What If My Pastor Doesn’t See It That Way?

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!

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24 Comments
  1. Mike Childress August 20, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    As a pastor, I so agree with what you are saying. I deal with the problems of feeling discouraged when people are not coming on a regular basis. But, I do everything I can not to require committment to our fellow ship and encourage committment Jesus hoping that they will desire fellowship. The great thing is that there is no pressure on me to perform a certain way. I do not have to be a “man-pleaser.” I just have to try to follow Jesus. I want our fellowship to understand that God is not looking for people committed to a church but, church is people that are commited to Jesus.

  2. Mike Childress August 21, 2009 at 12:48 am

    As a pastor, I so agree with what you are saying. I deal with the problems of feeling discouraged when people are not coming on a regular basis. But, I do everything I can not to require committment to our fellow ship and encourage committment Jesus hoping that they will desire fellowship. The great thing is that there is no pressure on me to perform a certain way. I do not have to be a “man-pleaser.” I just have to try to follow Jesus. I want our fellowship to understand that God is not looking for people committed to a church but, church is people that are commited to Jesus.

  3. David Grant August 22, 2009 at 4:28 am

    I like your point about the money. There are many factors as to why the system exists the way it does and a key one is the money. I started out as a factory worker wondering if I trusted God or my paycheque. I wanted to live by faith. I didn’t know that Paul said this about living by faith, 11Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12 I had heard of so many preachers quitting their jobs and who were now living by faith, that I ended up doing the same thing and went into the ministry. I never knew why I was so uncomfortable with taking up an offering but it was a running joke in the churches I pastored of how forgetful I was about the offering. I now realize that becoming a beggar was not a reproducible model that I wanted to model. I had become dependent on others.

    I now have some very uncomfortable conversations with pastor friends. I understand their predicament, for I remember the veil that was over my eyes when it came to the money stuff.
    One of them said I shouldn’t use obscure passages of scripture to make my point, everyone knows that double honor means a paycheque. Here’s the obscure passage we were discussing. 32″Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:32-35

    This isn’t obscure, it just doesn’t fit present day models of organized church.

  4. Mike Childress August 22, 2009 at 6:16 am

    David:
    Isn’t it amazing the criticism you can get when you listen to Jesus rather than going with the flow. It is because it makes other try to justify their actions.

  5. David Grant August 22, 2009 at 7:28 am

    I like your point about the money. There are many factors as to why the system exists the way it does and a key one is the money. I started out as a factory worker wondering if I trusted God or my paycheque. I wanted to live by faith. I didn’t know that Paul said this about living by faith, 11Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12 I had heard of so many preachers quitting their jobs and who were now living by faith, that I ended up doing the same thing and went into the ministry. I never knew why I was so uncomfortable with taking up an offering but it was a running joke in the churches I pastored of how forgetful I was about the offering. I now realize that becoming a beggar was not a reproducible model that I wanted to model. I had become dependent on others.

    I now have some very uncomfortable conversations with pastor friends. I understand their predicament, for I remember the veil that was over my eyes when it came to the money stuff.
    One of them said I shouldn’t use obscure passages of scripture to make my point, everyone knows that double honor means a paycheque. Here’s the obscure passage we were discussing. 32″Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:32-35

    This isn’t obscure, it just doesn’t fit present day models of organized church.

  6. David Grant August 22, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Mike,
    So true.

    I think that’s what I have learned so much through Wayne and then re-reading the scriptures from a different perspective. Large systems don’t allow for the differences. There is always a defensive protecting of the group. I have a few very good friends that allow each other to differ greatly but I also know that this is actually a rare thing. Groups tend to be more protective and in subtle and not so subtle ways, demand conformity.
    After Jesus fed the 4,000 most of his disciples left him because he called them to himself and not the miracle of the food. Blessed are those who are not offended by Jesus.

  7. Mike Childress August 22, 2009 at 9:16 am

    David:
    Isn’t it amazing the criticism you can get when you listen to Jesus rather than going with the flow. It is because it makes other try to justify their actions.

  8. David Grant August 22, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Mike,
    So true.

    I think that’s what I have learned so much through Wayne and then re-reading the scriptures from a different perspective. Large systems don’t allow for the differences. There is always a defensive protecting of the group. I have a few very good friends that allow each other to differ greatly but I also know that this is actually a rare thing. Groups tend to be more protective and in subtle and not so subtle ways, demand conformity.
    After Jesus fed the 4,000 most of his disciples left him because he called them to himself and not the miracle of the food. Blessed are those who are not offended by Jesus.

