That Simple Christ Message

I got this email the other day. I love the journey this dear sister is on, even if it is a bit disorienting at the moment. Listen to her heartbeat. There are so many like her and I’m blessed that God is waking us up to find greater life and freedom in him, wherever he places us:

My parents gave me your book He Loves Me and I have been listening to your podcasts. My parents are currently finding a lot of freedom from guilt-based living after many years of service in a traditional church.  Its exciting to see their passion for Christ reawakened after the burden of religion has been lifted.

For me, I am in a very wounded place, but I appreciate your message as it seems at its core it is simply the Gospel message. I have spent the last ten years in the organic church movement, thinking I had found somewhere where we were all passionate about the true message of Christ and were free from the religious abuse of programmatic church.  Now I find that its simply religion without a building, another system, only it just doesn’t look like one.

I appreciate that you are advocating for Christ, for love, for simple Gospel message. I really thought that it is what we were about.  I feel more wounded coming out of that setting than I ever felt in a traditional church setting.  In fact, now I find myself back in the traditional church where I grew up, feeling guilty for participating in “religious church,” but realizing that i have a lot of friends there, a lot of relationships.  I feel like I am always looking back and forth, wondering who is God, have I really lost the faith by returning to a traditional church, will I inevitably become a Pharisee by hanging out there, was I really one before? I don’t know.  

I listen to your podcasts and you talk about living by God’s love and grace and I that is how it began with our little group, then it was about the movement, about the sacrifice, about the five fold leadership, and somewhere in there I lost that simple Christ message.  But I see it everywhere; its in individual people, people in a Baptist churches, in Episcopal churches, in Orthodox churches, sometimes I even seem to see a glimmer of it in people who claim to be atheist.  And religious striving… I find it everywhere too.  I wasn’t half the Pharisee I was in a traditional church as I became trying to escape it.  Oh, to return to that simple faith of a child…  washed white as snow.

I loved this statement: I wasn’t half the Pharisee I was in a traditional church as I became trying to escape it.” I’ve seen people struggle with that same reality. Whenever we give ourselves to movements and look down on others who don’t share what we do, we are in danger of even being more captive to our hope for revival, than we were even to our religious obligation systems.

And I pray she finds real peace in him and lets go of the guilt and second-guessing. Then she can find the real joy and contentment wherever God chooses to place her to engage his people and his life with freedom.

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24 Comments
  1. Daveda September 30, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    “Whenever we give ourselves to movements and look down on others who don’t share what we do, we are in danger of even being more captive to our hope for revival, than we were even to our religious obligation systems.”

    Wayne, I have found that many people who have found the simple message of grace, have done what you explained here. They are so against the “system” that it seems they have forgotten that there are people in that system who are suffocating and need the refreshing breath of TRUTH. Since I started on this leg of the continuous journey of learning to live in His grace, being freed from religion, and seeing myself through His eyes, I too, have been tempted to be harsh against any form of “system.” However, I think “is that not missing the point of grace…”

    I agree with what you said here about being more captive to hope for revival, then to our religious obligations when we do this.

    I hope that this women continues to find the freedom she is looking for! It is very frustrating to feel like you don’t know whats right when all you want to do is “do the right thing.” Grace and truth, Jesus is the only revelation that will set us free!

  2. Daveda September 30, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    “Whenever we give ourselves to movements and look down on others who don’t share what we do, we are in danger of even being more captive to our hope for revival, than we were even to our religious obligation systems.”

    Wayne, I have found that many people who have found the simple message of grace, have done what you explained here. They are so against the “system” that it seems they have forgotten that there are people in that system who are suffocating and need the refreshing breath of TRUTH. Since I started on this leg of the continuous journey of learning to live in His grace, being freed from religion, and seeing myself through His eyes, I too, have been tempted to be harsh against any form of “system.” However, I think “is that not missing the point of grace…”

    I agree with what you said here about being more captive to hope for revival, then to our religious obligations when we do this.

    I hope that this women continues to find the freedom she is looking for! It is very frustrating to feel like you don’t know whats right when all you want to do is “do the right thing.” Grace and truth, Jesus is the only revelation that will set us free!

  3. Brandon Putman October 1, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I really needed this today. Thanks for sharing, Wayne.

  4. Brandon Putman October 1, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    I really needed this today. Thanks for sharing, Wayne.

  5. exdroid October 3, 2009 at 6:51 am

    Some good points here!!

