Tag: equality

Conservative Christian, I Beg Of You, Why Can’t Love Be Enough?

Why don’t people go to Church?

Why do many cringe at modern Christianity with their gag reflexes in full bloom?

Why are conservative brands of faith losing so much of their credibility and influence?

Do we really want to know—could we handle the truth—would we even listen to their reason?

It’s not because of some kind inherent distaste for Jesus and a rejection of His Truth. It’s not from a deep dark cultural stronghold of apathetic spiritual laziness. It’s not because of some depraved aversion to God and holiness rampant within society. We may wish it were all so easily wrapped up and reasoned away with the simple declaration that the “world” is showing itself to be as hopelessly lost, blind, wayward, and carnal as we deem them to be—but they aren’t.

In fact, the Light God has placed within all people shines into the religious darkness of our day, revealing a disturbing manifestation humanity can’t ignore—the reckless tampering and deep distrust of Love within conservative Christianity. For all of our spiritual fanfare, many rightfully discern that something is deeply askew among us, and though they may not always be able to put their finger on it, they can’t shake the unsettling in their spirit. The one place, the one people with whom love should boldly rule the day, be adored in all its splendor, and lifted high up above all things, is among Christians. Yet, the loudest confession heard around the world from the megaphone of conservative Christianity is sadly this—”Love isn’t enough.”

Try as we might to frantically plaster heaping loads of lipstick upon the pig of our conservative brand of Christianity, people aren’t stupid. The Judas that is conservative Christianity has sold out Love in exchange for power, betrayed Grace with the kiss of control, and crucified it all into a self-righteous religion for the privileged—daring to pimp it as the one true authentic way of Jesus.

Instead of being unified by love and that being enough, we insist on gathering in cookie-cutter groups of like-minded people corralled together by a laundry list of beliefs, values, and vision we must agree upon to have membership, relationship, and community with one another. Love takes a back seat (if a seat at all) and must first yield to our creeds instead of our creeds first yielding to Love. Hollow Churches of fake unity span the horizon as far as the eyes can see—people resign themselves to going through the motions and agreeing on the surface in order to fit in and meet expectations. Love doesn’t rule in our churches, rules rule in our churches. Compliance, conformity, conditions—everything but Love. Spiritual growth is restricted and restrained—coloring outside the lines of conservative ideology is shamed, even if just for a season. Where Jesus wants to build longer tables where every creed, orientation, gender, belief, color, status, shape, and nationality has a seat, we build taller walls of every spiritual, relational, and physical dimension and try to sell it to the world as true community.

Instead of simply loving people and that being enough, we treat them as projects—a spiritual notch for our religious belts. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that we not only have the calling but the capacity to change people, even ourselves. What only the Spirit can do, we have hijacked into our own personal and corporate mission. The truth is, we don’t trust the Spirit, nor Grace, nor Love to do what only the Spirit, Grace, and Love can do—quite the opposite. Rather, in order to legitimize our own efforts and justify our fleshly interventions, we declare pure Grace to be cheap, unconditional Love to be dangerous, and the Spirit needing our involvement. While Jesus’ greatest concern is that people get more than enough love and believe in it completely, our greatest fear is that we would grant too much of it and cause people to trust it too deeply. You say that God loves me where I’m at, but enough not to leave me there—which is of course, where you see the beginning of your mission to try and fix me. I say, God loves me enough that He doesn’t need you to repair, change, confront, or direct me—His Grace is sufficient, His Spirit fully capable, and His Love is more than enough to do the trick—with or without you. See, that’s the real kicker, isn’t it? For if God ever did use you in another’s life to help in the molding, it would be through the fruits of the Spirit not the nails, crosses, proof-texts, and conditions of your conservative methodology. Why? Because I, like everyone else, am a divinely made person not a church mission project.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore our unity could be founded not on a contrived fabricated alignment of ambition, thinking, and believing, but on a genuine willingness to agree to disagree and embrace our differences—all at the table.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore the everything of what we had in common was our mutual respect of all people of all faiths, backgrounds, and settings as created and divinely imaged by God Himself no less than we or anyone else—no more discrimination, marginalization, or people-judging.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore we became a people of genuine equality, where everyone is beautifully different, and beautifully no better or worthy—no more one-upping, privilege-seeking, or people-labeling.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore the Spirit was given full trust and freedom to work in the hearts, minds, and souls of people as we simply loved them unconditionally—no more strings attached, fine-print, deal-breakers, or hidden expectations.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore loving people (beginning with ourselves) was the only “to do” if there ever needed to be a list—no more people-policing, sin-managing, fruit-inspecting, God-appeasing, faith-proving, self-improving, or becoming all-you-can-be for Jesus.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore we became a people best known by “the greatest of these is love” instead of “the greatest of these is us”—no more violence, condemnation, and insisting on our own way.

For sadly, we have made Jesus into so much of everything He is not and following Him into such a tiring, empty, phony, love-less, and selfish pursuit. If only we could see what we have become and the people who are dying on our vines, destroyed at the feet of our conservatism. The shade we throw at the world is scorching good people, nailing Jesus back upon the cross, and declaring to the planet, “Love doesn’t win, Grace isn’t sufficient, and Hell is the heart of the Father for people who don’t love Him back in return.”

Conservative Christian, I beg of you, why can’t love be enough?

Why can’t love be enough as the sum and singular message of the Gospel of Jesus?

Why can’t love be enough to bring us together and graft us into authentic community?

Why can’t love be enough to fulfill and maximize our divine responsibility and care for people?

Why can’t love be enough to make our worship attractive, churches deemed as successful, and our faith relevant?

Why can’t love be enough to drive our aspirations and quench our thirst for significance?

Why can’t love be enough to guide our exegesis, calibrate our theologies, and dictate our use of the Scriptures?

Why can’t love be enough for those with whom we disagree, believe to be sinning, or even show themselves to be an enemy?

Do we really need all this other stuff? Nationalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, judgmentalism, self-righteousness, selfishness, and elitism? Bible-weaponizing debates, clubs with crosses on top, and a gun-carrying, militant, Republican version of Jesus who feeds the multitudes but denies healthcare to the hundreds of thousands?

Is this truly the heart and way of Jesus?

I just want to love God, myself, and people without restriction, conditions, or limits. I want to be free to journey with Jesus, fully abandoned to where His Grace might take me. I want to experience the joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction of a life lived outside the confines, condemnations, and religious rule-keeping of religion.

With a world watching, waiting, and carefully listening to the beat of our hearts in hopes of seeing Jesus.

Conservative Christian, I beg of you, for the sake of heaven and all humanity, why can’t love be enough?

Why. Can’t. Love. Be. Enough?

Grace is brave. Be brave.

9 Things I’ll Tell My Child If They “Get Saved” At Vacation Bible School

It’s bound to happen, seems like almost every year—one of our children is invited by a friend to their Vacation Bible School. We seek to respect and trust the Spirit’s work in our children’s lives enough to allow them a variety of faith experiences. Yes, we are Christian parents who love Jesus, no less. Our children know Him well, pray and sing songs, and hopefully see Him most clearly in our life examples.

It hasn’t happen yet, but this summer could be the year when one of them rushes home and declares, “Guess what mom and dad, I got saved at Vacation Bible School.” If that day should come, here’s what I can’t wait to tell them.

