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Chapter 4: Questions

If you have question for Wayne, or would like to suggest a topic for the group in discussing this chapter, please post it here.

This week I reconnected with an old friend who has a similar background as I do. She is in her early 40’s and grew up as a pastor’s kid, went to Bible College and did all the “right things” that would make most parents in ministry happy.

However, she has recently been on a journey similar to mine in which she has walked away from the denomination we were both raised in and church altogether. She said she has been rejected by family and friends because of it and called the denomination a “cult.” When I asked her about that, she said she feels like she was brainwashed as a child and much of her spunk and free-spiritedness had been supressed. It’s hard to judge a non-face-to-face conversation, but her tone was somewhat jaded and bitter. However, she also expressed wanting to know and follow the simple gospel and knowing Jesus and becoming closer to Him. She is rejecting all other boxes and structures.

I understand what she is saying. She challenged me a bit on why I feel like I need to have a conversation(s) with my parents about our decision. Basically she said she thought I didn’t owe them any explanation and it’s my life…

So…my rambling round-about question has to do with this:

1.) Do you feel like mainline church denominations can be considered a cult?
2.) What are your thoughts about adult children making a decision to reject what their ministry parents have chosen (and maybe still choose) and discussions about that with them?

Central Valley, CA

Wayne, you ask the question, “Who doesn’t want to be the object of someone else’s affection, especially if that person wants nothing in return?” (p. 47) I am fairly new to the idea of One-Way Love (Tullian Tchividjian has written a thought-provoking book with this title.) Does God really want NOTHING in return? What about our love? Our response to Him?

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Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions about your book, Mr. Jacobsen. I really appreciate it.

In the beginning of this chapter, you make it clear that Jesus didn’t have to worry about anything that we associate with the institutional church today.

However, I’m not sure if scripture really says he was completely free from all of that. Judas is several times mentioned as in “charge of the moneybag” (John 12:6, John 13:29), so they must have received money from somewhere and designated a person to manage it. I’m not quite sure if completely abandoning structure to pursue relationships with people allows room for someone to be in charge of money, mainly used, it seems, to give to the poor.

Also, from what I’ve read in the Bible, Jewish culture used a lot of structure for worship. I feel like the context Jesus was speaking in was one of rituals and of regular gatherings of the people. Jesus himself spent time at the synagogue teaching. If institutional churches are really so counterproductive to followers of Jesus, wouldn’t Jesus have spoken out more clearly and definitively against them? Although the gospels don’t talk about Jesus doing anything that you listed in the first few paragraphs of this chapter, does that necessarily mean he didn’t do some form of them? Is there a possibility here that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence?

Again, thank you so much for you time. I have found Finding Church to be a thought-provoking and inspirational read.

Hi bpenn, thanks for your question. What I was trying to convey is that love expresses itself to people without expectation of return. Sure God wants our love too, but he doesn’t love us to get our love back. He just loves us. Loving him back is a great reward but not the purpose of loving. When we love someone expecting them to love us back we’ll often be disappointed. But if we just love people, we will find many in time who will love us bak and the friendship that grows from that is awesome… Hope that helps.

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Thanks for your gracious comments Annika, and your question. I appreciate how you are thinking through all of this. Just to clarify, I’m not against all structure. Nothing happens without some structure, not a book being published, a trip taken, a gathering of friends. Structure is not an evil in my view. What I was referring to here is that Jesus didn’t form a group, establish a set of expected rituals, teach them how to for “worship” teams, or preach a sermon. He taught them to live in his Father’s life and share it freely with others. That doesn’t mean we can’t do those other things, but it should act least make us consider whether they are essential. To the degree that our structures illumine the life of Jesus among us, they can be valuable. To the degree that we put our dependence on them or let them come between us and other members of his family, structures can be destructive. I like structures that are temporary and minimal. They become problematic when we make them extensive or pertinent.

