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I don't often use this space for political commentary, but a new election cycle is in full swing and though my hope for a better world is not invested in politics, I care deeply about governance in our society and the decline of quality in political leadership over the last fifty years. I am convinced that the great political battle of our time is not Republican versus Democrat, or liberal versus conservative, but the people versus a government industry that is ripe with corruption and who use every election to exploit the legitimate passions of the electorate to enhance the personal ambitions of the one percent. This industry is made up of a diabolical, symbiotic relationship between politicians, Wall Street bankers, media personalities, and lobbyists pursuing their own selfish ambitions for wealth and power.
And I’m not saying that there aren’t good, conscientious people working for the government who want what’s best for the country, I’m just saying their voices are drowned out by the human quest for money and power by those at the top. While many of them may have begun with a passion for the common good, it is almost impossible for humanity to fly so close to the power and money that collects in Washington without abandoning their principles to benefit themselves as every one else around them is doing.
I am not suggesting this is well-organized conspiracy of elites, but the simple fruit of hundreds of thousands of people doing what most people do every day, maximize their opportunities to make money and gain power for their own comfort and security. It’s called capitalism, doing what you can to better your own life. But when a certain class of government elites profit off the vast resources and power of the government, it is crony capitalism, a system contrived by the rich and powerful that undermines equal opportunity for everyone else. They spend the people’s money to buy votes and grant special favors to their friends while their own personal power and wealth grows.
Republican, Democratic, and Independent leadership are all in on the joke. They can posture for the cameras and feign great disagreement over core principles, but when the lights go off they all shake hands, make deals, and laugh at how easily the American people are duped by their game. That’s why no matter who is in power, the federal deficit grows along with the size of government itself. They delight in stalemate because they really don’t want to solve the problems that they use to divide the electorate. It’s those who go into government service with little equity come out remarkably wealthy and well-connected. They are well-paid actors creating a government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy. When will the electorate decide that enough is enough!
These politicians are not public servants, but parasites on the American dream, who quickly turn into lobbyists or pundits when their terms are up to leverage their power into even more wealth. Media personalities are not purveyors of truth, but players in a game that twist facts into their own power-building narrative. All are beholden to Wall Street bankers who take turns rotating into government jobs to write their own regulations and purchase the political influence they need.
If you don’t believe me, read the eye-opening books by Mark Leibovich that unmasks the illusion Washington culture tries so hard to keep secret: This Town and Citizens of the Green Room. Ask yourself why the wealthiest counties in the United States surround Washington, DC, when they produce nothing except an endless set of laws and regulations while lining their own pockets and why our government officials are more concerned about lavish parties than providing health care for our veterans. And if they can't get such a noble mission right, why do we think they will succeed at lessor tasks.
If we’re serious about fixing it, it's time we voted out the career politicians and elect a new class of citizen politicians, those who want to put the common good above partisan politics. They will spurn special interest money as tainted attempts to purchase influence. They will demand accountability from government workers instead of guarding their job security when they are corrupt or incompetent. They will not be career politicians, but men and women who have been successful in the private sector and who want to go to Washington not because they need the money or power, but because they want to broker solutions that will take government back for the people. And, they will go back to their homes and careers once their service has ended.
No, this is not in support of Donald Trump’s candidacy. While he does talk in refreshingly honest ways about political corruption and boasts about the politicians he has bought, he is part of the problem and has benefited for a long time from the corruption he now mocks. We need people with greater depth, graciousness and far less vitriol and ego.
Is it too much to hope that the ship of state can be turned from such dark waters? I don’t think so. If the we as citizens demanded more of our elected representatives they would have to respond. But it will take a lot of us caring enough to speak out, reject the status quo, and look for a different breed of politician.
At the very least we have to start laughing whenever our current politicians and bureaucrats refer to themselves "public servants", because they only ones they are serving are themselves.
