I want to preface this post with a warning. This is part of the process of getting out of my head and into print many of the things I've been intensely wrestling with over the past 6 months (though the process started years ago really). It may change your opinion of me, and I'm OK with that. I started this blog to help me keep a record of my walk on this earth physically and spiritually. This is one of the "deeper" posts. It is also LONG.
If you get lost because it gets too deep or rambles, that's ok too, and I'm sorry.
If you have questions, fire away, it will help me continue to work through this process - after months of going it rather alone, I'm cautiously optimistic to share it with others so as to continue to grow J
A Long Revelation Road
Every once in awhile I start reading a book that just turns everything topsy turvy in what I thought I knew, what I thought I believed. The last few months I've been reading like crazy, but there are 2 books that hands down have just wreaked blessed havoc (in a good way). The first is this one...
The Bonsai Conspiracy
Here's the official description:
When the idea for this book was first conceived, it was born out of a simple desire to help reframe the “Good News” of the gospel of Jesus Christ for those who, having become disillusioned with their “faith”, had found their way to The Grace Project. It was intended for a limited audience. It was for those of us who, in the words of Thomas Carlyle, knew that “the ideal is in thyself; the impediment, too, is in thyself” but for whom the reconciliation of the paradox seemed beyond them.
It was written by Paul Anderson Walsh is based out of and is part of The Grace Project in Great Britain. To add to the "official" description, I would say that personally, it added great depth to my understanding of the mystery of "Christ in Us the hope of glory" and to the grace of God through the New Covenant. This book has kept me up at night because the biblical instruction is so intense and the scope is so pointedly inward. I would go to the scripture passages it referred to and get absorbed in it. It felt at times like it was taking the instruction that I've been under for the past 9 years and turned on a light switch. All the complexities and the the intricate beauty of God's intention for me became something I could grasp and cling to. Likewise all the instructional dust, the rot and the vermin of false add-ons to the scriptures or lack of taking it to the fullest understanding and application were also very apparent...and caused me to become very uncomfortable in my own shoes.
The second book has also kept me up at night, but for much different reasons. First of all, it feels like so much of it has also helped me to tie together much of the instruction that I've received in the word in my walk thus far - especially in dealing with those "whispers". Maybe you know what I'm talking about here. By whispers I mean those moments when you feel like you've heard or read something very very important but because of where you are personally, in your life circumstances or maturity/ or lack thereof or you were too busy to stop and really consider it - you didn't grasp it fully. You are acutely aware that you just glimpsed something big, something real, something more - even if you had to look away or distract yourself.
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing had happened." Winston Churchill - at many times, I know that was me. I had walked away from those whispers feeling like i had been burnt by a small flame, the numb chafed sensation was there, but it wasn't enough to make me pay attention to it...yet. This book has made me pay attention.
This book has also helped me come to terms with questions and doubts that came up over the past 17 years that I was involved in full time ministry in an "institutional" church. By institutional, I mean one that fits into the form gradually established over the past 1700 years including the aspects that were not part of the original organism known as the Church (the Body of Christ). i.e. buildings, paid staff, pulpit-to-pew sharing of the word, laity and clergy, etc. What we know as traditional or contemporary church today
Please understand that I do not have a problem with any of these aspects of church as we've known it personally. However in being fully transparent I want to acknowledge that in all my "working" in the ministry these many years, I always heard these whispers that I was missing something, not just personally, but in the community of the church and it's fellowship with God and one another. Having been part of something that I now know was an unintentional Organic Church in the 90's; I always wondered why that felt so real, so much like Jesus was in charge, and we saw lives really truly changed, compared to the "ministry" I was involved in it was so different. In the "ministry" or traditional church form, if I'm completely honest... different "leaders" were the "head" rather than Jesus. As I said before I feel like a light was turned on and now I can see just a little further down the road and my footing is a little surer... having said all that the second book is:
Finding Organic Church
Here's the official description:
A comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities
Here's my take on it:
Organic Church is not about the "how to's of seeing how the church functions" it's about seeing it as an organism that is alive and it's head is Jesus, not a man or a group of "leaders". It is a completely different way of living your life as a Christian and as a part of the Body of Christ, Therefore, its a different way of viewing "ministry" and our daily/ weekly interaction with other believers and the the world around us. Having said that I wanted to explore a few of the things that I would say started as whispers and then became pivotal in my growth as a believer...
