Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Condemn or Connect?

Dear Church Inc.,

Are we here to condemn or connect?

Maybe a few more connections will end our condemnations. Maybe a few more conversations will suppress our condemnations. Maybe our definition of "evangelism" (a word never used in the Bible) has become the very blockade to our goal of "evangelization" (another word never used in the Bible). If I am to do the work of an "evangelist" (a word used once in the Bible and then directed to a pastor) shouldn't my goal be less condemnation and much more connection?

Condemnation works splendidly when the Judge of a criminal court has heard the final verdict of a jury. After days, weeks, and maybe months, a jury comes back with a final decision, the Judge has no option but to "condemn" the accused to a sentence that fits the crime. Yet even then, a court of appeals might pursue a more fitting conclusion. Even in earthly terms, a fair justice system longs for REconnection to productive society and less condemnations to a hopeless box.

The machinations of evangelism have blurred the lines of authentic love and honest human connections. Somewhere along the way Church Inc. created a theology of self-loathing and disgust for humans as a means for giving glory to God through effective evangelism. We have been stuck in the need to convince humans how bad they are in order to see how good their Creator is...And we, who are called to lead humanity to FIND their way, have LOST our way. The only sin Jesus urged anyone to accept as their own was the sin of self-righteous, self serving bigotry. All others, He forgave with instant connection.

It wasn't disgust for the human condition that drew God to become a Human. He became one of us, and disguised Himself in a human costume in order to powerfully CONNECT! So powerful is this connection, that one of US is now at the right hand of God, making intercession for our continuing connection.

This is far from complete but not far from a truth we had better discover. Connections will almost always prevent condemnations.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Repent! God is Better Than You Think, So Change the Way You Think.

 Religion Inc. has made a living with shame and guilt. It’s often chronicled by comedians of Jewish or Catholic heritage and an inside joke with some pastors and ministers of other backgrounds; “If it weren’t for shame and guilt I don’t how we could muster a crowd on Sundays” is a missive I’ve actually heard.

 One of the driving factors for this phenomenon is that absent the real presence of Christ, there’s truly little other means of stirring religious interest. Think about it; if I’m desperate for statistical success as an amateur preacher or, for that matter, a veteran professional church promoter, I know instinctively that every human has a fairly easily reached threshold for feeling guilt and shame. When that’s used for some kind of “witnessing” venue or an agenda driven evangelism conversation, it becomes a tool in my tool box to achieve a result. Problem is, what I achieve by guilt and shame will likely have to be sustained by the same.

 Thus, religious practices can drift into the lowest of human experiences and seek to hold the interest of followers with a misery that Jesus Christ actually came to vaporize. He announced His Kingdom as “the gospel” or, GOOD NEWS. He read Isaiah 61 to a stunned gathering and proclaimed healing for broken hearts, liberty for captives, freedom for prisoners, delight and pleasure and comfort for mourners. An utterly contrary notion for the Religion Inc. of His day who relied on shame and guilt to keep the masses showing up for the offering plates.

 As a result the word, “repent” has inherited the sole ideal of “feeling bad for our sins”. And since (in my own opinion) most people have good hearts, it is easy to talk folks into the corner of “feeling bad for sins”, they admit it and presto, an evangelism statistic is born. “We went door to door witnessing and 22 people repented and received Jesus”. Here’s a possible interpretation: “We told 100 people they were born into sin, have no good in them at all and they live as totally depraved without any excuse unless they say this prayer and accept Jesus. 22 people were so honestly in touch with their own shortcomings they were willing to do whatever it takes to feel better. They repented!”

 I know, I know. We have done whatever it takes to “plant seeds”... God gets the glory, etc. etc. etc. But at what greater expense? I’ll tell you what expense ~ the magnificent character of God the Father and full beautiful manifestation of the Goodness of God in the Face of Jesus Christ.

 The Greek word for repent is “metenoeo”. It means to have a reformation, to think differently, to change one’s mind. It also certainly carries the notion of compunction, which is to be pricked of conscience. I am contending that we should stir these ingredients thoroughly until they come up like this; the epiphany of an honest inventory of my life where I have come to see that my actions at best have been a waste of time and, at worst, my actions have been destructive and painful for others and myself. I will change my vision to one of high values and purposes. I'm having a revolution of thought and destiny. I can finally SEE what I was created to be!

 Repentance isn’t only about being sad about what I’ve been. It’s also, and actually more about, being thrilled with what I can become!

 But if we introduce repentance as the connection with our shame and guilt without a greater connection to our purposes and value in this life, we create a system of belief founded in constant introspection with little or no escape other than to die and go to heaven... where we can finally BE who we were created to be.

 Sorry. I'm not interested in that version of the purpose of Jesus Christ. He didn’t come to ramp UP the power of the Old Testament with heavier laws. He came to set the captives of Religion Inc. FREE.

 In Mark 1:15 Jesus made it clear that the time was fulfilled, His New Kingdom was within reach and we should repent (change our minds) and believe the gospel, which is easily translated as....GOOD NEWS.

 Through Jesus the old Kingdom/Covenant was about to be completed in order to make room for the fulfillment of the NEW. This NEW Kingdom required a complete epiphany! A complete NEW way of thinking. A total renovation out of fear based relationship with God, to a NEW love based relationship which would drive out all fear. The OLD thinking, Religion Inc. thinking, shame and guilt based thinking, would actually be a wall against this NEW Kingdom.

 “REPENT! God is better than you think, so change the way you think. Do you feel that compunction of shame for stealing on your taxes last April? GOOD...that means you are alive. Now, make it right so that from here forward you can reach, run and respond ONLY to your destiny on earth. You were not put here to be a beggar for the dimes you can save by cheating on your taxes. You were put here to be a King/Queen whose wealth allows you to give more than you are forced to give by mere earthly laws”.

 Jesus is not the King of bums. Jesus is the King of Kings and Queens. When we leave repentance in the poverty of religious manipulation we devalue Jesus into the CEO of Sin Management. But when we truly REPENT, He becomes the High Priest of our Destiny, praying at the Throne of God for our complete personal fulfillment in this life.

 Raging angry preachers have made repentance a bad thing. They are wrong. Repentance is an epiphany! To repent says, “I’m waking up! I am picking a new direction. I’m not going to waste my life on mediocrity. From here forward I will live fully and abundantly”.