Archive for August, 2002

Why I like the desert

Why I like the desert.

For the first 7 or 8 years of my journey as a Christian I was passionately dedicated to the church. Then I had a string of experiences that almost destroyed any hope I had to see the church become what it could be. For years I went in to what I affectionately call the desert. I left my ministry career behind. At that time I didn’t want any part of my life to become dependant on any formalized church. There were some that questioned the direction I took at that time. The obvious objection was that I needed accountability or some kind of “covering”. This kind of feedback irritated me, but for the most part I disregarded it. The idea that you need to be a member of some human institution to reap the benefits of a faith community is false. Many of those who abandon “church” are seeking true Christian community. They aren’t avoiding it.

Even though I was taking my journey in to the desert” I didn’t stop attending Sunday morning services. I even lead a small group, preached etc… I never stopped contributing to the Christian community I was in. Today I’m faithfully serving in two Christian institutions. My recent bible college experience proved to me that some very good things can happen in an institution.

The desert has some very good qualities to it. Although I never considered myself alone, my faith journey became my own responsibility. A student can only become as advanced as their teacher. Ultimately our primary teacher must be the Holy Spirit. In any kind of group (organized or not) there is a temptation to follow each other rather than following Christ. Churches are notorious for creating inert isolated subcultures resilient to new ideas and new interpretations. Independent Charismatic and staunchly conservative evangelical churches compound this with a sense of spiritual superiority. These different factors often create a pool of ignorance.

My trip in to the desert separated me from this. I was better able to read scripture without bias. I re-examined all the old answers to the common questions. Instead of operating on autopilot I was far more sensitive to what scripture might really be saying. I became increasingly critical of the shallowness of modern evangelicalism.

I found that when I was intensely involved in a group I found myself comparing my life to the group standard. When I was in the desert I found myself comparing my life to a biblical standard. There are important aspects to the biblical Christian life that the church subculture ignores.

For years I’ve had one foot in the conservative and one in the charismatic. I marvelled at how conservatives could ignore the role of the Holy Spirit while claiming such a high” view of scripture. Equally I marvelled at the charismatics who began worshiping experiences rather than God and believed effective ministry is how many people who knock down or prophesy over after the sermon.

How do groups get like this? When you grow up in a subculture you absorb its world view with all of its assumptions, bias and ignorance. You believe you are following scripture and Jesus but you are just following the groups collective world view. Scripture stands a marvellous guide out of this ignorance but people rarely read scripture humbly and critically.

I corrected an assignment for a college level class on Corinthians. The assignment was to summarize different sections of Corinthians. I was shocked to see how many people could read a plain section of scripture and read their own assumptions in to the text. It was like this mystical transformation happened between the letters on the page and the brain.

Now I’m integrated in to a formal Christian community I haven’t lost my love for the desert. I like to withdraw every once in while to gain a different perspective. I have multiple conversation partners” that live outside my group that can offer a fresh perspective on things.

In one sense we all need to take personal responsibility for our own faith journey. In another sense God started our faith journey and He will carry it on. My desert experience showed me that if I really want to give God the opportunity to make me the man I’m called to be I can’t just follow the crowd. I can’t blindly accept every interpretation and application of scripture passed my way. I need to truly seek out the kingdom of God like it was a lost coin.

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Website Reflections

I get a lot of feedback from this website. It’s been around for a few years and I am happy to see how it has developed. I’m amazed by some of the different perceptions people have of me. There is one group that thinks my openess and my candid searching is some sign of spiritual illness which they feel compelled to fix. There are some that seem to think I’m some spiritual superstar or something. I think I’m definitely in between.

It’s odd how some people lack the research skills to go a little deeper. I have writings on here that date back to Jan 2000. People respond to what I wrote 2 years ago without taking the time to read a little further. It’s funny how some are so quick to admonish “in love” yet don’t take the time to truly understand the situation. There is stuff that I’ve written that I would say differently today. I don’t remove the old stuff because the purpose of this site is not to be right, but to be authentic.

