Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Scourge of "Accountability"

Here's another eyebrow raising title! And for good reason. Especially in light of so many scandals in the church, the political system and elsewhere, calls for accountability have reached a decibel level sufficient to burst eardrums.

And yet I'm more convinced than ever that accountability as we understand it is most often a function with roots in the wrong tree... the tree of knowledge of good and evil... and not the tree of Life.

Recently I sensed the Lord prompting me to re-read Dr. Steve Crosby's book "Authority, Accountability, and the Apostolic Movement".

And I undertand why. I am picking up some things that did not get deeper traction before. It describes a ball and chain that once weighed down my own soul. And now I have a deeper burden for so many people I've recently engaged... people more preoccupied with external conformity than new creation incarnational living. Though I have blogged on this book before, I'm eager to share another key excerpt here:

On Account of Being Accountable

Perhaps a reader my be thinking, Crosby, all we are trying to do is assure responsible and accountable behavior, what is wrong with that? First, like covering, accountability is an unbiblical term, and in application it can, and often does, exceed biblical grounds. Do a word search (King James Version) sometime on accountable or accountability. It is not there. We use the term in our language as an attempt to approximate the biblical term submission.

Second, as the concept is taught in apostolic circles it is interpreted and practiced as being under someone else and being "accountable to them" in an upstream, individual, and positional way: accountability is to the person "over you", your spiritual covering. The scriptures teach no such thing.

Issues of accountability are nowhere in Scripture limited to a covering minister or apostle. The burden is on each of us, for each of us. The responsibility for ministry is with the saints! For all the talk during the last fifty years of "equipping the saints," we have done a fairly poor job, and principles of biblical accountability only exacerbate the situation.

External accountability is like driving with the sheriff in the backseat of your car. As long as the sheriff is there, no one is going to speed! Remove the external presence of authority and a speeder is reborn! Accountability only enables performance-based religion. It is the self-aware, self-monitoring Adamic counterfeit of biblical discipleship. All restraints, codes, and principles of accountability are impotent to change the nature. Accountability can be, and often is, faked. The Adamic nature can comply with the accountability expectations of spiritual covering:

-Have you done your prayers? Check

-Have you read the Word? Check

-Did you do your assignment? Check

-Did you pray with your wife? Check

-Did you volunteer at the food bank? Check

-Did you pet the dog today? Check

-Check...check...check.... all done sir!

What a good boy or girl you have been!

This so-called "accountability" doesn't touch the realm of death and resurrection life of the Son. It is all about performing tasks to standard. This is not biblical submission or discipleship. It does not produce spiritual maturity. It assures spiritual infancy. In fact, it is stupefying inoculation against Spirit life, because as long as someone has completed their "accountability sheet" for the week, he or she will think they are just spiritually fine when they are the walking dead. They can be relationally a disaster, but if they have submitted their discipleship worksheet on time to their "mentor," or "spiritual covering," they will have the false impression that all is just fine. Accountability is better than unbridled sin, but the manifestation of the life of the Son is superior to policed accountability.

For those of you in the Charlotte area, you can hear Steve Crosby share on "The Limitations of Light" next week. To learn more and RSVP, click on the Facebook page below:


Friday, June 24, 2011

Coming to Charlotte: Wayne Jacobsen

Admit it. You've thought it: "I don't want to go to church anymore!"

Years ago, such a thought would have seemed blasphemous. But now more of us are coming to the realization that church is not something we go to but it is WHO we are as a people.

Just a few months into my kingdom journey "outside the system" I read an excellent fictional book, "So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore". And a few short months ago I enjoyed a wonderful time of fellowship over Skype with one of the co-authors, Wayne Jacobsen. At that time I extended an invitation for him to come to Charlotte to share his heart. Just a few weeks ago I was thrilled to get an email from Wayne, accepting our invitation to join us in late July.

If you have not read the book, I urge you to do so. To take in an excerpt, click the link below to read my previous blog on "So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore"


And to get more information on, and R.S.V.P to Wayne Jacobsen's visit, click on the Facebook link below.


Friday, June 17, 2011

"Who is My Neighbor?" A Fresh Look at the Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

There are standard bible stories we know well. We've heard a myriad of Sunday School lessons and sermons based on them. . But the Lord has been stirring something in me for quite a while that challenges my own compartmentalized view of this story.

