Archive for the ‘Question’ Category

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.

A Pharisectomy in Progress

Posted on: February 12th, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen 30 Comments

tunnelReligious obligation is the most heinous of bondages. While it purports to offer us a way of life, it actually strangles us with our own good intentions. Finding our way out of it is not an easy of quick process as this email attests. Julie has begun a different journey to encounter the love of God that her 52 years of faithful religious engagement did not provide. Like many, she’s partway into that process and as you’ll see feeling quite disoriented. Her old patterns no longer work and she isn’t yet comfortable seeing God’s work unfold.

Is it normal? Of course it is. When God begins our pharisectomy, it am be incredibly disorienting. It can feel like detoxing and in many ways it’s exactly that. Let’s see if we can help Julie sort some of this out:

My husband and I are coming out of the waves of religion. It has been going on in me for 13 years now. The blatant stuff is gone, I’m guessing it’s now down to the stuff stuck in the bowels of my mind. I used to pray that God would take His double-edge sword and cut down through the bones and the marrow to divide the soul from the Spirit. I think that’s what he is doing though it looks much different than I had imagined.

I too am a recovering Pharisee. I was really good at it. I was an ultimate performer and striver as I exerted my strong will to be the best of the best for 21 years. I grew up in the church, I heard all the stories on flannel graph, memorized the scriptures, learned the books of the Bible. I was studious to the point that I did 2 Beth Moore Bible studies at one for fear I would miss something. I was going to KNOW God.

I have been coming out of that for a few years now.. and I see so much wrong I believed. I now understand that I am crucified with Christ and that I no longer live. I have absolutely no desire to prove anything anymore. That has been stripped from me. I have no desire to perform or strive. I haven’t been in “church” for five years and I have no desire to go back and sit under sermons that try to mix the old with the new. I have a great deal of exposure into this new covenant living and am soaking it up. I now know it is all about Christ living in me and what Christ did and has done and will do through me. I know it is not my life but His in me interwoven together as one.

I want to believe I am currently in a transition phase… that the dark night is just before the dawn. I feel so very lost and uncertain. I have dropped everything I used to do—journaling, praying, reading the Bible, attending church, and writing (a great love of mine). In the midst of this I find myself feeling so very gutted to the point that it feels hard to know who I am. People talk about coming to grips with this amazing love of God. I have always known of God’s love. As a babe I heard the song, “Jesus loves me this I know”. As an adult I was told, “For God so loved the world that He gave His son.”

I KNOW God loves… but I’m not sure I have really encountered it. Before all these last few years of this hard part of the journey I would have told you I had experienced the love of God. Maybe I had brief encounters with it. But here in this gutted place I don’t feel it or know it like I once thought I did. I find myself wondering if all of my religious living numbed me to the experience of His great love. I grew up in church abd was there for 52 years. I did all the things I was supposed to do for the most part. I was a decent person who did the “work” of the church life. I never had a profound encounter with God. I played at the church game until one day in my early 20’s (after a relationship ended) I begged Him to love me. I needed Him in my life. I felt Him come. Immediately after I was swept up into a “discipleship” program that put me on the performance wheel. It’s where I stayed until the early 2000’s.

Sometimes I wish I had an encounter like a drug addict whom God rescued. Then I would have a profound encounter with love. Instead I was a Pharisee. It’s hard for a Pharisee to see that she is a wretch because she do so much right, so much good in the name of Christ. It’s hard to see an encounter with love. All I know is that something “feels” detached inside me. I can’t connect to the emotion of the love of cross and the resurrection, personally. I know the story, I believe it all. I know I received a new life and my sins were forgiven. I am thankful for what Christ did, but something is off in me. So much of the story of the cross I was told was about sin. Not much emphasis was given on love. Did performing and striving do this to me? Truth is it’s hard for me to SEE a rescue… after all I did SO much.. Am I making any sense? Is it hopeless for me? Have I ruined myself? I’m so very afraid.

But now at least I know that I cannot make it happen. I am at the mercy of God to reveal and change and awaken. I don’t know anyone I can talk to about this. I have no one that can encourage me or steer me or tell me truth. My husband sees me in a transition and that it is going to be good. I can’t see anything but void. I believe in Jesus. I believe in God. I believe He died on the cross and rose again. I hope that’s enough right now because it’s all I have. I’m angry at the realization that so much of what I was told has not been true. I’m struggling to know what is true.

