I kissed traditional pastoral ministry good-bye – an explanation of why I am leaving pastoral ministry for the sake of mission in the future

Note well:  it would be easy to conclude from this post title that I did not enjoy the last eight years at the church we planted, baylight church community.  This is FAR from the truth.  This post is in no way a slight to my spiritual family here.  It is actually a testimony to their forbearance, their flexibility, and their willingness to color outside the lines. I don’t know many churches that would have allowed me to go on the journey I have been on over the last three and a half years which included permission to travel overseas often, “speak” only once a month, not give traditional, expository messages on Sundays when I did speak, not hold office hours, take DMin level classes at Bakke Grad School, begin to forge ties outside the church that would take up my time — ties like little league coaching, room parenting, chaplaincy for the local public safety department, engaging in church planting networks, planting organic churches that did not add money or members to BayLight, and the like.  All this, I was able to do while having the best health insurance I’ve ever had and an extremely generous salary that allowed us to afford  mortgage payments in the Bay area.  BayLight has afforded me the support and the freedom that ALL my traditional church pastor friends have looked upon with [godly] jealousy!   I would not be able to make this jump if not for the overwhelming support I’ve received here.

This post is intended to lay a greater framework for why we are making this change to find a new home and a new secular-sacred job, and why, despite my wonderful treatment here,  I most likely will not be reprising the role of “pastor” in an organized/traditional church.

For any who may have missed previous posts (here and here), we are willingly leaving pastoral church ministry in the bay area and moving to Gl0be, AZ for something that many people have a hard time understanding.  And so, I feel the need to write this post.    How did we get from point A to point K7 over the last few years?  The links I mentioned above will shed light on some of the relational help and mentoring we had plus some of the crazy God-experiences we shared first-hand.  In this post, I’d like to shed light on our thought processes that took me from thinking and acting like a traditional pastor who viewed ministry primarily from a Sunday morning point of view (asking questions like: how was worship?  how was the sermon?  how many showed up? are new people coming? am i taking care of people?) to the point where we felt like we needed to leave the setting of organized church in order to live out our God-given design and mission.

So what were the questions we pondered over the last few years?  Here they are:

1.) What IS “church” anyhow? On the recommendation of one of my seminary mentors,  I read Organic Church by Neil Cole, and my structured, organizational church world began to crumble.   Did it have to have a name?  A denomination?  A 501c3?  Did it have to have a seminary-trained or ordained leader?  Did it have to have a building?  Meet on Sunday?  Did there have to be a sermon?  Musical worship?  And if these sorts of structural and cultural trappings questions were not the right ones to ask, then what DOES a church DO?   Why does it exist?  Can a bunch of ex-prisoners confessing sin and praying for the lost in a grocery story parking lot be a “church”?

The Reformation — with Medieval Catholicism as the backdrop — brought two new aspects into the definition of church: it was the place where the word of God was preached in the common vernacular and  the place where the sacraments were observed.   This was what I remembered from seminary.  And this is precisely what seminaries everywhere train people like me for.  But this concept still imported so much of the church as a holy time and event backdrop inherited from Catholicism.  What if even this newer definition wasn’t church AS GOD WANTS IT — just church AS WE KNOW IT?   What if it really was something more organic, natural, and simple than what we’re used to?   What if the O.T. paradigms of holy place (Temple or Tabernacle) with [only] holy people leading (Levites, musicians, Priests) doing holy acts of cultic worship (sacrifices, songs, sacred readings, etc.) were no longer normative communal expressions?  What if EVERYONE was a “priest”?  Everyone could hear from God?   What if the sacrifice was paid once and for all?   What if it was more relational and natural and less spectator and formal?   What if it wasn’t a symbolic meal, but a REAL meal that happened in the course of real life instead of during the holy time of the week (Sabbatarian thinking)?  And, perhaps more to point, what if Jesus had already modeled and taught on what church is and looks like, and THIS is to be our first point of departure instead of centuries of human tradition?

2.) If Jesus were in bodily form now in the Bay Area, where would he be? To whom would He minister?  And how would he spend his time?  And shouldn’t ALL CHURCHES take note of this? I quickly concluded that he would not be hanging out in Sunday morning church services throughout the Bay Area: “going to church”– no matter how good of a program we were putting on.  I know that almost sounds subversive and sacrilegious, but that was my biblically-informed conclusion after reading and rereading the gospels.    And so with the help of Neil Cole’s, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch’s writings, I (along with the baylight leaders) began to see what the MISSION OF GOD was, and how MISSION was the driving principle behind Jesus from incarnation to resurrection to commission.   Jesus was and would be with the “least of these” or “good soil” as Neil put it (people with lots of “fertilizer” in their lives).   He already modeled that by the company He chose and the reputation He earned: “friend of sinners.”  So shouldn’t followers of Jesus REALLY follow Jesus in communal purpose, activities and expression?

When I compared the example of Jesus to my job description there was a notable and shameful difference.  Some 85-99% what we often do as pastors has nothing to do with the harvest and everything to do with the hay inside the barn.  It keeps us AWAY from the suffering, away from the poor, away from the mourning and dejected.   I was spending my time tucked away at home or behind a computer “doing ministry” FOR Jesus but certainly not LIKE Jesus!     What would it look like to take Luke 15’s Lost Parables seriously?  Would Jesus really leave the 99 for the one lost sheep, or was he just being hyperbolic?  Did he really come to “seek and save the lost”? I had to reconcile what Scripture taught about Jesus, His mission, His teaching, and his commissioning/sending us out as he was sent (John 20:21) with what I was doing as a pastor: spending 100% of my time around the saved and not (at that time) having a single not-yet-Christian friend.   No wonder so much of baylight resembled me with lacking significant not-yet-Christian friendships!  They had no one to show them the way!

These were mettlesome questions  indeed!  But if Jesus isn’t part of what we’re doing, then why bother?  Why call myself a “Christian,” a “little Christ,” if Jesus is just a principle or an ancient rescuer and not the one I’m imitating?

3.) Shouldn’t my primary role be not so much teaching, preaching,  and TELLING people how they should live but, instead, living out, modeling and SHOWING people the way of Jesus?   Incarnating the very thing I’m asking them to do and being a forerunner or a “first fruit” of the transformation God is wanting to do among us? I was an award winning preacher at seminary who even got a chance to teach seminarians at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School how to preach.   Preaching is good in itself, but it is often the context within which the preaching is received that is fundamentally flawed and prohibitive of true discipleship (For example, we don’t encourage, follow up on, or celebrate the stories that emerge from “teaching them to OBEY all the things I’ve commanded you” from the Great Commission; we settle just on a resounding preaching/hearing of a good sermon).  Yet, in an information age, there is no lack of good preaching accessible to anyone who wants it.  What there is a decided lack of is mentors and guides: people who have transformed enough and adapted the right thinking into right living.   These are MUCH more valuable than preachers: LIVING communicators who communicate 24/7 and, more importantly, TRANSLATE/INCARNATE the spiritual realities in the way they live.