A Long Time Ago, In An Eternity Far Far Away—God Had Already Saved You- I’m not trying steal any thunder or bring down the moment, but that’s the really good news—the one and only true Gospel! You’ve been in Christ’s arms since the very beginning. There’s not a chance He’d ever take a chance in letting you go. He loves you that much—always has, always will. Sure we make mistakes, even lose our way. But, forgiveness isn’t an event, it’s a forever reality that can’t be taken away—God made it so, before you and beyond you, when you didn’t even know. You don’t even have to ask for it or earn it in any way, just embrace it’s already there and always has been, each and every day. That will keep your heart clean from useless shame and guilt and free you to want to do good purely for the sake of doing good. I’m glad you “got saved” but there was no need to, you already were—completely and thoroughly. That’s the real awakening that’s taken place, now you can fully breathe—the air of true freedom.

God Is Only Love, Not A Monster To Fear- He’s not keeping score, there’s not even a test. Life is not an exam, it’s a rest. You don’t have to earn anything, do anything, or appease Him in any way. It’s Christ’s performance that defines your life, not yours. He doesn’t love you one moment and turn His back the next. There can never be distance between you, He is in you every step of the way. When people talk about wrath, hell, and doom and gloom, you can be sure that all of that has been highly confused. God is only Love, pure as pure can be. His heart has nothing but affection for you and all humanity. Rest in the flower bed of His Grace and enjoy the smell of true life, now and everlasting. You don’t have to live with one eye open, God is only out to bless you and exceed your best expectations—no matter what.

God Didn’t Kill Jesus, Religious Villains Did The Trick– Jesus didn’t die to save you from an angry God, but to save you from living a life believing He is or ever could be—angry with you. Jesus didn’t die because it is was required to forgive you, Jesus died because He already had it in His heart to do so. The way of Jesus is non-violent, gracious, kind, sacrificial, and serving. The way of religion is condemning, self-righteous, prideful, and greedy. Jesus takes all of our religious inclinations, rebellion, pride, gracelessness, and self-righteous addiction, and allows us to murder Him with it instead of punishing us, destroying us, and seeking revenge. In doing so, Jesus takes our entire being and fills it with His perfection, showing to all the world on a cross, that we have been made perfectly perfect and Grace ultimately wins.

Hell Is The Terrible Feeling Religious People Get When Unconditional Love Wins- No, it’s not a place where people burn in horrible pain forever—God would never do that nor allow it. Yet some people can become so selfish, conditional, unforgiving, hateful, judgmental, self-righteous, religious, and insistent on their own way, that when God turns up the heat of His white-hot unconditional love and Grace, and pours it on them and everyone else without restraint, it frustrates and shakes them to their core, burning their self-righteous flesh. To them, pure love and Grace feels like excruciating pain because their true heart is exposed and all their religiosity is derailed. For nothing feels more torturous than spending an eternity immersed in wall to wall Grace when you hate nearly everything about it, and everyone is getting it, equally and regardless.

Jesus Is What’s Important, Not A Book- Here’s an inside secret you should surely know, when people say, “this is what the Bible says,” what they really mean is, “this is what I think the Bible says”—see the difference? Some Christians worship the Bible and use it as a weapon—hurting people, judging people, and Lording it all over them. For them it’s all about control, fear, and bringing people into religious conformity and submission. The Bible is beautiful, but not perfect. It leads us into our own encounter with Jesus, but should never become His replacement. The writers had their own human sense and perceived experiences of God, not always understanding what’s happening nor Who is doing it, though they might have believed and even wrote that they did. Read the Scriptures, learn to love them passionately, but only let Jesus be the one true guide of your interpretation, use, and understanding of them. That way, you’ll discover over time, all the ways Jesus redefines, reinterprets, and even discards some of what’s written—and you should too.   

Be Yourself, You’re God’s Perfect Plan- If you want be a doctor, be a doctor. If you want to fly to Mars and form its first colony, go red or go home. If it turns out you’re gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender in orientation or gender, be that without fear or intimidation. You are God’s perfect plan, you are the revival He is bringing to the world—as is. You, just be you, one hundred percent. There will always be haters and those who label and dissect. Listen to the Christ within you, the Light He has placed in every human. Don’t worry about living some perfect will, dream, or “big thing” God has planned for you. Know this for sure—you are the dream, you are the plan, you are the big thing God is doing. Do what you love to do in ways that honor God and serve people—He is always for you and by your side. The canvas of God’s life for you is loaded with potential and countless possibilities, don’t let anyone paint it for you, nor convince you that you’ve ruined it or wasted it all together. The pursuit and expectation of perfection should always be your enemy and never your friend. You are God’s perfect plan, so now just go and live—free. Do you, everyone else is taken.

You Aren’t Any Better Than Anyone Else- Just because you’re “saved”, a “Christian,” or whatever people want to call it, doesn’t mean you’re better or can look down upon any human. Grace is not only what saved you, but is the great equalizer. All of us are different, but none of us are better. Different people believe and do things differently. Our job is to love unconditionally and trust the Spirit to do any needed correcting. Set healthy boundaries, set a good example, and be the best you that you already are in Jesus, but never believe that in doing so, that makes yourself any better than the least of these. The way of Jesus is to serve, listen, understand, respect, welcome, and desire community with all people. Human equality is not just a social value or ideal, it’s what the Gospel looks like when truly manifested upon the earth.  Everyone is created in His image, not just you.

Grace Is God’s Super Power- Not punishment, correction, discipline, condemnation, rule-keeping, guilt, shame, fear, sin-management, spiritual commitment, or rededication ever made anyone Holy. All any of that does is further imprison us to the futile insufficiency of our own performance that can never measure up. Grace is the only power to heal, change, and transform anything or anyone. Run, as fast as you can, from any person, pastor, or message that would seek to convince you that Grace is too soft, slippery, dangerous, or incomplete. It’s God’s kindness that truly changes hearts and minds, nothing else. The Christian life is never about becoming something tomorrow that you aren’t today, but rather about your actions effortlessly catching up with your perfect, unblemished identity in Jesus Christ. All is Grace. Grace is the Gospel—period, full stop. Nothing else matters, nothing else works.

You Are The Church, Earth Is The Sanctuary- If church becomes a place you go on Sundays, you’ll never get there. All the stuff that looks so cool—worship screens, smoke, and lights, buildings, cafes, camps, and conferences, can all be highly overrated and deceptive. We all want to belong and that’s so important, but hanging out in a club of like-minded people to get all spiritual about Jesus, isn’t the sum of what He has in mind for His followers—I dare to say, it’s not even a priority. You are the church, and the earth (not a building) your sanctuary. Wherever you are, there’s the church. Community in Jesus can be found with anyone, anywhere—even among those who believe differently. Mutual respect is the glue that creates authentic, spiritual relationships and true community. Jesus is all and in all, that’s the most important thing you’ll ever see about what it means to be a Christian, be the church, and live in community with your fellow humanity.

Christians Can Be Scary- Just because someone is a “Christian” doesn’t mean they’re on the side of Jesus—that’s a very important distinction. I know it sounds weird, but Christians can be some of the most hurtful, hateful people. It’s not something to get all judgmental about, but rather deserving of our deepest sorrow and empathy. You’ll never go wrong standing in solidarity, defense, and support of those whom some Christians will hurt, condemn, and even put to death—spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Religious oppression is everywhere and rampant among American Christianity. In fact it’s one of our planet’s greatest evils. Sadly, the people who will oppose your heart for Jesus, the freedom you seek to live, and the Grace you seek to give will be the Christians around you—and they will do so aggressively. Be not afraid, God’s grace is sufficient. Greater is He that is in you, than in their religious, worldly religiosity.