You are a recovering Pharisee. Is this part of the journey? Is there a darkness before a dawn? Did you always know how loved you were? I was told by a man I trust that this performing can hide love. I’m quite scared that I am lost forever.

If I could say one word to you, Julie, it would be relax! Your mind is racing a hundred directions right now worried about outcomes you can’t possibly see at this point. I know it is scary. I know it is incredibly disorienting to move out of a religious framework and go on a better journey. All your perceptions are set on an old paradigm and as that shifts this kind of season is incredibly normal. Yes, people on that email list would easily relate to what you’re going through. Most of them have been or are going through it now. This is a journey and learning to perceive Father’s love in our hearts outside our religious securities takes some time. You’ve got to de-fox from all the illusions you’ve been taught to live by and your feelings will seem to betray you in this season. But they are not. You may not feel things the way you’re used to, but the hungers you’re experiencing will lead you into a far more spacious place. Father is at work here. Don’t worry about what isn’t yet. Embrace what is. Try not to look too far down the road, just rest as well as you are able in what you know to e true of the Father and his love for you. The truth has not changed. He’s leading you to a better place to not only see it, but to experience it.

Relax, my dear Sister! And yes, I know that is far easier said than done. But God is not in the frantic or the fears. That’s where religion kept us captive. You are now moving outside of them and how can that not be disorienting, confusing and even feeling like you’re in a void…

But you are not. What better place to be a than at the mercy of a Father who loves you more than any one on this planet every has or ever will?

Embrace the journey. Embrace the changes. Let fear and expectations drain away as God draws you closer to his heart. You’ll look back some day and understand this season so much better than you possibly can today. For now, just put all your eggs into HIS basket. “Father, let me know you as you really are today,” is a good prayer. Don’t worry too much at this point about understanding the past or trying to guess at the future. Just rest in whatever bit you see of him today and watch how this all unfolds to lead you into a place of greater freedom and security than you’ve ever known.

Where Can I Find Such a Group?

Posted on: January 2nd, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen 2 Comments

questionmark

The new year begins and I have a backlog of email from so many people regarding Finding Church.  I’m blessed it is finding its way into a lot of people’s reading time and that it is resonating with people so deeply who have felt for a long time that nagging suspicion that something is missing in the way we view and practice “church” in our day.  In the end it is not something we go to or something to do, the church is the reality of Father’s family as it unfolds in the world we live in.

Diana’s question below is like many I get. We’ve been so enculturated to see the church as an established group to find, rather than as a reality we find our way into.  Looking for a group that buys into these priorities can be frustrating, but keeping our eyes open for people God wants us to love can bear fruit every day even when there isn’t even a group yet to go to.  Here’s what she asked and how I responded:

Diana:  I’m a Christian that is fed up with church in general and would love to be involved with a group of brothers and sisters in Christ who want to fellowship and just love on each other—living loved, being loved. I just don’t know how to go about finding a group like that. I’m not very outgoing and tend to be shy around others until I get to know them. I just thought maybe you could give me some tips on how to find a group in my area.

My response:  Diana, I understand your desire to find a group already living out these realities, but that isn’t always easy to do. If you can find one, that would be wonderful, but it rarely happens. Think people not groups. It doesn’t take long for groups to become engaged with meetings, doctrine, and leadership issues instead of simply loving. Who has God put in front of you that he wants you to love today? Take an interest in them. Invite them into your life by meeting them for coffee or lunch. As you learn to live in his love and extend that love to others, you’ll end up with people around you on a better journey.

Looking for others to provide what we want doesn’t take us down as good a road as looking for people to love. It’s in giving not in receiving that we find life. I hope that helps. God knows the fellowship that will fulfill your heart. Trust him to bring it to you, as you simply love the people he has already put around you, at work, in your neighborhood, or a chance meeting in a store. Who do you already know that could use a conversation or a hug today?

Diane responded:

I just wanted you to know that what you said makes perfect sense…that’s the way I’ve carried out my life, but when you’re repeatedly told you have to be in church, you start to believe that your the one doing something wrong. I’m so grateful that God has put you in my path, if for no other reason than to confirm what I’ve always believed–you can win people to the lord by just loving them

My response:  It’s a great way to live even if others can’t see it. Going against the flow is never easy but it is so personally enriching.

Did the Church Begin With Jesus?