Interestingly enough, the Lord told me that my one job description for that period of my journey was to “become a disciple worth reproducing” in the words of my mentor and friend, Curtis Sergeant.    I came to see through people like Curtis that disciple-making for Paul was mostly about life-on-life demonstration of processes and patterns more than content; THIS is what allowed him to move on quickly from town to town.  If he couldn’t do it, he would send another.  It was “follow me as I follow Christ,” or listen to and watch Timothy or Epaphroditus for they know of my way (Philipp. 2:19-30).

And is it mere coincidence that once we started to live organically, missionally, apostolically and prophetically, many in baylight began to quickly and beautifully transform and “show the way” to others?  It didn’t get “sticky” and impart to others until we ourselves became pioneers and early adopters.   I know it’s more complex than this, but I didn’t see much of that happen at all when I was putting 20 hours a week into beautifully orated sermons!   I wish someone would have told me that during seminary!

4.) As much as people in my church appreciated me and believed that I should be paid for what I did, should I be?  And does the Scripture teach that I should be paid as a norm or more an exception? I realize this is uncomfortable to talk about, but paying pastors is a commonly accepted practice that should be reviewed.  Is Paul talking as a “pastor” of a church or about “pastors” of the church when he talks about “workers deserving their wages” who teach?   Isn’t he functioning more apostolically and not pastorally?  What is “the work” anyhow? And doesn’t Paul turn down his apostolic right in his relations with Corinth?   What bearing does that have?  Neil Cole has written some interesting articles on this here and here and also in Organic Leadership. They are worth checking out.

And this doesn’t even get into the problems that job descriptions and fees for service create in terms of conflicting interest.  If you are being paid to “take care of people” like a spiritual nursing or hospice care, then will you feel the freedom to reach out to people who are sicker than your clients?    And doesn’t conscience alone demand that you are obligated to help those who are worse off and outside your “borders” (Not to mention what Jesus said about pursuing one lost sheep over the 99 in Luke 15)?

5.) Clearly, leadership provided by the Pastor and the Teacher in the church has not gotten the job done in the West; the church reflects this over-focus on inside-the-walls relationships (Pastor) and on orthodoxy and accumulating more theological insight (Teacher) that both have brought to the table post-Reformation.    If Ephesians 4:11-12 is to be taken seriously, then what would it look like to have ALL FIVE gifts operational in the church: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist.  Pastor, and Teacher? And can we push past our knee-jerk reactions to what an Apostle or Prophet may be that are simply based on ignorance or fear? In particular, Leslie and I  have spent the last three years asking what apostolic and prophetic leadership in the body of Christ is and does.  It’s been in the Scriptures since the 1st century (AND in a circular letter no less [i.e., Ephesians was supposed to be passed around]!), but for some reason, we’ve ignored Holy Scripture and settled for the traditions of men.  And it shows.

Without the prophetic, we consistently make plans without consulting God.  We don’t expect God to speak or perform miracles.  We don’t expect real time instruction and guidance.  We don’t question status quo.  We are afraid to disturb equilibrium.  We don’t consider future possibilities being vastly different than now.  We don’t seek to embody the message as prophetic signposts and firstfruits.  We are content to keep “divine truth” to a static body of truth.  We don’t embrace mystery and the mysterious aspects of spirituality and communal life with God.   And we are content with God as distant Savior and Creator — not as friend and Father and husband of the church.  All b/c of our fear of what the prophetic brings.

Without the apostolic, we are content with addition — not multiplication (adding to our growth instead of seeing exponential reproduction).  We don’t think about culture, DNA and foundations — the underlying Operating Systems behind the programs we cherish so well.  We don’t give permission and don’t let go of small things that could scale into something great and multiplicational.  We don’t ask the obvious questions of sustainability behind our leadership, discipleship and budget — do people REALLY need to have million dollar budgets, seminary educated leaders and 100 Christian people to start a church?    Where in the bible does it say that?    Do we need to have land and a building to have a church?  Nothing stops sustainability more than building — maybe salary does.   In all we do, can it be replicated in a simple way that could — like Alcoholics Anonymous does — go anywhere and everywhere across the globe, carried by anyone?

We are sitting on centuries of ministry that is missing the apostolic and prophetic foundations (that’s how Paul describes them in Ephesians).  Our journey into the need for re-establishing A-P foundations paved the way for acceptance of the charge to create a new “wineskin” in the Apostolic-Prophetic base camp — something with Apostolic and Prophetic foundations (instead of Teacher and Pastor) that is uniquely designed for mission in the last days.   More on this in a future post (here and here).

6.) Is CHURCH even the primary lens we should be using to filter in all Christian and ministry reality?  Shouldn’t it, instead, be Kingdom?  And what happens when one makes this shift? We came to see that it is no longer about “CHURCH” per se.  Or even CHURCH PLANTING.  Or even the next iteration I looked into: CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENTS (C.P.M. for short).  It became about something else.   If I could summarize what we stand for in one word, it would be KINGDOM, the word Jesus most uses and teaches about.   Coming out of seminary, it was all about the “gospel” but as I thought through the close relationship between “gospel” and “kingdom” in the Scripture, I realized that “Kingdom” is the reality of which the “gospel” is the story.   The Kingdom is eternal.  The Kingdom is what God has been creating/shaping since the Garden.  And thus, all spiritual authority and intimacy are linked to how much we’re walking within the Kingdom and in relation to its King.

So what would it look like then if every believer lived for the Kingdom or as Matthew 6:33 said:”sought first the Kingdom”? The answer is found in Matthew 5’s Beatitudes, which is Jesus’ explanation of “what kind of person is in the Kingdom”?  The Kingdom life is the Beatitude life: poor in spirit, mourns, is merciful, peacemaker, hungers for justice, is persecuted…

What would it look like then if every spiritual community lived under the rules/government of the Kingdom and cared more for the King/Kingdom than for church as they know it? This is what our move to Gl0be is all about and why we are not calling our work church planting.   SINCE it’s about Kingdom, that means that the reign of God is seeking to flow out and permeate every crack and crevice of the universe.  The Kingdom is like yeast, it wants to and will fill in everything: media, government, medicine, education, science, family, nations, cities, art, business, the environment, race relations, and so on.  It is not measured by attendance or baptisms, but it is measured by how much alignment and conformity there is to the King’s wishes.  True, that the Kingdom is within the hearts of men and women, but it also expresses itself structurally and spherically.

For example, what does it look like for the Kingdom to invade business?  In the old way of thinking, it was to have businesses that are staffed completely by Christians: a “Christian business.” This “Christian ghetto”  is too small of a dream as it makes little to no visible and redeeming impact on the community around it simply by virtue of having an all-Christian staff.  The Kingdom is bigger than that.  The King wants business to be done with HIS principles and values.