I’m glad you “got saved” at VBS this year. Now, may true salvation come as this little saying, I pray, becomes your life motto…

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Trump-Loving Conservative Christian, Excuse Me For Expecting You To Act Like Jesus

What was I thinking, right?

Feeling like Charlie Brown, flat on his back with stars spinning around his head after Lucy exploits him once again with the infamous kick-the-football trick—how could I be so stupid?

I guess I should have known better, history tells the tale. Conservative Christianity in all its many forms has sadly been an undeniable contributor to more human atrocities than perhaps any other faith group. The Crusades, the pillaging of the American Indian, the rise of Nazism, black slavery, sexism, the demonization of the LGBTQ community, and the onset of Transgender suicides are just a few examples. Find me a place where discrimination, spiritual oppression, bigotry, sexism, racism, imperialism, and the drums of war abound, and there you will have found, in some order or fashion, the direct influence of conservative Christianity.

Yet, with all your state-of-the-art worship facilities as far as the eye can see, and books upon books about Christian living. With million dollar celebrity pastors, inspirational conferences, hip concert t-shirts, and clever bumperstickers calling me to repentance. With all your sin-busting accountability partners, schools, colleges, and radio stations. With Bibles for every interest group and study guides to go with them, you almost had me reconsidering—maybe you’ve changed?

The way you quote scripture so easily and raise your hands in worship so passionately. The way you claim the inside scoop to all that is truth so confidently, and put on such a glistening smile so convincingly. The way your children win top prize at nearly every “Bible memorization” contest, fold their hands in school prayer, and have those cute little “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets. I mean, just the sheer mass and volume of scriptural Memes that daily adorn your Facebook page—certainly, you’ve turned over a new leaf and things must be altogether different.

No more bigotry, discrimination, double-standards, self-centeredness, legalism, condemnation, and overall spiritual nastiness—it’s a new day with an all new heart for Jesus, right?

Just when I started to believe again—renewed my hope in hope. Just when I was ready to be the proud prodigal father and usher in a planet-shaking party. You elected him, you support him now, and the love affair still continues. Trump—the bright orange flare shot out of hell as a sure sign and declaration that nothing about conservative Christianity has changed, but tragically has become far worse. Even Satan himself tires of his tomfoolery.

Never has there been a more childish, dishonorable, arrogant, hypocritical, salacious and unpresidential President in all of American history. Worst of all, apparently none of that matters to you and some within your tribe actually celebrate it. The nationalism of your conservative faith, the preservation of your privilege, the full fruition of your xenophobia, and the expanse of your spiritual policing, are apparently worth the hypocrisy it’s costing you and the countless lives it’s destroying. Hell has no fury and Jesus has no enemy like a Trump-loving conservative Christian.

With all due respect, your diabolical joke-of-a-gospel is no Gospel at all—seducing people into a pretentious, performance-driven, self-righteous, elitist, white-centered, male-dominated cult that looks nothing like Jesus, all while pimping it as biblical faithfulness. It’s a grand cosmic scheme, whose primary purpose is to spiritualize hate, discrimination, greed, imperialism, violence and condemnation—turning Jesus into the hood ornament of your world bulldozer.

Yet, the best ideas you’ve contrived in defense of your creed and its orange-haired messiah, is to point fingers at Hilary’s mistakes, diminish Obama’s presidency, and bullhorn your talking points and proof texts in hopes of drowning out your dissenters.

Well, excuse me for expecting you to act like Jesus.

Excuse me for being a tad bit embarrassed when you dare to call yourself a Christian.

Excuse me for getting upset when I see you leave the poor helpless, deny healthcare benefits, and prosper the rich at the hands of your ruthless insatiable appetite for power and privilege.

Excuse me when I vomit at the sound of your empty, self-aggrandizing worship while you belittle, ostracize, marginalize, and build walls against refugees, foreigners, and immigrants.

Excuse me why my neck veins bulge at your condemnation of the LGBTQ community with greek words in a book that were not translated to mean “homosexual” until conveniently in 1945, by conservative Christians.

Excuse me while I raise my eyebrows at all your legalistic self-righteous sin-inspecting ways, while your make-up ladened daughters dance in two-piece costumes, sixty percent of your husbands and pastors watch pornography, and your divorce rate is higher than that of atheists.

Excuse me when I choke on my spit, when you stand on the sidelines of everyone’s sexuality, as if you have the divine authority to dictate every play—especially when it seems like your the one with the issues, wanting most to get into the game.

Excuse me for the face-palm when you put on display the full fanfare of your racism, deprecating people of minority who protest, express rage, and demand rightful justice in ways that are not to your privileged comfort or liking.

Excuse me when I grow in anger and frustration with every legislation you seek to impose that reverses the desegregation of our school systems, Christianizes public education, and further turns our country of religious freedom into a totalitarian Christian state and nation.

Excuse me when I laugh in disgust at all your boycotting, demands, and vacillation with Transgender people in bathrooms, when more sexual crimes are committed in public restrooms by Republican politicians than have ever been committed by a Transgender person.

Excuse me when I cringe at all your claims to be a people and a faith that are pro-life, when you portray God and interpret the Scriptures in every way possible that justifies the spiritual, emotional, and even physical death of the people with whom you disagree or deem to be the enemy.

Yes, excuse me.

Excuse me when I call you on the carpet for electing and supporting a President who couldn’t even meet your church’s requirements for serving in the nursery.

To be sure, we’re all saved by Grace, but this is getting ridiculous.

Where you take and deny, Jesus gives and blesses.

Where you build taller walls, Jesus builds longer tables.

Where you judge and condemn, Jesus loves and embraces.

Where you huddle in like-minded clubs with crosses on top, Jesus is serving and unconditionally loving the masses.

Where you quote and proof-text, Jesus redefines, reinterprets, and puts love at the highest place.

Where your faith seeks to make the most of you, Jesus seeks to serve the least of these.

Where you smite, deny, and demonize the enemy, Jesus is giving Grace and loving scandalously.

Where you elect, embrace, and support such a Christ-less president, Jesus asks the sure question, “are you serious?”

You want to silence my rants, convict me of overgeneralization, and declare me to be equally as judging. To that, my response is pure and simple. As much as you tout yourself to the world as being all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips—excuse me for expecting you to act like Jesus.

What was I thinking?

Evidently, just because there’s a cross on top, a Bible in hand, or verses in a Facebook post, doesn’t mean there’s Jesus—in a building, mind, or heart. In fact, more and more, it’s becoming a sad indication, He’s probably not.

Trump-loving conservative Christian, excuse me for expecting you to act like Jesus.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

I’m Sorry Conservative Christianity, I Just Can’t Do It Anymore

There was a time, I tried.

