Smoke and Mirrors (or, How to Fulfill The Great Omission)

*Note – Please do not read this post unless a) you plan to read the whole thing, and b) you promise to read the next post, entitled “The Truth In Love.” Thank you.

My wife and I have decided to become the connossieurs of small-town fireworks shows. I believe that our city is unusual for its size (160,000 or so) in that it boasts a Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza that runs upwards of 100,000 attendees and produces more second-hand smoke in one night than the cigarette smokers of Poland and Belarus combined. For a year.

Of course the local smoke I’m referring to is from the fireworks. This is because our nation, unlike those of the Eastern Bloc, is becoming increasingly tobaccophobic. But also because this Patriotic Extravaganza is run by the largest church in the region, a church I will refer to as “James River Assembly,” because that is its name.

Maybe if I had a secret informer among the many secretaries of this 5,000-odd member church, I would know the primary reason why they would choose to spend untold wads of Benjamins to be the producer of the only game in town. But based on what I have gathered from attending the production several times, allow me to hazard a guess.

Every church has a block party. Or a fall festival. Or a Vacation Bible School. Or something that helps them to either a) bring as many people into one place as possible and trick them into hearing the gospel, or b) make sure everybody knows what a cool church they are. I will not accuse James River of letter B, because it would be non-disprovable. But letter A is pretty sure-fire, since the planners of their event make certain to take prime moments within the program to sneak the gospel in, and have an altar call. And sure enough, people come.

But then what? You get saved by a program, and then a few hours later, the program quite literally goes up in smoke. The guy that preached the message is already packed up in his black SUV, and the guy who prayed for you is nowhere to be seen. You’re holding a Bible and a little pamphlet that outlines the next few steps. Although James River tries ever so hard not to seem pushy about you becoming a member of their church, naturally they would be quite happy to see you show up on Sunday. Learn some Christian songs, greet the people who happen to be seated nearby, listen to an upbeat diatribe, then “plug-in” to a group of other single, college-educated, broken-family, upwardly-mobile, green-eyed ladies between the ages of 26 and 32 ½. And this is the name of the class.

Are you going to connect with these people? I guess there’s always a chance.

Is anyone else feeling more and more like it’s not the Church’s job to get people saved? That God didn’t supernaturally weld us together for the purpose of producing a mind-blowing Jesus show? I think that maybe… just maybe the Church is supposed to be for Christians, and then Christians are supposed to be for everyone else. Sure, you could argue that their church members are the ones putting on the “God Loves America” celebration, but how much of that work do you suppose was done by hired hands? I, personally was twice among the 40% or so of the orchestra that was paid $250 for two rehearsals and a performance. And by gum, I was glad to get it.

But can’t we see what this amounts to? That $250 was tithe-money. Somebody out there worked for a month to pay me their tithe to play the saxophone so that a lot of people would come and hopefully hear the gospel if they’re not busy counting their change from the cotton-candy vendor, while the tither himself is sitting in a special tent provided especially for his own Sunday School class. Could you imagine if the thousands of James River Assembly members actually interspersed with this colossal crowd, to build relationships and make connections and show people that they’re not trying to fool them into hearing a few Bible verses, but they actually like them? Could you imagine if the Church spent its resources and energy on fostering a real, intimate, accoutable, loving community, and equipping and encouraging Christians to find as many points of contact with society as possible, to love people just like they are?

And to be fair… I’ll bet there were a decent number of people who did do that last night. My parents went to a similar event in Kansas City, where they were quickly invited to share some tarp-space and snacks with a family from the host church. So perhaps I’ve been a bit hard on James River. Perhaps I’ve made some unfair assumptions. But I know what I’ve observed of our churches over the years. I know the mentalities and the methodologies. I’ve seen the frantic committees scurrying to make each event “bigger and better” than the year before, because somebody’s going to, and if it’s not them, they’re sunk. I feel sorry for them.

But maybe there’s no truer way to be an American than to make sure that what you’re doing this year is bigger and better than last year. That is exactly what my wife and I were trying to rebel against last night. We looked on the web for the smallest town in our immediate vicinity that did a little fireworks show. Someplace that would be satisfied to do it pretty much the same every year. So we made our pick and showed up in Marionville, Missouri around 8:00 pm. We threw the frisbee, ate some munchies, then settled in at dusk for the “really big shoe.”

So the announcer comes on over the loudspeaker: “Hello… thank you everyone for coming out tonight. We really appreciate the support… we think you’re really going to enjoy the show. The City Council has worked hard to keep making our Fourth of July celebration bigger and better each year…”

Pack your bags, honey, we’re moving to Poland.

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About rwiksell

I am a former church-planting pastor, currently active as a wedding minister, and the leader of a spiritual discussion group at a local bar called Scotch & Soda. By day, I am the graphic designer and production manager for a historic print shop called Traders Printing, located in downtown Springfield, Missouri. My wife Christina and I have been married for 9 years now, and we live in a turn-of-the-century bungalow on the north side of Springfield with our dog Abbi, and our cat Charlie.
This entry was posted in autobiography, church, culture, regrets. Bookmark the permalink.

58 Responses to Smoke and Mirrors (or, How to Fulfill The Great Omission)

  1. Dave Smay says:

    Ryan,From time to time I’ve read your posts and have not always been on the same page, but today is different. You are right. You nailed it.Thank you for stating what many have felt but never stated.

  2. Dave Smay says:

    Ryan,From time to time I’ve read your posts and have not always been on the same page, but today is different. You are right. You nailed it.Thank you for stating what many have felt but never stated.

  3. Ouch. I see it’s Flag and God still at j-rag, the church that ate up all the littler assemblies in the area. I will never forget my “Newcomer’s Dinner” there, a night I wish I could forget.Marionville – home of the White Squirrels. Don’t worry, next year’s show won’t be much bigger.And Poland will be tough – you should consider Australia.

