Monday, 29 December 2014

The Paradox of Freedom - Part 2

I shared in my last post about the revolutionary discovery I made after my husband left me - that I actually had the freedom to choose whether or not to forgive him! And that it was only when I found out I was free to choose, that I was truly able to forgive. This is what I call the paradox of freedom.

Now it's been many years since that momentous realisation. Since then I've seen a precious friendship turn into marriage, been blessed with two more amazing sons, suffered spiritual abuse, lost my 'religion', and embarked on a faith journey with a freshly-revealed God.

I trusted the church system and the people in it, and that trust had proved worthless. I was betrayed and rejected by the very things I'd staked my life on. (More fool me!)

And the interesting thing is, it was this second experience of betrayal and loss that led me to an even greater understanding of the paradox of freedom.

The path out of spiritual abuse has led me through what I can only describe as the deconstruction of my faith. I questioned the incontrovertible 'truths' I'd been fed all my life and re-examined my beliefs.

But it seemed that the more freedom I felt to doubt and question, the more I believed.



I've slain sacred cows and dissected their remains. I've embraced doubt and uncertainty. I've rejected man-made traditions, and wrestled and argued with the God of eternity.

(Inevitably, this has led to further accusations of being a false prophet, as well as being denounced as a heretic.)

Yet it has been in embracing the liberty to question, and the freedom to doubt, that I have discovered an amazing truth.

When you let God out of the (religious) box, he's more than you've ever imagined. More wonderful. More loving. More wise. More compassionate. More... "I am"!

And as I've chosen freedom to step out of the box myself - and been totally honest with God (including voicing my anger, my questions, and my difficulties) I've found my faith has deepened, my trust grown and my walk with him has developed a reality I've never known before.

I find myself in a place where I have fewer answers, but greater confidence. More questions, but way less fear. My faith is no longer cut-and-dried, but it is of infinitely more worth in the cut-and-thrust world I inhabit.

In losing my 'religion', I found freedom in God!

The Paradox of Freedom - Part 1


Many years ago I found myself, completely against my will, dealing with the loss of my marriage. I'd spent 7 years married to a man who lied and deceived seemingly without conscience, who was a master of emotional manipulation, and who acted as if the world revolved around him alone. While his regular outbursts of anger only occasionally resulted in physical abuse, it almost always ended with him breaking things - usually my things!

We'd been living in London and I had taken our baby son on a holiday back to Australia so the family could meet him. While I was there, my husband contacted me and told me he'd applied for a job back home and asked me to stay until he had an answer. After several weeks of being put off like this, I rang the company he said he'd applied to - and discovered the whole thing was a lie. When I confronted him with it, he got angry with me... again...

Now as you can probably imagine, having been treated like dirt for so long, and then abandoned with a year old son to care for, I was pretty distressed about life! I fought to save our marriage, but he just didn't want to know. Eventually, his mistress became pregnant, and I had to face the fact that my marriage was dead.

I set about trying to find my way out of the pain of betrayal and rejection I'd experienced, desperately trying to pursue God's plan for us. I knew I had to forgive my husband, but it was so hard! Some days it felt impossible.

In the midst of my struggle, I picked up a book about recovering from divorce. In it I read the most profound thing I'd ever heard: that I actually had a choice whether or not to forgive my husband!

That may sound really stupid to you, but I'd grown up with a christianity that amounted to a set of rules, a standard that 'must' be reached. If you were a christian, you had to forgive. Being a christian was synonymous with 'doing the right thing'. And doing 'the wrong thing' meant facing the shame and censure of family and church.

But here was this book, written by christians, declaring that I had a choice! I was free to forgive or not - it was entirely up to me! The book did explain that there were certain realities that went with whatever I chose, but nonetheless, I did have a choice.

This was a totally new and revolutionary idea to me! I wasn't being coerced into anything - I was being set free.

And the paradox was that once I realised I had the freedom not to forgive, I found that I wanted to forgive him. Not because it was 'the right thing to do', but because I wanted to be free of the anger and pain that was crippling me.

I'll be honest - it still took time and effort on my part, and there were still days when I wanted him to be hurt as badly as he'd hurt me, but I was doing this for the sake of freedom not because someone was telling me I 'had to'.

I had a choice and I was free!




Saturday, 20 December 2014

I'm not Asking for Perfection!

I've had many conversations over the last 2 or 3 years that revolved around my experience of abuse in the church and my subsequent disillusionment with that institution.

There have been people who disapproved of me being upset and who therefore assumed that somehow I was the one at fault. Others were distressed that I would even suggest that there was anything wrong in 'their church'. Then there were those who recognised there was something amiss, but didn't want to get involved.

But, interestingly enough, there was one line almost every person produced. "You can't expect the church to be perfect - it's made up of imperfect people."

Now on the surface, this sounds like a true and wise observation. It is true that we are all imperfect, and it is wise not to expect the perfection from such people.

The only trouble is, it was not perfection I was expecting.

It was fruit!

Even a cursory glance at the New Testament will reveal the truth that we are supposed to bear fruit. And that fruit should be in keeping with our source.

Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

So what does this fruit look like?

"...the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."

The early christians were renowned for their love, joy and humility, even in the face of persecution and suffering. People noticed that they were different and wondered why.

Yet these days, particularly in the western world, there seems to be no difference in the behaviour of those in 'the church' compared to those outside it. We all seem to live and behave in exactly the same way. And yet we keep assuring ourselves, and others, that we have a better way to live. We keep selling this idea, and yet proving it's bankruptcy by our failure to live it.

Something is seriously wrong!

We have greater access to more sermons, commentaries and teaching than any generation that has ever lived. And yet we still witness bullying and abuse, power plays and politics in 'the church'.

We're inundated with 'christian' books, conferences and programs, but nothing changes - they seem incapable of effecting the transformation they promise.

We say we follow a God of love, and then we act hatefully towards those who don't comply with our expectations. We say we embrace freedom in Christ, and then want to control our brothers and sisters, insisting they conform to our way of thinking. We say Jesus is the head of the church, and then we program the Holy Spirit right out of our services.

The dissonance between what we say and how we live is overwhelming!

I'm not asking for perfection. I'm asking for fruit in keeping with the Vine. I want our actions to line up with the words we speak, and the promises we make. I want to see in each one of us the proof of a living, redeeming, transformational God.

It was because I believed we had a better way that I stayed so long and fought so hard in an abusive church situation. It was my hope that as each one of us pursued God above all else, we would somehow get through it and become a living testimony to his grace.

