All church-goers should read this book.
Update: When I read this book a few years ago, we didn’t want to go to church anymore. My husband still doesn’t. I want to want to go now. So I guess that’s progress.
We tried—unsuccessfully—to find some others who want to gather informally. Simple Church social network as well as other groups less formal have attempted to assist like-minded believers to connect with each other. We even tried attending a small group associated with an institutional church. We found that awkward.
Then Dad moved in with us. He is old school choir-loving, gotta wear a suit and tie, and attend every “Lord’s Day.” So for now, I’m taking him to an old school institution. Hubby went a few times. Just can’t do it. Why do I feel like it is such a sacrifice?
“The problem with church as you know it, Jake, is that it has become nothing more than mutual accommodation of self-need. Everybody needs something out of it. Some need to lead. Some need to be led. Some want to teach, others are happy to be the audience. Rather than become an authentic demonstration of God’s life and love in the world, it ends up being a group of people who have to protect their turf. What you’re seeing is less of God’s life than people’s insecurities that cling to those things they think will best serve their needs.”
“How could I have not seen this before, John? The whole system has a hook in it. We even use things like ‘doctrinal unity’ to control people by stifling any disagreement. Since most people only tend to feel good about themselves when they are pleasing others, it’s natural that they would want to conform to our teaching and our programs. (page 53)
Remember how Jesus’ own disciples schemed to get first place in his kingdom, and to use God’s power to punish the Samaritans? Until you discover how to trust God for everything in your life you will constantly seek to control others for the things you think you need.” (Page 53)
“Just remember he’s not worried about tomorrow because he has already worked that out. He’s inviting you to live with him in the joy of the moment, responding to what he puts right before you. The freedom to simply follow him that way will transform so many areas of your life. He loves you, Jake, and he wants you to live in the security of that, without having to figure everything out.” (page 64)
“It’s a lot easier for you to get out of the system than it is to get the system out of you. You can play it from inside and out. The approval you felt then came from the same source as the shame you feel now. That’s why it hurts so much when you hear the rumors or watch old friends turn away embarrassed. Truth be told, some of those people still really care about you. They just don’t know how to show it now that you no longer play on their team. They’re not bad people, Jake, just brothers and sisters lost in something that is not as godly as they think it is.” (Page 68)
“How many decisions and policies were made because you were afraid—of people not coming, not growing, not giving money, or falling through the cracks and getting lost?”
“Probably 90%,” I responded. “Most of our discussions had to do with our concerns that someone would make a mistake—hurting themselves or embarrassing the congregation.” (Page 80)
Nothing we as believers can ever do together will make up for the lack of our own relationship with God. When we put the church in that place we make it an idol and others will always end up disappointing us.” (Page 86)
The more organization you bring to church life, the less life it will contain. (page 89)
“…I think you’re asking the wrong question. Let’s phrase it like this: Is Jesus big enough to get through to you every day? Do you think he is big enough to get past your blind spots, overcome your doubts and show you his way? Doesn’t that get a resounding ‘yes’? Share that journey together and you’ll experience body life more real than you’ve ever dreamed.” (Page 91)
“Who said anything about wanting to, Jake. It’s valuable for the body of Christ to find each other and share his life together. Where people are doing that they don’t need commitment. They’ll bend over backwards to be with each other. Where they aren’t doing that, it does little good just to be committed to a meeting. I’m convinced that most Christian meetings give people enough of God’s things to inoculate them against the reality of his presence.” (Page 95)
“Maybe they are, maybe they’re just worn out with obligations. Let them detox from that for a while and then you’ll all know better. Besides, just because they don’t come to a meeting, doesn’t mean you can’t pursue fellowship with them individually.” (Page 96)
There is nothing that distorts ministry more than believing you have to make a living by it.
“I never realized how much of what I thought was ministry was only manipulating people’s shame—whether it was to make them feel guilty for falling short or to earn other people’s approval.”
“That’s what religion is, Jake. It’s a shame-management system, often with the best of intentions and always with the worst of results.” (Page 106)
Yes, but it only drove the bondage even deeper. In the end people are still addicted to shame and bounce between self-pity and self-glory, never finding freedom to simply live in him. It makes people think God wants a cause and effect relationship with them. If they’ll be good, he’ll be good to them.” Page 106
You can’t press a caterpillar into a butterfly mold and make it fly. It has to be transformed from the inside.”
“And it is so much more exciting lifting shame off of people than burdening them down with it. No wonder Christian fellowship has to be sold as an obligation. Who would want to hang out with people who are always laying a guilt-trip on you or pressuring you to meet their expectations?
Every time people see God moving, someone has to build a building or start a movement. Peter was that way at the Transfiguration. When He couldn’t think of anything else to do, he proposed a building program. (Page 108)
In fact in the first days of a new group forming the focus is usually on God, not the needs of the institution. But that usually fades over time as financial pressures and the desire for routine and order subvert the simplicity of following Jesus. Relationships grow stale in routine and when the machinery siphons off so much energy just to keep it running, it grows increasingly irrelevant.” (Page 118)
“…It (an institution) cannot substitute for their own life in him and it can only produce an illusion of community because it is based on people doing what it takes to sustain the institution.”