I ask that question toward the top of Page 30 after talking about how the church takes shape in the conversations and friends as we go through the course of our lives responsive to the Spirit’s work in us. Why do you think we are afraid of such simplicity? Why do all of our human institutions gravitate toward complexity of program over time and doesn’t that itself become a substitute for real community based on relationships not activity?
I think sometimes vocational christian leaders make it complicated to justify their existence though I think they often enter vocational ministry with the best of intentions. Academic bible head knowledge seminary training combined with the pressure to grow the institutional numbers can move a Christian leader away from the original pure intentions to creating a complex approach to the Christian life that keeps people coming and dependent on the experts who can walk us through the complexity with all their programs. If it were as simple as you say Wayne would we need so many vocational experts? Personally, I’m not afraid of the simplicity you write about. I’m safe in the loving care of the one who died and rose again in order to make himself known to me. Lord Jesus, help me to listen.
Hi Bob…I would think that the body of Christ should be as simple as the gospel message. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thine house, et al. I think I stated in a previous post that whatever pure, simple, doable, authentic move of God likely lasts an average of 24hrs until man hears about it, steps in with a great flair, and engages his puny mind in an effort to improve that which cannot be improved upon. BTW, I believe we’re to be “none of the above” as to whatever constitutes so called vocational ministry. I aspire to being prepared and expectant to be Jesus to whomever He brings into my life at whatever time.
Our whole society “thrives” on complicated. It “thrives” on it because it obfuscates flesh. You can hide in complicated. If someone asks how you’re doing and you respond “It’s complicated”, they will generally nod wisely and expect no further explanation. This prevents and covers any real connection or vulnerability. The minute you say something like “It’s simple really…”, a look of panic washes over the listeners faces as they worry they have to engage and may not get it…they feel safe in complicated. The 2008 financial crash happened because of fleshly greedy humans who obfuscated with complication to hide their amoral behaviour.
Complicated requires doing… being can never be complicated.
Sadly the “church” has never ever started in simplicity and stayed there. That’s because flesh/ego cannot rest in simplicity, it has to do to prove its worth and its existence and therefore become complicated.
If we BY THE SPIRIT put to death the practices of the flesh we shall live… so doing OUT OF BEING. However our default, because of flesh, is always to do first and you cannot BE out of doing, because then it is about you and not about Him.
Simple is abhorred by the world, it is a word that is used to denigrate and shame, it is not exclusive enough because it is for everyone. Simplicity may be a buzz word but trying to do simplicity is an oxymoron. We have again taken simplicity and made it complicated.
Our spirit cries out for the simple, that we are loved, appreciated, have worth, and are secure. All our simple vulnerabilities in one sentence. Our flesh wants to obscure that from view, provide a view of us to the world that is appropriate for the society we exist in.
So our Father turns everything on its head, fulfils the simple in us, the cry of our heart, he calls us beloved, fixes his love on us, causing us to know we are loved, appreciated, have infinite worth and are utterly secure in him. In that he builds his church, his bride who simply “takes her expression in relationships we have with others who are also following him…. connections that he knits together" Then "God will have all the resources he needs to invite us to agreement in prayer and collaborative actions to fulfil his purposes around us.”
It seems to me the reason many people have such a difficult time with listening to God, connecting with his family, or finding freedom in their own heart is because it is simpler than they dare to believe. Something in our soul craves the expert and their program to help us connect. Even when it fails over and over again, we think it is our fault, not the program’s.
Sara and I read this in Matthew 23 last night: “You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.” The Message
Wayne in Thousand Oaks, CA
I think the answer to why we don’t think it can be that simple is very simple. We don’t trust Him enough with the development of others.
I think (from what I have observed) some people (and IC leaders) are afraid of this kind of relational openness due to other people hurting them early in life, so they sense a need to control others in order to protect themselves and stop any potential pain. I think this also leads to sensing a need for self-protection by administering a certain level of pain or rejection to others (friend or foe).
I think this kind of control pushes people away from each other, which makes true community very difficult, and nearly impossible.
I would also agree that this kind of control over other people stifles life, stifles love, and stifles and grieves the Holy Spirit.