The Jesus Centered Life
When I met Jesus in 1989, my mom was instrumental in leading a life of example of someone who already knew Him, and the main thing she would direct me in was Jesus. "It's all about Jesus", "He's more than enough", "He's all you need", "Look to Jesus"; "Let's ask Jesus" - these statements crossed her lips so frequently it was almost maddening . She was very intent on laying a foundation of the reality of Jesus in my life. Over time I remember getting caught up in various teachings as a young person - but my mom (and other believers in our "Bible Study" - which I now know was more of an organic church than anything) would constantly point us back to the person of Jesus. All these years later, this truth has become more and more of a reality to me. It's not about what I can do or who I am - But who He is, what he did and then who He is in me. He was someone who lived a life on earth in communion with God. He was aware of the reality of heaven, and brought it to earth (as a man) because of his communion with His Father... what did heaven look like? It is the presence and the fullness of God.
Jesus said when we saw him, we saw the Father. That he only did His Father's will. What does the father's will look like? What does the Father look like? Everywhere Jesus went he did good, he healed the sick, he fed the hungry... and in doing so, he upset the religious people. I am becoming more aware that because I am one with Christ, I have this same communion with the Father through the Spirit - and so my steps on earth should mirror Christs (the Son of Man; the Son of God) - my steps should be bringing the fullness of God's presence (heaven) to earth - bringing healing, feeding the hungry, giving hope, doing good (and maybe in doing so, upsetting a few religious people too J)
About 8 or 9 years ago, the pastor I served under began to teach in earnest a series of messages about the Grace of God. To this day I believe that they were a divine word for the body in Niagara. Doing away with works of the flesh, resting in the finished work of Jesus and being set free from fear, guilt, condemnation and sin consciousness rather than Jesus consciousness. Knowing how to sit with Christ, how to walk with Christ and how to Stand. In my life, it resulted in an increased thirst for God, for His word, it steered me toward generosity and an intense desire to demonstrate the great love poured out for me, through me toward all others. It also over time, made me feel an intense sense of responsibility to be a good steward of my life, the lives that cross paths with mine and all of creation too.
Eventually this led to an even longer period of time being instructed in...
The New Covenant/ The Mystery of the Ages Revealed
The following quotes bring it together so beautifully...
"The members of the Godhead counseled together and concieved an eternal purpose. They shrouded this purpose in a mystery, and they hid it in the Son until an appointed time (Rom 16:25; Eph 1:9-11; 3:3-11) What was that purpose? It was that the Trinitarian Community (The Father, Son and Holy Spirit) would one day expand its fellowship to others (John 17:20-26; Gal 6:15; Eph 2:15; 3:3-6; Col. 1:25-27; 3:11) When men and women are brought to Christ and organic churches are born, the divine fellowship is expanded. Properly understood, the church is a human community that lives by divine life and participates in and reflects the Divine fellowship (John 6:57; Gal 2:20; 2 Pet 1:4)." Frank Viola
"This is the story of community. The Trinity, God in community, reaches out in creation and in redemption to form a human community to partcipate in the Divine community..."
"Throughout eternity God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - the community of love. More specifically, the dynamic of the Trinity is the love shared between the Father and the Son, which is the Holy Spirit. God's purpose is to bring glory to His own triune nature by establishing a reconciled creation in which humans reflect the reality of the Creator. The triune God desires that human beings be brought together into a fellowship of reconcillation, which not only reflects God's own eternal essence, but actually participates in His nature." (2 Peter 1:4)
I think its because of this extended amount of time under this teaching via our former Pastor and others like Steve McVey, Joseph Prince, Andrew Womack and Paul Anderson Walsh - that I gradually began to question why the church (and not just the one I was a part of) seemed to be so limited in its effectiveness (especially compared to the years prior to my coming to Niagara and full time ministry when I was part of something that seemed so genuine, effective, and allowed Jesus to be the head - even though it was small - no one person was more important than another, it was similar to the church that I read about in the Bible)... Why were there so many walls, so much division? I have friends (brothers and sisters in Christ in literally every church in the region - and deciding to remain at one, or attend another felt more and more like I was picking which friends I preferred to do life with - and well, I was growing more and more frustrated with this. We are all one body, and I didn't want to choose...
The Organic Church
I was also doubting more and more the pattern of one pastor being the leader of the congregation, sharing the "vision", telling me and others what God wanted me to hear, when all through the years I had learned that God would direct us individually and corporately. I also questioned why a small team (of which I was a part) were the only ones truly using their gifts when the Ecclesia (assembly of the church) would gather together (on Sundays) Though I enjoyed sharing my gifts, I felt that so many others were being robbed of the same privilege... I felt more and more like the primary assembly time was occupied with "the big show" - and I found this in almost every congregation I visited.
