Dan ministers among a community of House Churches called The Summit Fellowships (http://summithome.org). He encourages a simple, relational and generally "free-range" practice of Christian faith. He also facilitates Pastor's Prayer Summits through International Renewal Ministries. He is a writer and a teacher. His books include, "Sword of Submission - Reclaiming the Power of Being Human," "The Butterfly and the Stone - God's Love on a Prodigal Journey" and several compilations of humor. He and Jody, his wife of 42 years, live in Portland, OR.
What is the “Eden State”? It is a nation that believes the self-evident rights of its citizens are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These rights — privileges — were precisely the ones bestowed on the first humans. And we all know how that turned out. Perhaps we are on the precipice of a similar catastrophe.
OK, there was Fifty Shades of Grey (the book and the movie) and more recently, Deadpool. There are others, but what I am talking about is “entertainment” that stretches the boundaries of taste and deliberately slaps at morality. What amuses us says something about us and our culture.
It’s Time We Had a Talk
I am not referring to a conversation on sexual expression and preferences. Rather, we need to talk about culture and where we are as a society—where we are going. It says something when a movie that explores sado-masochism is hyped on main-stream television, or when a super anti-hero snuffs life after life with raucous abandon. The normalization of deviant sex and graphic violence for comic effect says something about the dominant culture. Furthermore, it begs the question: as Christ-followers are we going to be a part of the dominant culture or secede from it? Will we bend to the will of social norm, slowly and belatedly, but ultimately acquiesce? Continue reading 50 Shades of Deadpool: Culture Near Midnight→
This morning, I spent some time praying in my office. I pray here instead of walking when the weather looks sketchy, and today it was definitely that. As I knelt, I had the strange feeling that I was not alone. I realized I had joined – rather, I had entered into a place where countless others have come. Not that they had all been in my office, only that they had been in that space of prayer. It was as though I could see them all, overlaid in that kneeling space. There were Peter, John and the eleven; Paul, Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla. There was Augustine and Luther; Calvin and Meno Simon. There were Wilberforce, John Knox and Wesley; Moravian missionaries and cloistered priests; Bonhoeffer, Corrie ten Boom, Watchman Nee, Ian Thomas and on and on…countless saints, named and nameless have come to this place.
They have come in quiet humility and desperate need; agonizing over weaknesses and repentant in failure. They prayed their exultation in God’s grace and over victories in His love. They came in fearful resignation and courageous determination. They have all been here on their knees crying out to God.
We lament over our insignificance and the hopelessness of our efforts, yet we are like all of the great ones when we pray. Moreover, we are like all of the unknowns. All of us have knelt in this place and so, have become a community. In the place of prayer we are like the luminous heroes of the faith, and not unlike the faintly glowing souls of those who lived in obscurity.
Here, in the privileged place of prayer, we are one.
This is the third in a series about the demographic called The Dones and their exploration of simple church. A version of this article appears at www.summithome.org.
Having just celebrated Pentecost, the birth of the church, I’ve been thinking about the trajectory of those early believers. Those were heady days! People being swept into the kingdom; discovering a new love for each other; sharing their goods; eating, praying, and learning from house to house and in the public spaces of the temple.
Then things got dangerous. Saul started breathing threats against the followers of this “Way.” The followers of Jesus were forced to run for their lives (Acts 8:1). The result was astonishing. Everywhere they went they started talking about the wonders they had seen in those early days in Jerusalem after Pentecost. In their enthusiasm these new believers were like dandelion seeds blowing in the wind (Acts 8:4). They may have been on the run, but their message took root wherever they landed. And so, other communities of faith sprang up all over the region; little gatherings of people eager to learn.
The Dones. “Done-delions?”
What about The Dones? Could they be like the early church scattering from Jerusalem? Maybe this apparent exodus of faithful followers from the traditional halls of the church are a new wave of the Kingdom. And why not? By all accounts these folks haven’t lost their faith, only their patience. They want their freedom. And some of them are discovering other “free-range Christians” outside the walls. They haven’t forgotten the importance of gathering with others (Hebrews 10:24-25), they are merely simplifying, meeting without the box.