  9. Vic Andres August 22, 2009 at 10:53 am

    I like the previous comment. The other day I was allowing myself the same questions, “what if my perceptions of who Jesus really is might be distorted by what I want him to be like. Does He really love me in that personal way? So I backtracked to the scripture reference where Jesus was asked to rank the greatest commandment. His response always left me feeling inadequate. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind. I knew I didn’t and if that was a commandment, I was falling way short. Then I realized that wasn’t in fact a commandment, it was an invitation. The same spurious answer Jesus gave the rich young ruler. Stop looking for rules and commandments and enter into a real love relationship. Since God left us with the choice to respond in love, He doesn’t command it or it wouldn’t be genuine.

  10. Vic Andres August 22, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    I like the previous comment. The other day I was allowing myself the same questions, “what if my perceptions of who Jesus really is might be distorted by what I want him to be like. Does He really love me in that personal way? So I backtracked to the scripture reference where Jesus was asked to rank the greatest commandment. His response always left me feeling inadequate. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind. I knew I didn’t and if that was a commandment, I was falling way short. Then I realized that wasn’t in fact a commandment, it was an invitation. The same spurious answer Jesus gave the rich young ruler. Stop looking for rules and commandments and enter into a real love relationship. Since God left us with the choice to respond in love, He doesn’t command it or it wouldn’t be genuine.

  11. Mike Childress August 22, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    David:

    Psalm 119:165 “Those that love Your Word have great peace and nothing causes them to be offended.” I used to spend a great deal of time upset because people just could not see how right I was. Thanks to some “grace”ful lessons from Father I am more comfortable with what He gives me than what I have to offer.

    Vic:

    If we are not careful God will allow us to think what we want to. Psalm 50:21a “These things you have done, and I kept silence; you thought I was just like you.”

  12. Mike Childress August 22, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    David:

    Psalm 119:165 “Those that love Your Word have great peace and nothing causes them to be offended.” I used to spend a great deal of time upset because people just could not see how right I was. Thanks to some “grace”ful lessons from Father I am more comfortable with what He gives me than what I have to offer.

    Vic:

    If we are not careful God will allow us to think what we want to. Psalm 50:21a “These things you have done, and I kept silence; you thought I was just like you.”

  13. Vic Andres August 23, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Mike;
    You forgot the next line in the verse; “But I will rebuke you”. If this and the previous quotation were intended as a rebuke, I don’t get it. My comments were not even close to the context of Psm 50, or is this simply an example of God not able to reveal truth to a non pastor. I know the psalm well myself and have quoted it. I also know that it is addressed to the “wicked” v. 16….”what right do you have to declare my statutes”. What gives?

  14. Vic Andres August 23, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Mike;
    You forgot the next line in the verse; “But I will rebuke you”. If this and the previous quotation were intended as a rebuke, I don’t get it. My comments were not even close to the context of Psm 50, or is this simply an example of God not able to reveal truth to a non pastor. I know the psalm well myself and have quoted it. I also know that it is addressed to the “wicked” v. 16….”what right do you have to declare my statutes”. What gives?

  15. Mike Childress August 23, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Vic:

    I am sorry. I meant no offense. I see this passage as addressed to the wicked involved in religiosity (i.e. those that declare his statutes). The Baptists make a Baptist Jesus and disallow anything that does not fit in the pattern they have described. The Charismatic Jesus surely speaks in tongues and wears his hair just so. I was commenting on the statement you made, “what if my perceptions of who Jesus really is might be distorted by what I want him to be like.” I merely wanted to agree that if we are not careful we can create what Paul termed “a different Jesus.” I know because I have been there, done that. David Foster, in his book “A Renegade’s Guide to God” quotes Anne Lamott:

    “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do”

    I would rather not be hateful anymore. I am sorry if I was unclear and made it look like I was criticizing you.

    In Christ,

    Mike

  16. Mike Childress August 23, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Vic:

    I am sorry. I meant no offense. I see this passage as addressed to the wicked involved in religiosity (i.e. those that declare his statutes). The Baptists make a Baptist Jesus and disallow anything that does not fit in the pattern they have described. The Charismatic Jesus surely speaks in tongues and wears his hair just so. I was commenting on the statement you made, “what if my perceptions of who Jesus really is might be distorted by what I want him to be like.” I merely wanted to agree that if we are not careful we can create what Paul termed “a different Jesus.” I know because I have been there, done that. David Foster, in his book “A Renegade’s Guide to God” quotes Anne Lamott:

    “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do”

    I would rather not be hateful anymore. I am sorry if I was unclear and made it look like I was criticizing you.

