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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Moving on

Yes, it is more than two years since posting. For various reasons I'll cover in initial posts, I've decided to restart blogging with a tweaked theme and a bit of new theme at  Rather than recast future posts, it just seemed better to start again.

If anyone still follows this, feel free to join up over there.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Another brick in the wall (draft)

I'll get back to continuing the series, but today listening to Korn's cover of the classic Pink Floyd song Another Brick in the Wall, I thought how some may turn the words to apply to the institutional church. What do you think of this as a first draft -- (remember, to the music of Another Brick in the Wall):

 [Part 1]
Churches hidden by their boardrooms
Leaving just a memory
A snapshot in the family album
Churches, what else did ya leave for me?
Churches, whatcha leave behind for me?
All in all I was just a brick in the wall
All in all we were all just bricks in the wall

[Part 2]
We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No brainwashing in the Sunday Schools
Pastors, leave us all alone
Hey, Clergy, leave us all alone

All in all I was just another brick in the wall
All in all you're just another brick in the wall

We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No brainwashing in the Sunday Schools
Pastors, leave us all alone
Hey, Clergy, leave us all alone

All in all you're just another brick in the wall
All in all you're just another brick in the wall

[Part 3]
I don't need no covering over me
I don't need no hymns to calm me
I have seen the writing on the wall
Don't think I need anything from you
No, don't think I need anything at all
All in all we are all just bricks in the wall
All in all you were all just bricks in the wall

[Goodbye Cruel Church]
Goodbye, cruel church
I'm leaving you today
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye

Goodbye, all you people
There's nothing you can say
To make me change my mind

This is trying to catch the sentiment of many compatriots - not all is an accurate reflection of own feelings. I know a lot of folks this does reflect fairly accurately - not necessarily directly wounded, but repressed from expressing themselves fully as God's creatures by that which masquerades as God's creation.

Originally posted as

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The New Populism

Matt Bai notes (according to a Michael Medved opinion piece in USA Today on August 5th) that there is an underlying shift in American Populism. Traditionally, it's been about the struggling worker vs. his corporate master. But the threat today isn't the corporate master, but those creations used to "check" the corporate master. In the point of the piece, that was questioning government, as populism is shifting to "the individual vs the institution, not only in business but also government and large media and elite universities ...".

I think Bai missed one. The institutional forms of churches.

It is interesting to view what Barna has referred to as the "Revolution" in these terms. The new populism. I actually like that as a way of relating it to others. It is only when we think of it in that way will some get that in their efforts to "recreate" church to appeal, they're not getting to the roots of the issue. Some will not trust the church and its pastors/staff/leaders any more than they trust corporations, elite universities, or government leaders. Just as people in such new populism movements as the "Tea Party" don't trust the institutions to reform themselves, they won't trust the church.

There is only one these new populism disciples trust. Jesus.

It is time for the church as it is understood to get out of the way and let people connect to Christ. The failed human methodology of connecting people to a man made church as a means of connecting to God needs to go (you know it  -- invite people to church or church events and will take it from there mentality). It is time to get back to the biblical approach - connect people to Jesus Christ then let community form where Christ then goes. The church has never made disciples, only members. Disciples make disciples.

Viva the new populism.

Originally posted at
(a note - I've decided to create some posts that provide some more back drop on Part I of "out of the matrix" - at least two, and the part II promised. Call it Part Ia and Part Ib. Not sure what order they will come out - but the first one will be in the next couple of days).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Out of the Matrix, Part I

More than two years ago, I wrote this blog post called The Red Pill:

"The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you to the truth."

"what truth?"

"That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind."
So states Morpheus in a famous scene from The Matrix. After opening a small silver box and pulling two pills from it, Morpheus continues.

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no going back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."

and Neo takes the red pill.

But before the pills decision, Neo faced another choice. Kidnapped, Neo is offered the chance to leave, but Trinity asks him to trust. Neo asks why he should. Looking down a street being pounded by rain, Trinity says "Because you have been down there, Neo. You know that road. You know exactly where it ends. And I know that's not where you want to be".

slowly Neo gets back in the car.

Looking down the road of conventional church in America, you are looking down a soggy street. How compelling is it, really? More vision statements, shows called worship, building and capital fund raisers. Is this really what Jesus died for?

You read the New Testament, the account of Acts especially, and wonder why the conventional church pales so in comparison. You hear stories of the church in China, India, and underground in Muslim nations, and wonder at the power. Why not here, where you are?

to adapt what Morpheus says at one point in the movie "Let me tell you why you are here. You are here because you know something. What you know you can't explain. But you feel it. You've felt it your entire life. There is something wrong with the church. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind"

Lately, I’ve thought on how I can relate to those who accuse me of being “wounded” when I discuss with them the many ideas I’ve expressed in this blog. They are quick to dismiss those who take these stances. I thought the way to do it is to tell my story, to tell how the splinter rose in my mind, while at the same time, refuting this “wounded” talk.