  4. Ouch. I see it’s Flag and God still at j-rag, the church that ate up all the littler assemblies in the area. I will never forget my “Newcomer’s Dinner” there, a night I wish I could forget.Marionville – home of the White Squirrels. Don’t worry, next year’s show won’t be much bigger.And Poland will be tough – you should consider Australia.

  5. The Coreman says:

    I want to warn everybody not to take too seriously the detailed assumptions I make about James River Assembly. My complaint is really directed at the mindsets and methodologies JRA represents. Many of the <>specific<> indictments are merely literary & macrocosmic in nature.But thank you for your comments. Keep ’em coming.

  6. The Coreman says:

    I want to warn everybody not to take too seriously the detailed assumptions I make about James River Assembly. My complaint is really directed at the mindsets and methodologies JRA represents. Many of the <>specific<> indictments are merely literary & macrocosmic in nature.But thank you for your comments. Keep ’em coming.

  7. Beloved says:

    What exactly did you say was “because of” America’s tobaccophobia? Is tobaccophobia the cause of something you mentioned? Where does the smoke concept fit into the point of the story? Or does it? I’m just curious. ;-)Seriously, though. You’re talking serious stewardship talk here and i’m liking it. Our Master gives us X number of “talents” (or dollars, or skills, or knowledge, or opportunities, or abilities, or spiritual gifts…) and we have to account for every one of them. You have to wonder if God EVER calls us to spend money on anything that’s not an immediate necessity, such as food, drink, clothing, shelter for the poor. If so, then there has to be some way to judge when it’s appropriate to spend our time, energy, finances, etc. on something else. And even then, there has to be a way to determine degree.Thanks for the challenge.

  8. Beloved says:

    What exactly did you say was “because of” America’s tobaccophobia? Is tobaccophobia the cause of something you mentioned? Where does the smoke concept fit into the point of the story? Or does it? I’m just curious. ;-)Seriously, though. You’re talking serious stewardship talk here and i’m liking it. Our Master gives us X number of “talents” (or dollars, or skills, or knowledge, or opportunities, or abilities, or spiritual gifts…) and we have to account for every one of them. You have to wonder if God EVER calls us to spend money on anything that’s not an immediate necessity, such as food, drink, clothing, shelter for the poor. If so, then there has to be some way to judge when it’s appropriate to spend our time, energy, finances, etc. on something else. And even then, there has to be a way to determine degree.Thanks for the challenge.

  9. The Coreman says:

    That’s just the comment I’d expect from you, Beloved… you make me smile.I’m not taking a position on America’s tobaccophobia. Just that it accounts for the reason why, if there’s a cloud of smoke over a large gathering of Americans, it’s almost certainly not cigarette smoke.And as far as the money-spending goes… I’ve been through the same wonderings, and still go through them. But we can’t feel guilty if we occasionally acquire something nice, or something extra. We just have to remember that none of it really belongs to us, and that every blessing God gives us is for two express purposes, 1) showing His love to us, and 2) enabling us to be a blessing to others. It’s never to make us more comfortable or pleased or popular.

  10. The Coreman says:

    That’s just the comment I’d expect from you, Beloved… you make me smile.I’m not taking a position on America’s tobaccophobia. Just that it accounts for the reason why, if there’s a cloud of smoke over a large gathering of Americans, it’s almost certainly not cigarette smoke.And as far as the money-spending goes… I’ve been through the same wonderings, and still go through them. But we can’t feel guilty if we occasionally acquire something nice, or something extra. We just have to remember that none of it really belongs to us, and that every blessing God gives us is for two express purposes, 1) showing His love to us, and 2) enabling us to be a blessing to others. It’s never to make us more comfortable or pleased or popular.

  11. I think Fourth Witness was seeing that point, Coreman. It’s not a James River specific issue by any means – they’re simply Masters at it. It’s called < HREF="http://www.telegraphcanyon.com/telestuff.php" REL="nofollow">Marketing<>.

  12. I think Fourth Witness was seeing that point, Coreman. It’s not a James River specific issue by any means – they’re simply Masters at it. It’s called < HREF="http://www.telegraphcanyon.com/telestuff.php" REL="nofollow">Marketing<>.

  13. Beloved says:

    Wow. That was so good it needed to be said twice. Nicely done. ;-)Coreman, I actually understand the connection now! Thanks for clarifying. (Leave it up to the “gold” guy to be nit picky.)You know, i think i’ve come full circle on the Jeff Henderson “Principle of Irresistability” thing. There are ways i strongly agree with him, but ways i digress. I agree that, as a church, we should do our very best to push the envelope of creativity and excellence. I agree that we are in competition with “the world” when it comes to grabbing people’s attention. It’s just a fact that we can’t get around. But i disagree that the solution is always to produce something “bigger and better”. The whole concept of the mustard seed is that God confounds the “great and mighty” with the smallest particle we can think of (or that they could think of at the time the scripture was penned).We think people want more flash, boom, bang for their time, but really they want to escape from this insane marketing frenzy that they’re exposed to everywhere else (or else they should want to… they need to). The church should be a haven from that sort of stuff. It should be the place where people don’t feel exploited, pressured and manipulated. It should be the place where authenticity trumps production.So, i won’t say that marketing is all bad in the sense that WHO we are should either be attractive or repulsive in and of itself (there’s a marketing definition for ya!). But you’re right on that throwing money at people is no way for transformation to occur.Preach on.