I wanted to fit in, to be a shining star of conservative faithfulness lighting up dark skies. The dream of being successful for Jesus and gaining the gleam of His eye seemed like the apex of all pursuits. I could feel good about myself as I strapped in and revved the engines of the Monster Truck named “Conservatism,” enjoying a kind of favor that positioned me above a world of sin-obstacles and rebellious human traffic—it was perfect. With conservative Christianity there was a stage upon which to spiritually perform, a pre-defined system of belief to simply absorb and plug in, and a self-validating mission to assimilate everyone and anyone who would listen and buy in. It was all so cut and dry—a faith that was calculable, concrete, and clear in defining who was in and who was out, who was faithful and who was not, and who was right and who was wrong.

Yet now, things have changed—I would say, much for the better. A revelation welling up from my soul of a different way of believing and living has shown itself to be an unstoppable force. I can’t deny the air that I am breathing for the first time and the life it is giving—Grace has awakened me. No, it doesn’t all add up in my mind like ducks marching in a row, but it doesn’t have to when it’s all adding up in my heart and soul.

It’s not that I don’t love you anymore—I do. It’s not that I don’t accept you without conditions—I do. It’s not that I don’t believe you are filled with good intention and tremendous God-adorned worth and value—I do.

I’m sorry conservative Christianity, the bottom line is this— I just can’t do it anymore.

I Can’t See People As Being Inherently Evil And Lost- I’ve come to learn that Grace is the great equalizer—none of us are better, only different. That’s why the religious conservatives sought to kill Jesus and this, His message. When we are all equal before heaven, there can be no controlling, condemning, and fear-driven coercing. We are all loved and accepted equally by the Father—all of us in Christ from the very beginning. Faith is merely awakening to all that has already been given—Grace. People are good, whether they believe incorrectly or behave differently. This is the way Jesus sees all creation, the entire expanse of humanity—I just want to live my life seeing people the way He does.

I Can’t Support A Consumer Driven Christianity- For all the books, buildings, blogs, branding, conferences, concerts, movies, ministries, jewelry, t-shirts, stage-lighting, bumper-stickers, worship bands, cheesy comic-sans font-ladened Facebook memes, and church groups and activities, who have we become? I dare say, not nearly as sacrificial, serving, and loving as we are consumer-driven in our faith. In fact, the greatest passion inducer in many churches is sadly the conflicts that center around the style of worship. Nobody prays harder, studies the Bible more, and gets more involved than a Christian who is trying to assert and defend their personal preferences in church. From what I’m learning, the way of Jesus was sacrifice, not spiritual self-absorption—I just want to live my faith in a way that gives and contributes, not consumes with a rampant kind of spiritual appetite bordering on addiction.

I Can’t Live With One Eye Open In Fear Of A Bipolar Deity- The Spirit of Jesus within me has convinced my heart, God is love—wholly, completely, and purely. He has nothing but affection for me and every human being. No condemnation, no punishment, no desire for revenge—He perfectly loves me with perfect consistency. All this fiery talk about hell, wrath, judgement, and God’s discipline—it’s not only all highly debatable and open to be differently interpreted, but all silenced at the foot of the cross. Captured by Jesus who adores humanity without limit or restriction, I refuse to live my life fearing, doubting, and in a constant state of paranoia of a conservatively-imaged god who could love me one moment and cast me into hell the next, simply because I don’t love Him back in precisely all the right “conservative” ways. I just want to live my life seeing God through the lens of Jesus—perfecting me on the cross and perfectly loving me without conditions for eternity. God is for me, whom shall I fear?

I Can’t Ask My Wife To Submit To Me- My soul tires of being summoned to dismiss women as lesser and inferior human beings by a male-driven conservative Christianity that  seems insistent on their sexist way of contextualizing and interpreting the Apostle Paul and his teachings. My wife and I are a team on completely equal footing—for that’s what it means to be one flesh. Jesus speaks, equips, calls and empowers her in all the same ways He does with me—her potential in life, church, family, and ministry is no less than mine. She can do anything and everything with complete freedom in Christ. She is not weaker, less capable of leading, nor deserving of anything unequal because of her gender. I just want to live my life seeing my wife and all women as Jesus does—completely, thoroughly, and unequivocally equal in all things—period, full stop.

I Can’t Deny The Validity of Science- Forcing a literal biblical understanding upon every aspect of an entire world view, to me, is no longer honest nor embracing wisdom. Demanding that the earth has an age of merely 6,000 years, evolution is fake news, and global warming is a myth, is to create a war of intellect, science, and common sense where there need not be. In both matters of the spiritual and scientific, our human capacity to fully comprehend, define, and know for certain is highly limited. Our faith would do well to simply conclude what is truly most important—God created and creates. I just want to live my life with my brain turned on to the awareness that scientific discovery and spiritual revelation don’t have to be enemies, but are important threads that are actually woven together in the great divine tapestry of life. God is neither threatened, separate, nor necessarily contradictory to science and its discoveries—therefore, neither will I be.  

I Can’t Turn Off My Brain, Deny My Individuality, And Freeze Dry My Beliefs- I’m on a spiritual journey, not a destination. God gave me a brain with common sense and a conscience. I’m convinced that God’s desire isn’t that I land in a cold existence of conformity to a certain set of approved beliefs, but that I’m always growing in my awakening to His Grace—forever fluid to where that might take me emotionally, spiritually, physically, and confessionally. Jesus created me as a complicated, unique, divinely loaded individual that should resist all human-born labels that would seek to limit, control, own, cage, or define me. Where conservative Christianity largely desires to assimilate and mold me, I just want to live my life enjoying the freedom for which Jesus freed me.

I Can’t Believe The Bible Is Perfect- Grace has convinced me, nothing and no one is perfect but Jesus. He is the only Word of God, everything else is human words about God. Yes, they can be deemed as inspired, but never infallible—for aren’t we all inspired by God anyways, with a story to tell and perspectives along the way? For how can you not be—He is all and in all things. Inspiration never guarantees accuracy. I’m tired of reducing the Bible to a playbook for living, debate winning, and lording over my disagreers and those conservative Christianity deems to be sinning. I just want to live my life captivated by the mystery, experiences, and faith stories God uses in Scripture to lead me into a personal, life long, and ever expanding encounter with Jesus—progressively awakening to Him who is Grace.

I Can’t Compete With You And Your “Sold Out” Family– With all the ways you say you are so “blessed,” the religious art and nicknacks decorating your house, and the sheer height of your hands lifted up in worship, I simply can’t keep up. For all the times you commit to people, “I’ll be praying for you,” I wonder how you have time for nearly anything else. The never ending litany of Facebook pictures of your highlighted Bible next to a coffee cup, scripture quoting memes, and subtly self-congratulating celebrations of faithfulness, I have a hard time resisting the conclusion that there must be something wrong with me. You’ve got it going on with Jesus in so many ways I simply don’t and can’t. As much as it all seems so impressive, I just want to live my life outside the pressure and lifting up of all that—stuff. You will always be more spiritual and faithful than me. I’m  finally learning to enjoy the joy that comes from being completely at peace with that.

I Can’t Love People Conditionally- It takes so much work, judgement, reservation, and energy. Who is deserving, who is not? How much is too much, or just right? What’s the perfect mix of conditions, clauses, and confronting? Where does one even begin in mixing a perfect love-with-conditions cocktail? When have they changed, repented, believed, and behaved enough to unlock the door to love or at least let them peek in? The truth is, Grace has shown me, that’s not how Jesus loves me, nor anyone that has ever been or ever will be. In fact, He loves without restraint, conditions, restrictions, or fine print. I just want to live my life with the “love conditions” radar screen turned off, knowing and trusting my purpose and scope is to love people unconditionally and let God untangle the rest. And if I error, I will boldly approach the throne of God having loved too much, if that ever could be a thing.

