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Looking Inside Instead of Outside


#1

This is one of my favorite chapters because it begins to move the discussion from our congregational systems and how we change them, to what kind of person do I need to be to find my way into the church Jesus is building. It never has been a place to go, his church is the reality of relationships people share in the new creation. Instead of looking for a way to manage competing interests for control, personal gain, or approval from others, the new creation invites us into a lifestyle of sharing and caring about others. Only by a growing trust in Father’s love for us will we find ourselves able to engage others in a way that is more focused on them and what they need, rather than on us and what we need.

I would love to hear how you see a growing trust in God’s love setting you free to treat others differently? How is that being shaped in you?

Wayne Jacobsen in Thousand Oaks, CA


#2

I found out about many of these principles a few years ago, but I had some problems in some house church and organic churches I attended, so I’m no longer looking for a group, but I’m simply looking to share Gods love.

So now it’s no longer about asking people to come to the group I associate with, but it’s simply about going about my daily life and being sensitive to the Holy Spirit guiding me on how I can I be an encouragement to someone, and how can I show Gods love.

Lenny
Bailey, NC


#3

My wife and I just recently left our organized Sunday morning church and we are not looking for another church. Instead we are really trying to listen to the Spirit. In this chapter, we learn that Jesus has invited us into a relationship with Him and His Father where if we listen carefully His Spirit will change us from the inside out and guide the direction we go from here. I have an 11 yr old daughter who is just now beginning to search the scriptures and to have her own personal devotion time and time to journal and recently she responded to the verses in Luke that talked about the temptations of Jesus. He was tempted to follow the ways of this world and my daughter wrote and responded saying that she thinks the Church today has given in to this temptation and that we are following the ways of America and Patriotism instead of the way of God and His Spirit. I was impressed that my 11yr old gets it and yet so many are blind to the fact that someone or some system is guiding us instead of God and His Spirit. On page 73, Wayne talked about how those living inside the old creation need to convince others they are right, they have to be in charge, or everything must be filtered through the clear lines of decision-making authority. I have found this to be so true. I have been praying that God will show me how to fit in to the Church structures that exist which I am learning is impossible and that when I try, it is frustrating,and I end up arguing my point that I am right, and then the leaders send it off to committee meetings or church council, etc and they twist it or change it in some way where they can control it or make it fit into the vision they have for Church. By the time this process is complete, many times I feel God and His Spirit have moved on to something else. I think it will be a lot easier to hear God’s Spirit, run it through his test and filter of love, and then practice it as I journey and as people come across my path. I agree with Lenny above that I now am free to go about my daily life learning to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and letting the Spirit guide me on how to be an encouragement to someone and how to love people with no other agenda.


#4

I used to treat everyone as having more worth and value than me, and always having my best interest at heart. I felt I had theirs, why wouldn’t they have mine? A series of betrayals put me on the path of finding God, or Him finding me, and lately I have become more discerning, more courageous in my dealings with others. At times my job requires me to do this, at times simply circumstances present themselves. But where in the past, I would put my head in the sand, now I speak out when I am treated unfairly, or when I feel something doesn’t quite line up. Certain times this isn’t appropriate to do this, as the situation merely escalates out of control, but most times I recognize this. Above all, God’s love has allowed me to become more real.


#5

My husband has said to me that I am like a lab, I am so excited for people and I just want to be friends. I am not a dimwit thinking that everyone is amazing and nothing is wrong with the world. I have always just wanted to be accepted. This hasn’t really been the theme in my life. I have never fit any mold. I have became much more guarded and discerning. It boils down to needing to trust God’s love for me. The world and its people can be very difficult and shifty. God is not. My feet firmly planted on Him even if everything around me shatters. Which it did. I think God has been wrecking the view of who I thought He was so that He can give me the right one. Still waiting on that. :neutral_face:


#6

Thanks for your reply Gadiela. I like what you said about needing to trust God’s love for you. Realizing, that is enough for us. And the wanting to be friends as well. I am much like that myself. A lot of that has to do with my growing up, where conflict was avoided. Somewhere along the line I just learned to get along, no matter how negative or abusive the situation was, because, in a twisted way, I needed the very people that contributed to the negative or abusive situation. As I pulled away from those people in recent years, I learned there was no magnetic field pulling or luring me back. I could do without.