  14. Beloved says:

    Wow. That was so good it needed to be said twice. Nicely done. ;-)Coreman, I actually understand the connection now! Thanks for clarifying. (Leave it up to the “gold” guy to be nit picky.)You know, i think i’ve come full circle on the Jeff Henderson “Principle of Irresistability” thing. There are ways i strongly agree with him, but ways i digress. I agree that, as a church, we should do our very best to push the envelope of creativity and excellence. I agree that we are in competition with “the world” when it comes to grabbing people’s attention. It’s just a fact that we can’t get around. But i disagree that the solution is always to produce something “bigger and better”. The whole concept of the mustard seed is that God confounds the “great and mighty” with the smallest particle we can think of (or that they could think of at the time the scripture was penned).We think people want more flash, boom, bang for their time, but really they want to escape from this insane marketing frenzy that they’re exposed to everywhere else (or else they should want to… they need to). The church should be a haven from that sort of stuff. It should be the place where people don’t feel exploited, pressured and manipulated. It should be the place where authenticity trumps production.So, i won’t say that marketing is all bad in the sense that WHO we are should either be attractive or repulsive in and of itself (there’s a marketing definition for ya!). But you’re right on that throwing money at people is no way for transformation to occur.Preach on.

  15. Marketing is all well and good, but James River is heavily engaged in an ancient form of it. Get a cool logo, a catchy slogan, a high-profile location, build it bigger, build it better, and host the gosh-darndest-biggest Fourth of Joo-lie these Ozarks has ever seen. I want to be Associate Pastor of Marketing and Media Relations for some Big Bowling Alley Sporty Cool Church. I might even dream up this cool idea for a big Christmas TV Show, broadcast on the area’s most dominant network affiliate, wherein I will feature vignettes of happy and recovering people who attend my church. I might suggest we sponsor portions of the local news. Our cool logo will look awesome next to that hot anchorchick. Maybe we can do paid-for call-ins to fawning DJs on the local Christian radio station, which is listened to by…wait – it’s listened to by Christians who already have churches. Oh, well – the more the merrier. If they can be swayed to leave their churches – ours is obviously better.Real marketing these days happens through relationships – and you might note I’ve posted under three different names to this blog entry, linking to various of my domains – hopefully getting you to look a little closer. That’s The New Marketing. James River understands the concept of relationship marketing as well – which is why they had at one time (maybe do still) a Cookie Committee, calling on first-time visitors and old friends from old churches. “Wow – they really care – they brought us cookies, honey. Isn’t that sweet?”But either you’re a corporation or a ministry. Most churches are corporations disguised as ministries. The links I’ve provided herein go to what I consider my ministry disguised as a corporation.There are newer “methods” that are far more effectual in reaching the consuming public (the “world”), who are wary of megachurches. This “target market” as it were, can be identified as “the Fed Up.” They are reached the same way Jesus reached them, through parable, humor, or in some cases, song. (The random healing would go a long way too, I suppose.)But mostly they are reached through relationship. You become their friend first – and you tell them the truth < HREF="http://www.radiofreebabylon.com/music/rfbmusicrfbtear.php" REL="nofollow">in ways they understand.<>

  16. Marketing is all well and good, but James River is heavily engaged in an ancient form of it. Get a cool logo, a catchy slogan, a high-profile location, build it bigger, build it better, and host the gosh-darndest-biggest Fourth of Joo-lie these Ozarks has ever seen. I want to be Associate Pastor of Marketing and Media Relations for some Big Bowling Alley Sporty Cool Church. I might even dream up this cool idea for a big Christmas TV Show, broadcast on the area’s most dominant network affiliate, wherein I will feature vignettes of happy and recovering people who attend my church. I might suggest we sponsor portions of the local news. Our cool logo will look awesome next to that hot anchorchick. Maybe we can do paid-for call-ins to fawning DJs on the local Christian radio station, which is listened to by…wait – it’s listened to by Christians who already have churches. Oh, well – the more the merrier. If they can be swayed to leave their churches – ours is obviously better.Real marketing these days happens through relationships – and you might note I’ve posted under three different names to this blog entry, linking to various of my domains – hopefully getting you to look a little closer. That’s The New Marketing. James River understands the concept of relationship marketing as well – which is why they had at one time (maybe do still) a Cookie Committee, calling on first-time visitors and old friends from old churches. “Wow – they really care – they brought us cookies, honey. Isn’t that sweet?”But either you’re a corporation or a ministry. Most churches are corporations disguised as ministries. The links I’ve provided herein go to what I consider my ministry disguised as a corporation.There are newer “methods” that are far more effectual in reaching the consuming public (the “world”), who are wary of megachurches. This “target market” as it were, can be identified as “the Fed Up.” They are reached the same way Jesus reached them, through parable, humor, or in some cases, song. (The random healing would go a long way too, I suppose.)But mostly they are reached through relationship. You become their friend first – and you tell them the truth < HREF="http://www.radiofreebabylon.com/music/rfbmusicrfbtear.php" REL="nofollow">in ways they understand.<>

  17. Midge says:

    Your views in this particular blog definitely sparked some interesting comments Ryan.I don’t have much to say… except,”render unto Ceaser what is Ceaser’s, and render unto God what is God’s.”

  18. Midge says:

    Your views in this particular blog definitely sparked some interesting comments Ryan.I don’t have much to say… except,”render unto Ceaser what is Ceaser’s, and render unto God what is God’s.”

  19. The Coreman says:

    That’s an interesting thing to say, Midge… can I ask you to elaborate? I’m not sure I understand your point.

  20. The Coreman says:

    That’s an interesting thing to say, Midge… can I ask you to elaborate? I’m not sure I understand your point.