I had the following exchange earlier today and know that a lot of people wrestle with assurance and how we get it, especialy of our connection to God and our safety in his heart. Since this young man asked me what I thought I responded. Religion really wires us to appeasing God by our good works and if you're groping to know you belong to him that's the last place you want to look. Here's what he sent me:
I was speaking with a co-worker the other day about our assurance in God. Since I have been away from weekly gatherings, I have become more in tune with what the Father is doing. I seem to hear him speak so much clearer these days. As we were having our conversation, he began to talk about having assurance we are God's children. I told him that there are days I feel like there is only one set of footprints in the sand. I don't always feel like I am close to the Father but I believe by faith he is still there. He compared it to the prodigal son by saying that while the son was away from the Father he didn't have the assurance. It was only when he came back into the Father's house that he had that assurance. He went on to say that we need that assurance in our lives and we get that assurance by following God's law and obeying his commandments. I couldn't really object to what he was saying but I felt like he was speaking from a performance based way of life. I was wondering if you could elaborate on this if you have the time.
My response: I like most of what you wrote, except the last bit. Not sure you heard God clearly there or didn't insert your own religious training into what he was wanting to show you. Remember, we all see in part. None of us hear God perfectly, which is why we have Scriptures and others to bounce things off of like this.
The prodigal did not have a connection with is father. He had cut it off. He didn't gain it by obeying the law, but by coming home to the father's house. Assurance does not come from law or obedience to it. Romans is really clear on that, as is Galatians. Assurance comes from knowing how loved we are by God. It’s in his character and his promise, not in our performance. So you and him might need to rethink that.
I don’t know if you’re thinking John 15 in that, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love.” If so, rethink that verse a bit. His command was to love each other, not keep the law. And he’s not saying we are loved by the keeping, but rather where we follow his ways we’ll derive the benefit of his love. He loves us anyway, but when we’re off doing our own thing we miss the benefit of that love. The prodigal is no less loved in his sin, but he doesn’t get the benefit of that love. I would think the assurance of his Father’s love would bring him home, not make him earn it. When he comes home he gets to live in the reality of that love because he’s not running from it…
Assurance is grounded in his character, and knowing we are loved is the basis of the transformation he does in us so that we can learn to live in his ways. And we know we belong to him by the presence of his Spirit in us. He is the firstfruits and the pledge that God is at work in us to will and to do of his good pleasure, even when we give into temptation or struggle to follow him.
On a hike the other day in the Sierras, I thought I'd see just how dry California really is. So, taking a page from Moses' book I spoke to the rock. I could split it in two easy enough, but as you can see in the picture above, I wasn't able to ge the water flowing. Man, that's dry!
Seriously though, we've had four years with less than half of normal snow and rainfall and our state government has not built any new water retention projects in the last 50 years despite a constantly growing population. The combination of this weather cycle and government shortsightedness means we are in a state of crisis with many resevoirs bone dry or nearly so. Our underground aquifers have been pumped to depths never before seen.
To help, we are under severe water restrictions. Yes, we have enough to drink and to take shorter-than-average showers. Many continue to water lawns, though the price of water above the allotment can get expensive very quickly. But the immediate threat is from our tinder-dry fields and forests, which can explode into raging wildfires in an instant and have in many places. Fortunately none are burning near us at the moment.
But there is lots of talk of a strong El Nino forming in the eastern Pacific, which could mean a wetter-than-normal winter. Some are calling it a Godzilla, with the potentional to bring torrential rains, which might cause mudslides as it did in 1996. Who knows? We need about three winters like that to replenish California's water supply, but at what cost?
It's a strange time to live in California when earthquakes seem to be the least of our troubles!
I read two magazines last week. My father had a Charisma Magazine laying around and I had not seen one in almost 20 years since I gave up reading it because I felt I needed to take a shower when I did. It was filled with self-promotion, boasting, and exalting men and women instead of Christ. It expressed everything that had gone wrong with the Charismatic Renewal and at the time appealed to all the wrong motivations inside me. And that has always been sad to me, because the reality of the Spirit working in each of our lives is the most important component to this journey of knowing and loving him. But so quickly those who built empires out of it turned toward personal greed, judgments against others who didn't have "the anointing", and distorting the image of God by their demeanor and focus on performance.
