Category Archives: American Christianity

things about American Christianity that I hope changes soon

Do we have it all backwards??

“If you make disciples, you always get the church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples.” (Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen)

I come from a long line of church going people…my Father was a Church of God pastor (my Mother still is), my Grandfather was a Church of God pastor for over 40 years and my great Grandparents help found the Pelzer Church of God in South Carolina.  I was a church going fool growing up…Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night FTH and Friday night prayer meetings were the norm for me and I didn’t think anything of it because that’s what was expected from you if you were a faithful Christian.  When I became a follower of Christ in 1997, I was rabidly obsessed with Jesus, God, the Holy Ghost, the Bible and anything that vaguely had anything to do with spiritual stuff…I would have slept at the church if they let me.  I was literally in church every single time the doors were opened and when I finally got a key, I would open the doors myself!

Now, if you would have asked me during that period in my life if I was a ‘disciple’ of Jesus, I would have laughed and said that OF COURSE I was!  I read the whole Bible in a year, I prayed for an hour a day (really loud sometimes), I read all the right books by “Spirit filled” authors and I tithed 10% and even gave offerings on top of that.  Over time though, it all lost meaning to me.  The Bible became stale, my prayers became ritualistic and vain repititions, the books just blended together and my tithing became another bill I paid every week.  Of course, to rectify the problem, I relied on my church going background and thought that if I did more of those things with greater passion, God would take away the emptiness I was feeling and replace it with the joy that I once had.  That didn’t happen.

In fact, the opposite happened.  In the midst of the hopelesness and despair that I was feeling, He spoke gently to me and said that true discipleship is not praying 24 hours a day or memorizing the Bible or raising the dead or ANYTHING that I can do…it’s being simply obedient to what the Father asks of me.  The problem was that I didn’t have any clue what the Father was asking of me because I hadn’t shut up long enough to hear Him speak.  I’ve tried to do that a lot more recently…just be quiet and allow Him to speak to me.  And what He’s showing me is that our criteria for being a disciple is vastly different than His criteria.  We think that a good disciple is someone who shows up to our church stuff, gives money and occasionally feeds poor people…and this is not to bash the ‘institutional church’ folks.  You can be just as duped in an Organic Church, Missional Church, House Church or whatever else you want to call it.

To be honest, I don’t think we have the foggiest clue what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and I am the chiefest of sinners!  As Mike Breen says “discipleship is  having a life worth imitating! We are inviting people into our lives and asking them to imitate the parts of our life that look like Jesus.”  I am taking a long, brutal look at my life and searching for the part of me that I would want someone to imitate…I’m still looking to be honest.  I wonder if any of us can truly make disciples if we have never been discipled ourselves?  How can we pass on something that was never passed to us in the first place?  Have we lowered the bar so far on what it means to be a disciple that we’re satisfied with attendance, buildings and cash in the offering plates?  I don’t know…I don’t have the answers to these questions but I have a feeling that Jesus will only wait so long for the church in America to get it’s act together and begin to do the ONE THING He actually commanded for us to do: MAKE DISCIPLES!

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Man, Organic Church is a beautiful mess!

Paige and I began down this wonderful, scary road of church planting about 3 years ago when we felt Him tell us to resign our position at a great church where I was executive pastor.  Since then, He took us through a desert place for about a year which tested our faith in Him but also “de-programmed” us of a bunch of stuff that was tradition of men and had nothing to do with what it  meant to actually “be” the church.  At the end of two years, God brought an incredible group of people int our lives and we made a commitment to God and each other that we would allow Him to make us missionaries to our world no matter how unclear that process may be at time…and it has been very unclear at times.  We all have been tempted at times to go back to the “way of doing things” that produced visible results and made sense to us since we all grew up in church.  Thankfully, we resisted that temptation and stayed on the path that God was showing us, step by painful step.

Well, here we are, a year later and God seems to finally be illuminating more than just the very next step in front of us…the path to becoming missional Christians is becoming a little more clear every single day.  We have decided to forget about planting a church and focus on planting the gospel in our offices, homes, neighborhoods and wherever God takes us.  The cool thing is that we are starting to see how that seed is taking root in people’s lives and God is the one who is causing the growth to happen…all we have to do is continue to sew seeds of justice, mercy and love and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.  A network or “oikos” is beginning to take shape and it is very, very exciting!

About 6 months ago, a woman in our church befriended a woman who was in a homeless shelter with her 2 year old son.  We all agreed that God brought this woman into our lives and we couldn’t leave her like this.  So, we basically adopted her and her son, helped them move into an apartment, buy furniture/dishes/pots and pans/clothes for her, her son and the new baby and anything else she needs.  It has been a slow, incredible, painful process but actually helping someone always is.  When you don’t just ‘throw money’ at someone but instead to become intimately involved in their lives, you have to sacrifice time, money and convenience but it is SO worth it.  So, the cool part is that we just found out that not only this lady wants to be a part of our church but now her mother (who she had NO relationship with as of a few moths ago), wants to check us out because she has seen how we have helped her daughter.