  21. Beloved says:

    Midge, as my friend Brett says in his song, “Dear Brother”, “Render to Caesar what’s his, but don’t give him all that there is.”Ryan, i have been thinking about your comment, “Could it be that the Church exists for believers and that believers exist for the world?” and feel like i have a response. The simple answer is, “there’s no difference between the two.” But i know you know that, so that leaves only one interpretation of your thought: Evangelism is the role of the individual, not of the group. That’s really what you’re saying. If it’s not what you’re saying, then i would say you really aren’t saying anything.So let’s say my interpretation is correct. Run with this for a minute. How much do you think this perspective is formed out of a Western way of thinking and experiencing God? I think the more we realize that our “instincts” are not usually natural, but are culturally constructed, the more able we will be to explore truth objectively. This to me seems case in point. In my best understanding of scripture, God has called the Christians to work together in all things to create opportunity for the lost to come to Him. What good is it if individuals evangelize? Or should i say, how much better is it when the lost experience the Truth of Christ in the context of community (i.e. church)? And what if your expression as a community of disciples is that you gather together to proclaim and respond to the greatness and grace of God in grand, celebratory, awe-inspiring ways? Must it always be small, intimate, informal, unprepared for, of minimal cost? Is that the only thing that counts as authentic and engaging?You know that i have the same reaction that you do to people and churches who try to impress people into the Kingdom (or worse, into their church). But i just hope that you don’t allow the pendelum to swing the opposite direction, to quote you. ;-)

  22. Beloved says:

    Midge, as my friend Brett says in his song, “Dear Brother”, “Render to Caesar what’s his, but don’t give him all that there is.”Ryan, i have been thinking about your comment, “Could it be that the Church exists for believers and that believers exist for the world?” and feel like i have a response. The simple answer is, “there’s no difference between the two.” But i know you know that, so that leaves only one interpretation of your thought: Evangelism is the role of the individual, not of the group. That’s really what you’re saying. If it’s not what you’re saying, then i would say you really aren’t saying anything.So let’s say my interpretation is correct. Run with this for a minute. How much do you think this perspective is formed out of a Western way of thinking and experiencing God? I think the more we realize that our “instincts” are not usually natural, but are culturally constructed, the more able we will be to explore truth objectively. This to me seems case in point. In my best understanding of scripture, God has called the Christians to work together in all things to create opportunity for the lost to come to Him. What good is it if individuals evangelize? Or should i say, how much better is it when the lost experience the Truth of Christ in the context of community (i.e. church)? And what if your expression as a community of disciples is that you gather together to proclaim and respond to the greatness and grace of God in grand, celebratory, awe-inspiring ways? Must it always be small, intimate, informal, unprepared for, of minimal cost? Is that the only thing that counts as authentic and engaging?You know that i have the same reaction that you do to people and churches who try to impress people into the Kingdom (or worse, into their church). But i just hope that you don’t allow the pendelum to swing the opposite direction, to quote you. ;-)

  23. Even a home church with only two families involved will eventually expand – and you might someday need a building, a worship leader, counselors and the like. Hopefully, invitations to your celebrations occur through the Spirit and not through Marketing. And when you get right down to it, Marketing is what the Serpent was engaged in back in the Garden.Christianty is far more Eastern than we in the West like to believe. < HREF="http://www.radiofreebabylon.com/broadcast/rfbbroadtranscriptsbavarian.php" REL="nofollow">It is mystical .<>The small “two or more” encounter is good. The big celebration is good. The pendulum finds a healthy swing when we keep our world-copying methods out of the way.It just occured to me: You rarely see a Catholic Church advertising. Why? People know it is a church and they know what to expect within. “Come or don’t – we’re just here celebrating God.”

  24. Even a home church with only two families involved will eventually expand – and you might someday need a building, a worship leader, counselors and the like. Hopefully, invitations to your celebrations occur through the Spirit and not through Marketing. And when you get right down to it, Marketing is what the Serpent was engaged in back in the Garden.Christianty is far more Eastern than we in the West like to believe. < HREF="http://www.radiofreebabylon.com/broadcast/rfbbroadtranscriptsbavarian.php" REL="nofollow">It is mystical .<>The small “two or more” encounter is good. The big celebration is good. The pendulum finds a healthy swing when we keep our world-copying methods out of the way.It just occured to me: You rarely see a Catholic Church advertising. Why? People know it is a church and they know what to expect within. “Come or don’t – we’re just here celebrating God.”

  25. The Coreman says:

    Beloved,I think all your concerns can be answered by this:The church is clearly going the wrong direction when its members get into the habit of paying “professionals” to do their ministry for them. But since it’s not wrong to pay a pastor and have a full-time ministry staff, we have to ask ourselves what we are paying them TO DO?If we are paying them to get out the gospel, then we are remiss, because, as a Christian, it was already the pastor’s job to do that before he became a professional. Just like it is your responsibility and mine. To pay him to spread the gospel to society is to suggest that he can do it in our stead, and that is sinful.But if we are paying him to equip US to fulfill our responsibilities more effectively, then we have done well. When I say the Church should be <>for<> Christians, I am referring to the institution of the church. We do not need to form an institution to spread the gospel, because we as individuals and families and small groups have that responsibility and privilege. But we often fall short in our capabilities, and find that forming an instutution is a very helpful thing to improve our effectiveness as reachers. But once that institution starts to do the work for us, we have failed.And to respond to telegraph canyon, not all home churches must become conventional churches. In countries where Christianity is growing the fastest, home churches quickly produce new leaders and multiply. Rather than a home church of 10 becoming a conventional church of 1,000, it becomes 100 (or 500!) home churches of 10. But I definitely agree with your ideas about Marketing, although we should be careful not to demonize the term itself.

  26. The Coreman says:

    Beloved,I think all your concerns can be answered by this:The church is clearly going the wrong direction when its members get into the habit of paying “professionals” to do their ministry for them. But since it’s not wrong to pay a pastor and have a full-time ministry staff, we have to ask ourselves what we are paying them TO DO?If we are paying them to get out the gospel, then we are remiss, because, as a Christian, it was already the pastor’s job to do that before he became a professional. Just like it is your responsibility and mine. To pay him to spread the gospel to society is to suggest that he can do it in our stead, and that is sinful.But if we are paying him to equip US to fulfill our responsibilities more effectively, then we have done well. When I say the Church should be <>for<> Christians, I am referring to the institution of the church. We do not need to form an institution to spread the gospel, because we as individuals and families and small groups have that responsibility and privilege. But we often fall short in our capabilities, and find that forming an instutution is a very helpful thing to improve our effectiveness as reachers. But once that institution starts to do the work for us, we have failed.And to respond to telegraph canyon, not all home churches must become conventional churches. In countries where Christianity is growing the fastest, home churches quickly produce new leaders and multiply. Rather than a home church of 10 becoming a conventional church of 1,000, it becomes 100 (or 500!) home churches of 10. But I definitely agree with your ideas about Marketing, although we should be careful not to demonize the term itself.