Your second point about the Jewish worship being an example for us has some problems with it. Remember they were following prescriptions that pre-dated the cross and the freedom from sin and shame that allowed everyone to have access to God. That definitely changes how brothers and sisters might gather in the new creation. And in my mind this is not an either/or. If people find gatherings in institutional frameworks to support and sustain their life in Jesus, that’s awesome. But when the machinery becomes more important than the people, or its more about the egos not he stage than the most broken people int he building, or it uses fear or guilt to seek to manipulate people they do become destructive.

I don’t think Jesus would have spoken out against those things, because they didn’t exist when he was here except in the Jewish traditions. But he was superseding them with a different reality. I don’t think he ever intended the Gospel to fit into our institutional frameworks that often become hurtful and outlive their life, which is why church splits are common and why new denominations and churches form hoping this time to “do it right.” And yet they all end up the same place.

God is there, however. Sometimes lots of good information is shared there and wonderful relationships begin there. I don’t see them as an evil, but I do think they have a limited shelf-life and that there are better ways for people of the new creation to share life and love…

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Thank you for your quick response! I look forward to reading the rest of your book.

Annika, I had many of the same questions! I was thinking about Jesus teaching in the temple, which was part of a structure he probably grew up in. I was also thinking about Paul, and Wayne’s comment that he wasn’t a “Bible lecturer.” Yet, he taught the followers from some upper room for such a long period at night, that one person fell asleep and fell out the window! Again, a meeting place/structure. I think Wayne’s responses are very helpful. Institutions/structure are not the main problem. What they BECOME can be. We need to be on guard so that we can be sure we are following Jesus, not a pastor or set of “church” rules. Many thanks for your thoughtful question, and to Wayne for his thoughtful response.

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Very helpful. I so appreciate this format, and I am grateful for this opportunity to personally ask you questions. I was trying to equate God’s love to my love for my children. I love them, even when they respond in hurtful or challenging ways. I love them, period. But, because of my humanity, I carry the hope and desire that they love me, too. I imagine God does, too. But, either way, He loves us. That is his nature.

Again, thanks.

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Hi Heather, Just have a few moments here in Houston on my way home. As to (1) in a strict sense all denominations are "cults’ because they are sects of Christianity, but I don’t think that’s what you mean. Are they all dangerous associations that can destroy our faith in Christ? No! I wouldn’t say that at all. Remember, this journey isn’t about going or not going to an institution, but leaning away from fear, guilt and obligation and into freedom, love and life. So whatever group we go to we’re going to find a mix of those things. When it reaches a toxicity that we have to move away from, God has so many other options. But it doesn’t do us any good to see our brothers and sisters still learning and growing in the things we enjoyed to be engaged with cults. They are just a mixed bag. Some of it good, some of it not so good.

As to (2) ‘reject’ is a really big word, unless we’re talking of a full on abusive cult. Terminology like that may overstate it and invite more conflict that you need. Just say it is no longer working for you and you’re wanting to take some time to explore some other options. That sounds less final, less judgmental and more honoring of the journey you are actually on. These don’t have to devolve into right and wrong. As that fellowship may have been helpful in parts of your journey, it may still be helpful in theirs. People don’t always feel the impact of the guilt or fear messages in the same way or are ready to see yet what’s really there. Honor their journey as much as you’re own and you’ll may be able to maintain a connection that will allow God to repair the breech between you…


Thank you for taking the time to answer my question, Wayne.

Very true. I think it’s easy to forget this, especially when there is a lot of pressure to do what everyone is doing or what you have always done.

Thank you for this…it puts into words what I have thought some. It’s not all bad. It was never all bad. It does work for some people in the season they are in. I love the call to allow each person to have their own experience as they feel called to it. To me, that’s the most honoring way.

