were moments God made himself known, but many more that were repetitive,  boring, and seemed to require a high degree of pretense to make it work. It’s better to take the things out of the box and find out what is real that invites us inside his reality and which are human engineered exercises to make us only think it is happening.  

But beware. Once you take them out, you may not be able to get them back in.  But you won’t regret it!

How His Church Takes Shape In the World

As I was preparing for my trip to Indiana, two men I didn’t know asked if I could come early to do some taping with them.  They are working on a documentary about people moving beyond the congregational model to celebrate God’s work in them. They asked if they could interview me to use it in this documentary. They wanted to do an interview with me from which they would take some clips to inclue in the documentary.  I told them I had long been praying for the opportunity to be interviewed in a video by someone who didn’t know me and was curious about my life and journey. I hoped for a wide-ranging interview that would ask the difficult questions about my journey, my motives, and my passion to be part of God’s work in the world. They decided both objectives could be served by doing that kind of interview and then pulling the clips out of it that would make the most sense in their documentary.  

The setting they wanted was a campfire conversation. We waited for the sun to set, lit the fire, and talked for an hour and fifteen minutes as the moon rose in the easter sky.  A fabulous setting

 

We should be able to post that in a couple of weeks. Jeff Heer was the host and asked great questions. Dan Madison handled the technical aspects along with his friend Chris. This is exactly the kind of casual conversation I was hoping for and as I watched the rough-cut yesterday, I can’t believe some of the things I said—a good sign that Someone was at work beyond me. I can’t wait to share it with you.  Until then here’s an excerpt I particularly liked:   

“Scripture is clear about our human inability to manage others without giving ourselves to abuse or opulence.  It even happened for God. Israel wanted a king and he gave them two of the best men he had and both were seduced by the power of being the king. I’ve seen so many good brothers and sisters, people I love, who really have a heart for God but get into the environment where they’ve got to tell other people what to do to make this work. Managing people’s spirituality is a drug that we have an inability to resist and I don’t think I’m above it.  I’ve gotten out of environments where I need to manage people spiritually and into environments where I equip people relationally, because that’s not seducing.  It doesn’t destroy me and make me think I’m better than I ought and get to tell others what to do.

“I want to live in this love and help others people do that.  That’s what we get wrong. We don’t learn to live loved first and see what church emerges, we start with people who don’t know they are loved, obligate them to things and then wonder why that doesn’t take on the dynamic we hoped for.  What we learned is, it’s not by our human effort that God want to do these things.  He just wants us to be his child in the earth and as we love him and let him love us he will take us on a journey and some amazing things will happen.  And he will build his church, which is what he always promised to do.”

If you can’t wait, hear are two other opportunities.  Last week I did an interview with Mike and Susan for the Chief Sinner podcast.  We talked about the disconnect between accountability and community and the absurd idea that one will produce the other.  They are polar opposities. You can either have accountability or community, but not both. An accountability setting will never produce true community where people are loving, open, authentic, and honest, the very environment in which the transformation of Jesus takes hold in people’s hearts.  

Earlier today I did an interview on getting back into the Scriptures as a relational treasure not an obligation on Cliff Ravenscraft’s, Encouraging Others in Christ Podcast.   

That’s a lot of media for me in a few days, but I appreciated how real and personal all of these conversations were.  

Finding Church Now Available in Audio

Imagine you laying back in your easier chair or being caught in an exasperating commute to work and me sitting right beside you reading to you from Finding Church.  OK, that doesn’t even sound fun to me.  I wouldn’t sit next to you and read, we would get to talk.  But the audio version of Finding Church is now available for download, so you can listen to me read it even though I won’t be right there beside you.  Maybe we’ll get that chance up the road sometime.

If you’d like to listen to a sample, you will find Chapter 17 below:  “Unity Without Conformity”.  This is the high point of the book, in my view.  It demonstrates not only the answer to Jesus’ prayer, but also why our attempts to produce unity through conformity are destined to fail.

If you’d like top purchase the audiobook you can do so from Amazon.com or Audible.com, or download it through iTunes.  

Happy listening!