Watch Out For those Older Brothers!

I guess this is get-out-in-the-community week. Yesterday I traveled to Pasadena to record a podcast and meet with the folks at The Plain Truth, the former publishing arm of the Worldwide Church of God. They are on an interesting journey of thinking outside the box and they wanted to do an interview with me as well as talk about some other things. (Sorry, the interview won’t air until April some time. These folks really plan ahead!)

Today I’m off to a one-day conference with Brian McLaren of the movement known as emergent, and you all know how I feel about movements. Nonetheless I like hearing from the horse’s mouth, so I’ll be hanging out with those folks today. I’m sure I’ll have more to report on it when I have some time.

Recently I finally got to see a copy of Religiously Transmitted Diseases by Ed Gungor at a home I stayed in New York. I had heard about this title years ago and though it was one of the best book titles I’d ever heard of. I wish I’d thought of it. Anyway, I didn’t get a chance to read through the book, so I’m really to recommending it at this point, but I did thumb through the chapter on the Prodigal son, entitled “Elder brother Disease: Who’s Your Daddy.â€

Many of you know that’s one of my favorite parables and I am deeply moved by the contrast between the Father’s joy at his brother’s return and the rage it provokes in the older brother. He, too, is hiding from his Father, isn’t he? But this one looks better because he’s hiding on the farm instead of in a pig pen in some far off country. Obviously religion makes as good a hiding place as rebelling in sin.

Here’s what Gungor says about the ‘older brothers and sisters’ among us…

There are millions of failed believers still in the pigpen because the elder brothers have positioned themselves at the doorposts of the church. These self-righteous boys and girls are keeping prodigals away. The protective, performance-based view of the elder brother is a spiritual disease and it is the biggest cause of the ‘de-churched of America—those who love God but hate church.

Let me leave you with a scary thought: the elder brother still runs most religious organizations and institutions. Perhaps that is why the most organized churches are losing their voice in our culture.

O.K, his use of ‘church’ and ‘de-churched’ really misses the point, but I wholeheartedly agree with his premise that most of our religious institutions are run by ‘older brother’ types who don’t know Father well enough to extend grace to those finding their way home from all the places they have wandered. When conformity is the goal, grace gets trampled underfoot, and we find ourselves warring with Father in the moments of his greatest joy.

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22 Comments
  1. kent November 16, 2006 at 9:52 am

    Wayne, I think it is the older brother guarding the door. It’s just the wrong brother. Jesus is the one that is suppose to be guarding it. He seemed to be very aware that the older brothers weren’t aware of their own blindness when it came to their sins. I want the older brother that knows law keeping is a killer guarding the door.

    I ttempted to write a bit about this this morning on my blog. If you are intereted check it out.
    nthegarden.blogspot.com

    I can’t wait to talk about your first hand experience with the emergent folks. I love the questions they are wrestling with. It is the attempt to fit it into a system that seems to be broken or maybe it never was right in the first place, that I don’t know not comfortable with. A top down management system doesn’t seem to fit the servant leadership style Jesus seemed to be about?

  2. kent November 16, 2006 at 12:52 pm

    Wayne, I think it is the older brother guarding the door. It’s just the wrong brother. Jesus is the one that is suppose to be guarding it. He seemed to be very aware that the older brothers weren’t aware of their own blindness when it came to their sins. I want the older brother that knows law keeping is a killer guarding the door.

    I ttempted to write a bit about this this morning on my blog. If you are intereted check it out.
    nthegarden.blogspot.com

    I can’t wait to talk about your first hand experience with the emergent folks. I love the questions they are wrestling with. It is the attempt to fit it into a system that seems to be broken or maybe it never was right in the first place, that I don’t know not comfortable with. A top down management system doesn’t seem to fit the servant leadership style Jesus seemed to be about?

  3. User November 16, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    Fascinating…

    Funny how Brian McLaren is Leading a movement that says leading is wrong. Would somebody like to explain that one to me?