  27. Beloved says:

    Tele,I’ve not been to more Catholic services than i can count on my fingers, but i’ve never been to one that involved celebration. LOL. “Reverence”, yes. But never any outbursts of praise. Not that it doesn’t happen, but celebration is probably not what the Catholic church is known for. I would say people come to Catholic churches because they’re stable, consistent, predictable and historic… people who are afraid of “movements”.Coreman,I get your drift now. You’re talking about the leadership doing the work of the laity, because the laity would rather pay them to do it. In that case, i’m 100% on board wit’cha. ;-) Nicely articulated.

  28. Beloved says:

    Tele,I’ve not been to more Catholic services than i can count on my fingers, but i’ve never been to one that involved celebration. LOL. “Reverence”, yes. But never any outbursts of praise. Not that it doesn’t happen, but celebration is probably not what the Catholic church is known for. I would say people come to Catholic churches because they’re stable, consistent, predictable and historic… people who are afraid of “movements”.Coreman,I get your drift now. You’re talking about the leadership doing the work of the laity, because the laity would rather pay them to do it. In that case, i’m 100% on board wit’cha. ;-) Nicely articulated.

  29. Beloved: Since you are in SW Missouri, you really should take a day trip to visit the Brothers and Sisters of Charity in Eureka Springs. I once saw a concert there featuring John Michael Talbot and Phil Keaggy that was far beyond any evangelical service I’ve ever been a part of. A real celebration. But I know what you mean about reverence. The Catholics are pretty quiet for the most part. But they have a big tent and would call us brothers. The group down in Eureka are doing the communal thing – living it day to day as families, even allowing marriage for their monks. They’ll freak you out and chalenge you, guaranteed.

  30. Beloved: Since you are in SW Missouri, you really should take a day trip to visit the Brothers and Sisters of Charity in Eureka Springs. I once saw a concert there featuring John Michael Talbot and Phil Keaggy that was far beyond any evangelical service I’ve ever been a part of. A real celebration. But I know what you mean about reverence. The Catholics are pretty quiet for the most part. But they have a big tent and would call us brothers. The group down in Eureka are doing the communal thing – living it day to day as families, even allowing marriage for their monks. They’ll freak you out and chalenge you, guaranteed.

  31. The Coreman says:

    You make me interested in this Eureka Springs group… but I would venture to suppose that any service involving Phil Keaggy would be extremely unique. He has been widely recognize in the <>secular rock<> world as the greatest guitarist alive.

  32. The Coreman says:

    You make me interested in this Eureka Springs group… but I would venture to suppose that any service involving Phil Keaggy would be extremely unique. He has been widely recognize in the <>secular rock<> world as the greatest guitarist alive.

  33. Jetpacks says:

    Coredude:Keaggy grew up Catholic, went the Evanglical route, and now sems to be migrating back toward his Catholic roots. I had the opportunuty to interview him once and asked him if I could ask the infamous, “is is true that Jimi Hendrix called you the greatest guitar player ever?” question. Keaggy requested we not talk about it, but allowed off the air that Hendrix had called him “one of the best.”And the show I saw in Eurkea was not one of your typical Keaggy pyrotechnic displays of virtuosity. The reason it was so great was that the Spirit was there in abundance. Keaggy was in his usual “disarming humility” mode.Yes, please check out this group in Eureka if you can. Take Beloved. You guys will have a great time “fellowshipping” in the truest sense of the word. On your way, stop in Highlandville and visit Karl Pruter at the World’s Smallest Cathedral. This man has got it going on.

  34. Jetpacks says:

    Coredude:Keaggy grew up Catholic, went the Evanglical route, and now sems to be migrating back toward his Catholic roots. I had the opportunuty to interview him once and asked him if I could ask the infamous, “is is true that Jimi Hendrix called you the greatest guitar player ever?” question. Keaggy requested we not talk about it, but allowed off the air that Hendrix had called him “one of the best.”And the show I saw in Eurkea was not one of your typical Keaggy pyrotechnic displays of virtuosity. The reason it was so great was that the Spirit was there in abundance. Keaggy was in his usual “disarming humility” mode.Yes, please check out this group in Eureka if you can. Take Beloved. You guys will have a great time “fellowshipping” in the truest sense of the word. On your way, stop in Highlandville and visit Karl Pruter at the World’s Smallest Cathedral. This man has got it going on.

  35. Beloved says:

    I’d like to pay them a visit. I’m really into the communal thing. In fact, it’s what we’ve been trying to build The Core on. We just haven’t figured out how yet. Part of it is that everyone ’round here is enslaved by The Man. We work and strive to make ends meat, so we have very little “leftover” for one another, let alone the lost and hurting. We’re slaves, my brother. And until we’re all desperately convinced that transformational, incarnational community requires us to give up our American way of life (i.e. owning individual homes in different parts of town, shopping at Wal-Mart, eating at McDonald’s, working odd hours and long hours, maintaining our personal space, having an abundance of individual “family time”, etc.), then i’m convinced we won’t see it happen.Coreman, would you like to interject?

  36. Beloved says:

    I’d like to pay them a visit. I’m really into the communal thing. In fact, it’s what we’ve been trying to build The Core on. We just haven’t figured out how yet. Part of it is that everyone ’round here is enslaved by The Man. We work and strive to make ends meat, so we have very little “leftover” for one another, let alone the lost and hurting. We’re slaves, my brother. And until we’re all desperately convinced that transformational, incarnational community requires us to give up our American way of life (i.e. owning individual homes in different parts of town, shopping at Wal-Mart, eating at McDonald’s, working odd hours and long hours, maintaining our personal space, having an abundance of individual “family time”, etc.), then i’m convinced we won’t see it happen.Coreman, would you like to interject?