To think Kingdom instead of Church would cause businesses to be vastly different.  They wouldn’t just be means to make money by a bunch of Christians (still serving Mammon!).   Businesses would possess the values, success metrics and reasons for existence that are based on Kingdom principles.  They would create jobs, contribute to the welfare of society; any financial gain would be for sustainability and flow freely outwards.  Profitability is not THE MAIN principle but one among several.  They would care for their employees in a Christ-honoring and dignifying way.  They could even be employment halfway houses for people who are coming out of prison, rehab, human trafficking, and so on. Giving people, not hand outs, but hands-up.  They would create community on a local level and give back to it, instead of just taking from it — sponsoring Little League Teams and Girl Scout Troops.  They would be incubators for discipleship and disciple-making too — thereby intentionally avoiding the Christian ghetto mentality and demographics in the labor force; followers of Jesus would work next to not-yet-followers and disciple them them into the faith.  In all, there would be greater experience of shalom for many — the customers, the workers, and the community — as a result of these businesses such that if you whisked away the business, many would be feel the loss because of the tangible differences this business was making to people in many different oikos groups on many different levels.    (This, by the way, is the type of business we’re trying to create in Gl0be!)

There’s a lot to ponder, and surely we’ve only skimmed the surface.

7.) This difference in approach gets at the final question we wrestled with: is the difference between secular and sacred as big as we really have come to believe? Does God only care about how many people show up on a Sunday morning?  Does He not care about “secular” things like government — who’s in charge and how well are they leading?   Does He not care about the squandering of precious, natural resources?  Does God not care about people littering all over the streets of Globe?  Aren’t these sorts of “secular” concerns rooted in a bigger spiritual problem [i.e., sin] that expresses itself on every level of sacred and secular human expression?

And if the divide is not as large as we first thought, what sort of expressions could the true church of Jesus Christ use that would be sanctified expressions of the “secular”?   Some we have lately thought through to bridge secular and sacred include: eco-tourism, personal life enrichment and wellness, life coaching, farmer’s markets, community gardening, house restoration and beautification, diners and cafes where people hang out.   The cafe that Bryce and Dezi started is aptly called Vid@ E Caffe, which translates as “Life and Coffee.”  It’s a secular place redeemed with sacred intention and ethos.

8.) LATE ADDITION — I don’t know how I forgot this one, but it was a BIG one: how DO we “make disciples” anyhow? Neil C0le reminded me that Jesus never told us to go build churches; he said HE would build His church.  What He did tell us to do was go make disciples.  But when I started my journey three and a half years ago, I realized that I had no clue how to “make disciples”  outside of “preach it and program it, and [somehow] they will come.” It was all Sunday program and small group program based.  I’m still thinking through this one and have posted some thoughts here.

So to piece it all together…

My co-journeymen in Gl0be, Dezi B@ker and Bryce B@rnes, directed my attention to a short piece written nearly a 100 years ago called A City Without a Church by Henry Drummond.  And the principles articulated by Drummond are the very ones that we all stumbled on too in our organic journey; these same principles are propelling our move to Gl0be, AZ.   SINCE it is no longer about CHURCH as we know it,  what would it look like if the boundary markers of “church” were not the four walls of the church building or small group hosting house’s four walls?   What would it look like if the boundary markers for who we are to make disciples of and spent most of our time with moved beyond the Christians we would normally meet in “church” as we used to know it?  What if, instead, “CHURCH” included all the local people of the city and beyond? What if the CITY or REGION itself was the “church” or “parish” to which all Christ-following members were to “minister”?  And why stop there; what if the whole world was the “parish”?  And what if we could create multiple sanctified-secular expressions that brought the Kingdom everywhere and to everything we did?  And what if we could multiply these expressions and the communities of people who do them all over the gl0be?

That’s what our move to Gl0be is about: Kingdom work, a chance to be more authentic, a chance to live out our convictions, but this time as an equal, a business person, instead of a clergyman.  My influence will be relational — not positional.  I will “be the church” with others on their turf and on their terms instead of expecting others to “go to” MY church on my terms.  And church will be “done” everywhere and all the time with the people God cares about most: the lost and the least of these.

Thank you for being part of our journey into this wild, wild West where all the possibilities are endless — limited only by a lack of people willing to go and join God.


18 comments to I kissed traditional pastoral ministry good-bye – an explanation of why I am leaving pastoral ministry for the sake of mission in the future

  • Wow. What a powerful post! I wonder what would happen if all of us were as thoughtful and open to examine our life’s direction and mission? Thanks for sharing this and for being so open and transparent. I believe it will help others out there on the same journey to know they are not alone in wondering about some of these things.

    I hope to link to this post on my own blog in the coming days. I often get private emails from people I don’t even know who are asking many of the same kinds of questions.

  • LyleW

    Way cool, Mike! I know this has been an amazing journey for you and Leslie, and promises to continue to be so.

    This is definitely one of those blog posts to which I want to keep a link handy. Lots of stuff to process here. I’ve already forwarded it to some of those people Jesus has me discipling (my sons!) for their consideration on their journeys.

  • mikeandleslie

    Thanks guys. The amazing part of it all is how God tells people from many different cultures and walks of life the same thing. The universality of this phenomenon, more than the cogency of anything we write down, seems to me to be the clincher that God is speaking and bringing the church back to where He always wanted her.

    It’s great to be on this journey with the Muses and Wilkinsons!

  • Pastor Steve Knott

    I enjoyed your thoughts and I do believe the church is to move beyond the four walls of a building (I teach and preach that often). But I also truly believe that the church buldings are very important today and exist… (as did the synagogues in the time of Jesus)…as places of worship on the Sabbath and as schools of training and teaching. Jesus Himself taught in synagogues on regular basis…and Luke 4:16 “He (Jesus) went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as it was HIS CUSTOM.”
    Jesus went to the synagogue “as was His custom”. Even though He was the perfect Son of God, and His local synagogue undoubtedly left much to be desired…Jesus attended services every week. His example makes our excuses for not worshiping and participating in church sound weak and self-serving. Worship in our local church should be a part of our lives.
    You made a comment in point #1 of your post,”On the recommendation of one of my seminary mentors, I read Organic Church by Neil Cole, and my structured, organizational church world began to crumble.” I believe we should not let secular books structure our lives…I believe the one True Book that answers all life situations should do that–the Holy Bible.
    Just a reminder…not all pastorial ministries fall into the application you have provided in your posting. I disagree with your statement, “Clearly,leadership provided by the Pastor and the Teacher in the church has not gotten the job done in the West; the church reflects this over-focus on inside-the-walls relationships (Pastor) and on orthodoxy and accumulating more theological insight (Teacher) that both have brought to the table post-Reformation.” How do you know this? Have you spoken with ALL individuals whose lives have been changed because of the OTHER teachers and pastors that are faithful in obedience to God’s Word and their service through the church? Or… are you basing this comment on the consistant downfall of mankind due to sin in this world?
    God works through all men and woman in different ways and different avenues to accomplish His work in the Kingdom…as I am sure He is working through you and many others…And I praise and honor and give HIM all the glory for His varied work.
    May God continue to bless you and lead you into a wonderful and continuing ministry for His Kingdom.

