Look what question appeared in my inbox today:
Wayne I have read your book So You Don’t Want to Go To Church Anymore, and I thought it was something I had written in my sleep. I feel like God has shown me the exact things John was teaching Jake and the others. In my case I had doubts that I was out in left field on this and uncertain I really understood what God had taught me. Your book has more than anything confirmed that I understood it correctly and I am not out of touch on living the life of Jesus. But my question is this – How can we be so certain that we understand it correctly if so many professional pastors and church leaders don’t get it, when they too are convinced God is leading them to do what they do?
I get that question a lot. I’ve had dozens of people tell me that when they went to share with their pastors what they were learning about Jesus, grace, or alternative views of church life were discouraged from believing it. Many were challenged with something like this: “Who do you think you are? If God were really speaking that today, you’d think he’d be showing it to pastors like me, not laymen (or women) like you?”
Wow! Someone doesn’t get it! Even Jesus said, “Don’t bicker among yourselves over me. You’re not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me—that’s the only way you’ll ever come. Only then do I do my work, puttin gpeople together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End. This is what the prophets meant when they wrote, ‘And then they will all be personally taught by God.’ Anyone who has spent any time at all listening to the Father, really listening and therefore learning, comes to me to be taught personally—to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, from me, sinc eI have it firsthand from the Father. No one has seen the Father except the One who has his being alongside the Father—and you can see me!”
I love that. Anyone who seeks to crawl between you and your freedom to follow Jesus, doesn’t have a clue who Jesus is. So this is how I answered the man who wrote me this morning:
I don’t know that we’re ever certain. Paul said it was like looking through a darkened mirror. God has not asked us to walk in certainty, but to walk in the integrity of our conscience. I’m convinced these things are true. I’m always open to Jesus bringing in further truth, but I’m comfortable living here because this is consistent with his nature as I understand it, it is consistent with Scripture as best I understand it, and it is in synch with other brothers and sisters I know who really live in a vibrant life with Jesus.
That certain professional pastors and church leaders don’t get it, is not convincing enough evidence in the face of the other three. Plus many of them have a vested interest in not seeing the truth of how religion warps people because they are leading organizations in which people need to conform for them to be successful. It is difficult for people to choose against their own self interest.
Upton Sinclair wrote: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.” You don’t know how many pastors have said to me, “Wayne I love the things that you’re doing and saying, but I don’t know how to live that way and still get paid.” I understand that. I remember similar thoughts years ago, but what that shows is that they really don’t know how to trust God as provider, so their sense of truth is shaped by their personal expedience. That’s a dangerous place to live and won’t lead us ultimately to truth. You’ll notice in Jesus’ day it was the professionals, Pharisees, scribes and priests who didn’t understand him either and most opposed Jesus life and message.
That said, however, I want you to know that I also know quite a few pastors who are seeking to be a positive influence in a more congregational setting. They do see through the rigors and bondage of religion and genuinely want to help others know the Living God and walk in his life. They would resonate with a gospel of grace, the necessity of freedom and authenticity and disdain religious obligation as a cheap substitute for true transformation. But it is difficult to walk there. It’s hard to get al the work done around the place if you free people not to, and it is difficult to get people to embrace their own spiritual journey when they feel like they are paying someone else to lead them to it. Many of them get fired in time, some walk away. Some find a way to live that out authentically with a group of people who embrace it wholeheartedly…
But we’re called to follow truth not expedience, to let the Counselor guide us into his truth and for us to follow, even when it is not in our temporal self-interest to do so. And always keep an open heart. I’m constantly praying, “Father, if I’m not seeing this the way you do, please change me.” And he does, and still is. We are all brothers and sisters on a journey. No one has the corner on all God’s truth, except the Son himself!