We can glibly suggest, "leave it to a lawyer to find a loophole in a command to love your neighbor". But isn't this tendency in us all? We can rattle on and on about how we would never be like the evil priest or Levite and leave someone on the side of the road. And yet I believe we do it every day, and not in the way we may think.

The other day I was visiting a friend in a nearby neighborhood. As we discussed reaching out to neighbors he pointed to a home in his cul-de-sac. In that home are church goers he wants to get to know. Knowing my friend I'm sure he will follow through. His heart is to establish fellowship with them if they know the Father (and share the gospel if they don't) If they are genuine believers what opportunities have been missed already to walk out the love of Jesus together? This has implications for our togetherness, and therefore our mission to show the world Jesus.

John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Now I ask you: how will busy people who don't know Jesus ever see us loving one another without attending one of our events or services? I contend that this must happen at the neighborhood level. So what prevents this? I contend the major reason is we are too preoccupied with our church and religious branding rather than our identity in Jesus. Which leads to my next question: How many Christ followers do we drive by and ignore in our neighborhood at least once weekly to get to "church"? How many lonely, isolated saints (who may very well also be "in church")do we simply pass over on a regular basis?

The only cure for this madness begins with rediscovering our complete identity in Jesus!

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

Remember whom Paul is addressing here? Believers! He's warning believers not to be "taken captive". I believe many of us who pride ourselves in sound theology, fall into deep deception in our ecclesiology (doctrine of the church).

While this scripture clearly teaches that we have been filled in Him (or are complete in Him), I believe way too many believers are extremely vulnerable in this area. How many of us right now are wandering around looking for some church, leader or movement to "complete us" when we are already complete in Him? "Christ in us (corporately) is the hope of glory". Through his incarnation, His living in us, we are already empowered to be who he has called us to be.

But something in us often makes us look to something or to others in an unhealthy way. When we find our identity in a denomination or church brand in a way that transcends our identity in Jesus, we are captives! When our identity is shaped more by a pastor or other leader we are captives. What is at the foundation of all of these religious factions in this city and others, but philosophy, empty deceit and human traditions? The early church knew nothing of different "brands" to join in rivalry with others in the same city. There is no biblical reason to cordon off one believer from another. How can that be justified in light of Jesus' own prayer in John 17 that we be one? This factional spirit is clearly powered by an elemental spirit of the world, not Jesus.

So what does this mean? By God's grace I have set my heart not to honor any human line of division between myself and a brother or sister in the Lord. I'm learning to love all of Jesus' blood bought family under heaven... period. This begins with my neighbors.

Now that you know what Jesus said, what are you going to do about it? I suggest that you take on a "Good Samaritan Challenge": Get to know your neighbors and identify at least one follower of Christ in your neighborhood whom you will get to know. Share with that person or family your heart to live out your profession together, and ask that person or family to join you in times of fellowship, prayer, and outreach together in your community.

I suspect that this will be the beginning of a new awareness for you and your neighbor(s). As you walk this out, pray that strongholds of religion, sectarianism, and churchism will be broken... first in your own heart, but also in those around you. I don't think we can begin to imagine what will emerge if we are faithful to BE the people God has called us to be... right where we are.

If you decide to take on this challenge, follow the link below and "Like" this page on Facebook. Along the way, I would love for you to post your stories of what the Lord is up to in your neighborhood.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Kingdom of God: Building through Deconstruction

Matthew 16:18 “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The longer I journey outside of the legacy church world, the stronger my desire to see the emergence of the church the Lord is building. I also see in sharper detail how His work is often undermined by the “work of our hands” (including mine). Increasingly I find Him doing more in and through me as I and those around me learn how to do less.

There are many dimensions to this issue. I will only deal with a few here. First, the Lord is building ONE church, ONE bride, not a harem. Those with genuine Ephesians 4 gifting will understand this… especially those who are genuine apostles and prophets.

Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, [3] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Our Father is building ONE household. So if we are letting Him build through us, we will zealously and jealously labor with a heart to see God’s people thrive in their identity as Kingdom citizens, members of God’s household. This cannot be done without apostles and prophets. And yet Jesus Himself is the cornerstone, not the pastor or gifted leader. Beyond this we must be very careful that we do not unwittingly produce a rival identity that undermines oneness.