  • mikeandleslie

    Part 1:

    Steve,

    Thank you for sharing your differing perspective and the charity behind your thoughts. That is an important ingredient for any sort of dialogue of this importance. And I think we would both agree that there is much on the line when we consider that people are dying with Christ as we speak. In fact, by the time I have finished writing this sentence thousands across the world will have perished without ever meeting Jesus. This is a travesty that goes far beyond questions of form, structure and tradition.

    As was evident from my post, I do come at this from a different point of view and feel quite passionately about these topics. And I also am prone to long-windedness, so … I would like to continue the discussion and respond to some of your points because I believe these are such important points we’re talking about that deserve rigorous thought and honesty. I will attempt to be true to my passion/conviction while also true to my call to love others as myself. So here goes…

    1.) As for the topic of buildings, I do not believe buildings are bad in and of themselves. Nor do I believe that every Christian building is doing nothing redemptive within its walls. I do think, however, that buildings are tied/contributing to a very strong culture that is steeped in centuries of tradition beginning, not in the bible, but actually in history when Church and State were wed (If you want to read a historical analysis of some of our tried and true practices, read Pagan Christianity by George Barna and Frank Viola, but I warn you that it will be very polemic and irritating for most in traditional circles to read. I agree with a lot of Viola but just wish it was less hard-lined and combative). And I believe this culture is lethal to the growth and maturity of the church.

    Part of this Christendom culture associated with buildings is attractional (come to us) instead of missional (go to them). You cannot have a separate building called a “sanctuary” and have “worship service” without communicating something attractional and something other-worldly/special. I believe attactionality stands against the practice of the N.T. – including Jesus’s. Attractional Christianity is an Old Covenant paradigm. Jesus models and teaches a completely different paradigm of GOING TO the lost and having us MISSIONARIES change OUR culture to adapt to the lost person’s. It’s no longer Jerusalem but the new Heavens and new earth; no longer a temple, but the body of Christ; no longer turning Gentiles into proselytes with half privileges, but all are equal before Christ. Even in early Acts, the church has a hard time going from the centripetal motion(directed inwards) to centrifugal (outwards); so that’s why God brings persecution and that’s when Acts 1:8 truly begins to unfold! Paul also carries this same missional Modus Operandi as evidenced in I Corinthians 9: to the Jew, Greek, Barbarian, slave, free, HE becomes like one of them to save them (i.e., incarnational, Jesus-style mission). It is OUR responsibility to change OUR culture — not the convert’s. That is the burden of N.T. mission teaching and practice, is it not? But churches since Christendom have not caught on. We still want people to come to us. But in our Post-Modern, Post-Christian state, they are not coming anymore. This is what so many of us pastors in the West are beginning to see (especially where I live in the S.F. Bay area). Easter and Christmas mean less and less to post-Christian people and provide less and less opportunity for attractional churches to “attract” newcomers. The world is changing, but have we caught the original missional impulse that launched Acts, drove Paul, Patrick, the Moravians, William Carey, John Wesley, Lottie Moon, and the rest who understood the missional heart of God? Buildings de facto communicate “come to” – not “go to.”

    Sure, the proverbial saying says, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” but I’m not convinced that the building is the baby. I think buildings are the bathtub. It is the medium/container that houses the baby (the true church which is PEOPLE) and the scummy bathwater (the culture that prevents true disciple-making from happening). But doesn’t the baby need to live the rest of life OUTSIDE the bathtub? If we keep on feeding and playing with the baby in the tub, then it will never be equipped for life outside the tub. Sure, the culture is the problem, but the culture is SO tied up with the medium of building that it is hard to just teach or preach people out of it when the medium is also part of the message. You cannot have bathwater without a bathtub! Right? Something more radical is needed than just more teaching served within the building itself. Don’t you think? As Willow Creek concluded in their Reveal Study, they need to equip people to be “self-feeders” OUTSIDE of the church building and infrastructure.

    A positive example of proper building use is when Paul (for a finite period of time) uses the Hall of Tyrannus for a few years in Ephesus for training in Acts 19, but they met daily and did something there that led to all the province hearing! Talk about good! Something tells me they weren’t “doing” conventional church there (especially since they were already rebuffed at the local synagogue), but that Paul, as a missionary who was learning the power of multiplication and farming with good not-yet-Christian seed, was doing intensive disciple-making training. How else does the message spread out to the surrounding areas since not everyone in Ephesus alone can fit in a lecture hall. If churches everywhere did this in their buildings and empowered lay people to be ministers and missionaries wherever they are, then job well done! But that’s not what usually happens, is it? How often do we check on people’s progress? Walk with them as we send them out? Pray for their progress as they minister? Permit them to start something else — even on a Sunday morning? Most of us don’t ”give away” ministry but hoard it for the talented few on Sunday mornings for the sake of quality control — not a desire to reach the surrounding area. And that is clearly not a N.T. paradigm where all are priests, all hear, all are under only one head named Jesus — not Pastor Mike. I think our parishioners are crying out to be shown something more than taught it. They don’t know how to interact with the lost and don’t even have many lost friends to boot because they are being told to spend most of their time with the saved! If we don’t break that, who will?

    So, in my estimation, the blessing received from hearing a sermon and singing songs is not worth the high cost because that comes with the reinforced and unspoken counter-message the culture is telling them: you cannot read, grow, teach and minister outside of the church building context and unless you are educated and ordained. The building has become part of that inadvertent message because it’s only in the building that the “training” and “ministry” happen.

    Complex, right?

    ============

    2.) As for your example of Jesus in Luke 4:16 I’m really glad you brought that up, but I don’t believe that text and analogy reinforces the point you’re trying to make.

    For one, going to the temple for instruction is limited to Jesus’ pre-ministry days (i.e., his culture as a Jewish boy). Luke 4:16 is merely a past precedent, not a future one. Examples post-Luke 4 provide the future precedent, which, in my study of the occurrences of ”synagogue,” show Jesus using synagogues for HIS ministry purposes. Once Jesus starts His public three year ministry, Mark 1:39 tells us that Jesus uses the synagogue as part of His ministry venue: So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. Synagogues were one among many places where Jesus (as Paul also did in Acts) would do Kingdom MINISTRY — not sit through passive worship services. Jesus redeemed the purpose of the synagogue itself and injected His own mark. He drove out demons and healed the sick and taught about the gospel of the Kingdom in the synagogues — just like He did everywhere else to people not part of the religious system. So you’re right that it was His past custom to go to the temple for instruction… until this moment when he reads from Isaiah’s scroll and inaugurates His three year ministry. After that, synagogues are a place for proactive and powerful ministry.