In the end, my hope proved futile. It seems we had no better way, no hope, no good news to offer others - just the putrid stench and unbearably bitter taste of our own counterfeit harvest!

Despite all the accusations to the contrary, I don't hate 'the church', and I don't despise my brothers and sisters in the institution.

But I do want the 'better way' we talk about to be manifest in how we live and interact with each other. I want the cry of Jesus's heart - that we be known by our love - to be realised in our midst.

I'm not asking for perfection - I just want to see fruit!



Friday, 12 December 2014

Father Forgive Them...

I was angry last night!

The big, green, Incredible Hulk type of anger.

This morning it's the quietly sickened and disgusted type.

Why?

Because friends of mine are hurting badly - torn to pieces by religion.

Because they are just one more statistic - victims of an abusive institution erroneously called 'church'.

Because religious leaders seem to think it's actually ok to throw their brothers and sisters under the bus.

Because they don't seem to care about the damage they inflict as long as they stay in power.

Because they use their position to denounce family members, in an attempt to control the narrative.

Because they can't seem to understand that the words of judgement they preach from their pulpits apply equally to themselves.

Because they ignore the words of Jesus and lord it over their brothers and sisters.

Because members of 'the body' seem to think this is normal and so they don't stand up and shout, "NO! STOP! ENOUGH!"


And because it's Just. Plain. Wrong!



Saturday, 6 December 2014

Persuasion

There's an ancient story about a competition between the sun and the wind. Apparently the wind was boasting to the sun about being so much stronger. The sun, on the other hand, was arguing that gentleness could be just as powerful. After each fails to convince the other, the sun suggests a competition.

Just at that moment, a man is seen walking down the road. The sun points him out to the wind and suggests that whoever can persuade him to remove his coat is clearly the greater of the two. The wind agrees.


Anyway the wind decides to try first. It blows and blusters and buffets the man - trying to obtain its objective. The trouble is the harder it blows the tighter the man clutches his coat to his form.

So the wind tries harder - until it blows the leaves from the trees and the birds from the sky. But to no avail. The only thing the wind can achieve is to make the man cling to his coat for dear life.

Frustrated and exhausted, the wind admits defeat and makes way for the sun to try.


Well the sun steps up and starts to softly shine on the man. It gently glows and then brightly beams... and pretty soon the man is not just unbuttoning his coat, but removing it altogether!

Amazing, right!?

And the moral of the story? "Gentle persuasion is stronger than force."

Now there is a reason I'm sharing this childhood memory. I've been pondering the question, "Who do we emulate when we are discussing our beliefs with others - the wind, or the sun?"

Are we so convinced of our own righteousness, that we bully and bluster, threatening hellfire and damnation, in an attempt to compel people to agree with us, to enforce our absolute "Truth" upon our listeners? Are we harsh in our interactions with others, 'justifying' it as defending "The Word"?

Is disagreement rejected out-of-hand? Do we use scripture verses to beat others into submission? Do we pour scorn on anyone who dares to suggest a different way of interpreting them? 

Or do we shine with the warmth of love and kindness? Are we gentle with the vulnerable? Do we speak softly to the broken? Do we make it pleasant (and safe) to sit and talk for a while?

And in meditating on these things, I think I may have stumbled on something of value!

Maybe - just maybe - people would respond more positively to our message if we tried a little more warmth and little less icy blast!

What do you think?



Friday, 28 November 2014

Of Tolerance and Trolls

So... since my last post, I've been involved in another online discussion...

and I've come to the conclusion that some people are just not interested in genuine engagement with others. They participate for the sole purpose of being provocative.

Now that can be irritating, but when they are convinced that they speak for 'GOD', and will brook no argument, it can actually be dangerous for anyone who's experienced spiritual abuse.

There was one troll in particular who was behaving like a self-righteous ass - baiting, labelling, and refusing to engage with people who were genuinely trying to share their thoughts and ideas. He presented his opinions as facts, took an "I'm right, and you're a loser" stance, and threw provocative one-liners around like confetti.

I called him on it, told him I didn't feed trolls or take their bait, and left it at that.

Which was fine until one woman joined the thread and started singing his praises, saying that he'd brought her "great comfort and joy" for "standing firm on the Bible..."

She added, "Not once have you insulted any of the people in this comment's (sic) section that I have seen, even while the fake "Christians" will spew all sorts of hateful things at you."

Reading this, I could only assume this woman had not actually read his comments, so I showed her examples of the not just insulting, but also rude and dismissive remarks this chap had made.

Apart from calling people "Pitiful", and accusing others of using "histrionic hyperbole" or having a "myopic perspective" or a "judgmental attitude" or being "toxic" or playing a "blame game" or 'having no integrity' or speaking bullshit, he'd also played the religious shaming card, accusing people of 'walking away from God', 'denying God', living "proudly sinful" and surrendering to their "sinful desires". (There's plenty more, but you probably get the picture).

Imagine my surprise then to hear that she was already aware of them! I was utterly gobsmacked that this abuse was what she was applauding! How on earth did this represent "pursuing GOD'S heart and not your own"!?

But no argument I put forward would be heard. In her mind, this woman had pronounced "Truth". No correspondence would be entered into. End of story.

She also encouraged another commenter to "Continue to speak the Truth harshly, as Jesus and Paul did." (What even!!!)

Again, there was nothing I could say that could even register on, let alone penetrate, her shield of self-righteousness. She was right, I was wrong, she had GOD and "Truth" on her side, and that was all there was to the matter.

After that, it felt like this guy went out of his way to be as noxious as he could be, to as many people as possible.

At first I just ignored it. He neither impressed me nor scared me. And I was also concerned I'd let myself argue too hard against the woman who'd been egging him on.

But then I started to wonder whether some of the people he was bullying might actually be genuinely traumatised by his behaviour.

The article under discussion had been exploring why people are walking away from the institutional church and I thought it was entirely possible that there were people reading and commenting who had, themselves, walked away because of experiencing abuse within the church. And it distressed me to think that someone might have been so relieved to discover that they were not alone that they had plucked up the courage to share, only to be met with what would feel like more abuse.

I tried to put myself in their shoes, and I thought about my own situation - of feeling so alone and abandoned when no-one would stand up for me and confront the bullying. Whether they like it or not, by doing nothing they enabled the abuse.

But then I told myself that had been in 'real life', and this was 'only' online.