I was tagged a ‘loner’ by a college acquaintance once. It really took me aback, and I didn’t like it. Looking back, he was correct, but being a loner doesn’t have the negative connotation that it once had. I do enjoy my own company, often over the company of others. I don’t consider myself antisocial. When I am invited to events I generally say yes, and there are times I even initiate the invitations. My job requires me to come into contact with many people I don’t know. And, quite honestly, I wouldn’t go out of my way to be with them, if my job didn’t require it. But yet I manage to be cordial and helpful in my dealings with them.

I don’t think God will fully reveal Himself to us in this life. His majesty and perfection is too much for us to fathom. He gives us just enough of Himself to let us know He is there, and we are loved by Him.


#7

You’ve not been like a lab here! :slight_smile: This is how an environment of religiously legalistic people end up twisting people into doubting their own likability. When you attach acceptance to performance confusion results and people use a sense of the treasure they are to the manipulations of others. And the more you try to suck-up to those demands the hungrier you get for relationship. Then people begin to seek acceptance in all the wrong ways. When you see yourself through God’s eyes instead of the performance police, you will be able to rest in who you are and you’ll find it much easier to have friendships grow around you.

Sara and I have enjoyed all of the three occasions we’ve had with you and your husband. There is nothing about you two that is relationally deficient nor unengaging. Live like that as you simply enjoy the people God has put around you. Friendships will form, but they do take time in this way-too-busy world.


#8

I’m so glad you said that. We aren’t alone! Some days we feel like we must have really messed up badly. I keep reminding my husband that there have been many very normal Christian people who liked him and appreciate what he has done. Every night he tells me how sorry he is for all this mess, but it’s not his fault. Wish people had some idea what they put their pastors through, no matter what they think church should look like. How about Christians simply treating each other like brothers and sisters wherever they are? I’ll say it again, if they can’t love the pastor, I don’t think they really love each other.


#9

Thanks, Beth for sharing you’re story. Sounds like you’re a pastor’s wife. Thanks for being in this discussion with us. When people come out of large abusive systems they tend to paint with a broad brush. There are millions of small church pastors who only want to help people follow Jesus, yet live under an unbearable load of expectations. They Monday is the most difficult day of the week for them as the grapple with their calling and the reality of where they ended up. Simply loving each other would be the way to do it here… But people won’t know how to do that until they first know they are loved… That’s where the next chapter takes us.


#10

Well, he’s still a preacher and theology teacher, but the forced termination bit is painful. I don’t know where that leaves me. Suspended animation, lol? Small towns (1-2-3,000) being the way they are, I think small churches will still have a place, at least for a little while longer. They are affected more by the national picture than even they realize. Also, clubs, school, extended family as well as divorce and drugs play major roles in the social structure. Town has a far greater influence on the church than the other way around. Inside the church, truly loving and trusting God and one another are huge [like, really HUGE] issues; there’s a lot of phony-bologna, much more than larger churches in the big city mess with. Small churches do not honestly forgive; they just put a big band-aid over everything and try to forget “it” happened. They put the person who ran off the last pastor on the next pastor search committee “because we have to be forgiving,” but there has been no repentance. Then they blame successive pastors because they can’t attract townspeople to the church, but they never stop to think that those people can’t be bothered to come to church with long-time friends they’ve known far longer than each new pastor. Attempting to be mini-versions of megachurches won’t work, either, but they are so desperate to grow (membership), they’ll believe anything. I understand how they came by all this thinking, but it doesn’t help much when you’re drowning in it. Same story just about everywhere.

