Dones are like birds that fly away from church? (But why do they do that?)

Sometimes Christians get to the point where they say, “I’m done with church,” and then drop out of church altogether. This is happening so much nowadays that it has become a social trend. Sometimes the people who do that are called “dechurched,” or “church refugees;” but the most common label they are known by is “Dones.”

Usually Dones are deeply committed Christ-followers who are longing for more than they have found in the traditional church format. Normally Dones aren’t walking away Christ or even Christianity. Instead, they are leaving the institutional church because they want more than they are finding there.

So why are the Dones flying away from church? What do they want? What are they looking for?

1) Dones want heart-to-heart connection with other believers. They are tired of being passive spectators and looking at the backs of people’s heads in front of them. They want to really get to know their sisters and brothers in Christ.

2) Dones are looking for encouragement and support. The Christian life is not an easy way to live and Dones have discoverred that weekly teaching that is often repetitive, doesn’t prepare them to victoriously walk with Christ in daily life. They realize they need an atmosphere of mutual caring, interaction, and support.

3) Dones are searching for usefulness. However, they realize that the typical church service has no need for them and no room for their input. They want to use the gifts that God has given them to minister to others, and they realize that they need interactive, hands-on training in using their spiritual gifts.

4) Dones desire spiritual experience. They don’t want to be spectators watching a human being give a lecture about God. They want to be in an environment where the resurrected Jesus is free to move and work among His people. They are tired of seeing Jesus as a mere figurehead and want Him to be the literal Head of the meeting.

5) Dones are looking for equality in the body of Christ. They have experienced religious authoritarianism and are tired of high sounding titles and demanding leaders. They want the freedom to listen to God and then say/or do what He tells them to. They want Spirit-led meetings.

6) Dones want reality in worship. They are seeking more than the outward forms of ritual, programs, pious platitudes, religious entertainment, and/or liturgy. That’s why millions of Dones are courageously obeying the Bible’s words in 2 Timothy 3:5: “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power therof; from such turn away.”

Author, Thom Shultz, sums it up this way: “The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.”

To learn more about how Dones are meeting these needs, google: ONE: Unfolding God’s Eternal Purpose From House To House.

Dones birds

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Posted in Beyond Church, church refugees, formal religion, more than church, religion, rocking religion, routine religion, state of religion, Uncategorized, unchurching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A “Jesus 12” testimony time

I grew up passively watching TV and learning by quietly listening to lectures. However, technology has transitioned our culture from passive listening to active involvement. Perhaps we’re catching up with Benjamin Franklin who is often quoted as saying: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

So much contemporary media requires involvement. Take Facebook, for example, people don’t get on Facebook to consume Facebook’s content. In fact, Facebook produces almost no content. Instead they provide a platform for people to bring their own content and to interact with one another.

Very few churches, however, allow people to bring their own content on Sunday morning. Instead people are expected to sit and to silently absorb the preacher’s sermon, although this hasn’t always been the case.

There have been times throughout church history when people were allowed and encouraged to freely testify during worship meetings. During the Second Great Awakening in North America, a testimony time in church became quite common. A preacher might ask: “Does anyone have a testimony this morning?” and then allow a few people to stand up and briefly speak before the sermon. You can still find a few churches, especially in rural areas, that have a Sunday morning testimony time, but the practice has become rare.

Perhaps we could be more effective in reaching our contemporary, participatory culture if we brought back spontaneous public testimonies. But how can it be done without creating a problem? Some pastors say, “My congregation wouldn’t do that.” Other’s say, “If I opened up for testimonies people would say all kinds of boring, unfocused, and/or unbiblical things.”

Perhaps. But just maybe sitting under a pastor’s teaching for years has prepared ordinary church members to speak about their relationship with God. Many pastors encourage their people to witness to their family, friends and even strangers. Perhaps we could allow people to testify in a warm, loving, church environment so that they can develop the courage to then testify in front of people who might not be so welcoming to their witness.