And then I remembered being in an online conversation regarding spiritual abuse. One guy was really having a go at me and trying to invalidate me, when another chap stepped in and told him to back off. He didn't know me, but he'd seen the bullying behaviour and he stuck up for me. I was so grateful to receive his support!

And that made me think about how Jesus stood up for broken and vulnerable people against the religious bullies leaders of his day. He had no issue in calling out their self-righteous attitude and abusive behaviour. (Have you read Matthew 23 recently?)

And I came to the conclusion that, on-line or in the 'real' world, it is one thing to recommend we engage in a civilised "agree to disagree" discussion and quite another to sit back and allow a religious thug to bully and wound others.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Seeing the Elephant



The first time I read The Lord of The Rings I must have been about 12 years old. I adored it! Absolutely fell in love with it!

Since then, I've kept coming back to re-read it every few years. And each time I do something new leaps out at me and captures my imagination. Each time I approach this well-loved piece of literature, I find something new to delight my soul.

It's not that the story has changed, but that I have. I've changed. I've grown. And my experience of life has increased with the passing years.

The things which spoke most deeply to me as a young teenager were different from the things that moved me as a newly-wed. What caught my attention when I was a first-time mum was different from what engaged me after my husband walked out. My most recent excursion into its wonder, happily married and with 3 fantastic sons, was different again.

Over the years I came to realise an important truth: what we get out of a book depends greatly upon what we have to bring to it.

But this truth has far greater implications than our enjoyment of a good (or even great!) book. It stays true in all aspects of our life. What we take away from an experience depends greatly on what we have brought to it.

This reality came to mind recently when I was involved in an online 'discussion' over a particular post. As is often the case, there'd been a fair few comments posted of the "I'm right, you're wrong" variety.

I was getting a bit riled by one chap in particular, so I stopped to get some perspective and re-assess my motives for engaging.

And it occurred to me that we were all behaving like the blind men with the elephant. Each of us was reading the author's work according to our own particular bias and understanding. We had each approached the article bearing our own life experience - holding tightly to the things that were important to us.

We'd all read the same words... and yet what we read differed greatly depending on what we'd brought to them. We were feeling different parts of the elephant and declaring our own piece to be the only correct view.

It's probably a good thing to keep in mind. We all have the tendency to think that our own experience or understanding is universal. Many times it's simply out of ignorance - I don't know what I don't know.

But when we fail to stop and consider the possibility that someone else just might be seeing something we can't, we not only invalidate the other person's reality, but we rob ourselves of the opportunity to enlarge our own awareness.


Saturday, 8 November 2014

What is That "Sorry" Worth?



Since my own devastating 'church' experience, I've been reading and learning all I can about abuse. What it looks like. How it manifests. Why both abuser and abused seem to act out their parts as if reading from some ineluctable script, regardless of the finer details of the situation.

There are the classic moves like blaming, gas lighting and shunning.

There is the haunting pain of shame, self-doubt and isolation.

And there is, to mis-quote Maxwell Smart, the old 'say sorry and then insist your victim gets over it' trick.

I've been watching this trick being played throughout the fall of the Driscoll Empire: "He's said he's sorry, what more do you want from him!?"

And because people like Warren Throckmorton keep pressing for answers, they are accused of being judgemental, bloodthirsty and self-righteous. And that's just the polite words...

What some people refuse to understand is that people who have survived abuse (or at least understand its foulness) will move heaven and earth to make sure no-one else becomes a victim. If you've experienced that depth of pain and betrayal, you won't sit idly by and watch an abuser just walk away. Free to keep on devastating the lives of the innocent or unwary.

It's not a case of "wanting to bring them down" or "being out for revenge". It's knowing that an unrepentant abuser will strike again. Think about it for a moment - if they don't believe they've done anything wrong, why would they change their behaviour!?

That is why it is wise to seek proof of 'repentance' before trusting again. To ask that actions line up with the words.

Reparation. Redress. Restitution. Recompense. Restoration.

These are the things that can lead to reconciliation. Things that prove the sincerity of your words. Things that show how serious you are about what you have said.

But be warned! If you stand your ground in wanting to see the evidence, there's a real danger that you'll be further vilified. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about!

Of course, the upside to that is you'll know exactly how much that "sorry" was worth!




Sunday, 2 November 2014

Attitude Matters

The other day, I had a conversation at work that got me thinking.

A colleague had arrived barely a minute late and she was apologising for it. Her co-worker responded graciously and it sparked a conversation, during which this young woman shared that her dad viewed turning up to work early to be absolutely imperative. She said he'd been known to sack tradies working for him if they turned up late.

That night I came back to the conversation and started mulling it over. It occurred to me that anyone can arrive early to work, but still have lousy attitude all day. Likewise, it is possible for one who is normally conscientious at their work to be late in arriving.

So an action, in and of itself, is of limited benefit in conveying the heart attitude of the person involved.

This is the problem with legalism. It demands an outward conformity to a set of rules but cannot move the heart of those involved. So it reduces the us to the performance of approved actions but leaves our attitude untouched. As long as we are seen to be acting a certain way, our motivation for doing so is rarely questioned.

The danger in this is we can be left with a facade which has nothing behind it - no substance.

As long as we look good, it is presumed we are good.

iz quotes

And this got me wondering how much this plays into the realities we have been seeing in the institutional church. There have been many leaders in recent times whose behaviour has been revealed as abusive or corrupt and yet they seem incapable of admitting it - of really owning their own crap. (And Mark Driscoll is just the latest, christian-celebrity example of this.)

It also appears that those watching on, applauding the outward appearance, don't want to see the emptiness behind the facade. As long as the leader looks good, mouths the correct words, they don't seem to care that there may be nothing of substance behind the looks, no meaningful reality to those words. As longs as it looks good!

I wonder how much of this imperative to maintain the facade is built on the presumption that looking good equates to being good?

Conversely, how many leaders have done real good (and won genuine respect) by admitting their faults and addressing their sin?

You see, a good appearance can be deceptive - it's what's in the heart that is important.

Attitude matters.



Friday, 24 October 2014

A Tale of Two Standards


Ok, I tried.

I really did!

But how can anyone stay silent when such injustice is perpetrated - celebrated even - in the 'church'?

Of course, you've probably guessed by now who I'm talking about.

A certain pastor who resigned his position rather than face the consequences of his actions. Who couldn't "man up" enough to actually face the mountain of bloody bodies under his bus. Who just parked in the middle of the road and walked away...

…and turned up next, being lauded and applauded at a 'pastors' conference!

