Jesus is simple. The Bible isn’t. Jesus is deeply, profoundly, unknowably, unfathomably, costly, and painfully–simple.
If you have followed me any length of time, you know I am not shy about critiquing the corruption and short comings in institutional and organized forms of Christian religion. I know many of you, like myself, have experienced not just poor church experiences, but scarring and damaging ones. Many are wary, rightfully so. Many are in extreme forms of reaction, both theologically and emotionally to anything formally structured or organized in terms of following Jesus with others–being the people of God together practically. Frankly, some have lost hope and given up.
That is why this post is so important. I have permission to share it and have blanked-out personal names to maintain privacy.
I believe this real-life, real-time letter from a pastor I know personally embodies the values and the transformative power of what can happen in a local church REGARDLESS of how it is STRUCTURED, when Christ is exalted and central at all times, where the good news of the gospel is relentlessly preached in a simple yet powerful way, and where loving and serving each other is all that matters practically.
I believe it will be worth your time to read.
The heavy-handed application of Matthew 18:15-20 leaves a trail of pain, broken relationships, and human carnage among God’s people. Controlling authoritarians use Matthew 18 to silence dissenting speech, prophetic criticism, and to label people as trouble makers–sources of contamination in the assembly that must be purged.
If you have spent any time at all in Western/Evangelical/Charismatic Christianity, you have heard things like these:
- God is big, you need to dream big.
- God has big dreams for you.
- Your faith needs to be big.
- You need to be a dream chaser.
- Your faith is too small.
- You are destined to be a world changer.
- Overcome your ministry limitations.
- Take your ministry to the “next level” . . . and so on.
American cultural values of success: size (numbers in attendance), finances, and fame (sff) –bigger is better–more is “God,” have spread through Western (American) popular Evangelicalism like a bad outbreak of athlete’s foot fungus in a men’s locker room.
Part Four of the Church Refugee Sanity Guide, presents ways to recover from the pain we will likely experience in our relationships (church, family, and friends) when we are misunderstood because we no longer participate in traditional forms and expressions of “church.” If you or someone you know has been damaged, accused, threatened or other wise spiritually abused in a religious atmosphere, I entreat you to watch this video (as well as Part Five that will be coming next in this series). I think they are the most helpful and practical things I have ever done in this regard.
Within Charismatic circles, there is a widely influential subset group called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). One of their strongly held beliefs is the necessity of submitting to an alleged “apostolic covering” or maintaining what is called “governmental alignment” to a “covering apostle.” It is alleged that failure to do so, cuts off heavenly blessing and opens the individual to spiritual dangers and demonic attacks. The Protestant forefathers must be rolling over in their graves. They gave their life’s blood to do away with the belief system that required a class of religious professionals to broker or mediate the blessings of heaven to the believer. It is beyond painful to see the resurrected form of this doctrine being espoused in so-called apostolic churches and foisted under the banner of “new revelation,” “restoring apostolic covering,” and “restoring apostolic authority.” It is not new revelation. It is old heresy in a new dress.
Spiritual covering is a biblically illegitimate, bad idea, that just won’t go away.
Next to death of a loved one or a divorce, fewer things are more emotionally and psychologically challenging than changing a “church” association. Often when people begin to question their church experience and consider “leaving,” they feel alone, misunderstood, accused, disoriented, and perhaps even crazy or thinking they are losing their mind. They often feel unloved and unsupported. In this first session of an eleven-part series called the Church Refugee Sanity Guide, I introduce the topic and provide a frame of reference for understanding that you are not alone.