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.

 

Why I Would’ve Followed Mark Driscoll

By Jim Henderson

In an ocean of tolerance we desperately seek an island of certainty

I got “saved” in 1968 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Ballard, which is not exactly the kind of church or neighborhood where you’d expect to find a revival going on. Nevertheless three nights a week scores of young people “went forward” to accept Christ as their personal savior and also renounce astrology, Satan, pre marital sex, drugs, long hair and (remember Bono was only 8 years old at the time) rock and roll. It was the beginning of The Jesus People movement.

Forty- five years later another revival of sorts has been transpiring in the exact same neighborhood and the church this time is anything but Episcopalian, Mars Hill is a non-denominational church that meets in a huge warehouse in Ballard. The revivalist, Mark Driscoll is more pugilist than priest. No clerical collar but lots of cockiness.

Long hair is ok, rock and roll is required but everything else on my do-not-do list is still out. This is the church I wish I could have joined when I got saved. Driscoll is so similar to the people I got saved with. We were on-fire and quite certain the rest of the church wasn’t. We spent our days “witnessing” and “ preaching” in bars, cars and parks.

By the early seventies, the Northwest version of the Jesus People movement would be hijacked by a group called The Children of God who’s super-serious about-Jesus leader was named Moses. Ultimately Moses would be exposed to be what today we commonly call a sex addict.

Another high control group, known as the “Shepherding movement,” hijacked many of the lets-go-back-to-church crowd of the Jesus People movement. The Shepherding movement leaders would tell their people when they could leave a church, who they should marry and in some cases when they should have sex.

Both movements died an early death but many of their victims are very much alive. Many have left the church and Jesus.

High control leaders like these lack the ability to “put the brakes on” their irrational ideas. They love the risk the chase and the fight.

Bill Clinton comes to mind.

Imagine being elected President of the United States. Now imagine looking in the official bathroom mirror of The White House and saying, “ I’m going to stop having sex with women I’m not married to for the next 8 years.” Now imagine breaking that promise by having sex with a twenty four year old intern right in The White House. Now imagine being caught and going on national TV and lying to the entire nation “I never had sexual relations with that woman.” That’s a high control leader.

Which brings me to why I would have followed Driscoll. He is a man and like many in his well-stated target demographic – young men from broken homes – my parents had divorced when I was ten and my dad left. I grew up with all women and no men. See the connection? Driscoll offers me Jesus PLUS a dad figure. The church becomes my real family and since it is comprised of someone who is more akin to an older brother/gang leader/tough guy for Jesus, I find a home.  However, I lack the one thing I desperately need to “see through” this older brother/gang leader/tough guy for Jesus – life experience. I contain a full tank of exactly what he needs to grab my attention – idealism.  Thus, I become a sitting duck for Driscoll Style Christianity.

My attraction to Driscoll is explained, but why Seattle, why does this city provide such a ripe market for his version of Christianity?

Driscoll is not a brilliant theologian. Driscoll is a brilliant marketer. He has the gene for reading people and social groups. He knows that many young people in Seattle lack direction. He knows that most liberal churches in the city are incapable of providing that direction. They’re too hung up on being fair, egalitarian and tolerant.

If you are a young person raised in Seattle, odds are you came from a liberal leaning home. When your two very hip and tolerant parents divorce it causes you to ask “why”? Lacking life experience and looking for relief from your pain you gravitate to the opposite of what they told you, which in my case and thousands of young people currently attracted to Mars Hill Church was that good old black and white Old Time Religion. When you can authorize the black and white with The Bible, and then deliver it with the forcefulness of Driscoll’s gift of oratory, you have a very powerful tool with which to control people.

When we feel adrift in an ocean of tolerance we desperately seek an island of certainty.  Which is what Driscoll has landed upon and is now spreading. He continues to do what his high control forebears have done before him. Consolidate power, cut off disloyal former loyalists and leverage his personal identity with The Brand.

