Archives For Deeper Church Posts

A few months ago I wrote an article that caused a bit of a firestorm among some of my writing compadres. Perhaps I gave it a provocative title, but I maintain its truth: Mark Driscoll is Not My Pastor.

Amongst the backlash of that article there was also a curious phenomenon on the twitter chat: the affirmation of the virtual church.

What was being espoused by person after person was the reality that they considered their online friends their church. “Twitter is my church” and “You guys are my church and my pastors” were among some of the statements I read. The definition of virtual is “Existing or resulting in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form, or name.”

Hear me out, one of the ministries to which God has called me is of the online variety. This blog and other publications I write for take a good amount of mental and spiritual energy. You are my ministry. But you are not my local church.

More and more I read articles lumping authors into clear and present camps. You have the Jesus feminists, the red letter Christians, the social justice-cause driven, the reformed, the story-tellers, the orthodox. There are these hard and fast lines boxing authors to a particular movement or theological framework, and once they have been flagged as such, they are blacklisted or embraced. There is little room for grace in this world because if I confess I agree with Rob Bell in this one area, that is a blight on my character to those who disagree with him. If I confess I agree with John Piper in this area, well, count me out of an entire sector of the blogosphere.

If we are in an age of the virtual church, then we are also in an age of virtual shunning.

You won’t ever hear me disavow the importance of the global Church. That I can consider someone who lives thousands of miles from me one of my closest friends—that is the power of the bond we have in Christ.

But love for the global Church does not negate the biblical importance of the local church. Too often I hear great passion in my brothers and sisters for the health of the Church, without seeing evidence that they value it at its most local level. I see bloggers calling men and women to task, and shunning those who associate with them, without seeing any accountability to authority in their own lives. I see much concern for orthodoxy and discipleship and brotherly love, without seeing evidence of those things in their lives.

I am not saying those things are not happening, what I am saying is that I don’t see it.

I don’t see it because they are not my local church and I do not know them in the way I know the people alongside whom I walk. I don’t see it because I am not privy to the conversations they have with their pastors (if they have pastors) or elders. I don’t see it because I don’t see them taking meals to new moms or visiting the sick or weeping with those who weep. Seeing those things is reserved for those who are not virtual, but real life, flesh and blood.

I’m writing this because too often the assumption is made that the virtual groups with whom I am associated are somehow the people to whom I am submitted. The assumption is we ascribe to the same set of theological ideals, we have discussions behind closed doors, spit-shake on how we’ll handle certain situations, administer church discipline and the sacraments together. And it’s simply not the truth.

I have pastors and a local church. I write for publications, enjoy friendships, but they are not my local church or my elders. Simply because a publication for which I write or a group of online acquaintances embrace a certain stance or ideal, does not mean I agree with them.

A year ago I had a conversation with one of my pastors. I met with him to discuss an opportunity put before me to participate in a publication where I would share the platform with some diametrically opposing authors. Should I do it? was my question. Yes, was his answer. Why? Because every opportunity we have to proclaim the gospel is good and we should prayerfully consider taking it. Some of the places I write, I write because I do disagree with their stance on certain issues. I write because it is my prayer that the gospel would go forth. My name doesn’t matter, but Christ’s does.

We proclaim Christ best by loving what He loves. What Christ loves best is the glory of His Father, and the Father is glorified when we are his disciples, when we love one another—at the most difficult, personal, beautiful level: right here, locally.

Love the Church, friends, but start by loving the church.

208150813997938328_OgXwvYQA_cYet another friend is expecting. Her belly full, her face glowing, she grabs my hand and tells me of the coming baby. The joy is palpable and I am glad.

Last night a dear friend tells me I need to kill my expectations. I laugh because last week I told another friend he needed to kill his.

Someone I know often says “Expectation is resentment waiting to happen,” and so this morning I think of my expectant friend. If being a mother will be all she dreams it would be, if she will love interrupted sleep, nightly feedings, first steps and words, as much as she expects she will. I expect she will, but I also understand why someone might caution the idealistic among us to simmer down a bit.

Continue reading at Deeper Church

 

 

 

wait

There’s a song about heaven I’ve been listening to these days. The lyrics talk of meeting in the middle, welcoming Christ home, and about our wait.

I know this wait.

A few years ago a friend of mine liked a girl but she was undecided. It was the sort of elephant in the room we didn’t talk about when it was the three of us together. So I was surprised one day when we were sitting in a room together and he said something like, “It’s just hard, you know, the wait.” Two pairs of eyes jolted to his and awkwardness fell heavy. “The wait?” I asked. “Yeah, the wait,” he said. “The wait for what?” I asked, hoping he was talking about the wait for ice cream or the end of winter or the Patriot’s next win.

Continue Reading over at Deeper Church…

 

I come from a Charismatic church so hands on heads and in the air is nothing unusual. I came of age over prophetic words and discerning spirits, and cut my spiritual teeth on words like woo and tongues and presbytery. I was 20 when I first stood in the doorway of my church; I was nearly 30 when I cleaned out my desk, handed over my keys, and left.

I left with many things, some hard and heavy, some good and holy, some that will take me the rest of my life to sort out and some for which I will never begin to be thankful enough. This is the residue of us all and I cannot thank God enough that He brings us through fire and leaves on us ash, and the scent of smoke—is beauty made from anything less?

________________

A visiting minister put his hand on my head when I was 25 and stared at my face, shook his hand so that my head shook too, and he said words I have never forgotten:

Continue reading over at A Deeper Church

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I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Bride of Christ most of my life. In the times I have needed her most, I have felt failed by her, and in the times I have felt myself stray far from her, she has pursued and loved me. These are strange words to use about an entity, a full body of individuals, imperfect men and women stumbling through life and the Bible as clearly as they can, but they are true words.

There is nothing on earth I love more than the Church. 

I have felt her failings near and I have chased her down in desperation—and there is no other place I would rather commune, break bread and share wine, than within her haven.

Ephesians 4 speaks of building the unity of the Church and oh how that resonates.

To see a whole body purified, strengthened, and grown into full maturity, ready to be presented to Christ—this I love.

And so I’m grateful that I’ve been asked to contribute monthly to a publication that pulls from every fold of her robes, every particle of her skin, and every joint and marrow, to build up and unify the Church as best we can with our earth encrusted words.

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My first column is up today:

Bearing the Weight of Thirty Blackbirds or More

I pass a field of blackbirds every morning on my way from class to work. There are a thousand of them wide in a Texas spread and I can’t stop trying to count them with my mind. Thirty of them are perched on a shrub close to the ground, but its branches do not bend or weep. I marvel at its strength. I marvel at the lightness of the birds, all thirty of them.

This desert shrub carries the weight of the blackest birds and I think of Jeremiah 17 while I drive. Continue reading…