Sunday, January 25, 2009

Moving Past the Past

I had breakfast with a friend this morning and were discussing the woes of the economy and how each at our respective churches were having to prioritize ministry and be efficient in our expenditures. During this conversation we began wondering how efficient economically our massive programming really is.

How can we do things better?
How can we make a difference?

I believe that if we would embrace a paradigm shift from regulatory to relational religion we would see a dramatic increase in ministry productivity. How do we make this shift? I see three things to be done:

  1. Move past the past.
  2. Marker the moments of today.
  3. Make a vision for the future.

Let's begin with the first item: move past the past. Calvin Whitman* in his sermons based on Exodus says that "the past is to be a guidepost...not a hitching post." I concur. So often we fondly look back at the past and the nostalgia is so thick we cannot find our way back to the present. We hitch our lives, our ministries, our churches to the ways of the past. The past is something we are to remember without replay. We are to recall the past, but live in the present. Our present is vastly different in the information age as we experience a doubling of intelligence every few years with increasing speed.

In order to move past the past and begin our transition from regulatory to relational religion we must understand the principle of reciprocity. This principle, as I define it here, means that we extend the same amount and kind of grace extended to us. Relational religion expresses this type of grace. Regulatory religion tends to hand out guilt and shame by holding on to your past and bringing it up every time there is an opportunity. Regulatory religion operates out of power by setting up levels of sin and disciplining through calling out, shame, shunning, etc. Other ways to express discipline include glares and stares, whispers in hallways, and silent treatment. Who wouldn't want to go to that church? This is the exact point I am making. Relational religion does not create levels of sin but levels out sin since all sin is equal in God's eyes. Relational religion does not feel a need to discipline to make ourselves feel better but to disciple to make others fully devoted followers of Christ. Relational religion loves people as they have been loved rather than focusing on the hatred of sin. Operating out of a negative position creates negative results. Regulatory religion is not a healthy approach. Further, regulatory religion exits when things get a little tough.

When the addict relapses do we exit or encourage?
When the marriage is dissolving do we exit because of their lack of faith or do we encourage them through love and devotion?

These type of questions go straight to the heart of our religion. We must not only move past our past, but also move past other people's past. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Let's move past the past.

* Calvin Whitman is the pastor of Applewood Baptist Church in Colorado.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Awareness to Action

Crystal Darkness was aired the other night through Oklahoma and our church hosted a watch party and discussion. There were many good questions and concerns that are opening lines of communication. Meth is an insidious drug that ruins families and victimizes children.

If we become aware but not take action we waste time.

Action is the next obvious step. What should be done? What can be done? Our church will host a follow-up discussion on Sunday night the 18th at 6pm to grapple with these very issues.

In the same way we have spent the better part 6 months to discuss the problems with religion and the state of the church today. We have become well aware of the problems that surround us in the church and its effect. We feel it. We live it. We know it.

We are aware. Now what?

I would like for us to spend the next six months investigating and discussing ways of bringing back relational religion rather than regulatory religion. Religion is not wrong. We have been wired to desire God. We are called to worship and serve God. He established the church. Religion is a part of our following God but it must be relational.

This will feel a lot like taking tea and making it water again, but it can, and should, be done. Let's begin with Biblical principles.

  • Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God with all your being.
  • Jesus then said to love your neighbor as your self.

Both of these involve love. I have grown up in an environment of regulatory religion where anyone with a problem should "have more faith". Although the sermon would convey that God accepts us as we are, the church members would not. I believe that God demands differently. I believe that God desires relational religion. If we are to love God with all of our being and love our neighbor than why do we judge and condemn? Are we lacking in self-esteem so greatly that we cannot accept others as God does? If God loved us enough to die for us, does that not, in some way, increase our esteem to a level that we can finally accept ourselves? Can we not, then, learn to love others so that we can help them become what God wants?

How should the two great commandments translate into an ongoing relational religion experience?