  4. User November 16, 2006 at 7:43 pm

    Fascinating…

    Funny how Brian McLaren is Leading a movement that says leading is wrong. Would somebody like to explain that one to me?

  5. Mary November 18, 2006 at 6:54 am

    I had been receiving Plain Truth weekly newsletters up until of few weeks ago when there was an article titled “Is the Bible Error Free”. I believe Greg Albrecht’s response in this article is very telling on where the ministry is. Would you go to ptm.org and read this article and give your responses please?

    Regarding “emergant”…… a term I stay away from because it seems to mean different things to different people; similar to the term “fundamentalist”.

    Mary

  6. Pam November 18, 2006 at 8:25 am

    I think the point is not “buildings” or “not-building”; “leaders” or “unleaders”; “institutions” or “not institutions”. I think questions are Where does your gaze rest? and Who is your heart following? I think we can put our confidence in “unchurch” formulas and in “unchurch” leaders. (Yes, the unchurched can’t help but follow teachers too.) The answers to those questions always needs to be Jesus.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer (sp?) spoke of the day alone and the day in community. Both are needed. I think if you have Jesus with both solitude and community whatever that looks like as the lord leads. I go to what I guess many would call an institution and send my kids to a Christian school. Do I encounter pharisees and older brothers. Yep. Sometimes lately I see the Lord checking my judgments and prejudices. Many times I’ve stuck these individuals with a religious label only to find out in another encounter I need to question that evaluation. People really are is Frederick Beuchner said “a universe next door,” a mystery we can’t fathom.

    I think the boxes I am most afraid of are the ones we put one another in. You Baptist … you’re really judgmental; you Lutheran you’re stiff and dead; you Charismatic . . all emotion, no substance.
    I’m outside the institution…that’s where it’s at; you don’t go to church anymore. . . well, you backslidden. I think Jesus looked and looks still on the heart. We must look to our own first. Even then, I’m not sure we’re always right about our own, let alone others.

    This journey with one another is so messy. We are all going to get it wrong, probably more times than we’d like to admit. To paraphrase Michael Card, the only answer that means anything is Him. I am finding on my journey that I am encountering people, ideas and situations I need to take a step back from everywhere I go whether it’s in my Vineyard Church, my kids’ Christian school, the community of Christian friends we’ve gathered in our military traves, my family–especially my family and church of origin, and even “outside the box” places like this blog. No place is free of religion with it’s elder brothers and pharisees. It is in my own unguarded heart. Relationship with Him and Him alone is where I find freedom, no matter where I find myself.

  7. Mary November 18, 2006 at 9:54 am

    I had been receiving Plain Truth weekly newsletters up until of few weeks ago when there was an article titled “Is the Bible Error Free”. I believe Greg Albrecht’s response in this article is very telling on where the ministry is. Would you go to ptm.org and read this article and give your responses please?

    Regarding “emergant”…… a term I stay away from because it seems to mean different things to different people; similar to the term “fundamentalist”.

    Mary

  8. Pam November 18, 2006 at 11:25 am

    I think the point is not “buildings” or “not-building”; “leaders” or “unleaders”; “institutions” or “not institutions”. I think questions are Where does your gaze rest? and Who is your heart following? I think we can put our confidence in “unchurch” formulas and in “unchurch” leaders. (Yes, the unchurched can’t help but follow teachers too.) The answers to those questions always needs to be Jesus.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer (sp?) spoke of the day alone and the day in community. Both are needed. I think if you have Jesus with both solitude and community whatever that looks like as the lord leads. I go to what I guess many would call an institution and send my kids to a Christian school. Do I encounter pharisees and older brothers. Yep. Sometimes lately I see the Lord checking my judgments and prejudices. Many times I’ve stuck these individuals with a religious label only to find out in another encounter I need to question that evaluation. People really are is Frederick Beuchner said “a universe next door,” a mystery we can’t fathom.

