Monday, March 29, 2010

So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore... an unexpected journey

If you read my previous blog, the fact that I'm reading this book should come as no surprise.

I'm in the middle of reading Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman's controversial yet refreshing work. It is the story of Jake Colsen, an Associate Pastor who meets a man named "John", and his encounters literally turn his religious world upside down! The story is one I can relate to. The excerpt I've chosen is from an early encounter where Jake tells John about the time when "the love of Jesus first captured his heart.". Jake describes the vibrant Kingdom life he and his parents experienced... in contrast to the dreary religious ritual his parents were once steeped in. The earlier experience was so lifeless, Jake and his siblings could easily talk them out of "going to church.".

"But this was different. We couldn't drag them away with a tow truck. They had moved from being mere church attendees, to people passionate about their walk with God. In the process, God was changing their lives. Old habits fell away. God's presence was stronger than their needs, and they were reading the Bible at every opportunity. I remember them praying about everything. They were joyful, free, and alive in their faith for the first time. It made us kids hungry for it as well. They prayed for us and that's the first time I remember knowing the life of God. I even remember hearing God's voice for the first time."

"What happened to that?"

"For a few years it grew, and they wanted their church to embrace it as well. But suspicions abounded and accusations flew. When the dust settled some months later it was clear that they were no longer welcome at the church. Many of them resigned their membership, but it didn't dampen their zeal. They just saw it as persecution.

"Since they were no longer welcome at their church, they decided to start a new one together. The first gathering brought more than eighty people, crammed into a small house. They atmosphere was electric. They decided to get organized, rent a building and hire a pastor."

Then for the first time I saw it so clearly. "And it slowly died," I muttered, astonished at the realization. "They were so distracted by all the work that they soon lost that joy of simply loving Jesus."

"Strange isn't it, that forming something into what they thought was a church could do what persecution couldn't? There is nothing the Father desires for you more than you fall squarely in the lap of his love and never move from that place for the rest of your life. God's plan from the days of creation to the day of the Second Coming was designed to bring people into the relationship of love tha the Father, Son and Spirit have shared for eternity. He wants nothing less - and nothing else!

"This is no distant God who sent his Son with a list of rules to follow or rituals to practice. His mission was to invite us into his love - into a relationship with His Father that he described as friendship. But what do we do? We are so quickly captured by a work-driven religious culture that thrives on guilt, conformity, and manipulation that it devours the very love it seeks to sustain.

"In Ephesus it was ferreting out false teachers. In Galatia it was getting everyone to observe the Old Testament rituals. Today it's convincing people to cooperate with the church program. It doesn't matter what leads people away from God's life. Anything will do, as long as it preoccupies them enough to serve as an adequate substitute for the real thing. It's easier to see the problem when the standard is circumcision in Ephesus than when it is Sunday morning attendance in Kingston. But both can lead to the same place - bored and disillusioned believers, no longer embracing Father's life."

Hopefully this whets your appetite to read more. You can find free downloads of "So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore" at the links below. As usual, I also welcome your comments... on this excerpt, and on the book when you read it.

You can download an 8 1/2 by 11 version to read offline:

...or you can download the final printed page spreads of the book here:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Recapturing Kingdom Language

Nehemiah 13: 23 In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. 25 And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. 27 Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?”


As we vacation in a British territory, we see a couple of identities. There is that identity that is native to the people on the island. And then there are cultural elements that are clearly foreign. They emanate from the “motherland”. Since there’s a harmonious relationship here there is no issue or conflict. There’s a healthy blending of cultures that complements both people groups and makes this a popular tourist attraction. But as we think in spiritual terms, some differences are simply non-negotiable.

Israel was a theocracy. And as such, there was a necessary separation required to preserve their spiritual identity. Otherwise, all that the Lord called them out to be would be lost as His chosen people faded into the cultures of the people who surrounded them. At the place of restoration referenced in the scripture above, Nehemiah recognized the corruption that took place when people ignored God’s word and made covenant relationships with people outside the Jewish “kingdom”. One of the casualties was language: By intermarriage, the exiles reproduced and raised children who had no idea who they were. They spoke the language of the cultures married into. I would suggest God’s people have done the same. It is the product of “Roman” captivity of the Church. (For those of you who don’t know what this means, I would suggest reading “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola, or “Houses that Change the World” by Wolfgang Simson) I also believe it’s time to zealously call for restoration in this area. I don’t advocate cursing, beating, and pulling out the hair of people who misspeak in this way and forcing them to take oaths to change their ways. I do believe it’s time for those of us who are serious about Kingdom living to “take captive” our own thoughts and words so they may properly reflect who we are.

Since our “paradigm shift” last summer, I’ve increasingly become sensitive to the use of language in Christian circles. Probably topping the list of words in question is “Church”. Sometimes people use it to refer to a building, other times to a meeting. Some examples:
Going to church
Having church
Either use is not biblically correct. This is not some petty nitpicking over some insignificant matter. It is really fundamental to our understanding of who we are as a people. First we have to reject the way “church” is wrongly used. Then, as we embrace what the word really means, I’m betting the Father will begin illuminating us, revealing the key issue: who we are to be!

After Peter’s bold proclamation of understanding as to who Jesus is, the Savior promises that “upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”. We must ask, did He come through a virgin, live a perfect life, die on a cross, and rise from the grave on the 3rd day so we could go to a building or a meeting?