    I have not been much involved in the institutional church for the past 10+ yrs myself…and for a while got into everything about ‘House Church’ etc….Whilst i enjoyed much of Frank Viola’s books such as Rethinking the Wineskin, Who is your Covering and Pagan Christianity, i found that there can be a legalistic tendency (in some of his writings) and elitist feel just as much in the House Church movement as in mainstream churches. I don’t know if i ever want to go back to being always in the institutional church however but am not going to write it off as i became a believer whilst in it, and now see that God’s family can be in and outside the institutional church.

  6. exdroid October 3, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Some good points here!!

    I have not been much involved in the institutional church for the past 10+ yrs myself…and for a while got into everything about ‘House Church’ etc….Whilst i enjoyed much of Frank Viola’s books such as Rethinking the Wineskin, Who is your Covering and Pagan Christianity, i found that there can be a legalistic tendency (in some of his writings) and elitist feel just as much in the House Church movement as in mainstream churches. I don’t know if i ever want to go back to being always in the institutional church however but am not going to write it off as i became a believer whilst in it, and now see that God’s family can be in and outside the institutional church.

  7. Chris Jefferies October 3, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    I was so sad to hear this story, but not surprised. All of us who believe in and follow Jesus have to make choices every minute of every day, and the choices are all the same – ‘Me or Jesus?’ And often we choose our way not his. It happens at home, in school, at work, among friends and it happens in church life too.

    Sometimes the choice is subtle, our own agenda may seem the most promising way. But we are called to follow him even into seeming foolishness.

    There are many good books out there (you have written some of them, Wayne 🙂 But one I heartily recommend is ‘Christ in Y’All’ by Neil Carter. In it he delves into the kind of selflessness and love that is the prerequisite for truly following Jesus together. This is not a ‘how to do it’ book, it’s a book that tells the story of a particular group and along the way teases out much of value.

    Relationship is not easy, our dearest friends can let us down. A broken heart is essential but having it broken is painful.

    My prayer for your correspondent is that she will be so covered by the grace and peace and joy of Jesus in her life that she will be able to move on in a positive way. It will probably take time, perhaps a long time. It will bring tears as well as smiles. But she is setting out wounded yet not defeated, bruised but not utterly crushed.

    And she is right, traditional church is neither better nor worse than simple church. Both are made of people, and people hurt one another sometimes. It’s not about methods or structures or stuff we build. It never was. Whether we meet in a large building or in the humblest living room, it’s all about life and love. And those things can’t be confined to a room no matter how large or small it may be.

  8. Wayne October 3, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Chris,

    I didn’t catch that she was so hurt by specific people, but in getting caught up in the euphoria of a man-made movement that was trying to stuff God church into a box—even a smaller box. I pray for the day that many of us discover how we do church is far less important than how we’re living in Father’s love and sharing it with others. Any time we think we have the only right way we’ll end up looking down our nose at people God is touching in other ways.

  9. Chris Jefferies October 3, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I was so sad to hear this story, but not surprised. All of us who believe in and follow Jesus have to make choices every minute of every day, and the choices are all the same – ‘Me or Jesus?’ And often we choose our way not his. It happens at home, in school, at work, among friends and it happens in church life too.

    Sometimes the choice is subtle, our own agenda may seem the most promising way. But we are called to follow him even into seeming foolishness.

    There are many good books out there (you have written some of them, Wayne 🙂 But one I heartily recommend is ‘Christ in Y’All’ by Neil Carter. In it he delves into the kind of selflessness and love that is the prerequisite for truly following Jesus together. This is not a ‘how to do it’ book, it’s a book that tells the story of a particular group and along the way teases out much of value.

    Relationship is not easy, our dearest friends can let us down. A broken heart is essential but having it broken is painful.

    My prayer for your correspondent is that she will be so covered by the grace and peace and joy of Jesus in her life that she will be able to move on in a positive way. It will probably take time, perhaps a long time. It will bring tears as well as smiles. But she is setting out wounded yet not defeated, bruised but not utterly crushed.

    And she is right, traditional church is neither better nor worse than simple church. Both are made of people, and people hurt one another sometimes. It’s not about methods or structures or stuff we build. It never was. Whether we meet in a large building or in the humblest living room, it’s all about life and love. And those things can’t be confined to a room no matter how large or small it may be.