This has now become more than abstract concept to us.  God is wanting to birth a rapidly multiplying, multi generational move of God in this country but it will only happen when we focus on planting the gospel, loving people and “being” the church wherever they are.  For the first time in years, I am truly excited about the possibilities of what the church can be and what can be accomplished in this country for Christ!

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The “New Pentecostal” Manifesto

Samuel Lee, from Holland, has come up with a proposed ‘Statement of Faith’ for new Pentecostals. Even though I don’t agree with every word, it really sums up what I and other Pentecostals have been feeling for a while now:

“The New Kind of Pentecostals are:

1.Those who do not claim exclusivity of the Holy Spirit to a particular denomination or church.

2. Those who respect other Christian denominations and traditions and are willing to fellowship, share and cooperate with them.

3.Those who believe that the unconditional love that is inspired & directed by the Holy Spirit in believers is the greatest sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

4. Those who share the Good News with all mankind, but in a manner full of grace and love and not through arrogance and “the-we-know-better-than-you-mentality…”

5. Those who believe that miracles, signs and wonders are still possible today, but one should not elevate these above the humility and the message of Jesus Christ. They are those who are against commercializing and merchandizing the gifts and signs of the Holy Spirit.

6. Those who do not tolerate any form of fear-theology and manipulation techniques in the name of the Holy Spirit in order to gain wealth, even for the ministry.

7. Those who believe in the grace that is in giving tithes and offerings but are against abusive and manipulative forms of preaching/using Malachi 3:8… Tithes and offerings should not be controlled and must come from the heart of the giver and not from the fear preached from the pulpit.

8. Those who may disapprove of the non-heterosexual lifestyle, but are not witch-hunting homosexuals. Instead of using hateful vocabulary toward homosexuals, they listen to and pray for them.

9. Those who are balanced in their theology on Israel/Zionism. New Kind of Pentecostals are those who aim to play the role of bridge builders between the Jews and Palestinians. For God loves both…

10. Those who are not only concerned with miracles, signs and wonders, but are also concerned with social justice, and with the poor, the oppressed, the orphans, the widows and the immigrants.

11. Those who respect other cultures’ and people’s convictions and even religions, and are willing to enter into a mutual dialogue with them, without any hidden agendas.

12. Those who respect and have a dialogue with other cultures, yet when it comes to any form of inhumane practices within these cultures, the New Pentecostals are willing to address them.

13. Those who are concerned with the environment and are willing to bring in Pentecostal input in caring for the creation.

14. Those who believe in the Bible as the inspired collection of Holy Scriptures, yet they use the scriptures to bring forth grace and mercy and offer blessings instead of doom and gloom theology.

15. Those who believe that leadership should be servant hood; that leaders should serve instead of being served. Leaders should sacrifice instead of demanding sacrifice. Leadership should be based on love and fellowship and not on spiritual rank.

16. Those who respect traditional churches, or organized churches, but believe that the real church is built of people and their relationship with God and with each other. They are those who believe that the church is not a “building”, but it is a part of God continually fulfilling kingdom.”

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Have we become this bored with Jesus???

I saw this on Bob Hyatt’s blog and couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Have we seriously lost sight of the mission of Jesus so much that we resort to doing the “Holy Ghost hokey pokey” to entertain people?  This stuff makes me want to cry (and not in the good way).

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My kind of leadership

I don’t want to be a part of a denomination or institution or religion.  Before I die, I want to be in the very center of a bona fide, life changing, generation defining movement and that movement will only happen when we get back to making disciples of Christ! Contrary to popular belief, Jesus never once called us to plant churches.  Go ahead, scour the pages of the entire Bible…you will not find one single scripture that exhort us to plant churches.  Then, put the Bible down and go to the christian bookstore and compare the number of books on church planting compared to how to make (or be) a disciple.  Somehow, we’ve deluded ourselves in the rationale that if we plant really cool, hip churches, then people will automatically become disciples.  Well, we’ve failed miserably…if you don’t believe me, read the stats.

So, as I was thinking and praying about this, I asked God to show me what a movement would look like in our generation…what will discipleship look like in these postmodern times?  And one day, I came across a dancing fool from the Sasquatch music festival.  This is just one guy who couldn’t care less of what people think of him…yes, he is shirtless and probably on drugs, but he is authentic and genuine and people join him.  In him, I see how a movement works and I SO long to see it happen with the church in America.

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Anne Rice quits Christianity

Legendary author Anne Rice has announced that she’s quitting Christianity.

The “Interview with a Vampire” author, who wrote a book about her spirituality titled “Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession” in 2008, said Wednesday that she refuses to be “anti-gay,” “anti-feminist,” “anti-science” and “anti-Democrat.”

Rice wrote, “For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian … It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”

Rice then added another post explaining her decision on Thursday:

“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me,” Rice wrote. “But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.”

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