I questioned how much more individual growth happened in smaller chapel times of open discussion of the Word, than the longer sermons where one speaks and everyone else listens. Not that I don't appreciate times of instruction and teaching, I do very much. However I've begun to feel that the Body ministry should not be limited to that.
I felt like fellow believers (and sometimes myself) were constantly looking to Sunday as the spiritual "pick me up" - rather than a true celebration of the overflow of daily interaction with Christ and each other. Church was never meant to be a big show with scripted moments for "connection". It's not about buildings, and staff and programs... It is ALL about connection and taking care of each other. It is a BODY - where each joint fits perfectly, and is working together supplying life. The Church is comprised of everyone who follows Christ - and yes we are to get together, often - but is it always supposed to be limited to a certain "local group"?
I question the mega-church model and whether numbers are really what God looks at to measure success. I guess you could say I've just begun to openly question a lot of things (as in the questions in my mind and heart are coming out of my mouth now)... and I know that I'm not alone in my questioning - in fact I've learned that there are millions in the same boat... I also have come to many possible answers, though I know many of them would upset people. So we'll leave most of them for another day...
What I do know is this. The Church is a FAMILY. Sure there should be a general idea of what we'd like to do when we get together, but it should be completely organic in nature - open to change, to everyone participating, to everyone partaking in a genuine love for each other and for God. Instead, over and over again I find that more churches are run like businesses (and of course they have the "business" of the church to attend to (or is it the busy-ness?) - but the wake of this approach is countless believers who've been hurt, offended, battered, abused and taken for granted. Love is not overwhelmingly present for them - you know, patient, kind, longsuffering, gentle, etc, etc. instead they are the walking wounded - and it's all good and easy to point at them and say - don't be offended, but the New Testament is full of exhortations to not cause or be an offence to anyone either. We are supposed to be doing this "God kind of life" together, not living as the world does.
Understanding that the Church flows out of the Godhead removes it from the world of human methodology. Church renewal, then, is not a matter of finding a new style, a mew method, or a new structure. It's a matter of participating in God's life (2 Pet 1:4)... "The most primitive expression of the ekklesia is found in the fellowship of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit before time. We can say then, that the church finds its origins in the Godhead in the timeless past." Frank Viola
"There was ministry before there was a world, ministry in the being of God... Ministry is God's ministry, arising from the communal life of God, the Father, the Son and Spirit ministering love to one another even before there was a world to save."
R. Paul Stevens
"As the doctrine of the Trinity assert, throughout all eternity God is community, namely the fellowship of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit who comprise the triune God. The creation of humankind in the Divine image, therefore, can ean nothing less than that humans express the relational dynamic of God whose representations we are called to be... the focus of this present experience, according to the New Testament writers, is the community of Christ."
In Finding Organic Church, Frank Viola repeats the following points over and over again, showing how in scripture it is a constant thread...
God's Eternal Thought for Humanity
1) To live by divine life (the christian life)
2) To experience the fellowship of the divine community (org church life)
3) to enlarge the divine life and fellowship to others
The thread begins with Jesus
The Father taught Jesus how to live by divine love (essentially the Christian life which is a life lived by God's own life)
The Father taught Jesus how to fellowship with Him as a man... In Jesus, humanity had fellowship with divinity. For the first time a human being was brought into vital participation with the divine community. In this way Jesus Christ incarnated God's purpose for humanity.
The Father taught Jesus how to raise up men and train them in a short period of time, to be able to go out and increase the divine life and fellowship to the known world.
This same thread passed on through these men through several generations and in fact continues to this day...
I love that, the community Christ - where we minister love to one another - because at the end of the day - God is Love and He's what it's all about". I believe that when the church of today begins to walk in the fullness of this, the World will "know we are Christians because of our great love for each other" and since love is the language, the power, the actual person of the Trinity revealed in us - shouldn't this be so overwhelmingly present in our lives and in our community of faith that as we go about like Jesus did...we in turn change the world?
Anyways, I hope this wasn't too much for anyone, and please believe me when I say, I will not go off on a tangent when we're talking face to face - though now you know at least some of what's going on behind these blue eyes when I'm not talking J
Also, please, I am not offended or angry or bitter. I've just had questions. I have loved every moment of these past years in ministry and in the local church. I am grateful for how it's shaped me, and I'm thankful for every opportunity, for all the growth, for every relationship and for all the love and the many memories. I continue to walk the same journey i always have, though I know some feel or think perhaps I am misguided, I am fully confident in Christ and in His Body to continue to lead me in His way. t