In the beginning

Ok, a bit pretentious, but to start …

My family was the “Sunday” only church types only. Typically went, but only for “service” on Sunday AM. My dad had been raised among the Southern Baptists, my mom with “church of Christ”. Around 1977, shortly after moving to a small town in Florida, that switched. We were befriended by a church of Christ minister, who doubled as a Red Cross water instructor, as well as volunteering as a Boy Scout Scoutmaster. In short order, we were the “every time the doors were open” types.

For those not familiar with coC, it is one of the most heavily “bible study” bible only types of churches you will find. I remember in college at Florida State going to a leadership luncheon for denominational college outreach ministries, and our table of coCers had all but one raise their hand when asked “who’s read the entire Bible?”. The only other hands up in the place belonged to the “professionals” and one other. And the bible may be a two edged sword, but in the hands of the coC, it can be a club as well. And I wielded that club myself at times.

The coC would pound you with biblical reasons for everything it does. But thanks to a coC preacher who was a bit more open minded taught me to challenge the “party line” to verify it. The more I read (I’ve read the bible cover to cover probably more than 25 times in a dozen translations, and the NT more than 40 times), the “splinters” arose. This is the roots of much of my challenging you’ve read in this blog. I am in part a creation of the form of corporate church referred to as the “church of Christ”. At first this lead to a more ecumenical approach to spiritual life. Other than some questions about the whole “Sunday service” thing, it was all challenging of the coC. But I did stay with the CoC, just less judgmental and with more grace.

“Model” citizen of the corporate church

In a lot of ways, I was the model corporate disciple. Once a settled married man with a permanent job, I threw myself in being a good “Christian”, in that corporate sense. Substitute Sunday school teach for adults (did it for high schoolers for the summer while in college), benevolence committee, small group leader, on my way to being a deacon. That church suffered one of those “grow our church” v. “grow the kingdom” “splits”, and we left to be a part of a church start. I was soon on the leadership board of that church (this time a non-affiliated church).

Northeast was a great church (may still be, but since I can't testify first hand of the current state …). The attitude was in growing disciples, including freeing them to serve as God made them. My role there was very much as a coach. I had oversight in benevolence, and if someone wanted to do something in those areas, I had the role of equipping and encouraging. We saw tremendous growth in disciples by freeing them to be who God called them to be, rather than being cogs in the machinery of another’s vision.

North Carolina

A job change led to a move, and in North Carolina, ended up with a non-denom church type of place, about a year and half old place meeting in a movie theatre. Attitude on serving was everyone was to serve in the way God gave them vision for first, but also in a way that helped corporately (no one is envisioned with the mission of “sweeping” – but it has got to be done). I was given the room to gather some men and cast a vision for men’s ministry. Great attitude by the pastors in the whole thing. It was really the first sort of large ministry not started by the pastors, so it was a learning curve for the church as we lived out the value of letting people serve as God led, not as pastors envision.


Little did I know that this was a pair of rare experiences. Unemployment led to a move to where jobs were (Maryland). Tried a large non-denom with three services first. Seemed promising, but there were a lot of growing pains being experienced by that church, and other issues, so after six months we tried again elsewhere. Stayed at the second church for three years. It seemed open at first to those with their own visions, but that turned out to be in words. We saw that church grow more and more bureaucratic, more and more ministry controlled by the staff instead of freeing the people to live out how God plants vision in the lives of his people.

For reasons other than churches, we decided not to stay in MD long term. Just wasn’t “us” to be there. But while we left for Colorado, we would have left that church anyway. Partly I had bucked hard against the shackles for long enough, partly all our closest friends there were “deserting ship” as a new pastor came in and cast a new “vision” for the church. Kind of sad, as the church had an incredible mix of slightly conservative (politically and in “faith” values/beliefs) to quite liberal; this allowed for quite invigorating discussions in a “safe” manner. But in the “new vision” process, there was quite the shift toward liberal, and the openness kind of died. It became more of a toe the line sort of place. Despite the lack of freedom to serve, it was a time of growth.

The start in Colorado

So we ended up in Colorado. And we were checking out churches again. Must have visited a dozen or more. Talked to others about theirs. It seemed each one I visited the entire conversation with anyone was about a marketing survey. You know, ‘is this your first time?’ and then when you answered yes, it was ‘how did you hear about us?’ (that is, what of our advertising/marketing worked). That’s if anyone talked to you.

Then there was the church that had you doing the typical staring at the back of heads, with the irony of the sermon being on how we are a family. Understand, this was a church of about 25 people, in a room with folding chairs. We could have turned this into a circle easily, but got to have those rows of chairs. Finally gave up looking at corporate churches, aka institutional churches.

Part of the reason for giving up was a growing of one of those initial splinters of the mind. I alluded to before in mentioning the whole "Sunday service" thing. In "verifying" what the coC was trying to teach, I looked hard at what New Testament church worship services looked like. And couldn't validate it from scripture. You have to look Old Testament to find anything resembling it. The first century seemed to gather to "encourage and spur one another to love and good deeds". The gatherings, other than when a (visiting) apostle was in town, seemed more like a family gathering. Yet modern churches center around a scripted praise service. As Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost observed, it seems centered around making Jesus admirers, not Jesus followers. And another aspect is this feeding of a corporate (aka pastor) vision rather than the equipping of the saints for the work they find.