I think institutions do this as a matter of self-protection, in order to keep out other people that their leaders deem as odd, or people that hold to different beliefs, thus these institutions merely hold to dry lifeless doctrines, creeds, and their own types of hair splitting beliefs, instead of holding on to loving relationships.
Lenny from Bailey North Carolina
It is simple, but it takes courage to live a life that is
responsive to the Spirit’s work in us. It requires of us to do some odd things at times - odd as in out of character, possibly odd looking to people who know us.
Wayne kind of answered his own question by writing, “Connecting is difficult only because it is far easier than we dare to believe. In fact, you probably have those growing connections with people, even in the congregation you attend…your interaction with them expresses more freely the life of the church than sitting in a pew watching the staged activity up front.” For me, I have found many of those relationships within the smaller groups formed because of my local congregation. This is where the true church is becoming a reality to me. I wonder if the ideas in this book seem radical as people consider, “Where do I find other believers? How can you find/grow these relationships outside of the IC?” Living in Vermont, it is not necessarily common to run into others on this same journey, except within a local congregation. Yet, local congregations clearly are separated by doctrine/theology. I often wonder how the world can see oneness/love in the local “church” when there are so many doctrinal differences and clearly a lack of unity. It can seem much more about “MY church” versus the church of Jesus Christ. How can we justify so many different denominations??
I would suggest the reason many people have such a difficult time with listening to God is that they believe through conditioning and lies actually, that they can only hear from God through the CEO and his associates. Furthermore, when something fails it’s a pretty strong bet that the CEO and associates are going to lay that on the “the workers”, who sadly usually have a high degree of guilt driven motivation making them even more vulnerable to the blame game.
As well your Matt 23 reference along with 1 Jn 2:27 could and likely would be explained away with various mind games and rationale consistent with the control climate so ultimately the outcome is inevitable, meaning “it’s your fault”, again.
I wouldn’t be to hard on “the workers”, as in their harried and driven lives, not to make millions but just to survive, they may be giving of the dregs of their energies, often with little or no recognition, to the numerous programs. Hence unable to receive from the Holy Spirit who doesn’t usually yell at people but speaks in a still small voice, requiring a quiet heart and mind, a rested body an asset as well. I wonder how many sermons are preached on Matt 11:27 - 29, Luke 10:42, and the like.
Last point, many people are afraid to say no for various reasons, making that a taboo response, with the result of their being “X’d off”, ie., stigmatized in various ways, etc., leaving the back door as the only option. There must be a better way. 'Nuff said.
Paul from Winnipeg, Canada
On page 31, it says: “but history shows us that no group structure can successfully reflect the life of Jesus’ church for very long. It happens subtly but, over time, people end up serving the structure. they become dependent on it, instead of following him.” I have typed the word subtly in bold because this happens and we aren’t even aware of it. I think Jesus through his spirit is always doing something fresh and new. If we don’t flow with Him and aren’t willing to change, then we lag behind and start doing our own thing. Once we begin our own thing, then it takes all our time, energy, and focus to keep it pure. Page 30 says “If we just had an organization that represented the one true church led by the right people then we would know who is in and who is out, except that every group who has ever tried it has ended up arrogant and abusive in trying to keep it pure.” To me, once you start down this road, it becomes extremely complicated and confusing and simplicity is nowhere to be found. In chapter three (pg.36), it says “Discovering His life meant I had to learn an entirely different way to live.” If this is true, we have to change what we do and how we do it. It seems to me that anyone Jesus called or influenced had to change what they were doing in order to follow Him. Jesus promises that His yoke is easy and His burden light. In Him is rest and simplicity but we have to be willing to change and follow Him. Its simple yet difficult when people around you that you have relationships with may not be in the same place or willing to change. Let us be willing to think outside the box and be willing to move outside the box when Jesus says to move. Are we listening? Is Jesus knocking trying to get our attention? Are we flexible and willing to change?