    So if we were to grant that churches are the modern day synagogues [which I’m still not ready to do], then let’s take it all the way! Let’s make traditional/organized churches the places where the gospel of the Kingdom is heard AND seen in power. If we’re going to make Sundays a performance or “show,” let’s make them the places where it’s JESUS “show” — not the bands’ or the preachers’. Let’s do the real deal, keeping it about Jesus and the Kingdom message and life He brings. This way, people will meet Jesus and be forever transformed in such a way that their entire networks seek Christ (another N.T. pattern). And on top of that, let’s not do it just every week, let’s meet every day! Because when Jesus goes to the Temple in the latter part of his ministry in Luke 19-21 (in preparation for death), He is there EVERY DAY. Let’s blow the tops off churches as we know it. And start to really engage in “one another’s” lives often.

    One other reason I believe your point that synagogue/Temple = church today does not match is because my word study of every occurrence of “Temple” in the gospels reveals a different trend. Where synagogues were places for ministry, Temple was a place of rejection, judgement and confrontation. When I looked at the evidence, I saw that Temple had negative connotations to Jesus. Think about it: in Luke 4, Jesus is REJECTED by the religious people of his day from his hometown while in the religious place (”synagogue”) of the day, and the rejection trend continues in the biggest synagogue of them all: the Temple! Following the hometown rejection, Jesus’ ministry opens up to non-synagogue settings too (just like the Parable of the Banquet). In fact, in between the rejection in Nazareth and the rejection in Jerusalem (the beginning and the end) Jesus intentionally goes to the ones who are not inside the Temple on a consistent basis! It’s part of the rejection and judgment theme, is it not? So instead, we hear about him being a “drunken” and a “glutton” and eating at the tables of the scum of the earth: the Levi, Zacchaeus, Mary, the Samaritan Woman, lepers, tax collectors and prostitutes! His “ministry teaching” that he offers is more often OUTSIDE the religious institutions and buildings. Six days a week, He teaches on hillsides, on boats, during meals, in homes, while traveling — all the NATURAL places and spaces of life. This becomes more part of the norm and even shows in the life of the early church.

    While this non-synagogue venue is opening up, there is a simultaneous closing up of the Temple venue. When we track occurrences where Jesus is in proximity to the Temple, often He is not even in it! Jesus usually only makes it as far as the Temple courts before He has a confrontation. The Temple after His Nazareth rejection becomes a place of judgment and confrontation — it’s where he has run ins with the teachers of the Law, where he drives out merchants, where He teaches against the establishment. Temple is not positive; it is negative. It’s a place of judgment that will be destroyed and torn in two — symbolizing the new bridge between God and man that does not require holy building or men. All this happens en route to the Spirit residing in the Living Temple. Do you see? So it is counterproductive to use a negative motif like the Temple that Jesus is intending to destroy (similar to infant baptism proponents unadvised reliance on circumcision).

    So while I appreciate your quotation of and desire to rely on Scripture, in my reading of the gospels, I see a different pattern and example of Jesus and would not want to use an outdated and negative motif that Jesus permanently altered through the Cross.

    =========

    3.) As for your statement, “Worship in our local church should be a part of our lives,” I wholeheartedly agree but I just don’t share your definition of “local church” or your implied understanding of “worship” as a fixed event and time and place. Maybe I’m missing something, but can you show me in Scripture where worship means assembling and “going to church”? And doesn’t worship get stripped of its cultic senses through Christ? Hebrews is all about this: Jesus is better than sacrifice, priest, Temple, Sabbath, etc. Worship becomes less cultic and more natural life a la Romans 12:1-2 in what I read.

    As for church, I realize these are not traditional points of view, but I still have to ask aloud: did Jesus have a local church? What and where was it? If he had one, it surely wasn’t the synagogue. It was most likely in company with his 12 and unlike anything we’ve ever done. In addition, one generation later, did the early converts in Jerusalem have a local church building? Where was it? It wasn’t Solomon’s Colonnade. It wasn’t even the Temple, for, in Acts, the Temple is sort of like the synagogue for Jesus. It wasn’t a place for free worship but a mission field filled with both seekers and hostile religious people. That’s why Peter preaches in it and converts many! It was not a safe and cozy place for the saved to congregate. The closest thing to a church building in Acts was people’s houses — which is the more natural and everyday life space for people as opposed to religious building. Again, part of the trend of decentralization where literally and figuratively “the church comes home.”

    So as I take a closer look at biblical history, I see that not all these early forms carry over neatly to the forms we have of “worship services” in “local churches.”

  • mikeandleslie

    Part 2:

    4.) Steve, you also said:

    You made a comment in point #1 of your post,”On the recommendation of one of my seminary mentors, I read Organic Church by Neil Cole, and my structured, organizational church world began to crumble.” I believe we should not let secular books structure our lives…I believe the one True Book that answers all life situations should do that–the Holy Bible.

    Steve, I love the heart behind your statement but I think it’s more complex than what I think I hear you saying. For one, is a Christian book (like Organic Church) that talks about God’s mission and teaching on making disciples a “secular” book? I guess in my mind I don’t see it that way. If I use the same sword to cut that you’re using now, then I would say that all your and my and any pastor’s sermons on Sunday are also secular because they are less than what the Bible says. Do you see? Doesn’t God speak truth through gifted teachers? We would be foolish to disregard them, or else there is no Reformation through Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the rest. These are the prophetic voices that reminded us of Grace alone! Faith alone! Scripture alone! Cole is among those I would say are reformers of (not doctrine but) church mission and structure. If we whole-scale choose to ignore them simply because they are not the bible, then we do so at the risk of staying trapped in our traditions that culturally shape our lenses and filter what we think SCRIPTURE is saying.

    But let’s grant the heart of your point that we should stick with Scripture and not listen to human teachers. As you mentioned, we are sinners who come with our presuppositions and, in our case, that looks like reading into Scripture what we want. The same problem teachers struggle with is the same problem WE ALL AS INDIVIDUALS STRUGGLE WITH. That’s why Southern plantation owners AND Southern Baptists of old quoted the bible to justify slavery. That’s why Baptists and Presbyterians read the same bible but get different baptismal modes, why pre-millennialists and post-millennialists also arrive at different eschatologies. The problem is not with the bible, but with us — WHICH IS WHAT SCRIPTURE TEACHES! We all read in different points of view. So we need to proceed with humility and an openness to being corrected. AND we need to be more intellectually honest about the role of our culture and our presuppositions in affecting our hermeneutical lenses. Wouldn’t the reading of alternative Christian voices like Cole’s be worth testing our current traditions and beliefs — especially if they help us get back to what Scripture is saying?