So it was interesting to read it again and though I was still turned off by misplaced priorities of this publication, but it didn't stir up any of the old motivations I struggles so hard to resist. And I found the last article by Lee Grady, which talked about how the life of the Spirit had been quenched by those who used the Renewal for their own ambitions. Strange. The magazine had just exalted the very people who had done the things Grady said destroyed God's purpose in the Renewal. Of course, he doesn't see it that way, nor do the editors of Charisma, which makes it all the more sadder.
Then I read National Geographic this month, which has a wonderful piece about Pope Francis. I realize the aquarium he swims in is an oppressive religious institution that is given to indulgence and gratification, like every human institution. I even think the title he carries is an affront to the message Jesus taught and the life that he lived. That said, I love his approach to the position he has been thrust upon him. He lives simply, loves the touch with common people, and is challenging his institution back to a heart for the marginalized people in our culture. I do admire that. It's an article worth reading and I came away appreciating the challenge he faces to stay true to his heart in the midst of such delusions about power, and the pomp and circumstance of his office.
I had a friend recently meet with Pope Francis who said he had a heart for all of God's children to be united under the name of Jesus, not the Catholic church, but who Jesus is and what he came to do in the world. That's an awesome statement.
And then yesterday morning this quote from him crossed my desk. I love it.
For me, the sign that there is no brotherliness is gossip.…There may be various points of view and differences (this is normal and it is Christian), but these differences must be brought out by having the courage to speak directly to others.…And when this is not possible, because at times it cannot be done, tell another person who can act as an intermediary. But you cannot speak against another person, because gossip is the terrorism…of religious communities.
Source: Vatican Information Service, March 23, 2015
"Gossip is the terrorism of community." I love that. I have often said that the surest evidence of community is open and authentic lives. The surest evidence that it does not exist is gossip. Gossip only prevalis where people pretend to be better than they are, but when people are already open and authentic about their strengths and weaknesses it holds no power.
I've been part of many wonderful connections that have been destroyed as soon as whisper campaigns began by those who had more to gain by destroying community than enjoying it's beauty. It is painful to see God make such wonderful connections and then have them squandered wittingly or unwittlingly by the insidious power of gossip. Those who do not have the integrity to talk directly to those with whom they have differences and who will instead talk them down behind their back, unleashes great destruction on the body of Christ and the culture of the world we live in.
As much as it lies within you avoid every opportunity for gossip, sharing the concerns you have only with the person you have them about. The family of God and indeed the world would be a better place if we didn't tear each other down behind their back.
There is no more important question any of us will answer in our lifetimes, than who is God really? Is he an abusive bully demanding the universe do his bidding, or is he an affectionate Father inviting us into the fullness of his glory? How do we answer it? We sort out the story of Scripture, we look at the reflection of his nature in Jesus, and we let the Holy Spirit unveil him in our hearts. It's a process that takes a life time. But having been one who lived in the fear of appeasing God every day to one who has lived with a growing awareness of his affection over the last twenty years, I can say sorting that out is life's greatest adventure. And finding a way to live in his affection
Last week I exchanged some email with a lady who is sorting that out in her own life. I thought others of you might enjoy reading over my shoulder as this life awakens to a greater reality. This is Joani's original email:
I'm just finishing He Loves Me and chapter 22 discusses the difference between "save me" prayers and "God glorify you name" prayers. On page 178 you write, "This is the prayer the Father always answers, 'Father, may the purpose for which you have created me and placed me where you have in the world be fulfilled completely.'" How is asking God to fulfill His purpose in us different from evangelical songs asking God to "use" us? I think it's in your Transition series where you discuss God "using" us as a putrid idea, and you used your daughter coming to you saying, 'Dad, use me," as an example to verify "use me" as unhealthy. I agree with you. The idea of God using us does seem unhealthy.