    I think the boxes I am most afraid of are the ones we put one another in. You Baptist … you’re really judgmental; you Lutheran you’re stiff and dead; you Charismatic . . all emotion, no substance.
    I’m outside the institution…that’s where it’s at; you don’t go to church anymore. . . well, you backslidden. I think Jesus looked and looks still on the heart. We must look to our own first. Even then, I’m not sure we’re always right about our own, let alone others.

    This journey with one another is so messy. We are all going to get it wrong, probably more times than we’d like to admit. To paraphrase Michael Card, the only answer that means anything is Him. I am finding on my journey that I am encountering people, ideas and situations I need to take a step back from everywhere I go whether it’s in my Vineyard Church, my kids’ Christian school, the community of Christian friends we’ve gathered in our military traves, my family–especially my family and church of origin, and even “outside the box” places like this blog. No place is free of religion with it’s elder brothers and pharisees. It is in my own unguarded heart. Relationship with Him and Him alone is where I find freedom, no matter where I find myself.

  9. Mary November 19, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    We are so funny aren’t we?…….how we always are looking for a term for something like “unchurched”. For awhile, a group of us called ourselves “the outies”. Sometimes, I think it’s part of the healing process and other times I think its because we are looking for that formulae for perfect living.

    It is right that organizations aren’t the problem and that its the individual sin problem, but really it is our choice to become a part of the institution that starts the disease. When I was first in relationship with the Lord, I was so free, so loving, so “in-love”…….then all of that energy (not the right word) began to go into the organization that I thought went with the whole ‘christian” package. The life began to be sucked out of me little by little until I almost died trying to live (like that woman with the issue of blood). Maybe if I just gave a lttle more of my time, a little more of my money……maybe I would feel that all consuming grace-filled gift of love that I once had.

    And, it really isn’t the building or the place or the group…….it’s the religious mentality. The system of hierarchy that we buy into for the blood bought church is killing us. Jesus said that it shall not be so among us, yet we continue to accept the worldly system of lording over one another. What does it look like to be the greatest of all in God’s kingdom? Does any one of us really know? What does it mean to lay down our lives for one another?

    Mary

  10. Wayne November 19, 2006 at 7:40 pm

    Hi Mary,

    This is to Mary who was asking about the article at ptm.org. I really don’t have time to read and review all the articles people would like me to. And it is hard to comment on them without parsing out what I agreed or disagreed with in an article, and I just don’t have time to do t hat. My fellowship with people is never an endorsement of all they think or believe. I think we are all people in transition and if by loving people, we can help them see more clearly, then that is what I love doing…

    There is much division and angst in the body about how we view the Scriptures and without taking a significant amount of time to make my views clear, I wouldn’t want to try to respond.

    But I will perhaps be doing some things on The Scriptures in the months ahead…

  11. Mary November 19, 2006 at 9:12 pm

    We are so funny aren’t we?…….how we always are looking for a term for something like “unchurched”. For awhile, a group of us called ourselves “the outies”. Sometimes, I think it’s part of the healing process and other times I think its because we are looking for that formulae for perfect living.

    It is right that organizations aren’t the problem and that its the individual sin problem, but really it is our choice to become a part of the institution that starts the disease. When I was first in relationship with the Lord, I was so free, so loving, so “in-love”…….then all of that energy (not the right word) began to go into the organization that I thought went with the whole ‘christian” package. The life began to be sucked out of me little by little until I almost died trying to live (like that woman with the issue of blood). Maybe if I just gave a lttle more of my time, a little more of my money……maybe I would feel that all consuming grace-filled gift of love that I once had.

    And, it really isn’t the building or the place or the group…….it’s the religious mentality. The system of hierarchy that we buy into for the blood bought church is killing us. Jesus said that it shall not be so among us, yet we continue to accept the worldly system of lording over one another. What does it look like to be the greatest of all in God’s kingdom? Does any one of us really know? What does it mean to lay down our lives for one another?