And there is call after call for us to feel sorry for this man and treat him gently

like this:
I want to honor a great apostle a great man of God. He is a trendsetter, pioneer and my prayer goes out to Him. I cannot imagine what He is going through right now but one thing i know that truly hurts is friendly fire.
Morris introduced Driscoll, who was sitting in the front row of the audience, reminding attendees that "not everything you read on the Internet is true" and encouraging them to "restore [Driscoll] with a spirit of gentleness considering ourselves, lest we are also tempted." He then asked Driscoll to say a few words. As Driscoll approached the mic, the audience gave him a standing ovation.
The institutional church seems to side with those in power. It circles the wagons and shoots at anyone who questions this ethos. We must protect our own!

I just can't help wondering if it's because of a secret fear, "It might be me next!"

But God help those who've been run over by the MD bus, or any other, if they ask for justice.

They are bitter, unforgiving, ungodly, unrighteous, slanderous, gossiping, lacking grace, angry, bigoted, self-righteous…

I think you get the picture.

And yet…

it was Jesus himself who championed the "least of these". The downtrodden, the vulnerable, the powerless, the sinners, the outcasts.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Brother Love

In my post entitled Toxic Church I shared how stressed and anxious I had been at the thought of attending my mother's funeral because of my brother and sister-in-law's shunning of me.

My SIL quite pointedly maintained this position, turning sharply away from me at the funeral. She even told another person that I was the one refusing to talk to her. I considered confronting her over this lie, but there are only so many times you can beg someone to deal with issues between you.

However, my brother did approach me later at the wake, and gave me a quick hug. I felt wary and confused, but inwardly hopeful. I asked him if this meant we were now talking. When he tried to assure me that we'd "always been talking", I told him that this hadn't felt like the reality I'd experienced.

But I really wanted him to know how much I'd valued his overture of friendship, so I said to him as we leaving, "If we are talking, can we have coffee together?" He responded positively, so I asked him to call me to set a date.

I came away hopeful that at least he and I might be able to restore relationship. Sadly, I've heard nothing from him in the weeks since.

As much as I want to see a different outcome, I know I can't control him or make him want to have relationship with me. So I choose to set him free.

I just hope that somewhere, deep down inside he knows this truth:




Friday, 17 October 2014

Is "Bless You" a New Four-Letter Word?


I was responding to a comment on a blog post the other day and I wanted to convey my goodwill by speaking blessing to the other person. I wrote it down, but found myself hesitating over publishing it. I pondered my reluctance for a minute or two until I realised what the issue was.

You see, too many times I've seen self-professed christians writing acrimonious comments to one another and then sign off their vicious verbal attack with the words, "Bless you, brother/sister."

It's as if you can speak any vitriol you like as long as you slip in a christian cliche at the end which somehow sanctifies the whole.

Or not!

In the same way that other words or phrases have come to convey something quite different from their original meaning, how long will it be before "Bless you" becomes a swear word?




Saturday, 11 October 2014

How Do We Measure Goodness?

After a recent hard season of sadness and loss (including the death of my mother), my husband and I were thrilled to have the opportunity of a week away together. No children, no responsibilities. We could please ourselves with what we did, and when.

And so we slept in, ate delicious food, drank lots of wine, and stayed up late watching movies. And we remembered that life is good. And we were grateful.

And we talked about life as it has been in the past, and life as we believe it could be. Life as maybe it was created to be.

And I have come back with a renewed desire to live well in the small things, the mundane, the everyday. To live in such a way that others feel blessed, and loved, and valued.

While we were away, one of the films we watched (and which captured my attention) was "Chocolat", which tells the stories of the people of a small French village in 1959. The mayor, Comte de Reynaud, is a man of strict morals and unyielding religion. He is aghast when Vianne Rocher, a single mother, arrives and sets up a chocolatier in the town. During the season of Lent no less!

The tragedy is that the Comte's religion only inspires him to demand that the villagers accede to his harsh moral absolutes - he seems to care nothing about their lives beyond their outward conformity to this code. And he uses the Catholic priest, Pere Henri, as a mouthpiece for his own bitter, religious dogma. No love, no joy, just self-denial and joyless work. Yet you sense he yearns for something more.

And it is the one he condemns as a sinful temptress who shows genuine care and compassion to those around her. She reaches out to them, invites them in, shares her joie de vivre.

Now I know that many people would point out that she was sinful, immoral, pagan even - but the fruit of her engagement with others was sweet.

Others would say it was all just horribly cliched and that everyone knows that "Hollywood" (a catch-all name meaning anyone who makes films and is not a christian) is always portraying christians in a negative light.

But I'm not so sure.

It didn't feel cliched to me - it felt all too familiar.

And I would like to ask a question. Is it possible that the negative, "Hollywood" portrayal of christians is the result of genuine observation? Can it be that this is what has been seen and experienced?

Toward the end of the film Pere Henri is finally allowed to speak from his heart.

"I'm not sure what the theme of my homily today ought to be. Do I want to speak of the miracle of Our Lord's divine transformation? Not really, no. I don't want to talk about His divinity. I'd rather talk about His humanity. I mean, you know, how He lived His life, here on Earth. His kindness, His tolerance... Listen, here's what I think. I think that we can't go around... measuring our goodness by what we don't do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think... we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create... and who we include." 
Beautiful words, I thought.

And maybe worth considering...

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Show Must Go On!

In his blog post Christianity, Mission, and Steamroller Blues, David Hayward (aka the Naked Pastor) suggests:
Steamroller blues
"If you want to have a church or organization that has a vision and a mission at its forefront, then you have to put the personal development and relationships of the individual members second. 
In other words, you can either have a task group or a community."
It has been my experience that every institutional church has a mission at its forefront - namely to 'do church'. I've never yet come across a church which puts relationships ahead of this ongoing mission.

In fact, quite the opposite.

Time after time, I've seen people sacrificed - or steamrolled - by those who see themselves as being custodians of 'the vision'.

People who were being 'difficult'. People who were asking questions. People who were hurting and in need of care. People who were just getting in the way of the smooth operation of the institution.

But it got me thinking. There was that one time when something different happened...

We'd had a regular service planned. Worship songs chosen. Sermon written. Everything set in place.

And then we got the news.

The couple, whose pregnancy we'd been so joyfully celebrating, had lost their baby. This wasn't the first time. (And although we didn't know it at the time, it wouldn't be the last.)

But we knew we couldn't just carry on as if nothing had happened.