How would you distinguish between the prayer of "God's purpose" and "God's using? I read your prayer on page 178 as passivity but not the "Relax, I'm your heavenly Father and have the best in store for you" kind of passivity. I read it as a prayer of passivity where I'm basically a doormat for God. I come from an abusive background, and have not been won into trust about passivity. Passivity has been a terrible experience in my past. Passivity means I have no voice or value so I'm resisting this prayer of passivity. So what is the context for the idea of God having a purpose for us?
My response: Wow! A doormat for God? Don’t know that I’ve heard that expression before. I guess it all depends on how we view God. If he’s a demanding taskmaster who wants to ruin our lives with his “purpose” or exploit us for his gain, then you’re right. It’s a pretty disgusting notion. But if he’s the Creator, who loves us more than anyone ever has or will and wants us to be a part of his incredible purpose to redeem the world to himself and help set captives free, then who wouldn’t want to be part of that? I don’t see God’s “purpose” as our obligation at all. I see it as an invitation to fulfill all that we were created for before sin and religion twisted us up.
So I don’t know that your question is about vocabulary here, but about how we perceive God and our place with him. That may be shaded by your background for sure. I understand why being used by another person or deity for their purposes would be pretty disgusting. But if he knows you better than you know yourself and he wants you to know absolute fulfillment and joy and would never ask anything of you that would violate your personhood or compromise your freedom. Who wouldn’t want to discover what he’s about in the world and join him in it? God’s giving beats our trying to get any day…
You hit the nail on the head about the issue not being about vocabulary. The issue is whether or not we know him, and you're right -- if we know who God actually is then why wouldn't we want to join him on this journey! And after reading your email I realized more clearly how I still see God as the family and neighbors I grew up with. In essence, I see God as a dictator, absentee father, bully and constant rule changer so that I never have a chance of succeeding. What an appalling view!
I was brought to tears with your sentence, ". . . (he) . . would never ask anything of you that would violate your personhood or compromise your freedom." I found that absolutely remarkable! I didn't know that about God and putting it in such terms was both eye-opening and heart-wrenching (in a good way).
I've almost always viewed myself as insignificant or inconsequential -- as a cookie-cutter person or generic box of macaroni (for lack of a better illustration) to be kicked around. I'm starting to see that's no longer acceptable. I can't hold my son, for example, as significant and loved by God and claim I'm not. I haven't been trying to be stubborn or set myself apart. I was simply thinking like the stray dog -- unable to trust or receive love.
You said in a different way what you've always been saying about God's love, and it's what I needed to hear.
My heart goes out to people like Joani who are sorting out how God really thinks about them. I know it isn’t easy to see something in your heart that your mind doesn’t fully embrace yet. I know how discouraging and how scary to think of God as an abusive Father who will exploit you instead of one coming to set you free. So much of religion paints him that way, as an offended, angry deity always disappointed in us. And because of our shame it is easier to believe that than that he is an affectionate Father delighting in them each day and drawing them ever-more surely into the reailty of his love.
But we have to see that struggle as his more than ours. When I read Joani's email, I am so encouraged because I see God is unraveling her old way of thinking and that she is getting her ready to see his love in a way that will capture her heart. Every word of her emails breathes with that reality.
What I wrote her next, I'd want to say to all of you in this same struggle:
"God is moving something in your heart to a place of greater freedom. It may be taking awhile because the brokenness runs so deep. And I do understand how easy it is to get discouraged with the passing of time and still battling the darkness. But you need to see this not as your responsibility to change your own thinking, but as Father at work in you to win the heart of a daughter he so loves. The struggle is understandable. We’ve all been through it, though certainly at different depths and through different experiences. But you will get through this. He is winning your heart from unworthy conclusions about him that others have given you to the reality that only he can give.