I Can’t Condemn The LGBTQ Community- There is perhaps nothing that has become more clear to me than the sure reality that the “clear teachings of the Bible” aren’t clear at all. I can’t ignore the real stories and journeys of the LGBTQ community, and the truth they bring to the table. I can’t deny the faithful scholarship of Bible-loving, truth-seeking, Jesus-loving, and unbiased scholars who find no other alternative but to conclude that the Bible is actually affirming of LGBTQ people—as I do. I can’t condemn where there isn’t certain certainty, but rather, the sure potential that conservative Christianity could very well be completely wrong. With an undeniable history of wrongfully judging, disapproving, and damning things later proven to be benign and even divine, I am learning to never lean on a conservative Christian understanding. I just want to live my life outside of the condemning, discriminating, and sin-labeling mantra of conservative Christianity that shoots first and consults Jesus later—if at all.

I Can’t Embrace A Gospel That Is For Me, No Gospel At All- I’ve tasted and seen that God is pure Love and Jesus is all Grace, and now my soul won’t let me consume nor settle for anything less—for to do so would be a blasphemy against the Spirit and His work in me. I believe the Apostle Paul was centered onto divine truth when He charged that a Gospel mixed with any level of Law, conditions, or human performance is in fact, no Gospel at all—even to a level of being accursed. I take sin so seriously that it is my deep confession and personal experience that no one can master, manage, nor overcome it but Jesus, who is Grace. It is the Grace of God that empowers, teaches, and inspires us to divine change and right living—nothing else can or will. The conservative Christian gospel filled with “to do” steps, conditions, rule-keeping, fear-living, and hell-requiring is to me, no Gospel at all, but rather a sure ministry of death. I just want to live my life truly living because my heart has been overcome and irrevocably endeared to a Gospel that is nothing but Grace, life at its very best, and pure freedom.

It’s not that I don’t love you anymore—I do. It’s not that I don’t accept you without conditions—I do. It’s not that I don’t believe you are filled with good intention and tremendous God-adorned worth and value—I do.

I’m sorry conservative Christianity, I just can’t do it anymore.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Christians, This Is Why People Think We Suck

Maybe you’re tired of hearing it, maybe you don’t care, or maybe you just don’t want to see it, but the truth is, whether we like it or not, most of the world doesn’t view Christians nor Christianity in a positive light—especially the conservative brand of our faith. For all our efforts to “win people for Christ” with even the best of intentions, at the end of the day, many see Christians as hypocritical pretentious jerks, “church” as a ridiculous waste of time, and our faith as a hopeless, ignorant, hateful, and useless relic of the past that refuses to evolve.

Sure, we could spiritualize it all away with leather-bound excuses as we declare that “in these the end of days, people will turn away.” Yet sadly, blinded to our own rebellion, it is in fact we, not them, who have increasingly rejected the true and pure Gospel—falling away from God who is Love, Jesus who is Grace, and His message that is peace. Once again, the irony is deafening as the religious who point fingers at the world in disgust and blame are the ones found to be most entrenched in its evils—lacking real compassion, humility, love, and true faith.

Believe what you want to believe, draw the lines where you want to draw, retreat to your camps, wrap yourself in the faith flag that seems to best suit your spiritual comforts—the world doesn’t care. We have largely lost our voice, surrendered much of our influence, and bear the image of spiritual buffoons in the eyes of many who look upon us. Fair or unfair, that’s the mirror of truth—whether we are willing to stand in front of it or not.

Sure, a few megachurches and contemporary ministries are increasing in numbers as sheep shift from pasture to pasture seeking out the best show. Yet still, American Christianity in all its expressions is largely dying and we, like drunks, are apparently so addicted to our religiosity that we would just as soon die with it in a pool of our own spiritual vomit than embrace the sobering cure.

But no, you won’t hear it, you won’t listen to it, you won’t take seriously the countless voices of those who’ve been left to drown in our wake. Deflecting truth, with your head buried in the echo chamber of your own understanding, has become to you a prized spiritual gift. For it is our deafness to the Christ crying out all around us that has drained the marrow out of our souls, rendered us nearly useless, and made us a sure enemy of God’s heart.

A voice cries out in the wilderness, “Christians, when will we lift our heads out of the sand and finally realize just who we have become?”

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve become nose-blind to our own stench. The pungent, nose hair singeing aroma that exudes from our pores is the very reality we refuse to admit—our spiritual attitudes stink. Maybe we don’t put it into exact words, but we say it exactly in every other way. “We have the exclusive truth, and everyone else is the exclusive problem.” “We are right, and everyone else is wrong.” “We have all the answers and a Bible that clearly tells us so, who are you to question or differ in opinion?”

“You need to come and join us—think like us, believe like us, look like us, live like us, for we have the cure to you who are the cancer.” “God is working towards our success because of our faith-living while working towards your failure because of your rebellious sinning.” “We will always be just a bit better than you until that day you become one of us—in the meanwhile, we’ll be praying for you.”

With vomit dripping off their lips as countless fight the urge to gag, the world joins together in upchucking an honest chorus of reply, “thanks, but no thanks.” “We’d rather spend an eternity with our noses shackled to the excretion holes of a thousand skunks than to spend one moment becoming anything like you.”

Reeking with religious pretentiousness, to the spiritual nostrils of good people everywhere, we have become an all new fragrance for an all new world, “Stank” by Evangelical No. 5.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve spiritualized and justified hate. Countless mindful, thinking, good people observe the behavioral liturgies of our faith and truly wonder, how can anyone encounter Jesus personally and read the love-driven talks He gave, and yet somehow translate that into a faith ladened with racism, sexism, discrimination, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, nationalism, imperialism, judgement, and condemnation? This is incomprehensible to the world, and rightly so.

If there is any hate that should be adopted by our faith it should be directed at evil, which is defined by its root word in biblical Greek as being “the pursuit of making a name for oneself.” Interestingly enough, the essence of evil in God’s mind is not sin nor disbelief, but rather using Jesus for the pursuit of power for one’s own benefit.

It is the condemnation of others in order to secure our own sense of righteousness. It is the assertion of one’s rights to the minimizing, reducing, or removal of another’s. It is the privileged gripping onto their own privilege to the detriment of true equality. It is the building of walls where God desires tables. It is the exclusion of any of the “all” that Jesus always and forever includes. It is arrogantly insisting that one is “pro-life” while being equally determined to twist the scriptures in every possible way that brings condemnation’s death to those with whom we disagree or deem to be sinning.

To the level that the world despises us and the “Christian” label we wear, it is because we have given them every good and biblical reason to do so. For we have become evil’s highest manifestation—spiritualized hate.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve reduced Love into an accessory. As much as we might claim to be a people of love, the world knows us best by the love we fear. With us, every good thing has a condition, expiration date, and imposed limits. Don’t love people too much. Don’t give people too much grace. Don’t have too much fun. Don’t enjoy life too much. Don’t be around those people, go to that movie, listen to that song, or buy a cake from that baker—danger, danger, danger. Shackled by a fear-driven faith, we’ve turned love into a defensive, fragile posture.

In fact, nothing brings us more anxiety than God’s own declaration that He is Love—without conditions, restrictions, or expiration. Everything within our religious being fights and claws at this table-turning revelation and conclusion.