    In Christ,

    Mike

  17. David Cox August 25, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    I am so fortunate to lead a gathering where I get paid and we focus on Relationship not religous practice. I was in the instution for 13 years and Father had to drag me out kicking and screaming. I do work a job and “lead” the gathering. We have no membership, hardly any activities planned out, we do not take up an offering, we have a giving box, we have an open style gathering where people are free to ask questions, offer comments, and much more. It can work and does, I don’t run to the hospital unless it is absolutly needed, there are no “ministries” organized that is, attenders seem to live out there relationship when they realize they have freedom in Christ, sure I am there for sharing getting through the hard times, funerals etc. and I even get to do a wedding sometimes. I encourage you even if you start from scratch or Father wants you to stay it can and will happen. Wayne even came and hung out with us one sunday, he was asked alot of questions and spent some time hanging out with brothers & sisters after the gathering. Thanks for listening and I hope you are encouraged… Because He Lives

  18. Mike Childress August 25, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Very cool David. It sounds a lot like what we are doing.

  19. David Cox August 25, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I am so fortunate to lead a gathering where I get paid and we focus on Relationship not religous practice. I was in the instution for 13 years and Father had to drag me out kicking and screaming. I do work a job and “lead” the gathering. We have no membership, hardly any activities planned out, we do not take up an offering, we have a giving box, we have an open style gathering where people are free to ask questions, offer comments, and much more. It can work and does, I don’t run to the hospital unless it is absolutly needed, there are no “ministries” organized that is, attenders seem to live out there relationship when they realize they have freedom in Christ, sure I am there for sharing getting through the hard times, funerals etc. and I even get to do a wedding sometimes. I encourage you even if you start from scratch or Father wants you to stay it can and will happen. Wayne even came and hung out with us one sunday, he was asked alot of questions and spent some time hanging out with brothers & sisters after the gathering. Thanks for listening and I hope you are encouraged… Because He Lives

  20. Mike Childress August 25, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Very cool David. It sounds a lot like what we are doing.

  21. Sue August 29, 2009 at 1:37 am

    About 3 years ago, I started feeling what I thought was burn out with all the activities I was doing in the ”church”. Looking back now, I feel Father put a prayer on my heart back then, because I started praying that He would teach me what He wanted me to know, not what someone else wanted me to know. I had no idea where that prayer would take me….outside the walls of IC and I am so happy to be free. Wayne I love what you said: ”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 have always been a man pleaser, so it’s hard for me to speak up about things for fear of being rejected, but Father is changing me and setting me free from that…it’s taking some time, but I am so blessed that He doesn’t give up on me. I love it when I question something I’m feeling or going through Father sends someone to confirm what He is doing in my life, and Wayne he uses you a lot.

  22. Sue August 29, 2009 at 4:37 am

    About 3 years ago, I started feeling what I thought was burn out with all the activities I was doing in the ”church”. Looking back now, I feel Father put a prayer on my heart back then, because I started praying that He would teach me what He wanted me to know, not what someone else wanted me to know. I had no idea where that prayer would take me….outside the walls of IC and I am so happy to be free. Wayne I love what you said: ”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 have always been a man pleaser, so it’s hard for me to speak up about things for fear of being rejected, but Father is changing me and setting me free from that…it’s taking some time, but I am so blessed that He doesn’t give up on me. I love it when I question something I’m feeling or going through Father sends someone to confirm what He is doing in my life, and Wayne he uses you a lot.

  23. Don Zimmermann September 25, 2009 at 10:38 am

    I am a pastor of the same church for the past 33 years. We are in the transition process of going from a full IC to a fellowship of beleivers. I was on my way there long before I read So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I have no clue how this all turns out but I cannot go back now, my conscinece / spirit would never let me. In my commitment to making disciples I ask myself “how does this teach them to lean on Jesus, and not me or the church program”. IF it doesn’t make a disciple I don’t do it. Reading The Two Covenants by Andrew Murray is helping me stay focused on the promise that God Himslef will write His laws on the beleivers heart and bring them to obedience. It is not my job, I just point the way.

  24. Don Zimmermann September 25, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    I am a pastor of the same church for the past 33 years. We are in the transition process of going from a full IC to a fellowship of beleivers. I was on my way there long before I read So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I have no clue how this all turns out but I cannot go back now, my conscinece / spirit would never let me. In my commitment to making disciples I ask myself “how does this teach them to lean on Jesus, and not me or the church program”. IF it doesn’t make a disciple I don’t do it. Reading The Two Covenants by Andrew Murray is helping me stay focused on the promise that God Himslef will write His laws on the beleivers heart and bring them to obedience. It is not my job, I just point the way.

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