"He is making himself known to you. As best you can each day, try (however fleetingly) to relax into the trust that he is doing this in you not asking you to do it yourself. He knows how lost you are. He knows how painful it has all been, but your desire for him and the reality of his love will win out. He’s at work already. The day is at hand.
So when you get discouraged and are overcome with tears, let them flow. It is all part of draining the old lies and wounds and letting you see beyond that into the richness of his love for you. And when you sense that love let the joy flow. It runs in fits and starts as the old gives way to the new. Let the process play out. Don’t try to rush it and don’t judge yourself for it not being fulfilled yet. This is in his hands and there’s no better place for it.
His love for you has always been there and no less true today just because you can’t see it clearly. But you when you do you’ll find great joy in your Heavenly Dad.
I’m praying for you…"
And for those who want further help learning how to let God build a relationship with you, Wayne offers a series of short videos to help coach you into responding to what he is doing, rather than trying to get there in your own wisdom or strength. They are called Engage. They are free and you can find them here.
"Have you talked to Pastor?"
Everytime I hear 'Pastor" used as someone's first name, I cringe inside. My yuck meter goes off because using titles for each other is one of the things Jesus asked us not to do. Why do we continue to violate it every day?
I got this quesiton in my inbox the other day:
Matthew 23:8-112 reads, "But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant.
For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
My Question is how does this apply to today? And does using titles so as to not offend make sense in Scripture?
How do I apply this today? I don’t use such titles for myself and I don’t use them for others either. If someone is going to be offended if I don’t call them “Pastor” or “Reverend,” I don’t spend a lot of time with such people. Their love of titles is a demonstration that they don’t have the heart of Jesus. I’m not saying they are not saved, simply that they are not living very deeply in his reality.
People say they do it only to show honor, but isn't that exactly what Jesus is talking about? Titles separate us from each other, putting some in a special class. Jesus wanted us to understand and appreciate that God alone stands above, and all his people stand alongside each other. Pastor, elder, apostle, may describe a function God has given us in the body; it is not and never can be our identity. Once it is, everything gets twisted.
It isn’t easy negotiating an unknown and potentially serious medical condition especially when you are the mom of young children. A friend of mine is facing that challenge. It's been going on awhile and still the doctors still aren't sure exactly what she's facing. She wrote me this week about being overwhelmed with the fears of what it could be and the weariness of dealing with the symptoms and tests. My heart hurts to her and many others I know facing similar circumstances. As I prayed for her my mind was drawn back to an email I'd just read from Patricia in Wisconsin. In fact, it had come in two minutes before the one I received from this young mom.
It told an amazing story that I thought would encourage this mom and perhaps give her some insight as to how to deal with the latest round of tests. Here's what Patricia wrote:
I hit a bit of a wall a few weeks back waking up feeling as if there was a black cloud hovering over me. I asked Jesus, "What is it that I'm not getting about your love for me? " I asked him to show me. I was pretty discouraged, Wayne, not understanding why. I headed out the door to water the flowers. Being with flowers always seems uplifting. Stretched across the walk was a big snake. Although I assumed it was non-poisonous, my reaction could be described much like when you slam on your brakes when someone suddenly cuts you off in traffic. Frightened, I stomped my foot and the snake quickly slithered into a space between the walk and the front porch. Great, I thought, now it's in the basement! I had a vision of it hanging from a pipe the next time I needed to make a trip downstairs.
Just then Jesus seemed to speak to my heart. "You become afraid, stomp your feet driving your fear deeper inside." The next morning I went out to water the flowers and once again there was the snake stretched out across the walk. This time I turned my empty bucket upside down several feet away from it and sat down. I had an interesting conversation with Jesus about my fear. The next morning the snake was there and the day following that. I began to say good morning to the snake. Although I didn't feel the need to drape that baby over my shoulders I appreciated it's presence. I began to view the snake differently.
By the end of the week he was gone. So was the discouragement. I was left with a deeper, more authentic relationship with Him.