So we cancelled all those important plans we'd made. We put them aside because we knew that when one member of our family mourned, we needed to mourn with them.

And so we met together for our Sunday service. And we grieved, and we hurt, and we wept. And we made place for God even though we couldn't understand him. And we made a space for all to speak, to share, to question. We acted like a real community.

Like family...

Tragically, that was a once-off event. An isolated experience. Months later, when we were being torn apart in the name of man's ambition, it was business as usual. Move along. Nothing to see here. Just ignore the broken hearts, the bloody corpses.

The show must go on!


Friday, 26 September 2014

Accountable to Whom?

It continues to disturb me how many parallels there are between my church experience and the continuing Mars Hill drama!

Apparently Mark Driscoll has recently suggested that he made a mistake in "trying to be under the authority of [his] elders" (see Warren Throckmorton's post). He says that what he needed to do was choose some "older and more seasoned" pastors from outside his church to give him counsel. This, despite the fact that most of his elders were actually older and more experienced than he was! (see this 'Musing' from under the bus.) Why would he not want to benefit from their wisdom?

In my situation, it was made painfully clear that elder J didn't think his fellow elders - his peers and equals - should be holding him to account. He thought instead that he should be 'submitting' to a group of men who were all telling him what a fabulous job he was doing and how he really should be the leader over the rest of us. They even opined that if he left the church, it would collapse! Get the picture?

So you have two 'church leaders' rejecting peer accountability seemingly in order to 'submit' to those they know would say what they wanted to hear. I'd say there's something seriously wrong with that.

Firstly, both men felt entitled to choose who they would submit to, and it seems that choice was based on finding those who would see things their way and agree with them. Men who would tell them that they were the 'vision-carriers' and that anyone who stood in their way should be run over.  It seems that they didn't want men who might ask tough questions - might even disagree with them - but instead chose men who would effectively stroke their egos.

And understand this - the freedom to choose was theirs alone!

By their actions, it seems obvious that both men believed that no-one else had a choice - that everyone else was obligated to submit to them. Submit or be hounded out of the church. Some christians are more equal than others. The anointed ones get to pick and choose, but 'the sheep' must submit or get slaughtered.

In choosing to be accountable solely to those outside the church, they were choosing people who did not experience the day-to-day realities of the organisation, and who therefore lacked the intimate understanding of those who worked at the coalface every day. As Paul Tripp said when he resigned from the Mars Hill board,
"...it became clear to me that a distant, external accountability board can never work well because it isn't a firsthand witness to the ongoing life and ministry of the church. 
Such a board at best can provide financial accountability, but it will find it very difficult to provide the kind of hands-on spiritual direction and protection that every Christian pastor needs. Unwittingly what happens is that the external accountability board becomes an inadequate replacement for a biblically functioning internal elder board that is the way God designed his church to be lead and pastors to be guided and protected."
And in these circumstances, the board members tended to receive highly biased reports. Paul Tripp put it this way*,  “One of the problems with the [Mars Hill board] is that they are getting their information from the people they are supposed to be holding accountable.”

In my experience this made for a highly partisan response from the board. But what else would you expect when they'd been set up to see everything through the eyes of the 'leader'!?

* from the document: Concerns and Critical Information for the Elders of Mars Hill Church

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Not Another Driscoll Post!

wikimedia

Thousands of words have been thrown around the Internet in recent months about Mark Driscoll and the bodies under his bus. And so many of those words have resonated with me because they sound so much like the things I experienced. Which started me thinking…

With all the differences between that situation and mine, why did it sound so much the same?

This post is part of my answer:

1 Samuel 8:6-22 (emphasis added) 
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” 
Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyardsand olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”  
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” 
When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.” 
Do you hear what the people were saying to Samuel? "We don't want to listen to God - what would he know!? We want what we want."

How many times have we read stories about the Israelites and rolled our eyes and pronounced judgement on their stupidity? How many times have we prided ourselves on our superior ways?

Thank God we're not so full of sin and pride as to go against God's best for us! Not like those dreadful Israelites - they were always complaining and refusing to listen to God.

No, we christians are far wiser and godlier.

Really?

Well, it looks to me that we are EXACTLY like those stupid, stiff-necked people.

We, too, keep asking for kings. And they keep "claiming their rights."

We want to be like "other nations". And they keep "claiming their rights."

We refuse to listen to "Samuel". And they keep "claiming their rights."

God warned us! They take our sons and daughters. They take the best of… the tenth of… We become their slaves.

And the 'church' is no longer safe, because the 'kings' play their power games, and abuse, and shun, and cover up, and throw people under the bus.

And the people just keep asking for another king…

(Written in loving support of all the victims of a 'king'.)






Friday, 15 August 2014

Why I Haven't "Given up on the Church"



This morning, I read an article entitled Why You Shouldn’t Give up on the Church.

The author is the son of a 'famous' christian. I am a 'nobody' in that particular world.

He thinks "church is messy by nature." I have found it not messy, but dangerous.

He says, "it’s where Jesus’ people are connected." I find I can connect with Jesus's people wherever I meet them.

He opines that, "To leave the Church is to hurt yourself and to hurt others." I left because it was the only way to stop the hurt.

His judgement: "leaving the Church... is escapism." My experience: leaving the institution was the only way to escape the abuse.

His words seem to equate 'church' with a building or institution. My understanding of the word 'church' is that it's a living body.

He talks of "doing church." I speak of being the church.

He concludes, "No matter your frustrations and hurts, it cannot be abandoned. You need it now whether you know it or not, and someday you will have a need nothing and no one else can meet. And the Church will be where Jesus shows Himself to you."

My response to him?

I rejoice in your experience, but it is not universal. Please don't present it as an incontrovertible reality. That hurts.

I not only can, but I have abandoned what you seem to call 'church'.

But I have not "given up on the church", which is the body of Christ. I have given up on an institution.

I do not "need it". I need to feel safe when I meet with my brothers and sisters.

'The church' is not my sufficiency. Jesus Christ is.

And he can show himself to me wherever and whenever he chooses.

So please don't put him (or me) in a box. I love him too, you know.



Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Toxic Church



Dear Institutional Church,

I am reminded again today how toxic you can be.

You see, my mother has just died and I'm stressing about the funeral.

Not for the reasons most people stress about funerals. You know, fears about saying the wrong thing, or not being able to control the emotions, or having to face saying goodbye.

No. I'm stressing about my brother and sister-in-law being there.