The last 6 years I’ve looked for the answers to two questions. What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to be the church? In many ways I don’t have the same struggle I had with church. It isn’t as though many of my negative suspicions haven’t proved true. They have. It’s just that I’ve realized they don’t matter as much as I thought they did. I see God working. It’s no excuse for church leaders to carry on ignorant of our collective failings but it is enough to give me hope. Last fall I became immersed again in the church subculture. About every 4 months I have experienced something that makes me want to run my head in to the wall. I think I’m surviving.

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I like Smallville

I like Smallville

For years I really disliked the idea of superman. He had so many abilities that it didn’t seem like there was ever much challenge for him. Traditionally I’ve liked Batman much more because he was just a regular guy with a little bit of style and a dark edge to him.

I’m finding myself very drawn to the character of Clark Kent in Smallville. This guy is “superman” but he fumbles around his relationships with women. He is selfless, honorable and kind. He believes in the best of people. I think he represents a hero people like to believe in. We have a society that is devoid of heros.

I like Smallville because it has a character that is good to the core. One anyone could trust. One who devotes himself to high ideals and the safety of the people around him. That… and the 2 seriously cute girls don’t hurt either.

I want to be like “superman”. I want to be the kind person people trust because they know that I serve an ideal that is greater than myself. I hesitate to say that I serve God. It’s not because I don’t want to be associated with God, that is indeed who I desire to serve. I just don’t want to associate myself with those who serve themselves in the name of God.

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Am I Post-evangelical?

Am I Post-evangelical?

I just finished reading “A New Kind of Christian” and I was surprised to see so many of my own thoughts and conclusions put down on paper. It makes me wonder whether God is leading me in my understanding or am I just reflecting the cultural shift around me? A deeper question might be, is God changing a lot of us at the same time?

I can’t say that I’ve always been that impressed with all the hype around “Postmodernism”. In my experience it is a buzzword that academics employ to make themselves look current. I’ve always been more concerned with the heart of the true gospel. There is merit is meeting the challenge of the changing culture around us. There is more merit in rediscovering the heart of the gospel. Postmodern thought will color the gospel just as modern or medieval thought did. Can we be bold enough to truly let go of our cultural bias and let the word and the Spirit lead us in to truth?

I find it particularly sad that many Christians look upon postmodernism with fear, loathing and suspicion while remaining oblivious to the influence of modern thought on their own practice and theology. I despise modernism’ influence on Christianity. A few years ago I discovered a few verses of scripture that really challenges some of foundations of “modern” Christianity.

1Cor 1

One the main messages here is that division is carnal. Modern Christianity attempts to place all authority in scripture. This is something that I agree with. I trust no other source of revelation or truth more than than the bible. However in modern Christianity reason is used to discern the truth in scripture. Each fact or principle in scripture is abstracted and then applied to our context. The problem with this method is that the authority easily shifts from scripture to the interpreter. Thus you get 10000 different interpretations of the Christian faith and 10000 different denominations.

1Cor 2 “So your faith might not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God”

The modern gospel says “accept Christ in to your heart, and live a life worth of him”. For the most part what is meant is “accept the Christian world view and live according to its principles”. There is very little Christ in today’s gospel. We are converting people to a worldview, “the wisdom of men”, rather than to Jesus Christ.

1Cor 3

Spiritual knowledge is spiritually attained. The bible is one of God’s revelations to us but it can only be understood through the help of the Holy Spirit. Reason alone, or reason and a cursory prayer will not lead us in to truth. Truth was never intended to be removed from the context of experience, community and the Spirit. Once you abstract these principles its like turning oranges in to juice concentrate. Orange juice can be sweetened, it’s easy to drink, and quite tasty. However this process removes nutrients from orange juice. That is why vitamin C is often added back to the juice. Modern biblical interpretation takes truth, makes it easy to consume while removing any hope of life change. Instead synthetic life change is used to make people think they are really growing.

It’s sad how we put so much effort in to teaching and discipleship yet there little difference between Christians and non-Christians. We continue to use the same methods and follow the same philosophy even though its more than evident it doesn’t work.

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