Our fears only grow greater in the darkness and our view of God much smaller. I love this story of the snake and the fact that Patricia would sit down near it and have a conversation with God about her fears. I love how that engagement changed her view of the snake and her connection with the Father who loves her so much. When people encounter difficult circumstances, some try to ignore them, others dwell on them with fear and panic. What would happen if we sat down with God in the face of our fears and talked it out with him? I've often heard preachers or worship leaders telling us to lay down our fears when we come to him. In their minds admitting to fear is proof we have no faith. But that is only denial. It takes far more trust to bring our fears along as we sit or walk with him.
So I sent this story to the young mom facing the scary medical diagnosis, with this encouragement: "You and God can find some deep, deep fellowship staring down your fear and finding out that your whole life is in Father’s hands. It has always been. So is everyone else’s. And those are pretty good hands to have it in, regardless of the outcome."
She wrote back saying my email had begun to draw her into different space. "Your last email made the tears fall... I talked to God... felt like I was flinging myself into his lap like my kids do when they are hurt and scared. I want those deep conversations. I'm tired."
Awesome. What other option to any of us have? We can't change our circumstances. We can't win over our fears. We can only sit down in the midst of them and let Father do what Father does best—draw us into freer space. Fear only makes God seem more distant. He is not. It’s not in his nature. If we take the time to sit with him and let him sort out it out. He knows how to handle it all and make himself known to us. As he settle us in his love our fears lose their power as we know we are not alone and that the one who is in us is greater than any circumstance confronting us.
What else are we going to do, throw a tantrum and drive our fears under the porch where they only becomes even scarier?
I am finishing up my time in Europe and am ready to leave for home tomorrow. It has been a spectacular time, first with the family God has given me celebrating our anniversary. We saw so much together, laughed so hard, and enjoyed each other. Sara and I agreed that these days were some of the most enjoyable of our lives. Then I went to France to gather with some “friends and friends of friends” to share God’s life. We had people from France, Ireland, South Africa, the U.S., England, and I’m not sure where else. What great days, so encouraging and stimulating.
For the past five days I’ve been in the south of France near Nimes, through five days of conversations about our life in Jesus and how he invites us into the new creation of a live well loved instead of negotiating the demands and obligations of religion. They have been so warm and responsive and it has been such a joy to watch God warm hearts and stimulate journeys that have been wearied by the false teachings of religious performance. I am reminded again how much God’s work has continued to shape in my own life and how differently I think and live now than I did twenty years ago. I would not trade this way of knowing him for anything.
Throughout the whole trip I have visited many religious buildings where at great expense and time people have tried to create buildings worthy of God, when the only temple he desires to live in is us, and the only one he wants to build is his church as he invites us to love others as we’ve been loved. While the buildings are magnificent in beauty and engineering, they have not helped those who frequent them know God as intimately as he desired. He cannot be found in buildings, no matter how ornate. If he is more real to you in a Cathedral than he is in your own home, you have missed the most powerful lesson of the Incarnation—God is with us in our world, every day, every moment.
I’ve also visited many places where protestant Christians were imprisoned and tortured by the all-too-easily threatened Roman Church. It’s horrible what they did in the name of God to those who sought to follow Christ without following Rome. Obviously they did not know God or his love. Yesterday I was at in Aiques-Morte a walled city built in the 13th centuryby Louis IX at a French seaport on the Mediterranean. The Tower of Constance (pictured above) was a garrison when it was built was converted to a prison for Protestants in the 18th century. Perhaps the most well-known is Marie Durand, who engraved the word “resister” (below), which in English means resist, into the edge of the well and it can still be seen. Along with as many as 200 other prisoners she had been imprisoned from the age of 15 until she was freed at 53. Despite the power of the Roman church in her day, she knew the glory of resisting what is false to embrace what is real and that to submit her conscience under the threat of torture would deny her the freedom Jesus purchased for her.