  37. I hear you on the enslavement thing. To accomplish community would take a huge infusion of cash. (Or maybe you can find two to three homes that are next door to each other!)The reason they were able to do it down in Eureka is that the founder, John Michael Talbot, made a ton of money from album sales.Then again, you could always go the way of the monks out in Ava. Make and sell a product that sustains the community. In their case, it’s fruitcake. Other Abbeys have started their own breweries. It’s been fun to meet you guys and dialog. I’ll check in here regularly to see what you’re discussing, if you don’t mind.

  38. I hear you on the enslavement thing. To accomplish community would take a huge infusion of cash. (Or maybe you can find two to three homes that are next door to each other!)The reason they were able to do it down in Eureka is that the founder, John Michael Talbot, made a ton of money from album sales.Then again, you could always go the way of the monks out in Ava. Make and sell a product that sustains the community. In their case, it’s fruitcake. Other Abbeys have started their own breweries. It’s been fun to meet you guys and dialog. I’ll check in here regularly to see what you’re discussing, if you don’t mind.

  39. Reacher says:

    I had the pleasure of sitting next to John Michael Talbot on a plane coming back from China. The dude’s amazing. I recommend his book, “Come to the Quiet.” He would have quite a bit to say about the sugar-shock gunpowder seduction put on by Six Flags over Jesus. When we make noise and spectacle the vehicle for our relationship with holy God, we forever change the identity of our savior. Jesus is not a member of the Power Team that fosters bigger and better; he is a still small voice that runs counter to nearly every natural impulse we are taught by our consumeristic culture. I’m sure the JC Supercenter snags a few new shoppers at their annual event, but to what end? To make them more a son of hell…? That may be a bit harsh, but it concerns me to see Jesus promoted like RVs and politicians. I suppose God can be found in a Starbucks-sponsored Power Point, but not as easily as we might expect.

  40. Reacher says:

    I had the pleasure of sitting next to John Michael Talbot on a plane coming back from China. The dude’s amazing. I recommend his book, “Come to the Quiet.” He would have quite a bit to say about the sugar-shock gunpowder seduction put on by Six Flags over Jesus. When we make noise and spectacle the vehicle for our relationship with holy God, we forever change the identity of our savior. Jesus is not a member of the Power Team that fosters bigger and better; he is a still small voice that runs counter to nearly every natural impulse we are taught by our consumeristic culture. I’m sure the JC Supercenter snags a few new shoppers at their annual event, but to what end? To make them more a son of hell…? That may be a bit harsh, but it concerns me to see Jesus promoted like RVs and politicians. I suppose God can be found in a Starbucks-sponsored Power Point, but not as easily as we might expect.

  41. The Coreman says:

    Even if we can’t avoid being enslaved to “The Man” of the paycheck, at least we don’t have to be enslaved to “The Man” of the Religious Circus.Why do I all of a sudden feel like throwing on a Jimi Hendrix 45?

  42. The Coreman says:

    Even if we can’t avoid being enslaved to “The Man” of the paycheck, at least we don’t have to be enslaved to “The Man” of the Religious Circus.Why do I all of a sudden feel like throwing on a Jimi Hendrix 45?

  43. Beloved says:

    But can you be a slave to God and to the Kingdom if you’re a slave to economics? The easy excuse is that we have to provide for our basic needs for our families, which we can use to validate whatever career/financial situation we are currently in. But what we tend to forget is that there are numerous ways of financial stewardship/survival that we never consider due to our Americanization, consumerization, and individualization. And that’s not to mention the sins we heap upon one another simply by the act of consuming goods that are produced by the torturous slavery of children in other lands. There’s a lot more to intentional community than just localized efficiency. A huge part of it is social justice. And somehow in the midst of simplicity, efficiency, intimacy and justice, “outsiders” encounter Jesus.

  44. Beloved says:

    But can you be a slave to God and to the Kingdom if you’re a slave to economics? The easy excuse is that we have to provide for our basic needs for our families, which we can use to validate whatever career/financial situation we are currently in. But what we tend to forget is that there are numerous ways of financial stewardship/survival that we never consider due to our Americanization, consumerization, and individualization. And that’s not to mention the sins we heap upon one another simply by the act of consuming goods that are produced by the torturous slavery of children in other lands. There’s a lot more to intentional community than just localized efficiency. A huge part of it is social justice. And somehow in the midst of simplicity, efficiency, intimacy and justice, “outsiders” encounter Jesus.

  45. shak el says:

    James River A. is what happens when you combine capitalism and Christianity…you just get marketed to for eternity….

  46. shak el says:

    James River A. is what happens when you combine capitalism and Christianity…you just get marketed to for eternity….

  47. Jetpacks says:

    Beloved:What are we gonna do? You need cash to live here in Babylon. You can’t just abandon your family out of “faith.” (Actually, you can – < HREF="http://www.radiofreebabylon.com/music/rfbmusicrfbbb.php" REL="nofollow">I’ve done it.<> – it all worked out in the end.)Unless you are ready to get taken there by God, to abject poverty and total dependence, (and who is?) you will need an alterante plan to make it work. We need cash. And cash is found through offering a service or a product, like fruitcake or beer. It isn’t found in tithes and begging. We must be men. We must work. We must create cashflow.Then, we’ll see communities spring up. I point to Keith Green – or John Michael Talbot. They offered a service – they made money – they created communities.And while this whole thread started as a rant against James River-styled theatrics and pyrotechnics, the blame falls as easily on the Second Baptists of the world. Tongues or not, the Evangelicals got it wrong.A brief and true story, from the mouths of babes: I was driving my niece and nephew some years ago through Springpatch. We passed the then under construction monstrosity at Battlefield and Ingram Mill. My niece, who was from Waynesville and about 10 at the time, wanted to know what that big thing under construction was. I explained it was a church. “A church?” she exclaimed, being from a small Baptist congregation in the Ozarks 75 miles East, “I thought it was a bank!” Yeah – that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout. Money. You got a better way to minister? I know you do. Those of us who do should give our money, our tithe, to ourselves – and get about the building of the Kingdom and the opening of the eyes. Our churches ain’t doin’ it. Those giant “banks” are spending our money on theatre and nonsense, gimmicks and trickery. They have turned the Father’s house into a den of thieves. Merchants in the Sancturay – and Marketers in the Foyer. To quote Phil Keaggy – who was only quoting Van Morrison – “But you gotta do it your own way – tear down the old and bring up the new.”