I’m using this in-between time to do a stack of reading and thinking about living in grace, community, and rural church life. Your books as well as those of John Lynch, my dear brother Bill Gillham (now with the Lord), Henry Blackaby, Jim Cymbala and others are so encouraging. I’ve been sharing Jake’s Story and He Loves Me! with those who are receptive. I try to challenge the stinkin’ thinkin’ every time I get a chance (or can create one!) with something to the good, but the need is overwhelming. It’s a mindset. Set in concrete! But they need truth just as much as the village in deepest darkest fill-in-the-blank country.

I don’t know how much longer we’ll be here or where we’ll go next. Many people are trying to help us get to the “next stop,” but doors appear to be closed in all directions. There is no help to try to reconcile this mess. Frankly, I believe we still belong here, but staying would take a miracle. All I know about for sure is today. This is really tough, but you have been there. You know. Grateful to the person who is paying our utilities. If I think too much about the future, I scare myself. You know how you know things in your head, but getting them in gear is not always so easy?

I have one foot in Jake’s world, and nowhere for the other to land right now. I don’t want to hijack your deal here, but the very nature of the book gets pretty personal. Can’t be an academic discussion. Maybe you need a topic like “I just wanted to say/ask . . . .” Whatever. Thanks for being here!


#11

You’re not hijacking anything, Beth. I love where we shift from an exchange of ideas into the sharing of our lives. That’s what really matters. Academic discussions are safe places for people to hide what’s really going on in their soul. I’m sorry for what you and your husband are going through. I know how painful it is from experience. But I also know that your future does not depend on people. Father has a way to navigate you through even the betrayals of others and still fit you into his work in a way that will delight your souls. Praying for you.


#12

I appreciate that. Thanks.


#13

As much as I wanted friends growing up there was something inside of me that refused to completely sell out my soul for acceptance. I had a very abusive father and as I moved into adulthood I kind of just refused to ever be bullied or demeaned like that again. I have spent many years feeling inadequate. If I could just be like that other person it would be so much better. I think I have moved away from that as I have come to accept where I came from. I went from wanting to eradicate the first part of my life to embracing it. This is where I came from and a lot of bad stuff has happened. If people don’t like me for all that or it makes them uncomfortable there’s nothing I can do about it. I have never wanted to be a loner but if the alternative was stuffy difficult people then no thank you. I have always tried to be open and not present myself as something I’m not. I need to see myself as God sees me. Can’t seem to grasp that. Still very convoluted.


#14
 This resonates with me as well. The churches in our town are totally in concrete. There is no discussion with people because the pastor thinks for them. I actually had a woman say to me, "I don't know anything about that doctrine but that's for the pastor to know. I just know our church and leaders and they are doing the right thing." After said leadership kicked out a pastor and his family because they didn't hold to a pervasive doctrine and he wasn't going to be "silent" about it. Basically you can feel differently just be silent. Um no. My mind is just blown that you would hand your brain over to the pastor to think for you. Stupid stupid stupid. Individually we need to know God. What about the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Maybe your promptings are saying something different than the pastor. But no, forget the Holy Spirit the pastor knows better. Something wrong there.
 Beth, as I have been struggling these last three to four years spiritually I have had some thoughts begin to form in my mind as to what church could like like. It's a group of people gathered around a table and there is food and wonderful discussions. A table where the brokenhearted, forgotten, marginalized people can come and lay their hurts and perhaps find laughter again. I have sat in my car and wept not having any place to take my pain and loneliness. Yes to God but He reaches us through others as well. I would sit in my car and the loneliness of feeling so brokenhearted and knowing I have no Christians to turn to has been so awful. My hearts desire is that where I live is a sanctuary. I don't have any people around my table but it is something I often think about. Nourishing people with food and the warmth of companionship of a group of people is to me the very best place to be. I would be happy to hear from you more if you need someone to talk to. I really understand and feel everything you have expressed.