    I guess I share your heart but feel that it is important to test our preconceived ideas often through varying voices over the ages and across the world.

    =======

    5.) You also said:

    Just a reminder…not all pastorial ministries fall into the application you have provided in your posting. I disagree with your statement, “Clearly,leadership provided by the Pastor and the Teacher in the church has not gotten the job done in the West; the church reflects this over-focus on inside-the-walls relationships (Pastor) and on orthodoxy and accumulating more theological insight (Teacher) that both have brought to the table post-Reformation.” How do you know this? Have you spoken with ALL individuals whose lives have been changed because of the OTHER teachers and pastors that are faithful in obedience to God’s Word and their service through the church? Or… are you basing this comment on the consistant downfall of mankind due to sin in this world?

    Steve, thank you for reminding me that not all pastors and teachers are contributing to the malaise of the West. I accept your point/correction and sincerely hope that I get counted by God among those who have helped more than hurt the Kingdom cause!

    While I accept your point, I do not believe the metrics you counter-offer are standard or even necessary. I don’t believe we need to talk to every pastor or parishioner to know what the health of the church in the West is. There are enough studies and measures of the health of the church along different vectors. Lifeway does some. So do universities like Baylor and denominations like the Southern Baptists. Christianity Today, which I read, often has many contemporary statistics. The Pew Center and various newspapers like USA Today also have conducted surveys tracking the state of Christianity in America over the last 10 years. Everything that I have seen has shown reasons for anxiety from impending judgment on the church for losing our way and reasons for intense re-evaluation of methods, strategies and structures.

    I will list some now, so you know where I’m coming from:

    ++Our youth are leaving the church and faith in Jesus en masse and not returning after college. Anywhere from 50%-94% (depending on which study) of them are turning their backs on the church and not coming back. Isn’t this reason to weep? (some are here http://www.onenewsnow.com/Journal/stories.aspx?id=75927)

    ++The Pew and Baylor University studies show the continuing trend from 1990 to 2008 of people leaving organized church. Here are the opening lines: When it comes to religion, the USA is now land of the freelancers. The percentage of people who call themselves in some way Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation. The faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: The Bible Belt is less Baptist. The Rust Belt is less Catholic. And everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers — or falling off the faith map completely.”

    ++There are entire states in America (like Vermont) where less than 10% of people go to church. Didn’t Christianity come to America through the New England area!

    ++ 15% of the US population defines themselves as belonging to no religion. Here is an excerpt from the American Religious Identification Survey—conducted by the Program on Public Values at Trinity College.
    The percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from 8.2 in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent. Given the estimated growth of the American adult population since the last census from 207 million to 228 million, that reflects an additional 4.7 million ‘Nones.’ Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont, at 34 percent ‘Nones,’ leading all other states by a full 9 points.
    ‘Many people thought our 2001 finding was an anomaly,’ [Ariela] Keysar said. We now know it wasn’t. The ‘Nones’ are the only group to have grown in every state of the Union.’
    In addition, every single Christian group has decreased in terms of percentage of the US population–and most have declined in raw numbers as well. In regards to atheism, the study says:
    ‘Only 1.6 percent of Americans call themselves atheist or agnostic. But based on stated beliefs, 12 percent are atheist (no God) or agnostic (unsure), while 12 percent more are deistic (believe in a higher power but not a personal God). The number of outright atheists has nearly doubled since 2001, from 900 thousand to 1.6 million.’

    Here is [missiologist] Alan Hirsch’s summary on this study:
    In sum, the findings show or lead to the conclusion that:
    1) Religion and Christianity are on the decline in the US;
    2) Protestantism is doing worse than Catholicism due to Catholic immigrants;
    3) Mormonism is keeping up with population growth, and Islam and New Age/Wicca are exceeding it;
    4) Atheism, while still a small percentage of the population, is on the rise; and
    5) “Spirituality,”–or non-organized belief in God–is still vibrant in the US.

    ++Last I checked in 2,000 (before I did church planting) there were more churches being shut down than started. I’m not sure if that trend has changed.

    ++Even hearing Willow Creek admit on “Reveal” that they have wasted millions of dollars on programs and not on making disciples speaks volumes about the failure of the Western church if one of its flagships has already evaluated their disciple-making ministry as a failure. Does it not?

    ++And I’ll end with the Southern Baptist study that is most likely emblematic of all U.S. denominations: International Mission Board (the cross-cultural missionary wing of SBC) has just reported these figures (got this from Guy Muse):
    The SBC scene in America in 2006:
    – 151 new church plants
    – 394,321 baptisms in 2006
    There are 44,223 SBC churches in America –> meaning:
    – In 2006 an average of 0.0034 new church plants per church.
    – In 2006 an average of 9 baptisms per church

    9 baptisms per U.S. church per year. No wonder we’re not keeping up even with the population rate!

    I think I’ve made my point, so I’ll stop listing statistics. I believe one does not have to do comprehensive qualitative analysis to achieve the pulse of the church. Regardless of who is running the study or what they have to gain from it, the numbers are all low and show decline that — if not addressed — show the West to be in some serious trouble.

    Contrast this to what is happening in the Global South and East where there is 10th generation church planting happening in India, where 300,000 people were baptized in May of 2009 in Madya Pradesh, India, where an estimated 100 million have multiplied in the Chinese House Church movement, where Bangladesh has doubled in the amount of Christ-followers just over the last 10 years — stats like these in contrast to what’s happening in America heighten the fact that we are in decline and approaching the trajectory of post-Christian Europe where, in France, only 20% of people have ever seen a Bible before. Could we be heading towards a fate like France’s?

    I believe we have enough data from which to make fairly accurate generalizations about the state of the church in our country. I also don’t think any of us are happy to see/hear these stats, especially because these are real people who are dying without Christ and spending eternity away from him. It pains the heart of God, and it should pain us too out of any sort of apathy and over-attachment to tradition that simply is not working.

    You probably agree with me that status quo is not an option. The harvest remains plentiful here, but the workers few (Luke 10:1-2). And if only there were MORE actual workers in the harvest field that were being sent out from the barns of all the churches in America.

    What are some of your thoughts on how that could happen more using the current resources and paradigms we have?

    ==========

    6.) Steve, you said: ”May God continue to bless you and lead you into a wonderful and continuing ministry for His Kingdom.”

    I really do appreciate your blessing, Steve, and your obvious heart to do good and rely on God. I hope that despite our differing points of view, we may both be faithful to what God has in store for us. I welcome any additional thoughts or clarifications you may have.

    For the Kingdom,

    Mike

  • Awesome summary of your journey so far. We rejoice, and stand with you.