Maybe if we allowed people to give unprogrammed testimonies in church they might say powerful things that are actually inspired by God. It was said of the early Christ-followers that they overcame the evil one “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Allowing people the opportunity to testify just might make their faith more real to them.

So how can a pastor bring back the old time testimony time? Here’s a simple idea that I call the Jesus Twelve. The concept involves allowing twelve minutes (or some other amount if you prefer) before the sermon for people to share testimonies, Scriptures, short words of encouragement, etc. as they feel prompted by God. If some quite moments occur, and the pastor doesn’t intervene but continues to wait for God to move through the people, Jesus will make His presence deeply felt during the silence. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way: “I like the silent church before the service begins . . .”

This expands the role of pastor beyond merely being the only voice to speak in the meeting and puts him/her in the role of loving, gentle facilitator. He can say things like; “What do you feel like God wants you to say this morning?” or “Who else has something on their heart?” If someone begins to talk too long, the pastor can say; “Thanks so much for sharing, now who’s next?” And should someone share something unkind or unbiblical, the pastor can gently interrupt and say, “Thanks for sharing, however, we want to stay focused on loving one another (or on biblical ideas). Does someone else have something.”

Some benefits of this kind of interaction are:
It can give the pastor fresh, relevant sermon ideas;
It helps the congregation get to know one another in new ways;
It helps the pastor get to know the people;
It build up people’s faith and develops their confidence;
It allows the Holy Spirit to directly prompt and lead people;
It helps people move beyond formality to heartfelt intimacy with God;
It opens up spontaneous teaching moments for the pastor.

Since the pastor is the facilitator there is little risk involved. The first few Sundays of Jesus Twelve testimony time could possibly have a few awkward moments, but even then God will work to show everybody that those twelve unprogrammed minutes don’t need to be perfect. In fact, people will begin to discover that sometimes the awkward moments are the most powerful, precisely because they are real, unplanned life, occurring in the loving presence of God. (The Jesus 12 concept is explained more in the book Beyond Church.)

open mic

Posted in open sharing, personal testimony, salvation testimony, sharing, sharing Christ, sharing in church, sharing your faith, testifying, testifying in church, testimony of Jesus, Uncategorized, word of their testimony | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A huge stone moved like an autonomous car

A huge stone rolls aside
Like an autonomous car,
Exposing a glorious light,
Brighter than lightening
And a man in that light
Neatly folding His own burial shroud.
Soon a women comes to mourn.
Shocked by the open tomb,
She notices a human figure
Who she mistakes for the grounds keeper.
“Tell me where you have put Him? she asks weeping.
The figure calls her name; “Mary!”
Suddenly she recognizes that this
Is the dead man walking,
The living, resurrected Jesus!
Through the centuries,
Millions have heard this “grounds keeper”
Call their name.
Have you?

Christ encounter

 

 

Posted in dead man walking, Easter blogs, Easter poem, He is risen, He rose, meaning of Easter, New Testament, resurrection, Resurrection Day, resurrection of Jesus, resurrection power, risen, risen from the dead, risen Jesus, that I might know Him and the power of His resurrection, Uncategorized, We serve a risen Savior | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Saturday — the ignored day of Holy Week

What is Holy Saturday? Officially it is the day during Holy Week that falls between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It’s the last day of Lent. It represents the full day that Jesus was dead and his body was in the tomb. (His body was actually entombed for parts of three days.

Holy Saturday reminds us that the silence of God doesn’t mean the absence of God. God is working even when we are unaware of what He is doing.

However, too many people spend too much time in the apparent hopelessness between the Cross and the Resurrection — stuck in defeat, discouragement, and depression in Holy Saturday. The dead, entombed Jesus left His disciples feeling hopeless and will do the same for you. Follow the living, resurrected Jesus instead! Until you begin to daily experience the resurrected Jesus as real, Christianity (for you) will have little appeal and no thrill or zeal.