Why? Because, for God to be wholly and purely Love would render so much of what we are, do, and believe as ridiculously absurd, contrived, selfish, useless, and anti Christ. The house of religious cards that has become much of our Christian faith falls tumbling to the ground the moment God is embraced as solely Love as He himself declares. The litany of additional attributes we project onto God that conveniently justify our loveless behavior, all become impotent—anger, judgement, wrath, punishment, revenge, and condemnation alike. That’s why we are so insistent on confusing Love, and making it an accessory.

The fact that people can experience God and live Him with one single Word—LOVE—sends our entire faith construct into a tailspin plummeting to earth in a ball of flaming fire.

All evil begins where Love has been made an accessory.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve turned a book into a bulldozer. The Bible is only black and white to people seeking the control of another and the spiritual justification of self. For nothing levels people we don’t like and creates mountains upon which to judge others like the perfected craft of Christians turning the Bible into a bulldozer. What God meant to be a human springboard to a life-long encounter with Jesus, Christians have turned into a people prod, hoping to corral the world into their religious misery.

The “clear teachings” of the Bible aren’t clear to anyone, and everyone knows it, except we who arrogantly claim to know it best. The heights of authority we insist on attributing to the Bible are often sadly equal to the depth of our desires to exert authority over others. “This is what the Bible says” is ultimately our clever way of declaring, “This is what we believe the Bible says, and you need to believe it too, or else.”

Yet, for all our proof-texting and bulldozing with Bibles, the world isn’t fooled, every verse loses its ability to condemn, judge, and breed self-righteousness the moment it is rightly placed under the feet of Jesus who is Grace, the only perfect Word of God.

The truth is, we don’t have to interpret the scriptures towards inerrancy, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, bigotry, a life of sin-management, God-appeasement, or a tormenting hell for people who miss the mark in loving God in return—we choose to. The flames of our hate, condemnation, and pride were in our hearts already, we just use the Bible to fuel them and give it all a spiritual glow.

People don’t dismiss the Bible because of Jesus, they dismiss the Bible because of us.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve become all talk, and our talk sucks. We sing the songs, say the prayers, attend the services, read our Bibles, make our promises, pledge our allegiance, and hope the world doesn’t look under the hood. The truth is, we’re faking-it-to-make-it along with everyone else who signs up for religion. If American Christianity was calibrated to the heart of Jesus, we wouldn’t have to do so much pretending.

We’d be singing far less songs to the Jesus on the worship screen and crying more tears with the Jesus on the streets. We’d be praying far less to God for His will, favor, and blessings, and doing much more for the hurting, marginalized, and oppressed. We’d be worshiping far less in elaborate buildings and serving more passionately without them. We’d be spending far less time idolizing the Bible and loading it for debate, and more time listening to people’s stories and seeking to truly understand them. We’d be spending far less time making promises to God we can’t keep and more time loving people in ways they would never be able to forget.

If only, we would simply take the advice of the Christ calling out from amidst the world, “stop talking, stop pretending, stop playing church, and learn to shut up and listen.”

See, people aren’t stupid, God has put His light into all humanity—they can do the spiritual math.

Love plus conditions equals no love at all. Gospel plus Law equals no gospel at all. A God who is Love but also hates, condemns, and forever imprisons is no god at all. Striving to please, appease, and satisfy an angry god is no life at all. Sin-managing, pretending, and looking the part equals no hope it all. Equality for some equals inequality for all. Inclusions for the privileged alone equals no inclusion at all. Being human without being humane is not being human nor divine at all. Hating the sin but loving the sinner equals hating it all. Thirty thousand different Christian denominations that believe entirely different things about the same Bible equals the sure and glaring reality that no Christian group or individual can accurately claim to truly know, understand, and rightly interpret it all.

As good as we are at building buildings, mission statements, ministry branding, smoke machines, video venues, robed choirs, ministry conferences, and clean carpets, the truth is, we suck at loving, we suck at being human, we suck at listening, we suck at serving, we suck at sacrificing, we suck at including, we suck at humility, we suck at unselfishness—basically all the things Jesus would have us to be and do.

The world sees it, yet we refuse. Perhaps because, to our surprise and ensuing rage, they have the Spirit and we have lost it.

Hear this and hear it clearly, God is awakening a people to His true self (who is Love) and His true Gospel (which is Grace), but sadly, most Christians and much of Christianity will have no part of it and therefore no part in it. My sense is, God is not only completely o.k. with that, He might just be behind it.

Where is the Grace in all of this?

It’s in the courage of trembling voices such as this, that speak, tell, and confront the religious hell on earth we have created and surely have become, believing there is still hope for us all—never giving up.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

Christians, this is why people think we suck.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Trump, The Middle Finger Of Conservative Evangelical Christianity

To be sure, these are not easy words to write, but necessary, and nonetheless true.

The spiritual influences of darkness pulling the strings behind nearly every political headline in America is alarming—especially when the true culprit portrays and positions itself to be the only and ultimate cure.

Pulling the mask off perhaps the greatest spiritual scheme on planet earth is not a pleasant task nor one easily received.

As a pastor of 23 years, it has been my experience and it has become my conviction that much of conservative Evangelical Christianity manifests an evil unlike any wielded upon the earth. Its presentation of a false, mixed-Gospel of highly conditional love, a schizophrenically violent God, a spiritual justification of hate and condemnation, a weaponizing of the Bible, a legitimizing of self-righteousness, and a ruthless desire for world-domination has been the catalyst and cause of more death and destruction (spiritually, emotionally, and physically) than perhaps any other influencer—world history, a sure source of evidence.

Indeed, some who participate in this system of belief have genuine hearts to do what is right and are truly unaware of the evils and antichrist attitudes in which they have been indoctrinated and participate. Yet, nonetheless, much of conservative Evangelical Christianity aggressively stands as an intentional, religious movement that embodies the desire to eradicate the planet of anything that would disagree with and stand against its ideology—condemnation, conversion, and conquering its primary tools. Under the guise of Jesus, love, moral purity, and goodness, conservative Evangelical Christianity has become perhaps the greatest spiritual deception ever misted upon the masses—a pungent blasphemy against the Spirit, who is Grace.

As much as I wish all of this was unfounded and overly exaggerated, nothing confirms these strong assertions like conservative Evangelical Christianity’s undeniable lust and insatiable appetite for power and control. Their willingness to embrace blatant hypocrisy and double-standards, justify deplorable violence, and spiritualize human discrimination. Their willingness to rape the earth and its cultures, enable greed and materialism, conveniently usurp the teachings of Jesus, and arrogantly position themselves as the sole possessors of truth above all others, all for the furthering of their agenda and the needed power to do so, affirms the darkest of suspicions and the most urgent of calls for resistance. Strip away all the spiritual veneer—the heart and soul of much of conservative Evangelical Christianity is the spiritualized pursuit of power and control, virtually at any cost.

In fact, most everything you see in Donald Trump, his election, and life under his leadership is deeply intrinsic to the ethos of conservative Evangelical Christianity and what it’s truly like to be a part of their ministry world. Sadly, Donald Trump is merely the tip of the conservative Evangelical iceberg, mostly frozen to the core.

