Autopsy of a Dying Church

I haven’t read this book Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom Rainer (yet), but this paragraph from Sethoasis was too good to overlook.

Slow erosion.

The past is the hero.

Refusal to look like the community.

No longer gospel-driven.

Preference driven.


These are some of the familiar elements mentioned in the book.

Describes my church way too close to home.  Looking forward to reading it soon.

Assuming Consistency where there isn’t any

I just finished Phyllis Tickle’s book, The Age of the Spirit. As usual, Tickle combines theology and realpolitk like no one else.
It made me think that we assume nothing’s going to change – when, in reality, everything (or almost everything) is changing.
This shows the European borders and their changes in the past 800 years. You can see the type of churn that Tickle’s talking about. (I muted the music, but it’s America).

We don’t like the depth of change or its pace, but it’s life.
For you geeks, here’s a great illustration of exponential growth.

As Juan Enriquez says, “No U.S. President has died under the same flag as he was born under. Ever.”

We ignore change to our peril.


Jesus looks at us with Pity not Blame

Blond Boy CryingTears welling up in her eyes, I knew that I’d yelled at the exact wrong moment.

  • She understood how crushing that turnover had been.
  • She knew there were only 15 seconds on the clock.
  • She knew the game was, now, lost.

As we got in the car, I felt pity for my 14-year-old not blame. I told her she had played a good game (which she had) but she was deaf to my words.
Then I told her about, 30 years ago, when my dad was coaching me in 7th grade, how I’d made two turnovers in two separate games on the same Saturday. We lost both games.

She smiled.

When it comes to sin, brokenness, and our wounds, Jesus doesn’t look at us with blame. He looks at us with pity. Just like I looked at my daughter.
Wouid it have been nice to win that basketball game? Sure, but her soul and her spirit were (are) much more valuable to both of us – and to God.

Julian of Norwich put it this way:

God would no sooner assign blame or wrath to us then he would to his own beloved Son, who has taken into himself for all time the wounds and brokenness of the world. In utter solidarity with all humanity, Jesus experienced crucifixion and death, then descended to hell where he performed a mighty deed: “he raised up the great root out of the great depth, which rightly was joined in heaven.”

How would it change the way I walk with Jesus if I got this?

He looks on us with pity, not with blame.

In all his holiness and God-ness, he still was (is) a human being with the physical scars to prove it. This humanness is the miracle of the Incarnation. He takes on all human suffering, wound and sin NOT to pay some eternal tab of the pissed-off Father. No. He enters our world, our pain, our brokenness, because he promises to be with us (Emmanuel) to the end.

I know what my 14-year-old experienced as that errant pass left her hand. How? Because I made that same pass – several times – with similar results. I know what that’s like, not because I read about it in some book, but because my hand touched that ball right before the other team stole it and laid it in.

Jesus doesn’t stop those wounds/turnovers but he does inhabit them. As Paul Young says:

He camps in the middle of our tragedies.

I couldn’t jump from my coaching box to stop my daughter from making that errant pass, but I could – however haltingly – make her smile after the game. Not because we’d won, but because I knew what she felt.

Jesus said, “in as much as you’ve done it to the least of my brethren, you’ve done it unto me.” Take those last five words and hold them – a finger for each one:u did it

This is mystery and dance of following that Crazy Carpenter – he inhabits our world and, by his daily bread, we inhabit others’ worlds. May we do that with his pity and not our blame.