To Jesus’ first disciples, Holy Saturday was their darkest day. ‘There in the ground His body lay. Light of the world by darkness slain.’ It’s okay to occasionally feel the darkness of despair, but don’t get stuck there. Move on to Resurrection Day and daily submit to and interact with the living Jesus!” The human heart works best, not when it entombs a dead Jesus, but when it enthrones and obeys the living Jesus.

When they left Jesus’ shattered body in the tomb, everything seemed lost, but soon . . . Boom! Everything changed!

Even during Holy Week, many people want to have just a tiny bit of Jesus, like a discreet lapel pin to wear unnoticed by others; but few want Him as their absolute and controlling Master (Lord).

Some people put, Gone but not forgotten, on their tombstone. However, for Jesus it’s often the opposite. He’s Forgotten but not gone. (Others may forget or ignore Him, but you don’t have to.)

Sometimes we all experience “Good Friday” events in our lives. Those are happenings that seem (and feel) bad when they occur, but later on, we realize that they worked out for our good!

If you think you have no sin, then there was no need for Jesus to die for you and you didn’t need Good Friday. However, for me: When I had no merit God gave me mercy! (If I was a good person, it would be easy to do good & hard to do bad. I find it just the opposite.)

Here’s an interesting Holy Saturday question to ponder: If Jesus had been born 33 years ago, instead of about 2,000 years ago, would He have been received any better?

Will power soon wilts away. Resurrection power releases radically transforming results!

Too many people self-identify themselves using high-sound titles, rather than letting their life speak for itself. Holy Saturday shows that in the long run, human titles mean nothing!

Here is a fun little poem I wrote to give you hope during your personal Holy Saturday times:

A dead man walking
Has me talking!
Jesus is still alive.
Don’t put Him in an archive.
Give Him a high-five!

Maybe we Christians should move beyond the dead Jesus of Holy Saturday and gather in unity around the risen Jesus! When I read the Bible, the gatherings of early Christians seem to be like family, rather than following an organizational model based on Holy Saturday. That’s because, when you are intimately connected with the risen Jesus, you are automatically connected with others who are intimately connected with Jesus.

The word, church, carries hundreds of years of Holy Saturday baggage. I’ve found another word that helps me better understand early, resurrection Christianity. It’s ekklesia.

When you’re born into a family (or born again into God’s family) you don’t have to join or sign anything. (Membership is automatic.) You don’t have to join anything to be a passionate, loyal fan of a sports team. The same is true for following Christ! That’s because, if you’re a passionate Christ-follower, you’re already a member of the body of Christ. So you can’t join it.

Some family members and I don’t agree and some Christ-followers and I don’t either. But we have a bond much stronger than agreement! Let’s focus on our unity in the risen Jesus, not on our Holy Saturday differences!

Holy Saturday tomb

 

Posted in death of Christ, Easter, Easter blogs, Easter poem, empty tomb, Happy Easter, human heart, keeping Christ in the tomb, low in the grave He lay, meaning of Easter, repent, repentance, resurrection, Resurrection Day, resurrection power, Uncategorized, What do you want on your tombstone? | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Good Friday isn’t for good people

If we humans were “good people” there would have been no need for Good Friday! Instead, Jesus had to die for everybody because . . . THERE ARE NO “GOOD PEOPLE!”

Good people don’t need Good Friday, but people like me, who aren’t so good, desperately do! My will power to do and be good, soon wilts away. However, Jesus’ resurrection power releases results!

Posted in chief of sinners, forgiveness, get right with God, good people, good person, holiness, Holy Week, O wretched man, righteousness, source of good, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paul Apostle Of Christ” shows prechurch Christianity in action

Before there was church hierarchy and official offices, Christianity was more family than institution! Before there was established liturgy and religious programming, faith in Christ flowed spontaneously from the heart. That was prechurch Christianity!