Because the last time my brother spoke to me was when he told me that I was a trouble maker and said I should leave the church.

He knew this because board member D had passed judgement against me, and D was a "godly man" so he must be right.

He also knew because he chose to listen to the poisoned words of elder J and his wife who were so intent on becoming the leaders of the church they didn't care who they hurt in the process.

The last time my sister-in-law spoke to me… well, let's just say that if looks could kill, I'd have been instantly laid out stone cold dead from the venom in her eyes. The time before that, she'd screamed at me in front of her children and mine.

Since then, they've refused to speak to me - completely cut off any contact.

You see, this is the fruit of toxic churchianity.

Shattered relationships - friends and families torn apart.

People thrown under the bus. Real people. People who do forgive and heal and 'move on'.

But the bus doesn't stop. It keeps coming back and running us over again.

Because we have to live with the ongoing judgement and shunning and rejection. We cannot avoid the bitter fruit from the seeds you plant, or escape the consequences of the actions you chose to take.

I just can't understand how you can possibly think this is ok.

And I'm sorry if it offends you, but it makes me wonder what sort of a god you serve...







Friday, 25 July 2014

Just Get Over It!

Rotten ecards

Imagine you were part of a circle of friends, many of whom you'd known for a long time. You are close, you often spend time together in each other's company. Everyone tells you how much they love you and value you. You feel happy and accepted.

Now imagine that things start to change. In subtle, and not-so-subtle, ways you start to feel pressured to conform to expectations you never agreed to. To comply with other people's dictates. Eventually, things become more overt and these friends start to slap you around.

You object.

You might even fight back.

But they club together. And one day, they gang up and beat you up so badly that you can't even get back on your feet. Bones are broken. Flesh is bruised.

You plead for justice. For your wounds to be tended. For them to love you once again.

And they turn and say, "Oh, we're sorry that you feel hurt."

You look at them incredulously.

They continue, "We've said sorry and we feel ok now. We've moved on. You need to do the same. Just forgive us and get over it."

You protest.

So they turn away. They can't be around someone so bitter and unforgiving!

Does this sound at all familiar? Have you experienced this type of behaviour?

I ask this because something I read the other day reminded me that this was what happened to me. I came across across this article in a Newsletter written by Leslie Vernick. The context is domestic abuse, but the principle applies to any type of abusive situation.
After having said, “I’m sorry” often the destructive spouse believes he or she is now entitled to amnesty, forgiveness, and full restoration of marital privileges without ever having to make amends, suffer long-term consequences, or work hard to repair and rebuild trust. Sometimes we collude with such unrealistic and unbiblical thinking pressuring the injured spouse to forgive and reconcile. 
But if she’s not yet ready, or refuses to grant amnesty, or restore full marital privileges until she sees evidence of repentance, we often start to label her as ungracious, ungodly, rebellious, and hard-hearted. Instead of being supported and validated for the pain she’s in, she now feels pressured, scolded, shamed or scared for her “unbiblical” stand or refusal to fully reconcile.
Thank God, I'm in a much better place these days!

But what if you're not? What if you are being pressured to forgive and move on - to "just get over it"?

If that is where you are, I want to share the truth with you.

It is not unforgiving to refuse to trust someone who has betrayed your trust. You are not being bitter if you insist that words are meaningless without the actions to back them up.

You are not ungodly or unrighteous if you hold out for evidence of repentance! You are WISE!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A Surprising Discovery

Desktop Nexus

The realisation suddenly hit me the other day that I've never in all my life felt more confident or more comfortable with who I am. I'm more at ease, relaxed, at rest, in knowing who I am.

I no longer feel I have to prove anything to anyone. That I have to live up to someone else's expectations. Fit into someone else's box.

And it's a good feeling!

But it's rather ironic.

I spent all those years "going to church", trying to be a "good christian", doing what I was told. Believing that if I did and said all the right things I'd feel the peace and joy I was promised.

But it always eluded me. For years. I'd catch glimpses but then it was gone. Maybe if I just worked more, tried harder, was more submissive to those 'over' me…

And then came the betrayal. And all the words I'd put my hope in proved hollow. All the answers, worthless. It took pain and suffering to make me question. To rebel. Turn heretic.

I let go. I stopped trying. I gave up.

And amazingly, the peace and the joy I strived so hard to achieve are now discovered floating gently into my life and settling around me like feathers.

In being rejected I found love.

I turned to the One who made me and I trusted.

I learned to know and embrace who I am. To be at peace being me.

And I stumbled upon acceptance.

Contentment.

Freedom.

What a wonderful discovery!


Monday, 7 July 2014

Righteous Response or Manipulation?


In my post, Magic Words Syndrome, I wrote about a particular board member who does a lot of counselling and mediation work in churches. One of the questions he often asks when someone has an issue with another person's behaviour or attitude is, "What is your righteous response?"

In other words, "How do you think Jesus would want you to respond to what you have experienced?

Now this is not a bad question to ask. What would Jesus want us to do? What behaviour might he have modelled that he would want us to use as a guide? On the face of it, this was an entirely appropriate question to ask.

The trouble lies in the presupposition which lurks within this question - the assumption that Jesus would tell us to be 'nice' and then insist that we 'submit to authority'.

I wrote about one of those mediation sessions in my post, Jesus the Buddhist? That was the first time I had used the "A" word.

Abuse.

Finally, I was admitting (to myself and those involved) that I felt abused by the bullying, controlling behaviour of elder J and his wife.

But this was given no credence by those present. I was told that while this might be my reality the actual issue was, "What is your righteous response?"

Of course, the 'correct' answer was to forgive and forget. And stupidly, desperately, I played my part in the game. Did exactly what was expected of me.

Which meant that I just continued to be bullied and abused… until I longed for oblivion.

And there was nothing I could do about it because "everything had been dealt with" and I had "promised not to bring it up again".

But nothing had been dealt with! So I did bring it up again. Which proved how 'unforgiving' and 'bitter'  I was. And I was damned for 'going back on my promises'. And the abusive cycle just kept rolling...

So what was the righteous response I should have given?

Walk away.

Refuse to be manipulated.

Imitate Jesus.

There were plenty of times when the religious leaders of Jesus' day tried to manipulate and control him. They tried to trap him with his own words, they tried to force him to behave 'acceptably', they tried to bully and abuse him.

But he stood his ground and didn't play their games. He told them exactly what he thought of their behaviour. He refused to be manipulated. And he walked away.

That was his 'righteous response'.

I wish it had been mine.