  48. Jetpacks says:

    Beloved:What are we gonna do? You need cash to live here in Babylon. You can’t just abandon your family out of “faith.” (Actually, you can – < HREF="http://www.radiofreebabylon.com/music/rfbmusicrfbbb.php" REL="nofollow">I’ve done it.<> – it all worked out in the end.)Unless you are ready to get taken there by God, to abject poverty and total dependence, (and who is?) you will need an alterante plan to make it work. We need cash. And cash is found through offering a service or a product, like fruitcake or beer. It isn’t found in tithes and begging. We must be men. We must work. We must create cashflow.Then, we’ll see communities spring up. I point to Keith Green – or John Michael Talbot. They offered a service – they made money – they created communities.And while this whole thread started as a rant against James River-styled theatrics and pyrotechnics, the blame falls as easily on the Second Baptists of the world. Tongues or not, the Evangelicals got it wrong.A brief and true story, from the mouths of babes: I was driving my niece and nephew some years ago through Springpatch. We passed the then under construction monstrosity at Battlefield and Ingram Mill. My niece, who was from Waynesville and about 10 at the time, wanted to know what that big thing under construction was. I explained it was a church. “A church?” she exclaimed, being from a small Baptist congregation in the Ozarks 75 miles East, “I thought it was a bank!” Yeah – that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout. Money. You got a better way to minister? I know you do. Those of us who do should give our money, our tithe, to ourselves – and get about the building of the Kingdom and the opening of the eyes. Our churches ain’t doin’ it. Those giant “banks” are spending our money on theatre and nonsense, gimmicks and trickery. They have turned the Father’s house into a den of thieves. Merchants in the Sancturay – and Marketers in the Foyer. To quote Phil Keaggy – who was only quoting Van Morrison – “But you gotta do it your own way – tear down the old and bring up the new.”

  49. Beloved says:

    Actually, i wasn’t insenuating that we sit around, twiddle our thumbs, and “depend on faith” rather than work. I would agree that that’s presumptous, misinformed nonsense. Rather, i was suggesting that we be more choosy about the types of career and financial choices we make. Americans across the board are working longer and longer hours as time goes on. It is now status quo for both parents of a household to be working full-time, not to mention that single parents have to work at least two full-time jobs (one at home, one at their place of employment, sometimes another one on top of that) just to keep up with the bills.Our society’s consumeristic values have driven us to farm ourselves out to ONE SUPREME PRIORITY: bringin’ home the Benjamins. Of course, the working class does this and just barely manages to get by. The bourgeousie and upper classes work 60-80 hours a week on average so that they can maintain the house payments for their $200,000+ homes and their Hummers, along with their water toys, home entertainment systems, Ray Ban sunglasses, luxurious vacations and club memberships. If only this equated happiness.Depression is at an all-time high among Americans, along with unsurpassed personal debt and the lowest ever percentage of income being allotted to savings. American families, and thus the American Church, are in an economic crisis and they don’t even know it. The problem is that no one thinks twice about the destruction to individuals, families, churches, communities, and society as a whole, that results from these perverted priorities. We just keep on working ourselves into the ground, neglecting ourselves, our families, our churches and communities so that we can continue spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need but have been manipulated to want.The solution is not to quit working. The solution is to work smarter and to give up the so-called need to maintain the status quo American standard of living. The solution is to put family (self, spouse, children) and Church (Kingdom building, disciple making) first, and career second. That’s a revolutionary message to most Americans. They might SAY that they are working longer and harder “for the sake of their families” or “so that they can donate more to the Church”, but statistics show that (1) families are falling apart, (2) people are depressed, and (3) churches are going bankrupt or are up to their steeples in debt, because tithing is somewhere between 1 and 2%.Like the examples you cited, we need to be creative in how we organize ourselves into community. We need to be interdependent on one another in the Body of Christ, not independent. We need to be self-sustaining as much as possible, so as not to be reliant upon the mass distribution moguls. We’re not talking a new paint job on an old barn here. We’re talking tearing the whole thing down (as you quoted) and building something new.Seems like i remember someone else having the same philosophy…“I’ll tear this temple down in three days and rebuild it.”–Jesus

  50. Beloved says:

    Actually, i wasn’t insenuating that we sit around, twiddle our thumbs, and “depend on faith” rather than work. I would agree that that’s presumptous, misinformed nonsense. Rather, i was suggesting that we be more choosy about the types of career and financial choices we make. Americans across the board are working longer and longer hours as time goes on. It is now status quo for both parents of a household to be working full-time, not to mention that single parents have to work at least two full-time jobs (one at home, one at their place of employment, sometimes another one on top of that) just to keep up with the bills.Our society’s consumeristic values have driven us to farm ourselves out to ONE SUPREME PRIORITY: bringin’ home the Benjamins. Of course, the working class does this and just barely manages to get by. The bourgeousie and upper classes work 60-80 hours a week on average so that they can maintain the house payments for their $200,000+ homes and their Hummers, along with their water toys, home entertainment systems, Ray Ban sunglasses, luxurious vacations and club memberships. If only this equated happiness.Depression is at an all-time high among Americans, along with unsurpassed personal debt and the lowest ever percentage of income being allotted to savings. American families, and thus the American Church, are in an economic crisis and they don’t even know it. The problem is that no one thinks twice about the destruction to individuals, families, churches, communities, and society as a whole, that results from these perverted priorities. We just keep on working ourselves into the ground, neglecting ourselves, our families, our churches and communities so that we can continue spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need but have been manipulated to want.The solution is not to quit working. The solution is to work smarter and to give up the so-called need to maintain the status quo American standard of living. The solution is to put family (self, spouse, children) and Church (Kingdom building, disciple making) first, and career second. That’s a revolutionary message to most Americans. They might SAY that they are working longer and harder “for the sake of their families” or “so that they can donate more to the Church”, but statistics show that (1) families are falling apart, (2) people are depressed, and (3) churches are going bankrupt or are up to their steeples in debt, because tithing is somewhere between 1 and 2%.Like the examples you cited, we need to be creative in how we organize ourselves into community. We need to be interdependent on one another in the Body of Christ, not independent. We need to be self-sustaining as much as possible, so as not to be reliant upon the mass distribution moguls. We’re not talking a new paint job on an old barn here. We’re talking tearing the whole thing down (as you quoted) and building something new.Seems like i remember someone else having the same philosophy…“I’ll tear this temple down in three days and rebuild it.”–Jesus