The movie, “Paul Apostle Of Christ,” captures these distinctions well. It shows Christianity before it was formally organized into a religious structure. (The film stars Jim Caviezel and James Faulkner.)

The movie doesn’t even use the word “church.” Instead, it calls groups of Christ-followers “the community.” And it portrays the community as being an informal group gathered around their love for Jesus Christ, rather than around human leadership.

Watching “Paul Apostle Of Christ” stirred up my desire to get back to what I call prechurch Christianity. But is that even possible? Are the days of Christianity being an informal gathering of believers gone for ever? No, by no means.

Through out history, Christians have gathered in informal, unorganized groups to encourage and minister to one another. However, that style of Christianity seems to especially occur when there is strong and direct persecution. Under threat of death, titles and formality no longer matter to Christians.

However, what if God wants Christians to be in informal, family-like groups, even when there is not persecution. Is that possible? Yes!

There is a recent handbook about practical ways Christ-followers can meet as families. It’s by Henry Hon and is called: “ONE: Unfolding God’s Eternal Purpose From House To House.” It’s available on Amazon in Kindle or paperback. Give it a google!

Don’t miss the movie, “Paul Apostle Of Christ” in theaters now. And be sure to read the handbook, “ONE,” that can introduce you to and help you experience “the community” in the present!

Paul Apostle Movie

Posted in apest, back to the Bible, biblical Christianity, Biblical principles, Christian history, church, handbook, Henry Hon, house church, ONE: Unfolding God's Eternal Purpose From House To House, organic church, Quotes, simple church, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unconventional thoughts about Palm Sunday, Holy Week, & Easter

Jesus didn’t sit in an office and study all week so He could preach a good sermon. He got out among people and served them. Bob Goff, author of the books, Love Does and Everybody Always, puts it this way: “When Jesus rose from the dead He didn’t make a speech, He made His friends breakfast.”

Through out history, Christians have gathered in informal, unorganized groups to encourage and minister to one another. However, when human leadership and organization begin to override the voice of the Spirit, institutional church replaces the New Testament concept of informal, Spirit-led ekklesia.

Christianity is submissive cooperation with Christ, not a corporation that claims to represent Christ. If you’ve ever felt rejected by the institutional church, remember Jesus was rejected by the institutional synagogue.

Christianity proclaims Jesus is alive, so those of us who are Christians need to live like He is by listening to and obeying Him. You can’t follow the risen Jesus, if you’re unwilling to obey Him over self, other people, organizations, and government! (See Acts 5:29.)

To me, programming Christian worship is like programming the fans in March Madness. It kills the passion and spontaneity.

Here’s an observation. Visit a 12 step group and they’ll let you speak in the meeting. Visit a church service and they won’t.

Perhaps Palm Sunday means we’re supposed to put our palms together and give the risen Jesus a rousing, standing ovation! After all, on Palm Sunday, Jesus said this about the people making lots of noise for Him: “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Holy Week? The holiness of a week depends on whether you walk with the risen Jesus; not on the dates on a church calendar. Holy Week reminds me that while I am wholly weak in self, I am a new creature in Christ!

A dead Jesus can’t lead a church service. The risen Jesus can! Let’s let Him. Since Easter means that Jesus is alive, perhaps churches could have an open mic and let Jesus direct the Easter service. Instead, on Easter churches proclaim Jesus is alive, but then tightly program and control the Easter service as if He’s not.

Bible commentaries and sermons are fine, but they can’t compare to reading the Bible for yourself with an open heart! Religious ritual or routine can never replace the richness of direct revelation from and ongoing relationship with the risen Jesus!

Jesus crosses

Posted in 12 step group, 12 step meeting, Bible, church, commentaries, Easter blogs, ekklesia, holiness, institutional church, Jesus rose, March Madness, preaching, resurrection, Resurrection Day, resurrection of Jesus, resurrection power, sermons, Spirit-led, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments