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:

No comments: