Archive for March, 2015

Question: Is Maturity Required?

Posted on: March 30th, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen 6 Comments

I got this email over the weekend and thought others of you might be interested in the same subject matter. Finding Church really does flop the definition of his “church” from an institution we can create, to an living, organism growing in the world by his work that will in the end defy all our attempts to organize her. So that begs the question of just how mature does someone have to be to recognize and participate in her reality.

I’m really struggling to find an answer to a question regarding “church.” It’s an issue that nags me and when I recently gave a copy of Finding Church to a friend of ours who is a disillusioned pastor, she loved the book, but then voiced her one issue that keeps her from embracing the concepts fully. Here it is:

Does living the life described in Finding Church require a mature believer?

What about the nominal or young believer? Growing in the Father’s affection, pursuing friendships without scheduled meetings, looking for where Jesus wants you to bless others…all of these take intentionality and commitment. Often the young, fervent believer will grow up into these, but what about that large percentage of every “church” that is just a Sunday church-goer who maybe does a table prayer at dinner each night with their family? Is the institution worth it for them? At least they’re getting some spiritual input and engagement that they might otherwise not get at all.

Of course, I can point the finger at them and say, “They lack commitment and initiative.” And I would be right. So, does the institution of “church” have a purpose for continuing for their sake? Then, in a sense, it serves as sort of a spiritual daycare center. Real direct parenting would be ideal, but at least they’re getting some sort of care. Of course, those of us who are more mature and intentional could try to encourage them along the path of following Jesus more wholeheartedly, but if we’re not in the institutional church we probably won’t run into these people, unless we’re neighbors, coworkers etc.

Living the life requires a maturing believer. In other words, it takes someone on a journey to live in Father’s affection. They don’t have to be far on that road, but they have to have a passion that draws them further along it. I know there are a lot of people in traditional congregations going through the motions who don’t seem to want to go deeper. Sometimes that’s simply because they don’t know how and others because they’re just trying to keep their get-out-of-hell free card and have no endearment yet to God himself. It’s sad whatever the reason.

I do think our traditional congregations serve a purpose for those people and even very young passionate ones. They can discover Jesus there and get the fundamentals of belief and doctrine there if it is taught appropriately. They can also make connections with other people of faith. All that can be helpful if it doesn’t lull them into spiritual slumber in the meantime, which it seems to do for many. So that arrangement can be very helpful. As I’ve often said, I got my hunger there, even though it’s programs wouldn’t help me meet that hunger. But where it breeds guilt and condemnation in people for not working hard enough it can be downright destructive.
Are we doing a service to some by providing these traditional congregations? I like that God still meets people there and invites them into his life. But what if it wasn’t there, wouldn’t God still find them? Would these people be faced more quickly with their lack of hunger and go on a better journey? That’s often the case for people I know, though it is often true that many people without that spiritual backboard will find themselves even more seduced by the world and distracted from knowing him. But like the prodigal, many of them find their way back to a better journey with God after they realize how empty the world is. Traditional religion often plays sin as the fun stuff God won’t let us do. As people decide that may not be real they often embrace the world’s ways claiming to be free. They soon find, however, that sin is a well-laid trap that makes them go further than they would chose to go and rob from them far more than they wanted.
For me, I’d prefer not to spend my time working at the “day-care center” for unmotivated believers. But I know many maturer saints who do hang around the institution to help others others grow. It is often short-lived however, as they are often marginalized and gossiped about if they don’t join in all the programs or refuse the constant push to involve them in “leadership” committees. Sometimes encouraging people to live in his love is threatening to those who want them to live by obligation alone. Many of them find in time that so much of all that undermines what they would most want to encourage in others, and they seem to find others who want to go on this journey from work and neighborhoods anyway.
That’s why I think it better if we all discovered the life of God in the “family” that his church is, rather than a local institution. So if young ones in the faith lived alongside more mature brothers and sisters who could help them learn to live in the Fathers affection from the earliest days, we would have more passionate believers growing on to that maturity in which the church functions most freely. That’s why helping others learn to be his disciple is way more important than trying to build a church by man’s effort. If we helped people connect with God and grow in his love, the church would be all around us vibrantly reflecting his life in the world. When we build the church out of our own expectations, we end up having to conform people to our standards instead of freeing them to walk with God.
So, no, maturity is not required as long as we are growing to know him. As we learn to live in love and love others, any of us can find ourselves connecting with others on this journey. There’s nothing about all this that is perfect, which is why we have to trust Jesus to build his church as each of us do what he gives us to do, rather than trying to get everyone to do the same thing.
It may be a slower and less efficient process, but it does result in a powerful, thriving display of God’s family in the world.