Why am I calling Driscoll’s behavior out in public? I believe Christian leaders who publicly leverage their platform can be held responsible on that same platform. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t expound your ideas via speaking, tweeting or writing and then accuse people of not following Matthew 18 when they use those same public tools to call attention to your behaviors. If you don’t like those rules, all you have to do is stay off the stage.

Back in the 1970s, most of us never had an older person in the faith tell us the truth about these destructive patterns of dogmatic leadership. We had no idea that the Christian faith was not as black and white as Moses (or now Driscoll) preach. Our elders were trained to err on the side of not making waves because it would make the church look bad in the eyes of outsiders. It’s called circling the wagons. That’s what Christians do, especially when they belong to a place like Mars Hill Church. They circle the wagons around their leader and take a bullet for him and he lets them.

I’m done circling the wagons. Driscoll is way to visible to ignore. If Christians won’t listen then at least I want to go on record with the thousands of Non Christian’s who have their image of Jesus shaped by Driscoll’s high control leadership antics. I’m appalled at how little Christian leaders seem to care about the negative impressions Driscoll makes upon the people Jesus misses most. Especially since Jesus was far more concerned about his reputation with Outsiders than he was with Insiders.

I recently interviewed a young leader who was once very very loyal to Driscoll. I asked him about his current involvement with church and he said; “I’m not involved”. I then asked him about how he feels about God and he said; “I try not to think about it”.

If this pattern keeps up Driscoll will end up producing more Atheists than Christians.

No one has the right to rob young people of Jesus, not even the guy with the biggest church.

 

 

 

 

We Need More Leaders Like Randy Siever

randy_head_colorRandy Siever is a real evangelist. The old school kind that’s led hundreds of people into a personal relationship with Jesus over the past 30 years (or more). I was lucky enough to run into him at a seminar Dave Richards and I were presenting in Nashville a number of years ago on something we called Doable Evangelism.

Unlike Randy (but more like most of you) I’d not led hundreds of people to Jesus – for me it was more like dozens, which still places me in the upper echelons of evangelistic stats since most Christians have not only never led a person to Christ – they’ve hardly ever mentioned Jesus to a non Christian. They’re what I call Cowards for Jesus.

However upon reflection, I realized that I had more in common with Cowards for Jesus than I did with guys like Randy. Besides there were more of them (like 90% more) than there were guys like Randy ( we figure his group represented less than 5%). Our measuring stick in Doable Evangelism wasn’t how many came forward but how many left church to go find them. We got this idea from the bible where Jesus said “Go make disciples” . We’re still looking for the passage where he said to invite them to church. It must be there somewhere.

For some reason Randy decided to join our little movement. He asked me where he could get the how to do Doable Evangelism book and I told him if he wanted that he would have to write it – which he did. He and I proceeded to co present  DE Seminars for a few years. I loved watching people’s eyes light up when Randy started speaking. It was evident that people loved him. I asked him to take over leading which he did for the past seven years.

A couple of years ago Randy was approached by Mary Schaller of Q Place an evangelism ministry to see if he was interested in giving them permission to use DE’s secret sauce which we called the Art of Noticing. Q Place took The Art of Noticing and added several other practices they call the arts of spiritual conversations and are now rolling out a very innovative and comprehensive program to churches all over America. It is a very exciting movement. Find out more here.

Randy essentially gave away his unique niche in the evangelism conversation. I knew at that point that DE itself would be coming to an end. Q Place is a much larger organization with a wider network and funding to support their leadership team. Randy and I are more like a couple of pirates who came upon some buried treasure took it back and showed it to other people who spotted gold.

Jesus said “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (KJV version which of course is the bible Paul used). Jesus also said “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” It’s clear from these passages that Jesus doesn’t need another famous person in heaven to join him.