Posted on: December 9th, 2014 by Wayne Jacobsen 2 Comments

finding-church-sticky2Today’s question comes from Gary and it rises from Chapter Four: “What Jesus Taught Us” in FINDING CHURCH. I’ve had this come up in conversations before, but have never heard the concept actually taught and have never believed it. The idea is that the new creation began at Pentecost. Jesus was living and teaching under the old covenant and thus we can’t look to him for teaching about the church.

Here’s what Gary wrote:

I had a realization recently in response to one of your thoughts, “Maybe Jesus gave us all we need to know to experience Church as He is building it”. I realized that we been taught a few things that conflict with that:

(1) that the “church-age” began when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. Do you see this as a conflict?

(2) that Paul was more the founder of church-life through the revelation of Jesus Christ than Jesus Himself was. While Jesus was on earth because Paul was actually the hand-picked-by-Jesus-after-ascension-apostle most radically redeeming the apostate–Judas’ vacated office–even though the eleven chose to get a replacement with a typical “good-churchy-idea”. Do you see this as a conflict?

(3) Paul’s writings have alot of “intentional-meeting-support-stuff” in them: order,substance,elder selection etc. etc. Do you see this as a conflict?

When you suggested that maybe Jesus lived-out all we have need to see to live as the Church, I had a hmmmm… that’s interesting.? And a hmmmmm… that changes alot!

I’ve heard and taught a lot of things fulfilled in the finished work of Jesus Christ but, establishing a picture of “church-life” is not one of them. That idea is a big deal. There’s a big difference between looking predominantly at Paul’s life as founder thru Jesus’ revelation, and Jesus as founder & practitioner of disciple-making in His earthly life & ministry.

I’ll be honest. I’ve heard this teaching about the church not beginning until Paul, but I’m unconvinced of the hermeneutic involved. I don’t know why people wish to make that distinction. Jesus brought the kingdom and the church is the fruit of that kingdom. If we focus on Paul’s language about church without the reality of the kingdom we’ll end up with the human-managed institutions we do today. I don’t divorce what Jesus said or did as our example for the life of his church, which is his family and his bride. Why would we?

Of those I know who espouse that view they are looking to negate the influence of Jesus in deference to Paul. That doesn’t make sense to me. Jesus is the Founder, the Cornerstone, and the Head of his church. Why wouldn’t he be our chief example, and Paul the one showing us how it fleshed out in the early decades of the church taking shape? Jesus lived between two covenants, honoring one while launching a new one that could truly lead us to life and freedom. The things he taught teach us how to live in the new creation, or the kingdom, as much as this world allows and where we follow him the church takes shape in the way we love and treat each other.

I don’t think there is a lot in Paul of intentional-meeting-support stuff. There is far more about relationship and his example in Acts is about dialog not monolog. Honestly there’s nothing in the Gospels or Acts that commend our mini-concert, mini-lecture institutions that use the tools of conformity to try and administrate a transformative-based community. There’s the problem. We can have elders, gatherings, support, and care, without our human-engineered systems if people learn to live in him and respond to the will of the Head. If we have those things without him at the center, we end up with empty institutions.

And if anyone can help me see a good reason to skip Jesus and go to Paul for an understanding of the church, I’d be all ears. But as of yet I haven’t heard that case in any way that makes sense to the story of Scripture and the person of Christ.

Chapter 6: Is Exclusivity a Danger?

Posted on: November 4th, 2014 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

questionmarkFrom Kendall:

In Chapter 6 you write, “The way to share this life together is to connect with people who are awakening in the new creation as well, so don’t look for another system to follow.” I agree with your statement, especially not looking for another system to follow. Please clarify for me, is there danger that we may become “exclusive” by looking for people who are awakening in the new creation? Is there danger we may start judging people on the basis of awakening in the new creation, rather than on the basis of fruitfulness, love, etc?

Great question, Kendall. Of course any one of us on any given day can start living out of our flesh and only seek out people who are like-minded or who benefit us. That’s always a danger. But that wouldn’t be the part of us that is awakening in the new creation. There were so many thing I used to do as a pastor because I was afraid people wouldn’t want to grow in Christ, or wouldn’t be generous in relationships. But none of those worked. The harder we tried to get people to do what we thought best the less their hearts were in it.

Though is often a time early in this journey where we feel so fragile and isolated that we lock on to any conversation that encourages his new creation in us, but that very quickly yields to a more generous loving that seeks to share his life with others who don’t have it as it is to find it in those who do. Those awakening in the reality of a Father’s love become very generous in their relationships. They won’t just seek out the like-minded, but discover the joy of loving people wherever they are on this journey, even if they have yet to awaken to the reality of God’s life and love in the world. They don’t limit their relationships to people of the new creation and will instead grow in their capacity to love all kinds of people.