    Mary

  12. Wayne November 19, 2006 at 10:40 pm

    Hi Mary,

    This is to Mary who was asking about the article at ptm.org. I really don’t have time to read and review all the articles people would like me to. And it is hard to comment on them without parsing out what I agreed or disagreed with in an article, and I just don’t have time to do t hat. My fellowship with people is never an endorsement of all they think or believe. I think we are all people in transition and if by loving people, we can help them see more clearly, then that is what I love doing…

    There is much division and angst in the body about how we view the Scriptures and without taking a significant amount of time to make my views clear, I wouldn’t want to try to respond.

    But I will perhaps be doing some things on The Scriptures in the months ahead…

  13. Pam November 21, 2006 at 6:15 am

    Probably the last time I’ll post. I need to stop involving myself in a conversation I do not understand. I came to this website because I went to a seminar this past summer at New Jerusalem Mission in which I had what Wayne calls an “a-ha” moment. As I looked through my journal I realised that Father had been preparing me for and understanding of the cross and His love I hadn’t yet experienced. Transformations began, and life is amazing.

    I came back to my fellowship of dear friends. People who’ve journeyed with me through some rough stuff and allowed me to be honest about my struggles. My husband is a leader there; I don’t see him as an “elder brother”. Your generalizations just really hurt guys. I feel like you’re saying I “should” leave because we meet in a building on Sunday mornings and that that necessarily makes us an institution. I’m just so tired of people telling me their style is the way to be with Jesus; I should just get hip and get there. I thought that was one of the reasons for leaving the institutions. I just don’t always see openess that God could be working in a multitude of ways. I am certainly not suggesting you need to go out and find I nice church. I’ve seen the way Wayne walks with the Lord and think it’s really cool, just not my path right now. If all I get out of this time is hurt and shame, I need to walk away. It’s like joke… “Hey doctor it hurts when I do this” “Then stop doing that!”

    I’d just like invite some of you to pray about this honest reaction. I don’t have any desire to dish out condemnations. See what Father has to say if anything. Maybe this is just a tender place.

  14. Pam November 21, 2006 at 9:15 am

    Probably the last time I’ll post. I need to stop involving myself in a conversation I do not understand. I came to this website because I went to a seminar this past summer at New Jerusalem Mission in which I had what Wayne calls an “a-ha” moment. As I looked through my journal I realised that Father had been preparing me for and understanding of the cross and His love I hadn’t yet experienced. Transformations began, and life is amazing.

    I came back to my fellowship of dear friends. People who’ve journeyed with me through some rough stuff and allowed me to be honest about my struggles. My husband is a leader there; I don’t see him as an “elder brother”. Your generalizations just really hurt guys. I feel like you’re saying I “should” leave because we meet in a building on Sunday mornings and that that necessarily makes us an institution. I’m just so tired of people telling me their style is the way to be with Jesus; I should just get hip and get there. I thought that was one of the reasons for leaving the institutions. I just don’t always see openess that God could be working in a multitude of ways. I am certainly not suggesting you need to go out and find I nice church. I’ve seen the way Wayne walks with the Lord and think it’s really cool, just not my path right now. If all I get out of this time is hurt and shame, I need to walk away. It’s like joke… “Hey doctor it hurts when I do this” “Then stop doing that!”

    I’d just like invite some of you to pray about this honest reaction. I don’t have any desire to dish out condemnations. See what Father has to say if anything. Maybe this is just a tender place.

  15. ArnieB November 22, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    Pam –

    I, for one, fully support your perspective. My family is also a part of an “institution” – not because we need it, but because we feel led to remain and share the Life and Reality of God there in any way we can (and there have been numerous opportunities). The point is to be truly free from the Institution. Free not to go, but also free to go. It no longer holds us prisioner, nor are we in a bondage that prohibits us from going and enjoying God there. Many who believe they have been “set free” and have been “deinstitutionalized” have actually just left one form of bondage for another. They are not “deinstitutionalized” as much as they are “anti-institutionalized”. Not being religious is there new religion.

    Anyways, it sounds to me like you are in a great place. Enjoy God!