Trump focuses on aggressively giving our highest national priorities to self-serving interests regardless of their detriment to others. Conservative Evangelical churches have long focused their existence on self-preservation, internal interests, and increasing their numbers, facilities, and budgets, all while countless good people needlessly suffer just outside their doors. You don’t have to attend many a church meetings before you’re smacked in the face with the sobering conclusion—as spiritual as it all gets packaged, the bottom line for many churches ultimately revolves around the preservation and promotion of themselves—at times even displaying a cold callousness to the alarming needs around them.

Trump favors preserving the comfortable lives of the privileged and seeks out the wealthy and powerful for the most intimate of counsel. Conservative Evangelical churches have long catered to those who garner the highest financial and political means, enthusiastically gathering them into the leadership of their ministry. There is perhaps nothing more white, upper middle-class, pretentious, and privileged than what has become of modern, contemporary conservative Christianity. Big visions of big buildings and big campuses as far as the eyes can see, state-of-the-art worship venues, marketing, branding, books, concerts, conferences, and so called “reaching people for Christ” all costs big money. “Making church great again” for the white and well-to-do comes with a hefty price tag and the necessary appeasement and leveraging of the privileged.

Trump surrounds himself with primarily white, male influencers who are vetted by their unwavering loyalty to his unilateral leadership. Conservative Evangelical churches have long been dominated by white, male pastors and leaders who demand unwavering loyalty to their vision with the overall goal to increase their own power by the limiting of others. The contemporary move towards staff-led and pastor-led church leadership models often serves as a rationalizing and spiritualizing of the pursuit of power and control, energized by the ego and desire for ministry fame so rampant within modern Christianity.

Trump manifests a culture of fear and inequality where those who color outside the lines of conservative ideology and values are quickly condemned, discarded, and belittled. Conservative Evangelical churches have long been largely unwelcoming and un-wanting of those who are different in color, orientation, lifestyle, creed, or status. In fact, many on the fringe are largely deemed the enemy, unless of course they convert, clean up, behave, and buy into all things conservative. As Trump raises the level of our national defenses to an all-time high, conservative churches have long made what they stand against in the world to be their primary commission, often creating battles where none need to exist in order to justify their worth and mission. Listen in to a few church conversations and you will soon hear the clear underlying sentiment, “We are good, the world is so bad. What a shame. Let’s build some more walls and send some Bibles.”

Trump embodies callous arrogance, greed, bigotry, sexism, immorality, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and a foundational desire to conquer those who oppose him and gain the power to dominate them. What Trump has positioned as the “art of the deal” is merely a business version of the conservative Evangelical pursuit to “make disciples of people into people just like us.” No matter how much spiritual lipstick is plastered on the face of conservative Evangelical evangelism, the underlying goal is the same—the fruition of self-serving desires through spiritually packaged manipulation, coercion, and exploitation. Still to this day, many conservative churches see women as inferior, the LGBTQI community as needing of reparative therapy, financial prosperity as a sign and goal of faithfulness, the world as “lost,” and immorality as that which can be overlooked or minimized if you know the inside Evangelical handshake. In fact, any given Sunday between 11 a.m. and noon at just about any conservative Evangelical church near you, could very well serve to be the most sexist, homophobic, hypocritical, xenophobic, transphobic, racist, graceless, greedy, privileged, and spiritually arrogant hour you’ll ever experience.

Put a steeple on top of the White House and the workings, dealings, and ethos of the current administration and the leadership of president Trump, and one might easily confuse it all with their local, conservative Evangelical church. When it’s all said and done, the connections between the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency and the true soul and ambitions of conservative, Evangelical Christianity are undeniable and highly disgusting.

In fact, over the past several years, conservative Evangelical Christianity has perceived itself to be losing in a cultural war it actually created all by itself. Surprise—good, thinking people have awakened to the highjacking of Jesus, the Bible, and the cause of Christ by religious, Christian conservatism. Like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum in response to not being granted their every wants and wishes, conservative Evangelical Christianity has long been whining, pouting, and insisting on its own way in the private, public, and political square. The emergence of true equality always feels like war to the privileged.

Desperate to see their ideology survive and fulfill its twisted version of the “great” commission, conservative Evangelical Christianity savagely licked its fingers and led the way in electing Donald Trump as president. Whether you like him or not, voted for him or not, it’s all too clear that Trump serves as a message to all who would oppose and stand apart from religious, Christian conservatism, “We won, you lost, and now we’re gonna shove our way down your throat and do whatever the hell we want.”

As a middle finger raised boldly for all to see, Donald Trump is the true sum of conservative Evangelical Christianity and a clear sentiment of its dark soul of spiritualized hate, self-righteousness, duplicity, and greed. Though conservative Evangelical Christianity might not ever say “FU” to the world in those specific words, their messiah Donald Trump is gladly doing it for them—loud and clear.

Make no mistake and be not deceived, much of conservative Evangelical Christianity is a monster, that monster has a middle finger, and that middle finger has a name—Donald Trump.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

5 Things The Church Must Become Before It’s Too Late

As a pastor, I believe in church and love her deeply, especially when the centerpiece of all she is and does is the Gospel of God’s pure Grace and the all-inclusiveness of Jesus and His unconditionally unconditional love. Yet sadly, these values are increasingly far from what is being manifested in most segments of American Christianity. Instead, as difficult it is to say, church has largely become a self-righteous, spiritually arrogant, sin-focused, Bible-weaponizing, and people-condemning kind of monster that has lost much of her credibility among thinking, human-loving people. In fact, the emotional, spiritual, and even physical carnage created by significant segments of American, conservative church-world ironically makes it perhaps the most prominent, antichrist force on the planet today.

Don’t believe me? To those willing to hear, countless are the gut-wrenching stories of people who have experienced great suffering, tragedy, abuse, and condemnation exclusively at the hands of Christianity and its church. The hand-washing claim that “no church is perfect” doesn’t even come close to fitting nor justifying the spiritually militant, aggressive, and narcissistic tribe we have become, nor gains any appeasement among those whom we have broken. The truth is, if we don’t make significant steps towards returning to the heart of God who is Love and His Gospel of peace, we will further become the very evil we claim to be against, and surrender our voice and influence in furthering all that is good and of God for generations to come.

Yet, amidst these daunting realities there is still great hope that we might awaken to the heights from which we have fallen and chart a new path. With that desire for renewal, here are five things I suggest every church must become before it’s too late.

We Must Become Grace Driven– Despite what is believed and taught within most segments of the church, there is no other Gospel nor message from God for humanity other than Grace—period. Grace boldly and accurately declares that all are in Christ, deeply and unconditionally loved and affirmed by the Father. Every person is a finished work of the cross—holy, justified, sanctified, righteous, and whole apart from and despite their performance in life. Faith is not a decision, heart invitation, or commitment to good behavior. Instead, to truly “believe” is to simply rest in the goodness and Grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Therefore, contrary to what is widely understood, the Christian life is not to be one of sin-management, “to do” steps, rule-keeping, or spiritual striving, but rather the journey of completely awakening to the incredible and unfathomable goodness of God and the wholly complete person one is already and will always be in Christ. In short, it’s our actions catching up with our true identities.

In fact, in a very real sense, under Grace, there is nothing “to do,” self-improve, or become, but everything to believe—and as one increasingly believes in the purity and goodness of who they truly are in Him, they will live it increasingly in and through their actions, and that—effortlessly. For there is no power in all the universe other than Grace that changes people and influences them towards living the ways of Jesus—hallelujah!