Is Church Attendance Mandatory?

Posted on: March 9th, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen 12 Comments

moodyOn Saturday I was a guest on Moody Radio’s Up For Debate radio show discussing “Is Church Attendance Mandatory?” (Yes, you can still listen to it on their website or by podcast.) It was a difficult show to do because the host seemed reticent to let a conversation happen among the three of us and my fellow-guest kept throwing proof texts out without really listening. But I guess the question demonstrated that anyway. There are so many problems with a question like, “Is Church Attendance Mandatory?” Why is church about attendance at all. It’s a family not a meeting and there are many ways to assembling with others in our hearts is far more important than sitting in a meeting together. And since the new covenant is about doing what we do out of love, why the mandatory language at all?

Those who seek to make “church” attendance an obligation do so on the basis that we all need to live under authority of some leader to hold us accountable and to discipline us when we go astray. The man on the show with me even tried to say the leaders should intervene and met out discipline if a father gets upset with his child. Really? That’s what “leaders” are for, to meddle in personal affairs, punish people who don’t conform and decide who is a true believer and who is not? Why do they cling so tightly to a distorted interpretation of Hebrews 10:25 as the prooftext for their position and ignore Mark 10:42, Hebrews 8:10-11, or I John 2:27, which are unequivocal in denying these “leaders’ the very authority they demand for themselves? (Texts quoted below)

I’m sorry, that’s not a “church” I want any part of.

Look I get the problem. There’s a declining market for our religious institutions and that scares the willies out of those whose livelihood depends on the business model that undergirds it. I remember the things I used to defend when my income was derived from a local congregation. It obscures your thinking more than you know. But to double-down on the mandatory card is to ignore the reality of the Incarnation, the nature of the new creation, and the identity of his church growing in the world. If whatever we call “church” is not as engaging as Jesus was on the planet, then maybe we’re not talking about his church. You don’t have to obligate people to that.

But I was most shocked at the quotation the host used at the end to justify her position: “He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the church for his mother.” This has got to be the stupidest thing ever said by one of the early church fathers, Cyprian of Carthage who died around 258 AD. He may have said some other wonderful things, but by this time he was the Bishop of Carthage and struggling to enforce “church” authority over others. His statement has always bothered me because if we as God’s children are his church then how can we be our own mother? The church cannot be our mother if it is our siblings, with Christ as it’s head. It perhaps would be better said that we cannot have God as Father without having Jesus as our head! I’d go with that.

As far as I know Cyprian’s statement is one of the first that redefined the church from an “us” to an “it.” And “it” is over us as a mother demanding our obedience and conformity. And who is the “it” that Cyprian refers to? It is the Pope who sits on the Chair of St. Peter The whole quote from Cyprian’s treatise, The Unity of the Church (De unitate ecclesiae) says: “if a man deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, does he think that he is in the Church?” (iv.); “He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother; . . . he who gathereth elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ” (vi.); “nor is there any other home to believers but the one Church” (ix.).

Only 250 years since Christ was here and the freedom of the new creation had been fully crushed by the institution that dared to call itself “the church.” And it is even more distressing that a Protestant in our day would appeal to that quote, since it’s context is that the Chair of Peter is the “it.” They are already out of compliance of the mandatory allegiance to which the statement alludes. And when Protestants claim the same conformity to their systems

Wow! Only 250 years since Christ was here and the freedom of the new creation had been fully crushed by the institution that calls itself “church.” And yet that mentality undergirds our protestant “churches” as much as it does the Roman “church”. If you don’t come to our meetings and join our membership you are excluded from Christ and his salvation. How can one know God as Father and end up so far afield? And why would they be so convinced of it that they would damn any who disagree with them?

Isn’t our life in Christ demonstrated by the fruits of his Spirit borne in the way we love and treat others rather than submitting to the demands of those who have no understanding of the importance of the Incarnation itself, or the work of the cross?

That freedom is worth fighting for. It is worth risking the anger and judgment of those who seek to steal that freedom to make it clear that you follow Jesus by following Jesus, not by following anyone who says you have to follow them to follow Jesus.

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Mark 10:42-43 Jesus said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.”

Hebrews 8: I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

I John 2:27: You do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.

Awakening In A Different World

Posted on: March 5th, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen 5 Comments

openwindowIn the last blog, A Pharisectomy in Progress Julie shared about being so disoriented in the process of learning to live in the new creation. It IS very disorienting when you discover that the way you’ve been living our faith has not more deeply engaged you to the Father of affection. But it is a marvelous process to awaken out of the frustration and futility of the old creation and begin to hope for something new and real, even if you can’t quite gasp it yet. It is hard for many not to rush back into their old performance mode when they begin to feel insecure at the lack of activity. It is like detoxing from religious thinking and religious obligation that seeks to earn what Father has already made a gift.