“In Him is rest and simplicity but we have to be willing to change and follow Him”. Maybe we are into
Matt 11: 28 - 30 here.
v 28 Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
That is an invitation.
v 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
That is a command with a direct inference where change is required, specifically in “taking” and “learning”.
v 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
That is an assurance that in “taking and learning of Him” in obedience and submission, we will reap the results of His rest accordingly. The only question that comes to me is “how many people know how to sit quietly and wait patiently so as to hear from Him?”
If a person is clueless experientially as to what sitting quietly and waiting patiently Ps 46:10 et al, then getting there ain’t gonna happen overnight. It took me years to come to the place where I could hear His voice with some confidence and increasingly as I learn to obey with less hesitation. That only happens IMHO with trial and error.
In a world where people would rather see the movie than read the book, we gravitate toward the easy way. It is easier to listen to someone else tell the church what to do and when to do it rather than finding the heart of God and following His leadership, From the pastor’s perspective, it is what people expect and the worth and justification for pastors in full time vocational ministry is substantiated once again. This is an unfair expectation on both sides. Why do so many pastors “burn out”? Because there is no way they can meet the unbelievable expectations of decoding everyone else’s perfect will of God at the expense of their own.
Co-dependency springs to mind. Institutions and leaders want us to be dependent on them, but it becomes a tangle. Then I think fear plays a part on both sides. We’re afraid that if we leave, we will get into some sort of weirdness, going off on our own or listening to false teachers, as though we can’t be trusted. Not that this couldn’t happen. Its never a bad idea to seek out people who we respect and whose good fruit we see and know -if we need counsel. Institutions fear losing the congregation and money. Still, I know people outside of church walls who need help. I’d rather give my time, energy, and resources to help them rather than to an institution, at this point in my life. It’s a better way of tithing, I think. I am not always faithful to this idea. Then again, it’s a new concept for me. Maybe it’s just time for me to grow up in that way? Jen in FL
Keep in mind Jen that it is church leaders, those who we think should keep us from error, who have started the estimated 30,000 protestant denominations. John the apostle’s answer to error was “the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you” (1Jn 2:27). As far as giving goes, I would guess that 98% of new testament teaching on the subject is about giving to those in financial need.
Is this really the job of a “pastor”? If that is the case… then there really is a problem with pastor as a position. My heart goes out to people who have defined their role in life as a pastor. Seems like a burden more than a blessing to most of them. I want to be wrong but experience tells me otherwise.
With more simplicity comes less exclusivity. It may put us together with people that are not like us. There is a specialness in knowing that you are part of a select group, especially if it is based on one’s own achievement. If it’s too easy it’s probably not worth doing.
Perhaps we are afraid of such simplicity because we cannot control it. Many people want the security of a vending machine God. If I put in quarters I get a candy bar. If I put in programs, tithe, effort I get blessing. Many people also value measureable results: we had x number of people at our last church outreach . . .therefore God is blessing us we are doing things right. Conversations are difficult to measure. Healthy relationships are nurtured, not controlled. And the Spirit’s work in our lives can be quite intangible. It’s easier and safer to program and measure.
I think that simplicity starts with the gospel. Jesus made all the rules and barriers irrelevant and made it as easy as asking Him for relationship and walking that road with Him.
We have an innate human desire to be suspicious of simplicity and ease of anything. It only feels valuable if we have to bootstrap it, sweat for it, beg for it, etc.
Grace undoes all of that and we have to unlearn that mindset. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that are challenging and require a fair amount of determination and hard work in the kingdom, but it looks different than what the world would hold up as a model.
It’s so easy that it’s unbelievable to us. So, we make it harder so we feel we can earn it that way.
So, I’m sitting in a high school auditorium watching my nieces in a production of “The Little Shop of Horrors”. Anyone seen it? This is Exactly what happens with man made institutions. We start with the best of intentions, caring, nurturing this little life with hopes and dreams that it will grow into something lovely. As it gets bigger, it needs more and more of our time and energy. Soon we don’t have enough on our own, so we need to get others to contribute. Before we know it, the thing has sucked everyone around it into itself, and we are running ourselves ragged just trying to feed the monster we’ve created. It was a revelation to me, watching this unfold, and helped me let go of a lot of negative emotions about the IC. I think it’s inherent in the structure, no matter how well intended the humans involved.