#15

My sentiments exactly Gadiela.

Not to say this in a bragging way, but I was a gifted child. Scored well in school, took accelerated classes, got the lead in school plays, made national competitions and the like. My parents, who were already overwhelmed with parenting and their own lives, were as equally overwhelmed with my giftedness. They simply didn’t know what to do with it. My mother was resentful, my father envious to the point where it drove him further into himself. And I was left wondering, ‘What did I do wrong?’

Well, as I entered adulthood, reality hit, a new script was written and everything that gave me comfort and success as a child was now a hinderance. I just couldn’t get along in the world. I gave my life to God after a series of betrayals, and some confrontations from well-meaning people about the nature of my own life. I suddenly didn’t feel the need to be exceptional, it was a relief that I could be normal and still exist, still survive and even thrive.

Yes, still years later, as I begin to travel down the other side of the mountain to meet my mortal demise, there is a part of me that longs for that giftedness again, not realizing that God sees me as a gift the world is not worthy to partake. Because I am His creation. not a creation of society, parental influence, the educational system, or athletics.


#16

It’s ironic that as you and your husband are at the head of the ‘church’, I have been nothing more than on the fringes, and at times I too, feel like I am hijacking the deal, hearing so many stories of church betrayals I personally cannot relate to. But the church I see is so similar to the corporation. In fact, I see it these days as just another corporation. And what ‘Finding Church’ is about, isn’t about the church most of us are accustomed to. And for that I feel a sense of relief, knowing I am on the right track, and maybe even have less baggage to throw off.

A little joke I hope you find humorous, and not offensive. Have you seen the cartoon with the pastor’s daughter at the back door of her house, letting the family dog outside? And the caption says, ‘Remember, you are the pastor’s dog,’

Take care.


#17

They were quick to sacrifice us to the disgruntled members who would leave if we weren’t outed. Someone got offended, and the offense had to be revenged. If the truth is ever told, I think even that was an excuse to get rid of us because one person had a long-standing resentment toward preachers who got paid but did not work miracles; she had a very poor childhood. Personal upsets come to the surface and are acted out more often, I think, where the lines are blurred between church and community/family. Big problem in small churches in small communities. Still, I have a hard time understanding how they can condone it if they call themselves Christian. If they don’t really love us, how can they love anyone else they hope to “attract” to their church? It’s a miserable muddle; so much to sort out. But simply going around and starting over with a “new church” is a poor solution in a small town. Looks more like a God-failure than a people-disaster. And the unhappy people who leave in the next future squabble would bring their baggage around to your “new” church in the next ugliness.

People who have been in ministry any length of time have come to question whether many of their members are truly saved, but I don’t think they are all lost. I think many of them really are the Lord’s, but they are terribly short-sighted and deceived. Why the need for awakenings if not? They have fallen for so many lies. They don’t have a clue what the church is really about. And Jesus is mostly that guy back there who got them saved, you know, the little guy who fits in their hearts. That’s not sarcasm,simply the way it is.

Really, we weren’t at the head of anything. We had the chance to fill a vacuum created by the deaths of the former long-time “rulers” of the church, but my husband resisted that temptation in favor of giving the church the chance to step-up and become a body that worked together. He was badly blind-sided by two men he had trusted and an in-law who had real problems. Another danger in small churches: The last person they’ll speak to is the pastor!, if they speak to him at all.

I won’t use this space to review the discussions concerning the future of rural ministry and church-re/planting, but I’m trying to imagine what a mission-minded couple might do if they simply moved into a rural community for the duration and lived out church the way Wayne proposes. [Qualifier: I’m not suggesting that we add more method to the palette!] I know of “big names” in the church-planting field right now who are asking questions related to rural work in the US that have previously been considered only in third-world countries. For example, there is a need for micro-businesses to support home missionaries/pastors who have a hard time finding work in small towns. Even if there are local businesses hiring, they don’t like to take on outsiders who are seen as under-mining local connections. We know from experience. The locals will turn on the other locals and deny them their business because “you hired that man!” It’s crazy. And it gets very personal. They will literally cut off their noses to spite their faces.