She knew resistance is not futile. It is necessary and because so many like her refused to submit to Roman torture, God’s glory grew in the world. In a day when people find it difficult if friends and family judge them for following their freedom in Christ and not conform to religious demands of our day, it was a great encouragement. Yes it is not easy being judged by those you love, but it is still a far cry from being imprisoned for resisting religious leaders who have not a clue who God is.
Summer is here, our grandkids are out of school, and in celebration of our fortieth wedding anniversary that happened last month, Sara and I are off to Europe with our children and grandchildren for the next couple of weeks. We are looking forward to some of the things we’ll get to see there, but more importantly we are looking forward to celebrating the family that God has given us. We’ve never done anything like this and are looking forward to spending so much time together. This is one fun family to hang out with!
However, since this is a two-horse operation, the offices at Lifestream will be closed until June 29 when Sara returns. We’ve got people to still fulfill book orders for those who want them, but other than that, things will be quiet here. I’m going to spend as little time as possible with email and websites during my time in Europe. There will be no new podcasts unless something amazing happens. I may post a few pictures on my Facebook Author Page if I find the time and Internet connection.
I will be staying on in Europe to connect with some brothers and sisters in Barcelona, attend a gathering of Friends and Friends of Friends in the south of France, and finish off sharing with a group of believers near Nimes, France. If you want more information on those you can get it on my Travel Page.
If you have anything important for me, please wait until early in July to write. You’ll get a more reasoned response and my inbox will not get so full. We are blessed to be able to take this time and celebrate God’s goodness and take a break from all the writing and interacting to just enjoy the Father’s work in us. This is a very special time for us and we're excited.
One more note: The Shack Movie went into production this week. You can read more about that here. Just be warned this is one of those websites I detest with annoying and intrusive ads and a really lame preview trailer.
I meant to tag on some sample quotes from Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope's new book, Church Refugees yesterday and in my haste forgot to tag them on to my review. So I will include them here. I know many of you will enjoy this book and the insights it offers...
How can the church possibly hope to survive and thrive as a relevant and meaningful social institution if it keeps spitting out Ethan and people like him? If people who are so dedicated to the church feel the need, ultimateily, to leave for their own survival, what does that say aobut the church and it's future? ... He and his wife didn't give up on God; they gave up on the institutional expression of church. They didn't stop doing things to advance what they believed to be the work of God; they stopped doing things to advance the work of the church. Their suubstantial energies and skills are now poured daily into activities and structures that happen completely outside the purview of organized religion. They've opted for relationship over structure, doing over dogma, and creating with rather than creating for.
From one of the people they interviewed: I had a chat with a pastor at a church that I was interested in attending, and I said, “I don’t want to hear about what you believe; there will be plenty of time to talk about that later. I’m not interested in seeing if we agree, because I’m sure three will be disagreement. The only question I have for you is, How do you deal with people who disagree with you? How does the church handle that?” Because really, for me, that’s the most important thing.
Again in these stories we see a return to the concept of the reluctant leaver, which echoes back to the refugee. People are trying, sometimes for years, to make church work for them before eventually, reluctantly moving on. And when they move on, they move to things that look nothing like the activities that consume the traditional church. They move on to community gardens, art therapy, meals in living rooms around a communal table, Internet chat rooms, and quilting groups. Nobody, not one single respondent mentioned replacing church with a worship service or with a sermon series or with committee work. They are replacing church with meaningful activity that engages their communities and build relationships, things they find missing in the church.
As we say throughout the book, they’re leaving to do more, not less, and they’re doing it with a broader and more diverse community. They aren’t exhausted or burned out. They aren’t retreating to small like-minded groups.
The Dones might lament the loss of the church and grieve the abandonment of an institution they once loved and were so hopeful for, but that won’t stop them from actively expressing their faith. As one respondent, Ava, tod us, “There’s pain in leaving. There’s loss. But there’s hope, too. We’re able to do things now.”