It can be yours.

And that is why I am sharing my experience. In the fervent hope that someone reading this post might be encouraged and strengthened by what they read. And resist the manipulative teaching that too many religious leaders promote which says, in effect, that 'good christians' must submit to abuse.

I pray you see it for what it is and respond with the righteousness that Jesus displayed!



Sunday, 6 July 2014

Labels


In the last year or so, it's hit home to me how many labels christians use!

Patriarchal, Egalitarian, Progressive, Evangelical, Pre/Mid/Post-Trib… (etc, etc, etc!) The list just goes on and on and on.

And I haven't even started on the denominational labels!!!

I get so frustrated with our seeming need to categorise and 'box' everything. While labels can sometimes be a useful base-point to start to explore ideas, maybe we need to take a step back and look at our world with fresh eyes.

Followers of "The Way" are called to imitate Jesus. Can you really see him sizing you up by where you fit in the factional landscape of religious politics?

And while labels can be a useful starting point in a discussion, what one person understands by any particular label can be totally at odds with what another person pictures when they hear that word.

And worse yet, those labels are often used to dismiss a person before their argument is even heard. "Oh, you're an 'X'. I don't agree with that doctrine or position, so I don't need to listen to you."

Subtext: I don't need to see you as a real person… much less one who loves the same God I worship!

It's maybe time, we took the time, to explore those ideas together, recognising that we each bring subtle distinction and nuance to any label you care to mention.

Not to mention, emotional baggage!

Here's a suggestion. Let's actually talk to each other! Crazy, right?

But just maybe we'll learn that even disagreement doesn't have to mean discord. Just maybe we'll learn that it can mean real relationship!

It's so crazy, it just might work.


Friday, 27 June 2014

It's life Jim, but not as we knew it.

We've reached a milestone.

It's been one and a half years since my husband and I decided we couldn't take it any more.

18 months since we officially said, "No More!"

No more pain. No more abuse.

And we walked away from life as we'd known it.

Away from 'going to church'. Away from 'doing' church. Away from an institution that used to mean safety, security, religious observances - but  had come to represent wounding and rejection and judgment and grief and fear and heartbreak and loss.

We started a journey into the unknown.

And it's been hard and lonely at times, but I'm so glad we did.

It's not that we have all the answers now. In fact far from it. We seem to have less certainty than we've ever had before. But we're finding peace in that.

We've questioned many of the things we were taught to believe and found them lacking. We've discarded the man-made traditions and committed ourselves to following the Spirit - wherever that might lead. We've cast off the need to perform or comply with other people's expectations.  We've claimed our freedom.

We chose the Red Pill, and just like Neo, we woke up to a world we'd never known before.

And it's scary and disorienting at times. But we're learning to live in it.

We've found that God will not fit in a box - not even a 'church-shaped' box. That his love is better and greater and deeper than we'd ever known. That Jesus's rebukes were for the religious leaders who, convinced of their own righteousness, used their religion to hurt people. That the Spirit, like the wind, cannot be controlled and will not be constrained.

That if we live in fear and seclusion to keep ourselves 'safe' and 'pure' then our god is not big enough.

We are certainly experiencing a new and different life. But definitely not as we knew it!

Thank God!



Sunday, 22 June 2014

Things That Should be Obvious to Every Christian

By Sam Powell @ My Only Comfort

Jesus expects and commands us to distinguish between wolves and sheep (Matt.7:15-16)

A wolf is known by his appetites. A wolf wants to use the sheep to fill his own lusts, and does not care about whether this hurts the sheep or not.

A man who rapes children is a wolf, not a misguided sheep.

A man who molests children is a wolf, not a misguided sheep.

A man who beats his wife, cheats on his wife, demands complete and absolute obedience from his wife, and believes that he is the voice of God in his home, is using his wife to fill his own lusts for self-importance, power, and self-worship to the hurt of his wife. He is a wolf, not a sheep.

A man who has his children in absolute terror, who holds or gives his favor to his family based upon his whims and his lusts for power and control is using his God-given authority to destroy and devour the sheep. He is a wolf, not a sheep.

And here is a biggie. Matthew 18:15-18 are the instructions of our Lord concerning brothers who have sinned against each other. They are not intended as instructions on how to deal with wolves. Wolves must be cast out and left in the hands of God. Wolves have no problem pretending to be sheep – even to the point of tears and all of the right words. But Jesus said that you will know them by the fruits, not by their tears and empty words.

Before you apply Matthew 18, you must ask yourself if you are dealing with a wolf or with a sheep. Jesus commanded us to tell the difference. You will know them by their fruits (see above).

Continue reading here…

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Jesus the Buddhist?

Jesus the Buddhist?
At one point in the hostilities we experienced at our last church, my husband and I agreed to a meeting with the elder who was at the centre of the leadership struggle, and with his wife, both of whom had been close friends of ours. We were still hoping that somehow we could find some sort of resolution to the conflict. We had asked one of the board members* to mediate for us, because our previous attempt at reconciliation had only exposed me to more abuse.

(* We didn't realise until later how partisan he actually was!)

Some way into the discussions, elder J's wife got angry and started articulating how she really felt towards me. I can only guess this caught her off guard because she suddenly clapped her hand over her mouth as if to dam the words, giggled, and then said, "Oh, look at me, I'm manifesting!"

Her smile was then firmly clamped back into place and she resumed saying 'the right things'.

Needless to say, the meeting finished with us all saying the magic words, and then love and peace abounded. NOT!

Nothing was ever owned or dealt with, and therefore nothing was resolved. We all pretended that everything was suddenly ok and made like the nice, little christians we were supposed to be. Om….

Why are christians so afraid of being honest!?

In this case, the couple needed to prove to the board member what 'good' (calm, loving, in control) christians they were - proving their claim to leadership, I surmise. In other words, they had something to lose by being honest.

All I managed to achieve from that meeting was prove in their minds what a 'bad' (angry, hurt, emotional) christian I was! In their world, my honesty made me a loser.

And at first I bought into this lie. Deny your feelings. Stay calm. Be nice. Say forgiveness.

Recite the mantra. Emotions are wrong, feelings are bad. Repeat the chant enough times and those things will just disappear. Believe, and your pain no longer exists. Then you'll have achieved christian enlightenment.

This is the lie I was sold. Except I wasn't really buying it. Something just didn't add up.

And eventually I realised the truth. I hadn't lost at all. I'd actually gained. My freedom and my integrity!