  10. Wayne October 3, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Chris,

    I didn’t catch that she was so hurt by specific people, but in getting caught up in the euphoria of a man-made movement that was trying to stuff God church into a box—even a smaller box. I pray for the day that many of us discover how we do church is far less important than how we’re living in Father’s love and sharing it with others. Any time we think we have the only right way we’ll end up looking down our nose at people God is touching in other ways.

  11. Don October 5, 2009 at 6:43 am

    She hit the nail on the head with her final statement. “Oh, to return to that simple faith of a child… washed white as snow.”

  12. Don October 5, 2009 at 9:43 am

    She hit the nail on the head with her final statement. “Oh, to return to that simple faith of a child… washed white as snow.”

  13. Mike October 6, 2009 at 8:40 am

    This is one of those times when I really can say, “I know how you feel”. I have scars from the same “house church is the only way” wounds and the good news is the wounds do become scars.

    I can especially relate to the reality of becoming way more religious outside the traditional walls then within them. When I first read “so you don’t want to go to church anymore” I had to laugh at the part when Jake meets John and is fully jacked on house church. Yep that was me.

    As the old saying goes, “disillusionment is a good thing, it means you are loosing your illusions”.

  14. Mike October 6, 2009 at 11:40 am

    This is one of those times when I really can say, “I know how you feel”. I have scars from the same “house church is the only way” wounds and the good news is the wounds do become scars.

    I can especially relate to the reality of becoming way more religious outside the traditional walls then within them. When I first read “so you don’t want to go to church anymore” I had to laugh at the part when Jake meets John and is fully jacked on house church. Yep that was me.

    As the old saying goes, “disillusionment is a good thing, it means you are loosing your illusions”.

  15. Phoebe October 7, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Through “He Loves Me” and the God Journey Forum, I am learning that where I worship has nothing to do with my status. He loves me unconditionally JUST BECAUSE…not for any actions on my part.
    It is just as “religious” to for me to bash people for still going to an institutional church as it was for them to bash me for leaving the institutional church. Church-R-us…it’s not a building.
    I am in a position in which I have not been able to leave the church that hurt me, out of respect for my husband’s wishes I stay. I have to learn to trust God IN THIS TOO, that no matter where I am there will be a nugget of truth and beauty for me to take home if I am looking for it. I am trying to stop asking Him for instant release, because I need to trust Him and let Him walk out His best plan in my life, rather than take a shortcut and be in my own strength instead of His. I know how painful it can be…but so does Jesus…look at the perfect trust He exhibited for us in the Garden of Gethsemane…

  16. Phoebe October 7, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Through “He Loves Me” and the God Journey Forum, I am learning that where I worship has nothing to do with my status. He loves me unconditionally JUST BECAUSE…not for any actions on my part.
    It is just as “religious” to for me to bash people for still going to an institutional church as it was for them to bash me for leaving the institutional church. Church-R-us…it’s not a building.
    I am in a position in which I have not been able to leave the church that hurt me, out of respect for my husband’s wishes I stay. I have to learn to trust God IN THIS TOO, that no matter where I am there will be a nugget of truth and beauty for me to take home if I am looking for it. I am trying to stop asking Him for instant release, because I need to trust Him and let Him walk out His best plan in my life, rather than take a shortcut and be in my own strength instead of His. I know how painful it can be…but so does Jesus…look at the perfect trust He exhibited for us in the Garden of Gethsemane…

  17. Mike Childress October 7, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    I can really relate to what your e-mailer was saying. In trying to escape “religion” I can set up my own set of religious rules so that I do not look like what I am trying to run away from. Our pastor calls it jumping out of one ditch and into another. I do not remember who wrote the book “Tipping Over Sacred Cows” but I picked it up thinking it would be a neat read. About 20 pages into the book I discovered the author was interested in tipping over other people’s sacred cows in order to prop up his.

  18. Mike Childress October 8, 2009 at 12:39 am

    I can really relate to what your e-mailer was saying. In trying to escape “religion” I can set up my own set of religious rules so that I do not look like what I am trying to run away from. Our pastor calls it jumping out of one ditch and into another. I do not remember who wrote the book “Tipping Over Sacred Cows” but I picked it up thinking it would be a neat read. About 20 pages into the book I discovered the author was interested in tipping over other people’s sacred cows in order to prop up his.