I appreciated Julie writing and many others who have responded to that blog and the many it has encouraged. Anne, a friend of mine from the UK tried to respond, but for some reason her comment wouldn’t post on the blog. She asked if I’d post it for her, but instead of adding it as a comment, I wanted to make it it’s own entry so people wouldn’t miss it. Anne also wrote, The Church Rising, in an earlier posting. One of the great joys of this journey is watching brothers and sisters who’ve been through this process encourage others who are having the same questions they wrestled with earlier. This encouragement is an amazing gift that the bride shares as she takes shape in the world.

Dear Julie (and so many others who are in this process),

How you are feeling, what you have experienced is wonderful and aweful and freeing and disorientating and so many other feelings all rolled up into one big “WHAT THE ___(fill in the current acceptable Christian expletive)___!” of pain and confusion and delivery.

I utterly get your email to Wayne. As will so many others who have listened to “The God Journey” who have read Finding Church, who have suddenly found there is something SO MUCH MORE than living in a cliched “Christian” stepford world. When you suddenly find out that performance in that world is not going to cut it anymore, that unless you are performing your fingernails off every second of every minute of every hour of every day and most nights, you are just not going to make the grade expected of you… everything in that world starts collapsing and you start seeing the ugly, sad, cringing little god/wizard behind all the levers and pulleys that had kept you enthralled for so many years. God?! Where is God, surely he is not this pathetic creature you suddenly see before you? The not so great and terrible wizard of Christendom?

When I began to understand grace and grasp it was no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, I had this part explained to me in good theological terms as my “Concept of God” being a little off! HA! In my opinion it was more than a little off. It was way off to the right (or left) and tethered there by those who had sought, however intentioned, to keep me under control of whatever sort. I dont blame them now, I feel incredible compassion for those who have been fobbed off with a lie for generations, and so put so much effort and energy into trying to do the fobbing off themselves, when I am sure they had the same scream from the inside saying “ABUNDANT LIFE!!??!!?? THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING MORE” but had to get back on the hamster wheel because. well they just had to.

I felt the same exasperation as you, having also been the “good christian girl”, having the christian flesh taped onto rebellious bones so that it looked good, worship leader, pastors assistant, children’s worker, name it claim it gab it and grab it, it was all there, but like Paul I suddenly had this “awe filled” revelation of the utter DUNG that this was… so now what!!
But worse that that, if this god I had had thrust down my christian throat for all these years was a lie then where was the truth? If God wasn’t a parody of the wizard of Oz then who was he…?

You have experienced a birthing, a messy, painful, bloody battle of moving from one reality to another and it can be a long labour (especially when like many of us you have spent 30 odd years in an old and tatty womb) and an utterly disorientating time when you hit a world that is NOTHING like the world you left behind, where LOVE saturates the air you suddenly have to breath, and it seems to take forever to get the gunk of the old world out of your airways and lungs.

The Holy Spirit is the midwife, the Doctor, the specialist in bringing to birth the new creature in Christ, and as you begin to breath in this Kingdom, as your airways become clear and the life and love of the God of this Kingdom flood your being, you will BECOME so aware of your belovedness, so completely enthralled with Him, He is your beloved and you are His…

I know it seems impossible that the above is true when you are in the grip of the transition and it still seems dark, But the true God of wonder and Mystery is a master of this birthing, and He will bring you through into the abundant life that he always meant you to have, into the true uniqueness of your new creation self in Christ, beloved and whole and glorious… I promise, because I know Him now to be True as do so many others here.

One day you will pick up your Bible again. and as you start journalling again you will be astounded at what comes from your pen (or keyboard) as this new life leaps out onto pages of written words. As Wayne, says, RELAX beloved, the true and real God of our very existence has this and will bring you through. Although every birthing is different, for me, on a practical level I had to make time, make space to allow myself to go deep, to discover who this new creature was, and to discover who this God was who loved her. And. He. Was. Faithful to the uttermost—he will also be for you.

Paul is my mentor in this, He got it!

Rom 11:33. Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God….36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things….

Paul got the boundless endlessness that there is IN Christ. While we skirt the edges of what there is available IN Him he cries out for us to just dive right in. He is not standing aloof checking us for mucky shoes or dirt under our fingernails, he is down on his knees at our level hugging us close capturing our hearts and pulling us into the very centre of his Being. Oh the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God.

He continually breaks my heart with his beauty and mends it again with his grace and compassion and mercy so it is bigger and brighter and utterly inhabited by Him. Then he does it again.

Eph 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

Dive in Beloved, Dive in. His riches are unsearchable.