In fact, it is the Law in command or spirit, in whole or in any mixture, that actually entices and imprisons people to sin and embody all that is bad. Its diabolical rule-keeping mantra focuses our attention on sin, entices our religious pride to believe we can master it, and places trust in ourselves and our capacity to spiritually out perform it. This is a futile pursuit destined for failure, straight out of the hands and heart of the devil. For where you have any call or sense of need to please and appease God to gain, keep, or grow ones relationship with Jesus, there you will find every form of self-righteousness, judgmentalism, spiritual pride, hypocrisy, sin-stronghold, religious spirit, and evil.

That’s why the sure and true reason why America is in such moral decline and countless people are walking away from “church” (and rightly so) is actually because of  us and our love affair with a mixed-messaged gospel of Law and Grace—a message that, in truth, is the rampant cancer, not the cure. For any other message than the pure and thoroughly sufficient Grace of God in Christ Jesus is a sure death sentence of humanity to a hellish life of self-righteous imprisonment.

We must become Grace-driven—countless lives are in the balance.

We Must Become Unified By Diversity- For far too long, the church has based its sense of unity upon that which people must agree. Denominations and individual churches align their membership qualifications to certain sets of beliefs and behaviors people are required to adopt for inclusion. In the process, the concept of “making disciples” has been reduced to a church’s pursuit of assimilating people into thinking, looking, and behaving just like them. People become projects of conformity, diverging beliefs become threatening and inferior, and churches become clubs of like-minded people huddled around their “this is what the Bible says” ideologies.

Tragically, this has morphed many a church into a spiritual black hole where doubts are quickly buried, free thinking is demonized, spiritual growth is restricted, people have to pretend they truly agree, and churches live in denial of the real disunity that exists under the surface conformity of their congregants.

In increasing measure, people are justifiably turning away from spiritual communities where one is either deemed to be “in” or “out.” They are resisting the applications of labels upon themselves and hunger for the God-given freedom and liberty that comes in being personally guided in all truth by the ever revealing Spirit—not a cut and pasted creed nor a patriarchy of so-called biblical leadership. Good people are opening their eyes to the selfish agenda of churches that see people as prospective notches on their belt with the goal of assimilating them into their spiritual Borg that they might increase in their capacity to spread their pre-packaged religious ideologies among the masses of people they deem to be “lost.”

Churches must become more like tables where every person and every belief-set has a seat in the discussion, where doubts, differences, and disbelief are valued, and where unity is based upon a church’s willingness to embrace disagreement and harbor diversity much more so than what is necessary to be agreed upon. Spiritual growth must be allowed to truly flourish through the considering and potential adopting of views, perspectives, and beliefs that are even contrary to what is widely held.

Churches must become belief fluid, where a confidence in the person of Jesus and His Truth ringing true in the hearts of all humanity creates the secure foundation from which all beliefs can be considered, explored, and find community instead of exclusion—all without fear.

Then, and only then, can true unity flourish, true spiritual growth emerge, and true freedom in Christ be realized—all centered on God who is Love and Jesus who is Grace.

We Must Become Fierce Defenders of the Oppressed and Condemned- People are not projects, attendance charts, giving units, baptismal stats, or even our conversion mission—though nearly everything about our attitudes and behaviors as the church would indicate so. Rather, our highest mandate from God is to stand with, defend, empower, and become a voice for the oppressed, especially those religiously condemned and marginalized—all of us on equal footing. It’s not enough to merely extend our sympathies, minister to a need here and there, or put people and issues on a prayer list. Solidarity in thought, word, attitude, and deed with the marginalized and condemned is the way of Jesus and our Christian calling in every arena of life—even political.

Grace is not weakness nor passivity in the presence of evil. It’s not turning a blind eye nor restraining ones voice as an effort to take some kind of highfalutin, spiritual highroad concealing what is ultimately a self-serving “grace” copout. Rather, Grace is brave and confronting in the face of religious and cultural oppression, injustice, condemnation, and discrimination.

Those who would portray God as less than all-loving, His message as bringing any measure of condemnation, and His ways as embodying any level of religiosity, self-righteousness, or conditionality will always meet the fierce correction of Jesus. Those who would shrink back from the unrestrained defense, solidarity with, and mutual humanity of the “least of these” will always be met with the buzzsaw of Jesus’ pure oneness with those who are cast aside or cast out.

The nonviolent way of Jesus is not passive, impotent, nor powerless, but rather the sure model that makes our solidarity, defense, empowering, and voice with and for the oppressed and condemned our greatest responsibility, honor, and calling. For there is no greater litmus test of a church’s alignment with the heart of Jesus than how it stands with, defends, empowers, equally includes, and gives voice to the “least of these.” Until that day comes, growing numbers of people will rightly discern the fallacy and religious scam that sadly has become much of American church.

We Must Become Equality Minded– Grace is the great equalizer—none are better only different. This is the message of the Gospel that infuriates and frustrates the self-righteous, white, male-driven, patriarchal churches of America. There should be no sense of privilege of any form in any church, only people—all equally loved, valued, affirmed, and imaged by the Creator.

The sexist churches of America continue to grieve the heart and message of Jesus and send countless women (and men) searching elsewhere for safe contexts where true God-given equality is embraced, and the utilization of the equal calling and gifts bestowed by God upon all genders is empowered.

It is spiritually criminal that the church, who should be leading the way at embodying the culture of heaven upon earth, is in actuality largely standing against it—women are not seen as equally gifted and called, skin colors matter, economic status is evaluated, sexual orientation is discriminated, and sin is rationalized in favor of the privileged.

This is deplorable, evil, and antithetical to Kingdom of God.

The church will never truly manifest nor follow the ways, message, and heart of Jesus until our every step leaves a sure and undeniable footprint of true equality for all.

We Must Become A Contribution Centered Community- One need look no further than the me-centered worship services and programs that dominate much of American church for evidence that we have become selfish, consumer-centered Christians and churches. In fact, most of modern church planting is strategized around starting a state-of-the-art worship service with hopes that a church will somehow grow out of it. The thrust of most churches new or old is to attract people to “visit us, join us, and serve among us” with emphasis on the “us.” With facilities, budgets, programming, and marketing endeavors taking center stage, competitive-minded ministry thrives and the incubator for pastoral celebrity and church franchising becomes full born.

Sadly, when it’s all said and done, as much as we spiritualize our endeavors, much of church has become largely about “us”— our spiritual growth, our style preferences, our convenience, our inspiration, our agendas, our power, our importance, our rights, and the preservation and furthering of our privilege.

In times past, many have been mesmerized and seduced by the contemporary lipsticks we have used on the pig of our self-centeredness—but not any more. Growing numbers of good people are seeing through the clever lighting and carefully positioned fog. Either they have lost at playing the church game, or witnessed the pain and brutal carnage of someone else having done so. Regardless, people not only want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, they want to be a part of something that is clearly and concretely not about themselves or an agenda other than pure Love.

The truth is, much of the church in America is losing influence and credibility, and rightly so. The awakening of Grace and its full application in the life of the church is among us, challenging and haunting the religious as it spawns.

Before it’s too late, may we become Grace-driven, equality-minded, contribution-centered communities that are unified by diversity as we fiercely defend the oppressed and condemned among us as Jesus modeled and purposed for us all along.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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