Luke 11:23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Sadly, when we do not gather with Him, we scatter. Aren’t there so many “spiritual” reasons we do so.? We run headlong after idols of doctrinal purity, charismatic expression, and idolatrous leader worship.
If we are gathering with Jesus the universe of our fellowship will grow larger, not smaller. We abandon the professions of “following Paul or Apollos”. Instead we embrace a broad family of Ephesians 4 gifts the Lord gives us to bring us to maturity. We cannot continue to allow ourselves to be corralled by a single pastor or leader, or even several within one “brand” or expression of “church”.

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, [3] which he obtained with his own blood. [4] 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

This means that the Lord is calling us to make disciples of Jesus, not of us, not of our organization, no matter how pure we believe it to be. The best evidence of this will be our ability to walk as an ever growing expression of an extended family. If we identify ourselves as followers of a person we’re clearly still deeply carnal, no matter what spiritual “things” we claim to be pursuing.

What is most challenging in our growth as disciples is learning to BE the body. The longer I walk in “organic” circles, the more I find that so many who talk a good game about being the body aren’t willing to lay down their lives to “live well together in Jesus”. If we don’t get this, nothing else matters. Biblical knowledge and charismatic manifestations go to seed. Only agape will prevail.

At this stage of kingdom life, we’re putting a stronger emphasis on making disciples, less on simply having regular meetings for meetings’ sake. The Lord continues to expand our circle of leadership connections. Just recently we met with other leaders with a city-wide understanding about ways the Lord is calling us to work together. We’re asking the Father and each other how we can minister to people the Lord has given us, together ,without taking ownership of God’s work or of people.

Recently several of us discussed the continuing temptation among believers to obsess over questions of “how to do church”. This prompts us to look for a “better mousetrap”. One person wisely raised the million dollar question: “Why aren’t we instead asking why there are mice and rats in the house?”

The bottom line: let’s not be those mice, looking for the place we can find the best offer for cheese. And God forbid that we should be the allegedly more mature “rats”, leading consumer driven mice down another “rat hole”. Let’s make sure we’re building into Jesus by abiding in Him. It is only He who will produce genuine fruit that remains.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


It is amazing what can be communicated with one mere word.  And this word, Radical, is a fitting title for a book I'm currently reading by David Platt. 

The message it contains helped to fan missional flames in a good friend of mine who is about to set out on a missionary venture in South America and ultimately, the Caribbean region.  In fact, he gave me a copy of the book last week and I have found it difficult to put down. 

Radical covers another critical piece of Kingdom life and community: discipleship. The foundation of our call as a people is to be disciples.   And Jesus' final directive to us was to go into all the world and make disciples. 

David Platt takes on American religious culture without mercy, taking aim at self centeredness in this devastating excerpt:


We live in a church culture that has a dangerous tendency to disconnect the grace of God from the glory of God. Our hearts resonate with the idea of enjoying God's grace. We bask in sermons, conferences, and books that exalt a grace centering on us. And while the wonder of grace is worthy of our attention, if that grace is disconnected from its purpose, the sad result is a self-centered Christianity that bypasses the heart of God.

If you were to ask the average Christian sitting in a worship service on Sunday morning to summarize the message of Christianity, you would most likely hear something along the lines of "The message of Christianity is that God loves me." Or someone might say, "The message of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send his Son, Jesus, to die for me."

As wonderful as this sentiment sounds, is it biblical? Isn't it incomplete, based on what we have seen in the Bible? "God loves me" is not the essence of biblical Christianity. Because if "God loves me" is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity?

God loves me.
Christianity's object is me.

Therefore when I look for a church, I look for the music that best fits me and the programs that best cater to me and my family. When I make plans for my life and career, it is about what works best for me and my family. When I consider the house  I will live in, the car I will drive, the clothes I will wear, the way I will live, I will choose according to what is best for me. This is the version of Christianity that largely prevails in our culture.

But it is not biblical Christianity.

The message of biblical Christianity is not "God loves me, period," as if we were the object of our own faith. The message of biblical Christianity is "God loves me so that I might make him- his ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatness - known among all nations."  Now God is the object of our faith, and Christianity centers around him. We are not the end of the gospel: God is.