In part two (assuming only two parts), I’ll talk of the “detox” from the church culture, the false alternative of many “organic” churches (not all – there is much good there), discussions with those of like mind and experiences, detail some of the most disturbing "splinters", etc.

Originally posted at

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sowing seed and church emergence

Was Paul a church planter?

I don't think so.

Heresy? No. If we look at the pattern in scripture, Paul preached Christ. He went to a new city, and he and any partner taught and discussed Jesus. There is no scriptural proof to any claim that he started churches. He taught about Jesus, then left town after leaving that foundation. ONLY on return trips did he do anything with structure - and an open honest reading of the scripture would seem to say he recognized the structure that emerged, not set it up.

So he taught Jesus, left the disciples to their own, then returned to see how they were doing and recognize the structure that grow up.

And speaking of that ...

The Structure

What was the structure of the early church?

Does it matter?

If Jesus builds his church, is it our concern? If the early pattern was to simply be disciples in community, what emerges would be what He wants, wouldn't it?

This thought, and the growing ramifications of it, have been on my mind more and more. The conflict with it was all the thoughts of what we see in Paul's letters of structure, and a background in the descendants of the Restoration Movement (a frontier faith movement from the time when the frontier of the U.S. was Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, etc.)

But reading yet another church's website on trying to be "culturally relevant" made me pause: what if what Paul (and to some extent, Peter) was what would be expected of the church where and when they saw the seed of Jesus was planted. Some quick research and recollection of studies of the synagogues of Jesus time confirmed my suspicions.

The synagogues were overseen by councils of elders, much like the elders oversaw the communities Paul and Peter ministered to. Since the early churches emerged initially alongside Jewish synagogues, it would make sense that the church reflected (in a neutral way) the culture the seed of Jesus was planted in.

Where the church has in the past broken free from the restrictions of "doing it like them over there" or "them back then", we see similar patterns emerge. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, resembles the Roman Empire a lot, right or wrong (the way it sets up a hierarchy between Jesus and "the royal priesthood of believers" is an issue, for example). Instead of an emperor, one has a pope; instead of regional governors, cardinals; instead of local heads, bishops; etc. This pattern of reflecting predominant cultural elements continues to the modern day "non-denominational" churches reflecting modern business - the CEO is the senior pastor, any associate pastors are the vice presidents, there is a board of directors (sometimes called the board of elders for churches), etc.

So this concept is not new to even institutional churches, though I would argue (and have) that their implementation has strayed from some fundamental principles of following Christ with the dichotomy of "professional class" Christians and the laity.

So if we were to accept that what we see in the epistles is a reflection of what the church emerges as from the seed of Jesus in the first century, what does it look like today?

I think there are literally hundreds if not thousands of answers to that, one for each culture in the world. The key is freeing ourselves of being like what we've seen in the past in order to be free for what Jesus wants to build among our community.

I think it begins by not "rushing" to form "something" because we feel "disobedient" for not having "church". Church, in the truest sense, is community. It is community that encourages and equips one another. We all have contributions to that. It doesn't have to be formal gatherings, though it may include that. It doesn't need to rush to find leaders (as Jesus is the head anyway). Just as Paul didn't anoint leaders on his first trip anywhere he went. It doesn't require a formal staff, a building or the trappings that require balancing budgets or capital campaigns.

We've lost something in our rush to "plant" churches. We've discovered churchianity when we rush to form a church, rather than finding Jesus Christ.


Think free of church as you've known it. What has your circle of friends, your communities, looked like? Maybe that's what the seed of Jesus planted in your arena looks like as church.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mere Churchianity

What would it be like if Christianity were about Christ?

Nice question by the late Michael Spencer.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

washing the inside of the cup

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

What was Jesus speaking of in terms of washing the inside and the outside of the cup? The Pharisees had put an emphasis on outside appearances, on moral behavior and looking right. They had rules and regulations on top of rules and regulations all in order to appear "godly".

It was all with a big emphasis to look moral and upright.

Sound familiar?

Dallas Willard refers to the modern day versions as a "gospel of sin management". It is all about controlling behavior through outside forces. Accountability, attendance, all the going through the motions of systems.

A few moments before the cup analogy, Jesus noted that everything the Pharisees did was "done for men to see". This gives us a great insight to what Jesus meant by washing the outside. Accountability relies on holding someone to a standard by observing what we can see in them. How does that not encourage doing for others to see?

It's amazing how so many have been duped by outside the cup washing. One young man in a facebook discussion told me how he needed "accountability" in order to keep to worshiping God. He needed the outside pressure to make sure he attended church. huh? In the same conversation, a pastor said he needed his congregation to keep him accountable. How, will someone explain to me, is this not washing the outside of the cup?

Jesus is recorded in Luke 4 as saying he came to give freedom, to free us from oppression. A system that enforces "morality" and "behavior" by a system is counter to what he was speaking of. Accountability and other systems are ultimately oppression, a removal of freedom. Transformation must come from the inside. From relationship with God. From walking with the most holy. From healing, not behavior modification and discipline programs.