So I think the danger you address is mitigated by the fact that the new creation stirring in us won’t allow us to be come exclusive. And where we become exclusive we’ll find the joy of those relationships drying up because the focus will be more inward. As we grow in his love our loving others will take on a pretty broad reach because we find themselves caring about all kinds of people. In in the end, it really isn’t about judging whether someone is a new creation or old creation person, but loving them right where they are and seeing how the new creation can find a place in their heart too.

So we can take not of those people with whom we have the conversations of life that stir the new creation in our hearts, we won’t limit ourselves to those conversations alone. It is as much fun to share that life with others who aren’t seeing it yet as it is to celebrate it with those who are.

Chapter 14: What About Starting A Group?

Posted on: October 28th, 2014 by Wayne Jacobsen 3 Comments

questionmarkThe purpose of this website is to help facilitate a growing conversation about those who are looking to explore the church that Jesus is building in the world. So this is a place to ask questions, share your own stories and insights, and to encourage you to engage others in a way that allows his kingdom to expand. You can comment on the blog postings, or if you have a contribution to the blog itself, you can email me with your thoughts or questions and I’ll be adding those I think will advance the conversation or clarify themes in the book as people seek to walk them out. Here’s a great example:

I got this question the other day from Mitchell:

I’m almost through this book for the first time and already intending to read it again. Having left organized church December of 2013, I’ve been planning to organize a home/organic/simple/whatever church. Chapter 14 talks about Gatherings without Meetings. Are you saying that all get-togethers suffer if they are scheduled? Is it not possible to have regularly scheduled meetings? I am not disagreeing, just clarifying. So far this book is exhilarating! I’m loving every minute of it! I almost feel as though I’ve been kept from committing to anything because Jesus wanted this in me before I did anything.

No, I’m not saying get-togethers suffer if they are scheduled. In fact all get-togethers are scheduled. And they can be scheduled regularly if people want to get together every week or every few weeks for a season. The chapter begs for us to take a bit of a wider view. What do we do when we get together? If our purpose is to have a well-run meeting or to “start something” we intend to be permanent, we invite a number of other factors into our get-togethers that will create unforeseen consequences.

What’s people focus on starting an “it” (house church, organic church, whatever) the priorities will shift away from relationships. Where do we meet? How often do we meet? What do we do when we meet? People will have different views about what to call it, who will be in charge, who can come, and a host of other concerns that will actually draw people away from getting to know each other and celebrating their journeys. The eight characteristics of a new creation environment that I share in the book are not meant to give hard guidelines for people to follow. Rather, they are indicators of where we find that life and were we lose it. We find it more in friendships and less in meetings, more in natural environments than artificial ones. So having a generous heart and a hospitable home will open some amazing doors that will help people connect in ways that will allow his church to take shape. Trying to start a regular group could actually shrink your opportunities to engage people he puts on your heart.

That doesn’t mean people can’t meet, even regularly, but that their eyes are open as to whether or not we’re discovering a place where lives and friendships can grow, or if we’ll just be distracted by creating a “thing” that in the end will fade away anyway and leave an exhausted group of people in its wake. In the end, remember, this is about following Jesus, not someone else’s guidelines, including mine! If Jesus is asking you to start an organic/simple/home whatever church go ahead and do it. Don’t let this chapter dissuade you from following his leading. But before you do, it might help to consider if this is something he’s put on your heart, or is it just trying to fill a need and an identity you lost by no longer continuing to have a regular meeting somewhere else.

Jesus’ church grows out of friendship. If you know some people that would like to get together to share their journeys and celebrate his life, by all means do it. Get together over a meal and see what sharing grows. Just keep your eye out for what feels real and natural and when it begins to feel like you’re imposing an artificial form that goes beyond the relationships. For instance, I have some friends here who are sorting through their own journeys. We can get together for a meal and the sharing is fantastic. If we then move from the table and get into a room where we’re all in a circle, everything changes. They’ve gone from family to meeting mode and suddenly everything is awkward and stilted. We’ve just given up that part of it and share our journeys. The same can be said of how often we get together. If you start doing it every week at some point it will become an obligation that will wear on people. Get together as often as it seems to be in their heart or yours. Most of the growth in relationships won’t come in a regular meeting anyway, but in real conversations with each other in the spontaneity of life.