I had gained permission to be myself. I no longer needed to perform or pretend. To be measured by someone else's yardstick.

It is God's work to conform me to the image of his son. Not mine. Definitely not someone else's.

And I certainly won't make myself fit an image of Jesus that doesn't exist.

I don't buy the nice, calm, unemotional facade that some christians think they are supposed to present. Always peaceful, always serene. It makes me wonder if they believe Jesus was actually some kind of Zen Buddhist!

Is that the real Jesus? Or is that some kind of comfortable image we've been sold?

Nice Jesus.

Safe Jesus.

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.

The Jesus some christians seem to follow would have made the money-changers a nice cup of tea and sat down to have a friendly chat with them, suggesting that perhaps they might like to reflect on their behaviour and possibly think about how they could maybe do things differently… but only if they felt like it.

Peace man! Chill!

Well the Jesus I see is thoroughly alive. Embraces life in all its messiness and complexity. Is the ultimate example of what it is to be fully human. Passionate, emotional, sometimes even overwhelmed by his feelings, his struggles. Real. Honest. Authentic.

That's the Jesus I want to look like.


Acquainted with grief… and other emotions!



Sunday, 15 June 2014

Why Church Leaders Abuse

In recent days there has been a huge outcry online about the publication of an article written by an ex-youth pastor who is now in jail for abusing a young girl in his care. The article has now been removed and an apology posted by the magazine involved. But in an initial attempt to respond to the backlash it was receiving, the magazine printed an editorial update which included this line: "...the intent of this article was to serve as a cautionary story for church leaders…"

In my opinion, this explained a lot! As I wrote in the comments section of one of the protesting blog posts: "They see this as a 'leadership' issue, not one of justice for a child whose life has been devastated. It's about damage control, not reparation. I'm just not sure Jesus would have seen it from that perspective!"

It got me thinking about what fuels the attitude and perspective I was seeing - that leadership is about wielding power and authority rather than seeking justice and serving others.

And it reminded me of a time shortly after I became an elder in my former church, when one of our board members was offering us advice about being in leadership. At one point we were talking about pastoral care of the body and he suggested that we be wary about taking on the unreasonable expectations of the members.

The scenario was presented of a church member complaining that they had been sick and unable to attend church and that no-one in leadership had noticed or contacted that person. It was suggested that the appropriate response was to tell this person they should have contacted the church to let the leaders know of their situation, thus putting the responsibility firmly back on the one in need. Now I agree that we do need to take responsibility in our own lives and cannot expect others to carry us all the time, but the implication of this approach is, "We are too busy doing the important job of being leaders to care about your needs. It's up to you to make sure your needs are being met."

Despite the fact that Christ modelled Kingdom leadership as serving - a position of coming under and lifting up - too many christians seem to see leadership in terms of having authority over other people. And as long as there is this belief in the church that leaders are a higher/better class of christian, we will continue to see abuse because that belief is the doorway to an 'empire' mentality - that those who are 'superior' are not only justified in imposing their will on their inferiors, they in fact have an obligation to do so. After all, it is for their own good!

And where leaders are more concerned with protecting their positions and defending their authority, than simply caring for 'the least of these' (Matt 25:37-40), people will end up being thrown under the bus. When that attitude of entitlement creeps in, people are soon perceived in utilitarian, rather than humanitarian, terms. Until we see each other as brothers and sisters, equal before God, the body will continue to be hurt by these 'leaders' who place themselves over others.

It's just that I think Jesus had something to say about this attitude...
"At about the same time, the disciples came to Jesus asking, “Who gets the highest rank in God’s kingdom?” 
For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me. 
“But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse—and it’s doomsday to you if you do." Matt 18:1-7

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Which is Kingdom?

Naked Pastor
Scenario 1:

Men using politics and power plays to 'do church'. Machinations and manipulation. People being abused and sacrificed to the gods of 'unity' and 'leadership'. Submission and respect being demanded - on pain of rejection and shunning. Sheep being scattered and slaughtered by the wolves who have seized control. 'Leaders' refusing to be accountable to anyone except yes men, refusing to even talk to those they have abused. The bruised and battered being thrown out of 'the church', blamed for their own woundedness. Those responsible for the wounding flinging accusations of 'trouble-maker', 'bitter', 'divisive'.



Scenario 2:

One young woman moving to a foreign country simply because she wants to share the love of God with others. Trusting him completely for guidance and provision. Rescuing those who've been abused by the world's system. Loving them - treating them with dignity and worth. Pouring her life out in service to those the world has used and thrown away. Caring for the outcasts, the rejects, the 'least of these'. Sacrificing comfort, security and privilege; yet seeing it not as a sacrifice but a joy and delight.



Question:

Which of these two pictures best illustrates the Kingdom of God? Which do you think makes Jesus smile? Which is the outcome of being Spirit-led?

Thursday, 5 June 2014

"Church Leadership can be Brutal"

Source

A short time after I'd been hounded from the 'church', someone apologised to me because they felt they had not been supportive enough of me while I was in leadership. This person explained that they had had experience of being in leadership in that context and said to me, "I know that church leadership can be brutal."

At the time, I accepted the apology at face value and moved on.

But in recent months, those words have been haunting me.

And in light of the latest revelations regarding a certain business franchise church where the tally of leaders who have been "thrown under the bus" is rapidly mounting, I've become increasingly perturbed by those words.

The person who uttered them to me meant well. They were trying, in their own way, to offer comfort and at the time I received the words in that vein. But I've been thinking about what those words really mean.

That the people of God, to whom Christ gave the commandment to love one another, and who should be identified by that love (John 13:34-35) are, instead, known for their brutality toward one another.

And we see this as normal… inevitable… acceptable.

What, in the name of God, is wrong with us!?

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Christians, Stop Shooting our Wounded

By Suzannah Paul

We talked about sex in the summer camp dining hall. It was staff orientation, and we unpacked consent, abuse, and how virginity is a lousy measure of the purity of one’s heart before God. We deconstructed bad metaphors, exploring the significance of the incarnation and the imago Dei.
She found me later, a young woman who’d been through hell and back. Her courage blew me away.
“Thank you for seeing me,” she said, eyes shining. “Sometimes I feel so invisible.”

WE LOVE TO TALK ON THINGS WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT

Our sisters’ and brothers’ blood cries out from the ground. Others bear unfading scars from sexual, psychological, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuses, suffered even at the hands of those claiming Christ’s name.
We may not have hearts to understand, but we serve up solutions all the same… Continue reading here.