  • Marshall Harris

    Thank you Mike for your Post and introducing me to Neil’s book on the ‘Organic Church’. I have listened to and read the excerpts (http://www.cmaresources.org/organicchurch) and there is no doubt that he is “On Target”.

  • mikeandleslie

    Thanks Tony and Felicity!

    Marshall, I’m glad you’ve had a chance to check it out. May the Lord give you people to walk ahead of you, to walk alongside of you, and to walk a few steps behind you as well for the journey that lies ahead.

  • Bill Ross

    Great story. Sounds just like mine. We left a good pastor position some years ago for these very reasons. Our journey has not been easy but we are now incarnating into the real world and I have friends who are not believers. That’s exciting. the more we create our Christian ghettos the wider the gap we make. It is hard to love people across that gap. No, it’s impossible to love people across that gap because love demands a relationship. That’s what Jesus did and He is calling us to do the same.

  • Hi Bill! Exciting journey; is it not? Miss the people but not the trappings of pastoral ministry. Do you feel the same freedom we do?

    And a shot in the dark here, but why not… any relation to a Julie Ross? If so, I think our wives may be part of the same female, simple church think tank.

  • Hi Mike, Thank you for sharing your story as it resonates at a deep level with me. I pastored conventional churches for 17 years before transitioning to teaching. It was during that time that my wife and I asked, How can a secular culture be reached with the Everlasting Gospel. In short, we started a simple church in our home.

    May God bless you as you press on in Jesus’ name.

  • Much appreciated, Milton. Pressing on with you, Mike and Leslie.

  • Douglas McCall

    This is where I am coming from! Brought up in the church via pastor’s kid, it was same ole routine, not giving it a thought if it was right or not? I have since challenged myself to search the bible and God’s guidance to find the truth. Watchman Nee I believe seen the light many years ago, in his books and life studies of the bible. Many other great men have seen the light and I believe there will be a Great awakening of the Spirit of the Kingdom!! Amen!!

  • Your blogpost was added as part of a comment on a blogpost of mine on Organic Church Today titled “Organic Church, Preachers, Teachers and Big Meetings” http://www.organicchurchtoday.com/profiles/blogs/organic-church-preachers-teachers-and-big-meetings

    Here’s my response. My bluntness is aimed at the imbalances and biases in the organic church movement that I became so excited about and not you.

    Mike: What IS “church”anyhow? Did it have to have a name? A denomination? A 501c3? Did it have to have a seminary-trained or ordained leader? Did it have to have a building? Meet on Sunday? Did there have to be a sermon? Musical worship? And if these sorts of structural and cultural trappings questions were not the right ones to ask,then what DOES a church DO? Why does it exist? Can a bunch of ex-prisoners confessing sin and praying for the lost in a grocery store parking lot be a “church”?

    Rob: EXCELLENT!!!

    Mike: If Jesus were in bodily form now in the Bay Area,where would he be? To whom would He minister? And how would he spend his time? … I quickly concluded that he would not be hanging out in Sunday morning church services throughout the Bay Area:“going to church”–no matter how good of a program we were putting on.

    Rob: Presumptous!? Firstly, He probably does attend most of these services. He successfully ministered in formal church-like environments and in informal surroundings, as did Paul.

    Mike: Some 85-99% what we often do as pastors has nothing to do with the harvest and everything to do with the hay inside the barn.

    Rob: This is the gifting/task that God gave some people to focus on. Jesus commissioned Peter to take care of the sheep and feed them amongst other things. Jesus was all the gifts in ONE. We are each only a facet of Him.

    Mike: Shouldn’t my primary role be not so much teaching,preaching, and TELLING people how they should live but,instead,living out,modeling and SHOWING people the way of Jesus? Incarnating the very thing I’m asking them to do and being a forerunner or a “first fruit”of the transformation God is wanting to do among us?

    Rob: Both, just as much preaching and teaching. Jesus taught and commissioned teaching.

    Mike: These are MUCH more valuable than preachers:LIVING communicators who communicate 24/7 and,more importantly,TRANSLATE/INCARNATE the spiritual realities in the way they live.

    Rob: It’s BOTH!!! You make it sound like chess pieces, and it seems that you don’t want certain pieces to continue on the board at all. It’s impossible to multiply with only your method at the expense of preaching and teaching to large groups too. We are still to obey the command to teach. Jesus sent communicators who were still poor in attitude and later wanted to bring fire down on people. He has us communicate often despite our flaws, and the glory goes to Him.

    Mike: I came to see through people like Curtis that disciple-making for Paul was mostly about life-on-life demonstration of processes and patterns more than content; “

    Rob: “MOSTLY”? Again, a bias. IT WAS BOTH. Paul was regularly teaching. Content was critical. The content cannot fail and besides being living and active, it is what he was commissioned to share. As examples we can’t always be full-proof, but the word preached is.

    Mike: And does the Scripture teach that I should be paid as a norm or more an exception? I realize this is uncomfortable to talk about,but paying pastors is a commonly accepted practice that should be reviewed. Is Paul talking as a “pastor”of a church or about “pastors”of the church when he talks about “workers deserving their wages”who teach? Isn’t he functioning more apostolically and not pastorally? What is “the work”anyhow? And doesn’t Paul turn down his apostolic right in his relations with Corinth?

    Rob: The type of “workers” aren’t specified, probably because all who have as their vocation in the church sphere are worthy of their wages. Paul reclined on the money, for specific reasons he mentions. But he makes it clear that GOD made it a worker’s right. It was more an indictment on them, not a model for ministry, otherwise we are saying Paul had a better way than God who instituted the practice.

    Mike: Without the prophetic, we consistently make plans without consulting God….we are content with God as distant Savior and Creator.

    Rob: Unfair and extreme statement to bolster your argument.

    Mike: In all we do,can it be replicated in a simple way that could —like Alcoholics Anonymous does —go anywhere and everywhere across the globe,carried by anyone?

    Rob: Well said! However, the lack of this is the also partly the result of the lack of this in teaching.

    Mike: Our journey into the need for re-establishing A-P foundations paved the way for acceptance of the charge to create a new “wineskin”in the Apostolic-Prophetic base camp —something with Apostolic and Prophetic foundations (instead of Teacher and Pastor) that is uniquely designed for mission in the last days.

    Rob: As long as it’s not part of a knee-jerk reaction to the past misuse of teaching and preaching. Jesus has teaching as part of the commission. And, Jesus never indicated that this should ever diminish.
    Also, surely, “uniquely designed for mission in the last days” could be said of all gifts.

    Mike: Kingdom is like yeast, it wants to and will fill in everything: media, government,medicine,education,science,family,nations,cities,art,business,the environment,race relations,and so on …it is measured by how much alignment and conformity there is to the King’s wishes. True, that the Kingdom is within the hearts of men and women, but it also expresses itself structurally and spherically.