    ArnieB

  16. ArnieB November 22, 2006 at 7:56 pm

    Pam –

    I, for one, fully support your perspective. My family is also a part of an “institution” – not because we need it, but because we feel led to remain and share the Life and Reality of God there in any way we can (and there have been numerous opportunities). The point is to be truly free from the Institution. Free not to go, but also free to go. It no longer holds us prisioner, nor are we in a bondage that prohibits us from going and enjoying God there. Many who believe they have been “set free” and have been “deinstitutionalized” have actually just left one form of bondage for another. They are not “deinstitutionalized” as much as they are “anti-institutionalized”. Not being religious is there new religion.

    Anyways, it sounds to me like you are in a great place. Enjoy God!

    ArnieB

  17. Wayne November 24, 2006 at 11:55 am

    Pam,

    I hope you don’t give up on the conversation. To help people see that the institutions can be abusive, and put its needs above those of the kingdom is not to say ALL do it. I know a number traditional congregations that offer a healthy place for people to grow—who keep the focus on themselves and do not resort to guilt and shame to manipulate people. If you are in such a place, praise God! I think that’s fabulous. No one is saying you have to get out of that to please Jesus.

    I try to be careful here about not painting with a broad brush. But primarily I want to help people who are being brutalized by institutions and leaders who do not reflect the character and life of Jesus. I want them to know that they do not have to just endure that kind of treatment, and that there are other ways to live this life out in him. I think that is far more the norm than what you have found. But other people wrestling with more-broken versions need not be a challenge to what you have found. I think we all need to follow what Jesus is speaking to us in finding healthy connections with his family. If you have found it in a more traditional congregation—good on you! If others haven’t and seek to live in more relational connections in the body—then good on them to.

    It’s important that we all follow him, not what others think we SHOULD be doing… And do it with peace and joy, not be threatened by the ways someone else may live it…

    Wayne

  18. Wayne November 24, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    Pam,

    I hope you don’t give up on the conversation. To help people see that the institutions can be abusive, and put its needs above those of the kingdom is not to say ALL do it. I know a number traditional congregations that offer a healthy place for people to grow—who keep the focus on themselves and do not resort to guilt and shame to manipulate people. If you are in such a place, praise God! I think that’s fabulous. No one is saying you have to get out of that to please Jesus.

    I try to be careful here about not painting with a broad brush. But primarily I want to help people who are being brutalized by institutions and leaders who do not reflect the character and life of Jesus. I want them to know that they do not have to just endure that kind of treatment, and that there are other ways to live this life out in him. I think that is far more the norm than what you have found. But other people wrestling with more-broken versions need not be a challenge to what you have found. I think we all need to follow what Jesus is speaking to us in finding healthy connections with his family. If you have found it in a more traditional congregation—good on you! If others haven’t and seek to live in more relational connections in the body—then good on them to.

    It’s important that we all follow him, not what others think we SHOULD be doing… And do it with peace and joy, not be threatened by the ways someone else may live it…

    Wayne

  19. Pam November 24, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    OK I lied. Yes, Arnie! That is what I am trying to say — deinstitutionalized not anti-institution. No group of people should ever become a source of Life for us. If the Holy Spirit shows us that is beginning to happen, believe me we’ll move on.

  20. Pam November 24, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    OK I lied. Yes, Arnie! That is what I am trying to say — deinstitutionalized not anti-institution. No group of people should ever become a source of Life for us. If the Holy Spirit shows us that is beginning to happen, believe me we’ll move on.

  21. ed gungor December 13, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    Hey Wayne…Ed Gungor here…I’d love to send you a copy of my book, Religiously Transmitted Diseases, for you to keep thumbing through…thanks for your blog comments.

    Send me a shipping address to: ed@edgungor.com

    grace..

    eg

  22. ed gungor December 13, 2006 at 10:59 pm

    Hey Wayne…Ed Gungor here…I’d love to send you a copy of my book, Religiously Transmitted Diseases, for you to keep thumbing through…thanks for your blog comments.

    Send me a shipping address to: ed@edgungor.com

    grace..

    eg

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