As you first step away and step out, you often find yourself looking back. Then you find yourself looking around. Finally, at some point, you only look forward; knowing God has called you to keep walking with Him, into places that are neither convenient nor comfortable.
To start writing this blog, I am looking back a bit, without criticism or judgment, but honesty and truth in my words. I will then get to the point where I look around and actually open my eyes to see the reality of the Christian condition and the Body of Christ. Then here we are today, looking forward and following God by His Spirit. But between what was and what is now, there’s a lot of blog to be written.
The timing of this is perfect. Right now in our lives, Marvin and I have been stripped pretty bare. There are no great ministry opportunities coming our way. There is no support coming in to help us to travel out even if we wanted to. I am beyond concentrating on it anymore. I am writing. September for the blog. October for the book. Okay, onward. One day about 16 years ago………………
I was sitting in a car with another leader going somewhere. This person was desperately trying to define me or understand me. I did not seem to fit in, even then. So the questions started:
“What is your purpose? What is your call? What do you want? In my life as a leader, I focus on relationships. Everything in my life is built on relationships and what flows from that. I am pretty practical you see. What are we doing for the people?”
After thinking for a brief moment, I answered with a simple answer.
“I want to gaze upon His beauty and reflect His glory.”
This person laughed at me. Laughed at me as if the answer was so ridiculous and vague as to have no substance to it. I was shocked and then a bit saddened. I never got angry but I was very sad. This sadness played out in my life in the months and years ahead. I did not want the externals and the man-made stuff, which was the focus of the denomination in which I was a pastor. I wanted more, much more.
The journey to my eventual exit from ‘church” started this very day in this car. I realized that the desire of my heart was to actually believe that spiritual environments could be built and sustained by the Holy Spirit – Habitations of God’s Glory. Kingdom environments moving in Christ with strong clear leadership sold out for Jesus. Sadly to say, I have seen it only a few times in my 30 years of Christian life. But I am still holding this dream in every way for I know it shall become reality in the Body of Christ one day.
What I did see in my years of being in the church structure was a preponderance of the fear of man where leaders take their cues from the people and even from the world, and not from the Spirit. Man continues to build using the world’s wisdom and tactics in so many different ways I could scarcely believe it to be true. But it is.
After we left, as I said before, we continued for a while to seek out churches. We were looking for Jesus. Don’t even think I was looking for some perfection that doesn’t exist. You are wrong if you make that assumption. I was looking for a place where Jesus was given the freedom to flow and move, as He desired. That is perfect order by the Spirit.
What I found instead were churches that were run like a fine moving machine with all the parts set in place with exactness and precision. It was so ridiculous that it could have been funny had it not been so sad. The typical scenario confronted us with each place we went. There were variations on this theme in some places but that was the exception.
Basically 90 minutes or a bit more was allotted for God to move. The reason being that Sundays were not times to rock the boat or to scare people away. We heard it was a time for people to come in and taste. How utterly ridiculous. We saw the same routine over and over.
Short prayer from the pulpit to officially open the service. In one church, they actually had a countdown on the screen that said how many minutes until the service started. They were smooth and precise for at the last second, the person sauntered up and began, down to the very minute.
Worship services generally consisting of 3-5 songs that generally flowed one right after each other with very little time in between to wait on God. Worship people generally seem to not understand what it means to wait and flow in the Spirit. Basically this is because the leadership does not give any freedom to do that because it generally upsets the prescribed agenda.
Announcements in a power point presentation or short video clips which talk of a myriad of programs that appeal to tiny tots, children, youth, college age, marrieds, singles, over 50’s, leaders and on and on.
Offering was taken.
The Pastor generally then got up and began to preach, either a series that was in progression from the previous week or a new message. The focus on most of these messages was directed on how the individual could be a better Christian. Rarely did we encounter a message that actually delved into the depths of raising up or equipping people to BE and not DO.
Remember, I am writing this for me. I am trying to be as accurate as I can in this blog. I don’t even want to over-edit anything. I will save that for my book. I am just writing right now to get this out. It has been a long journey for Marvin and I – almost 13 years since we left to get to this point. It has all been worth it and we don’t regret taking this path at all. I have so much more to say. Enjoy this journey with me!