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I have been rather quiet this time round due to so many questions coming to mind, I am grateful for the defining of cults as I had the good fortune of getting into a very abusive one albeit it is during that time that I met the closest of people who where relating to each other much as I picture the new creation church relating to each other. We shared everything and there was a loving feel to everyone. Sadly once we realised all was not good with the leader it exploded and broke apart with members scattering worldwide. That was the start of what was my years wandering the wilderness which ended when I needed to help my sick Mum and I was so out of my depth the only way I knew I would manage to accomplish what was needed was with God’s help. Taxiing out of Heathrow I prayed a simple request, God please help me get done for mum what needs to be done in the time limit I have. That was 3 months and to date has to be the most enjoyably scary 3 months of my life. I could feel God’s help, saw his provision and enjoyed a close fellowship with him. Needless to say we accomplished all and more in the 3 months. On return to the UK I said I will go to church and asked him to please help me find one that was alive and active locally. I did and so began my 4 years in the IC, not very long but is what leads me after a somewhat long excursion explaining my life story (sorry) to my question that is coming up a little more often than comfort allows and I need help.

Matthew 16:25-27 says
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

The text in bold scares the life out of me or has done in the past as it has been used too many times not for the good of the Kingdom but was where man used it to manipulate his way into gaining more than they should of from me and those good people that went through that time alongside myself.

Today I feel that it means that whilst yes it has to do with me releasing my desire of the old me and and my selfish ways to a laying of my life before a Father who loves me and will take me to a place I was created to be.

My question is plainly how close is my thoughts and ideas I have of this scripture? What is your interpretation of this Wayne, and others …

The other day I read this which seemed to go hand in hand with what God is trying to help me with and I feel supports my reasoning and allows me to just let go and let God so ta speak…

Romans 12:1-2 Message

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Probably my main reason for posing my question here in this discussion is I feel it is part of my current journey and I feel is a part of my make up/thinking that Father is dealing with and showing me a new reality but I have not quiet got it yet. I know I’m loved but wonder why I am still alone after so long and beat myself up with this scripture sometimes.
Example is, I love reading fictional novels, thrillers, law novels and sometimes cops and robbers…
I find it the most relaxing thing to pass time with, I have felt Father enjoys watching me just let myself go into the book and I honestly feel it has helped in my freedom and let me understand that Father is a loving parent.
Then there is this side that plays like a record in my head from time to time and that little accusing voice going, "You read to much you SHOULD… blah blah blah. Then I remember the T.Shirt, " Don’t SHOULD on yourself and don’t SHOULD on your friends…

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Ian, you’re right this Scripture is often used to manipulate people into giving their all for someone else’s kingdom and making them feel bad about anything in life they enjoy. This is what I dislike about prooftexting, we take one little statement out of context and don’t read it as part of a larger story. For instance, what about Jesus saying, “I tell you these things that my joy might be in you and that your joy might be full.” He’s not come to control every aspect of our lives, but to invite us to celebrate the life Father has given us even in a broken creation. That involves love, creativity, enjoyment and the like.

That Matthew 16 Scripture is not a concept we can live out every day. Jesus applied it to a specific situation–his going to the cross and them trying to talk him out of it. In other words Father had given him a very specific obedience, and a painful one at that. To surrender to a higher purpose he had to look beyond his own agenda, and lay down his life literally for a higher purpose. There are times we face that to in situations, but notice it is a response to something God has revealed, not a general I’ll-do-the-most-painful-thing-I-can-imagine-and-hope-it-is-God. We only lay down our lives when God asks us to act against our own self-interest for a higher purpose.

So mostly we celebrate the life God gave us and embrace the joy and creativity of living alongside him in this magnificent creation. And when he (not someone else) asks us to do something we’d rather not do, that’s when we lay down our lives and take up our cross. It will usually (as it was for Jesus) involve loving someone in a way that we would think they don’t deserve, simply because Father is inviting us into a higher purpose. And isn’t doing that, even in the difficulty of it, more fun than not?

Some of the best decisions I’ve made in my life seems to be so opposed to my self-interest at the time, and I only did them because Jesus seemed to make it clear that he had another road to go down. I couldn’t see the fruit of it then, but I do now looking back and know it wasn’t just a better way to go for the person I was loving, but a far better road for me too…

I hope that helps.

Wayne from Thousand Oaks, CA

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Oh WOW thanks for that reply, it has lead to an increase in tissue sales locally. I feel there has been a deep cleaning of some bad thoughts and emotions related to the past experiences. Wayne you have the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as you type your words, your books, blogs and here. Thanks.

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