I was listening to an interview the movie director David O Russell did with Terri Groves on the NPR show Fresh Air. Terri asked David to talk about what inspired the characters in his new movie American Hustle. “I’m interested in the fragility of identity” he responded. I think Jesus was interested in the same issue. In the passages above he dares us to find out what would happen if we don’t try and think of ourselves first. He challenges us to risk letting go of controlling our own destiny and partnering with him to see what he might come up with in its place. He invites us to explore internal security instead of external security.

Randy just sent out an email saying he was turning the lights off on Doable Evangelism. I’m not sad. I’m proud. I love when leaders act like Jesus. I love watching leaders who aren’t afraid to cannibalize their own “ministry” so that more people can be touched by the life of Jesus. I love when leaders like Randy decide to actually trust Jesus with their future instead of trying to hang onto something that has served it’s purpose. I love leaders who act like Randy. They inspire me to keep going to keep following in the footsteps of Jesus.

I am simply incapable of paying another human being a higher compliment than that.

Lets Put a New Face on Christianity

become-a-better-you-joel-osteen-abridged-compact-discs-simon-schuster-audioLike it or not the most trusted institution in America is not politics, education, the press, big banks, sports, Fortune 500 companies or religion. The only institution people trust today is the entertainment industry. The real shakers and movers are not named Bush or Obama. The cultural elites who inform our values and shape our spiritual imagination are named Oprah, Palin, Beck, Gaga and a guy named Phil (quack, quack).

When it comes to who has their hearts, people are rejecting traditional institutions and gravitating toward show business.

Here’s what I mean

When Oprah, Anderson, Piers or Ellen want to interview a Christian who’s most likely to get the call?

That would be Joel.

Joel Osteen currently reigns as the preacher-most-likely-to-be-called-upon for a  cultural analysis of movies, music, pre/post marital sex, homosexuality, tragedy, Atheism and the legalization of marijuana.

Translation?

For millions of people, Joel = Christianity

Which also means for millions of people, Joel = Jesus

And what kind of Jesus/ Christianity does Joel represent?

Take another look at the photo at the top.

If a picture is worth a thousand words then as a potential consumer of Christianity’s goods and services after looking at his photo, I would be hard pressed to not conclude the following:

If I trust Joel’s’ Jesus then I’ll be very successful (and probably rich)

I’m happy to give Joel’s marketing department the benefit of the doubt that my conclusion was not their original intention however based on the photo they chose to put on the front cover of his book a reasonable person might be forced to agree with me.

Ironically, if there’s one goal Jesus failed to achieve in his short thirty-three years of life it was worldly success. The bible says he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He started a movement but in the end his entourage abandoned him. Some of his very last words as he hung dying a very public and humiliating death took the form of a question directed at the very Deity he claimed was all powerful, personal and loving – My God My God why have you forsaken me?

However Jesus measured success, it’s clear that it is at odds with Joel’s well coiffed, well dressed version.

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By the time he turned ten Paul Young had been sexually abused not only by the natives his missionary parents were trying to save but also by the fellow students at the missionary boarding school his parents sent him to. As a husband he barely escaped having his marriage fall apart and as man he had no career.  Paul was not a success. Paul was a sufferer.

In his book The Shack, Paul fictionalizes the various forms of suffering he endured in his life and presents a very different picture of Jesus. Pauls’ Jesus is familiar with suffering not success. Pauls’ Jesus is an expert on loss. Paul’s Jesus draws near to those who suffer not those who succeed.

There’s a whole lot of suffering going on in the world today. Not only the world but in your world. Suffering naturally causes all of us to ask questions like If there is a God who’s powerful, personal and loving then Where is He when there’s no happy ending?

That’s why we’ve put together a show called Where’s God When… a live show about loss featuring Paul Young author of The Shack. This one-man theatrical event in three acts explores Paul’s journey through loss as a child, a husband and man.

The Shack was fiction. The Show is real.

Lets put a new face on Christianity.

People deserve better.