    Rob: Great! Isn’t CHURCH one of those spheres that needs kingdom invasion?

    Mike: This difference in approach gets at the final question we wrestled with: is the difference between secular and sacred as big as we really have come to believe?

    Rob: Is there a distinction between sacred and secular? Did Jesus jump back and forth between the two? He was sacred from 0-33, in all that He did and said. Similarly, all that we are involved with is sacred.

    Mike: And church will be “done “everywhere and all the time with the people God cares about most: the lost and the least of these.

    Rob: He does not care for them the most! This is wrong thinking and creates a bias in ministry. Do you really think God loves the sinner down the road more than the newest member of Christ’s church, or any member for that matter? Much of Paul’s prayer life and ministry was consumed for believers.

    Rob in closing:
    The “system” in the Western Church is filled with many imbalances, but there is nothing wrong with preparing messages and teaching and preaching and what you were doing per say! However, if God has led you to extend your church boundaries and change your approach then do so, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water by implying that what God uses but man abuses as wrong in and of itself. Teaching and preaching are part of God’s way to reach and help people as is financial support of full-time workers. “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1Tim 5:17).

    Obedience in one area and neglect of another is imbalance. You seem to imply by what you say that your new organic way is a better way, but it is also imbalanced. Swinging the pendulum all the way to the other side is good for making a point, but not for lifestyle. Balance! Balance! Balance!

  • Robert, you obviously have a lot to say about this topic. Most of what you say I address elsewhere in the thread of comments. You could find what I would say in there. I do not desire to get into a long, unproductive, and drawn-out “discussion” about each and every point, the kind I see happening between you and others on your website. I don’t think persuasion happens through these sorts of means — not to mention that I believe I have said more than enough on this topic throughout the post and its comment thread. You and I clearly have different opinions on how to best interpret content we both read in Scripture. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at the end of the day, so I will let the tension lie and not address every comment you made in the way you felt you needed to do with mine.

    You should know that I am not a professional blogger, I did not post anything on your site and thereby willingly engage in such a discussion. I do not treat this personal site of ours as a teaching forum, as you may see yours. I express the lessons God is teaching me, mostly for friends afar who are praying for us. While I have two seminary master’s degrees and have taught in a seminary before, I do not make it a crusade of mine to teach others through the written word or to correct others through the written word. My life experience has shown me that people learn best when you can show them with your life what you are saying or writing. In other words, I live a lot, and I write a little — and in that order. I write these things for my friends who often visit me here. It is part of an ongoing relationship where I try to explain the changes I’ve been undergoing and articulate the thoughts that correspond with the actions God has asked of us.

    All this to say, I believe you and I have different approaches. I would never dare presume to go on someone’s website and try to correct fallacious thinking written by them nearly three years ago. And so while I disagree with some of the content you wrote [that I’m not going to address], I mainly take issue with the spirit in which you wrote it.

    To get there, I will address your take on bias and imbalance that I consistently hear you saying. I have bias. Everybody has bias. I don’t think bias is a bad thing. It’s part of a hermeneutical process that is honest and correcting the mistakes of pre-modern thinking that believes it can know with 100% certainty what the bible says. As often as you accuse me of having it, you reveal yours. It’s just the way it works, Robert: we read in what we believe. Your example of pointing to the numerous so called “teaching” examples of Paul and Jesus is an example of such bias as is your biased assumption that Jesus sent his disciples out to teach/preach instead of evangelize, demonstrate the kingdom through signs and wonders, and start churches around “people of peace.” You accused me of bias then answered with bias. I’m fine with you answering with bias, but please don’t lecture people of something you engage in yourself — especially if they never willingly engaged in discourse.

    As for this virtuous-looking thing called “balance,” I think balance is an unnatural and unhelpful word spoken by people who do not realize the complexities of real life. Who has a “balanced” home life? None of us do! We ebb and flow with what life gives us. Sometimes we give family more, but in other seasons, sometimes friends more, sometimes work more. None of us sits there in the chaos and thinks, what is the balanced thing to do? I believe a demand for balance fails to realize how organic life really is.

    Take for example, your demand for balance in BOTH teaching and modeling for others how to live the Godward life. Is this born out of your experience or born out of an intellectual idealism of yours that believes we can have both perfectly balanced? If it’s born out of experience, you may be the only one I ever heard of who could make both happen. When you are spending 20-30 hours a week on your sermon in the study of your room, do you REALLY have the time, relational energy, and the strategic focus to model for people how to [say for example] love your neighbors? Are your sleeves rolled up and doing the hard work of walking with people around you? You can’t do both at the same time. I know I didn’t. I purposely chose to spend time and energy on my congregation than on my neighbors. As a result, the congregation started looking like me — with the same lack of relationships with not-yet-christians. I know countless number of intellectually honest Christian leaders who also can’t do “both” and wish they could. So how can we legitimately look our disciples in the eye and tell them to “follow me as I follow Christ?” as Paul said if we ourselves are not living the life of obedience to all Jesus commands us (Matt. 28:18-20)? We have modeled for them a failed neighbor-loving life that stays at home in the name of ministry and giftedness. Simply crying for balance is not going to help any of these discontent teachers who know their sermons aren’t doing as much transformation as seminary told them they would.

    What I have in turn been telling my friends has been this: we cannot pass on what we ourselves don’t have. Teaching gifted people CONSISTENTLY try to do this. If every teacher took his/her own call to follow Jesus more seriously than the “ministry” itself, then my experience and my reading of the Scriptures tell me that there will be a Spirit-infusion like we’ve never before experienced. Cries for balance are only going to lead to more frustration as people continue to pursue a self-enforced illusion born around a romanticized view of the minister as a powerful preacher.

    All this to say, I think it is naive and unhelpful to tell people they need to pursue balance.

  • Please forgive my lack of sensitivity. I wish I had focused more on the MANY things that we agree on than on the issues that I didn’t. I was in a particular mood related to my post and that spilled onto you. Sorry for being too focused on relating your work to my post than on giving you the honorable response that you, by your life, more than me deserve.
    I COMMEND YOUR PIONEERING BEYOND THE WALLS. YOU ARE AN EXAMPLE THAT SPEAKS INTO MY LIFE!

  • Robert, I don’t know that I deserve your commendation, but you are gracious in offering it. And I thank you for responding in that way and not deeper into argument. I am sorry that I incorrectly thought [dreaded] you would. You have clearly proven me wrong.

    We all hold our opinions and our convictions closely. And we all wish we could get second chances. We, the Christian church, do not have a good track record in engaging in civil discourse over these differences. I agree to disagree with you, and I welcome hearing those disagreements in an agreeable spirit. I also agree to watch over my own heart better to watch for some of the things you mentioned in your post.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>