  19. Ian Stapleton October 12, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    I am blessed by the email from this lady. I had been part of the apostloic move here in Australia for some time, until December 2008. Its focus was on house church and relationship, but I found it to be more controlling and restricting than instututional church. I attempted to make peace last month but have been deemed fruitless and faithless and have been constantly ridiculed and lied about since, but the comfort of Father’s love ahhh!
    I know that this lady will receive the grace to find this comfort.
    It only goes to show that there is no right or wrong way to have church, how can we have or do something that we are, but when we can trust the Holy Spirit to lead us in the way that He would have us go, and we as individuals can accept this, how much brighter will His body shine? We grapple too much with building the correct structure when He says that He will build His church!

  20. Ian Stapleton October 12, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    I am blessed by the email from this lady. I had been part of the apostloic move here in Australia for some time, until December 2008. Its focus was on house church and relationship, but I found it to be more controlling and restricting than instututional church. I attempted to make peace last month but have been deemed fruitless and faithless and have been constantly ridiculed and lied about since, but the comfort of Father’s love ahhh!
    I know that this lady will receive the grace to find this comfort.
    It only goes to show that there is no right or wrong way to have church, how can we have or do something that we are, but when we can trust the Holy Spirit to lead us in the way that He would have us go, and we as individuals can accept this, how much brighter will His body shine? We grapple too much with building the correct structure when He says that He will build His church!

  21. pam October 17, 2009 at 4:57 am

    I can so relate to this email. I’ve thought living outside the box meant I should give up my church relationships and my position as a Christian school teacher. Excluding people or saying I can’t hang out with them because I deem them pharisees isn’t the point of living outside the box. I am finding these Pharisees being invited into the same loving, intimate relationship with Jesus that I am. God is initiating a revival in which many people in many situations are being lead away from religion and back into His arms. If people kick me out of a club because I won’t adhere to party line, then so be it. I won’t run in self protection before that happens. I love these people.

  22. pam October 17, 2009 at 7:57 am

    I can so relate to this email. I’ve thought living outside the box meant I should give up my church relationships and my position as a Christian school teacher. Excluding people or saying I can’t hang out with them because I deem them pharisees isn’t the point of living outside the box. I am finding these Pharisees being invited into the same loving, intimate relationship with Jesus that I am. God is initiating a revival in which many people in many situations are being lead away from religion and back into His arms. If people kick me out of a club because I won’t adhere to party line, then so be it. I won’t run in self protection before that happens. I love these people.

  23. shirley October 25, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    In any group it seems, a little Hitler will eventually arise….Leadership is sought and seized. This in spite of Christ’s very clear statement:

    8  But be not ye called Rabbi [teacher]: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
    9  And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
    10  Neither be ye called masters [leaders]: for one is your Master, even Christ.

    I think that we are made to feel that we have “authority issues” and are in rebellion unless we follow the leader. Many of us are a little confused about how to proceed in a positive direction without the leadership of a group or organization. It is unfortunate that we feel we have to somehow defend ourselves and reassure everyone that we are still OK. In defending our decision, it is easier to criticize what we are turning away from than to explain the direction we are going. (And sometimes we are not quite sure what the direction is…haha….we just know we want to follow Jesus, not a man.)

    I remember when we used to criticise some of the more liberal “churches” saying, they were just a social club….but I’m thinking…maybe that’s what they SHOULD be….a social club rather than a teaching/leading/movement. Then we could let the Holy Spirit be the teacher and Jesus be the leader… and just get together as friends to bless and encourage one another in love…over a bowl of nachos.

  24. shirley October 25, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    In any group it seems, a little Hitler will eventually arise….Leadership is sought and seized. This in spite of Christ’s very clear statement:

    8  But be not ye called Rabbi [teacher]: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
    9  And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
    10  Neither be ye called masters [leaders]: for one is your Master, even Christ.

    I think that we are made to feel that we have “authority issues” and are in rebellion unless we follow the leader. Many of us are a little confused about how to proceed in a positive direction without the leadership of a group or organization. It is unfortunate that we feel we have to somehow defend ourselves and reassure everyone that we are still OK. In defending our decision, it is easier to criticize what we are turning away from than to explain the direction we are going. (And sometimes we are not quite sure what the direction is…haha….we just know we want to follow Jesus, not a man.)

    I remember when we used to criticise some of the more liberal “churches” saying, they were just a social club….but I’m thinking…maybe that’s what they SHOULD be….a social club rather than a teaching/leading/movement. Then we could let the Holy Spirit be the teacher and Jesus be the leader… and just get together as friends to bless and encourage one another in love…over a bowl of nachos.

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