Anyway, it’s an awful mess out there!! I’m studying the in’s and out’s of church replanting, and it leaves me feeling frustrated and uptight. Where do you draw the line between honest leadership and outright manipulation? It had come to disturb me in the last few years that we had one conversation in the parsonage about the state of the church and what needs to happen to bring it to health, but we were not able to safely include the church in that discussion. It was constantly, how do we get them from A to B for their own good? They suffered from many, many deceptions. [Curse “Christian” media!] On the other hand, I can read the Jake Story for the umpteenth time and Finding Church for the second and third time and not have those frustrations.

Small churches constantly complain that their pastors won’t stay long. They might stay long, if the churches quit running them off. Really, there just aren’t that many larger churches that pay more - as if that’s all a pastor is looking for. They never stop to think that the pastor is a new guy in town, too. Why can’t they be as nice to him as they are to other new people they want to stay in their town? They are so two-faced. But they never let you be one of them. Just tell me it’s not a spiritual battle!

Can’t condense thirty years of ministry into a few paragraphs, but maybe that gives you a little insight into what we are facing and how I wound up here. Even my husband and I aren’t on the same page right now. Just adds to the dilemma. We don’t have a home - not anyplace. Have no clue what’s next. Beginning to feel like even the people who like us are anxious for the dust to settle. They have family and homes and lives to get on with. That’s the way it is. Not nice and neat.


#18

Unfortunately, politics is the rule of the day, even in religious settings. I know of a prominent pastor with a national ministry, basically gleans his sermons from a variety of sources and uses the same illustrations he’s been using for the last 20-30 years, but because he has a background in commercial real estate, the church is thriving and they have been establishing church plants in many locations. Another prominent pastor I once followed had a simliar background, but at least he had a divinity degree (lol)!

About the congregation, I tend to use the 80-20 rule, as I do for just about everything. Wayne could speak to this more effectively than I could. There is a lot in the past God Journey podcasts as well. Hang in there :relaxed:


#19

Hear that, Ron. Persons engaged in private meetings with home mission leadership say they’re talking 90-10. Fits what we’re seeing in the field. Many church members think the pastor is failing to lead when he teaches them that the church needs to seek the leadership of the Spirit; they think it’s an excuse for inaction. . . . . . . Five people around the kitchen table is looking better all the time! Five people you can really have relationships with.


#20

Wow Beth- You describe what we have been through Many times so much better than I could. Small town mentality. I have lived here 40 years, and still feel at times like an outsider. They want their Church to grow in size, but they don’t want any New People in it. New neighbors are treated like contagion. If you weren’t Born here, you don’t Belong here.
True story from my childhood days: We got a new pastor at our Very small church; a young couple fresh out of cemetary, expecting their first baby. About a year later, the wife found another guy she liked better than her husband, took the baby and left in the middle of the night. When they found out what she had done, the elders, in a supreme show of Christian love fired him and gave him 24 hours to be out of the house the church had rented for them. In less than 2 days , this poor guy lost his wife, child, home and vocation. Flash forward 5 years or so…The now Ex-wife has built herself a new life and a reputation as a singer. They bring her Back for a weekend to sing and tell her story of “repentance and redemption.” Yeah. Honestly, my experiences inside the IC have been variations on this theme ever since. There isn’t enough Love in the majority of these congregations to spread on a Ritz. The pastors aren’t the only ones being run off, and even if you have the guts or sheer determination to stick it out, you will never be accepted, let alone invited into their lives.
I am So Sorry you are going through this. Is there anything we can do to help besides our prayers and cyberhugs? Sending lots of both your way…
Valeri