I’m excited about the possibilities. I would love to hear of the adventures of The Dones. I’m hoping those of us who have been meeting simply can link arms with them. Jesus has promised to be in the midst of those who gather in His name. I think it will be better for him to be in a hundred places among ten than in one place among 1000!
A friend of mine, Wayne Jacobsen, wrote a book he titled, The Naked Church. He took the name from the Children’s fable, The Emperor’s New Clothes in which a king is swindled by a couple of hucksters who convince him that the clothes they could tailor for him would be so fine and special that only the most worthy could even see them. Of course that meant that for anyone to admit that they could not see these kingly garments was to admit being unfit and unworthy. Predictably, nobody said anything, not even he king. Then one day the fine new “clothes” were finished. The phony tailors pretended to place them on the king who marched out of his palace to display what no one dared to admit was his royal birthday suit! Finally, a child, who has nothing to lose by speaking the truth, cries out, “Hey, the emperor hasn’t got anything on!” Suddenly, each person in the crowd realizes they aren’t the only one who can’t see those fine new clothes.
This is what appears to be happening in the church. Not a few of the dones are crying out from their place in the grandstand that something is missing in American evangelicalism. As Jacobsen put it,
The church is naked. Who hasn’t seen its deficiencies and wondered why we keep going on with it? But this is difficult to admit. If it is true, what do we do with our multimillion-dollar mortgages and operating expenses, our singing celebrities and their adoring fans, our committees and their policy statements?
These are faithful Christians who are admitting to themselves, and increasingly to others, that they wish there was more to being a disciple than participating in church programs. Moreover, they have spent years coming to church on Sunday mornings to get taught; Sunday school to get taught; Sunday evenings to get taught; mid-week service to get taught and mid-week Bible studies to get taught. They have concluded teaching and being taught can’t be all there is.
Consequently, the Dones are making what some would call a risky decision. They are setting out to be the church without a “covering.”
In an earlier post I mentioned Hebrews 10:23-25 being used to discourage the dones from leaving their church. The term, “covering,” is another means by which people are counseled to remain in a church organization.
My first recollection of the idea of a spiritual covering was toward the end of the Jesus People Renewal of the 70s. The term was part of what was called the “shepherding movement.” The idea was that God had placed levels of authority in the church as protection against error, pride and arrogant individualism. At least that was the idea. As people attempted to apply the principles of that movement, it became a tool for manipulation and control.
With the passage of time, the shepherding movement was discredited and faded. Still, vestiges of it remain, including the concept of covering. I hear it mostly when I talk to the dones who are curious about doing church simply. They want to know how about heresy and false doctrine springing up in groups without a covering. I point out we have been going for 25 years and that hasn’t been an issue. People with hair-brained ideas may show up, but it isn’t long before they realize that the group isn’t much interested so they promptly move on.
The fact is, we should be gathering together as matter of sonship, and we don’t need to trust an organization with policy statements and paid professionals, to keep us tracking—to be our covering. We need Jesus, the scriptures, the Holy Spirit and one another to live as disciples.
The question is, though, how do “the Dones” fit in to that?
Today in the Sunday school class that Jody and I teach at a local church, we continued a discussion of authority and power. The discussion centered around the scene in Matthew 10:1 where Jesus conferred authority on His disciples and then dispatched them to various villages and towns where He planned to visit Himself.
The question centered around what it looked like for Jesus to give these men authority? Was it a pep-talk, like a coach in the locker room at half time? Did He lay hands on them? Was there a supernatural infusion of some sort? Or did Jesus merely send them out with the assurance they could do what He was asking of them?
Also, we talked about what would have happened if the disciples had not exercised the authority they had been given. The answer was probably, nothing. If they hadn’t acted on what Jesus had instructed, God’s power would not have been released.
That revealed an important connection between authority and power: obedience. Without obedience — the willingness to act on the authority of God — the disciples could not have walked in power.
The same holds true for us. We are to discover the authority Jesus has conferred upon us and then determine to be obedient in that authority. Only then can we expect to see the power of God.