It is clear that He called us out to experience something much more extraordinary than the standard religious fare available in most “church” circles in our communities. I would suggest that based on His 2 Great Commandments, He purposed two things relating to the Church: dynamic fellowship with the Father, and a supernatural walk with a spiritual family… in this life.

John 17:3 says this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. . The very essence of life is: knowing God, not simply knowing about Him. I’m reminded of the wonderful Hymn “He Lives”. Remember the words of the chorus, “He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way”. Is this a reality in your life? If not, it can be. Maybe you’ve known this walk and you’ve simply settled into a life of religious routine. You can repent and experience restoration of this intimate daily walk with the Father.

But there’s more. God did not simply call individuals to this life. He called “a people”. The challenge now is to “be” a people. I find it amazing that at the beginning of the church in Acts 2, we see that they “devoted themselves” to: the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. We learn that “all who believed were together and had all things in common”. They sold possessions and belongings and distributed proceeds to those in need. Day by day they met in the temple and broke bread in their homes. Think of this folks. This is before years and years of “expository preaching”. They heard Peter’s sermon at Pentecost where he exhorted them to “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who gladly received his word were baptized and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”(Acts 2:40-41) People, this isn’t rocket science. And the more years that pass the more I realize many of us are simply walking a walk that is foreign to this and yet professing to be believers. In other words, we’ve invented ways to profess that we “believe”, without really believing.
In I Peter we’re referred to as a “living stone”. But notice the next verse, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”. I find it interesting that He starts by referring to us individually, but goes on to speak of “stones”… plural! We cannot be who God calls us to be, alone! Western rugged individualism has no place in the Kingdom of God.

Peter continues down in verses 9-10: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people’; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” This is what the world needs to see, that “city on a hill” that cannot be hidden! But they will not see that city as long as we practice “lone ranger religion” and attempt to pass it off as Christian.

I believe the enemy loves our talk about going to church and having church because it obscures the glorious truth that we ARE the church. And the longer we fail to embrace and walk in that identity, the longer we perpetuate backsliding and lukewarm religion. I believe it’s the single reason so many professing Christians feel so “lost”, miserable, and bored! How many of us have “gone to all the required “church” services and events, only to find emptiness and powerlessness? We were made to know Him and walk with Him. We were made to love and walk with each other. Anything less is not Christianity. It’s merely empty religious expression.
If we wrongly define “church”, we make it all too easy to settle for something much less than our Father intended. I appeal to you to seize the true meaning of this word in your life, and cry out to Him with others that we may be the church that will give Him honor, glory, and praise… not simply in a meeting, but that our very lives would be the message… that Jesus Christ is alive and that He rules and reigns today. Otherwise all the world around us will experience are empty religious words they can, and frankly should, ignore.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

SYSTEM FAILURE Did You Get The Church Recall Notice????

I'm honored to share again another contribution from Jose Bosque.

Its clever and timely, but more importantly, prophetic. I love how Jose points out: "The Church is in need of Prophets who will proclaim the Recall and Apostles who will know how to replace the faulty with the original parts." What do you think?


With this in mind the Lord showed me in a dream last night where I was preaching about System Failure in the Church. In the dream the Lord had given a Recall Notice to the Church like Toyota just did. The Lord said the problem is never the Design as the Designer is Divine and makes no mistakes. The problem is in the materials used and/or worker error.
The recall requires a "tear down" before a "replacement" part can be installed. I know I am preaching to the Choir but in reference to the church but here are a few parts that must be removed and replaced. 12 is a nice governmental number so I will limit myself to that for this short article. I will not provide explanations since most of you know where I am going.

1. I believe we must start with a revamp of our definitions and a return to the biblical vocabulary.

2. The problem begins at the top so we will start there. Pastor must be replaced by 5 fold Elders (plural).

3. The demonic clergy-laity distinction must be dealt with next. Every Christian is a Minister/Priest versus the word "Member"

4. That will release the full Body of Christ to see themselves as participants instead of spectators. Since there are no laity we don't have to concern ourselves with cute stories to amuse the crowds and can return to Bible exposition.

5. Now our gatherings can be Jesus centered not clergy centered. God would get the Glory and not men. What a novel idea?

6. Next, we must remove Constantine' s heresy of calling a building "the Church". This will make room to install the correct teaching that we are the Temple of the Lord made with Living stones. So if we are not attached to buildings maybe we would have more finances to give to His servants, the poor and the needy.

7. Now that we are "the Church" wherever we are, whenever it is, However we are gathered" the Church" is in session so we will not need to continue to worship at the feet of the idol we call Sunday Services.

8. If we have no "services" then we need no bulletins. Everyone is aware that we flow with the Holy Spirit and Jesus is Head of His Church. God is not in "time" so if we are in God, "time" as we know it is insignificant.

9. Since we are not in a hurry, we can concentrate on His Presence in His Body instead of using paid professionals (hirelings) that help us compete/ stand out in the church marketplace, better known as" the business of church".

10. Since the other congregations- ekklesia "called out ones" are my brothers and we are all members of the same Body of Jesus Christ there is no more competition/divisions. We are ready to learn what it means to love your brothers as yourself.

11. Wow, imagine that, a world affected by born again, spirit filled, radical Christians who are not waiting for the next "service" to turn on their gifts. This would allow Christians to be released to use their gifts in the marketplace so Christianity would be seen as a lifestyle not a Bless Me Club.

12. Now that the "Church" works we can concentrate together on establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, instead of trying to get out on the next rapture flight in defeat or concentrating on how bad things are and when the End will come. Maybe then we could "finish" the great commission.

Oh, FATHER have mercy on us!