  51. The Coreman says:

    I have to defend Beloved’s comment by saying the humans don’t actually NEED cash. You can’t eat it. It could possibly serve as clothing or shelther, but not cheaply or effectively.Cash is a means to an end. And although I don’t believe that Beloved is specifically proposing this, there have been Christian communes (and even Jewish Kibbutzes) that promote community in a very traditional sense, all working together for the benefit of the group. Cash is not technically necessary in an environment like this.But I say that just for the sake of argument, not because I (or Beloved) believe that to be the best solution.And lastly, I hope I haven’t set an example of judgmentalism. We are in no place to judge the heart of anybody who works at or attends James River, Second Baptist or any other church, merely by their buildings or programs. Although I don’t always agree with their methods, I know the pastor of Second Baptist quite well, in addition to several other senior ministers, and I have seen exhaustive humility and an obsession to follow Christ to the ends of the earth. Naturally this is not all I’ve seen, but I am indeed humbled by the strength of character I have witnessed among those men and women of faith.The fact that God is pointing me in a different direction should not lead me to denigrate anyone’s passion to spead the light of Christ. However, I do hope we are all prepared to hold each other accountable as we do it.

  52. The Coreman says:

    I have to defend Beloved’s comment by saying the humans don’t actually NEED cash. You can’t eat it. It could possibly serve as clothing or shelther, but not cheaply or effectively.Cash is a means to an end. And although I don’t believe that Beloved is specifically proposing this, there have been Christian communes (and even Jewish Kibbutzes) that promote community in a very traditional sense, all working together for the benefit of the group. Cash is not technically necessary in an environment like this.But I say that just for the sake of argument, not because I (or Beloved) believe that to be the best solution.And lastly, I hope I haven’t set an example of judgmentalism. We are in no place to judge the heart of anybody who works at or attends James River, Second Baptist or any other church, merely by their buildings or programs. Although I don’t always agree with their methods, I know the pastor of Second Baptist quite well, in addition to several other senior ministers, and I have seen exhaustive humility and an obsession to follow Christ to the ends of the earth. Naturally this is not all I’ve seen, but I am indeed humbled by the strength of character I have witnessed among those men and women of faith.The fact that God is pointing me in a different direction should not lead me to denigrate anyone’s passion to spead the light of Christ. However, I do hope we are all prepared to hold each other accountable as we do it.

  53. Jetpacks says:

    I’m not denigrating anyone’s passion. I too know good and godly men in high positions of organized religion who rose to those positions primarily because they displayed humility and compassion, Richard Dresselhaus among them, one of the Executive Presbyters of the Assemblies of God. You’ve not set an example of judgementalism – you’ve just opened up the hot topic that the route some of our churches have taken is wrong, dangerous, and counter-productive – and they should be held accountable – or we should leave them.

  54. Jetpacks says:

    I’m not denigrating anyone’s passion. I too know good and godly men in high positions of organized religion who rose to those positions primarily because they displayed humility and compassion, Richard Dresselhaus among them, one of the Executive Presbyters of the Assemblies of God. You’ve not set an example of judgementalism – you’ve just opened up the hot topic that the route some of our churches have taken is wrong, dangerous, and counter-productive – and they should be held accountable – or we should leave them.

  55. Ryan,I read you post and appreciate the spirit and most of the thought within. I tink the problem is not with James River, or Second Baptist, or High Street, or ever Olsteen’s Lakewood, or Warren’s Saddleback. Large (mega) churches have a place and need to exist. They fill a market. They minister to and evangelize those who like that environment. I remember in the mid 90’s getting up from my dorm room at Hammon’s Hall (msu) and dreading getting ready, and trecking all the way out Battlefield to go to church at 2ndbap. Or if I was running late I would jsut stop in a university heights. Either way i was helping those churches fill one more chair, leaveing thousands of classmates behind. If I were in springfield today, I’d want to help start the grungiest emergent christ centered churches as close as i could to downtown/msu area….maybe right across from Martha’s Vineyard :) but you know what? Sounds to me like god has pulled you out of the fold and given this job to you. Doesn’t make James river bad, jsut different. Doesn’t demean what Central AOG does…jsut makes them different. We need all sorts of churches. Oldfolks gotta worship too. but I am jsut glad god is raising up younger pastors to shepard the emergent flock who seeks to fill a God sized hole in theri hearts. god bless, Kevin

  56. Ryan,I read you post and appreciate the spirit and most of the thought within. I tink the problem is not with James River, or Second Baptist, or High Street, or ever Olsteen’s Lakewood, or Warren’s Saddleback. Large (mega) churches have a place and need to exist. They fill a market. They minister to and evangelize those who like that environment. I remember in the mid 90’s getting up from my dorm room at Hammon’s Hall (msu) and dreading getting ready, and trecking all the way out Battlefield to go to church at 2ndbap. Or if I was running late I would jsut stop in a university heights. Either way i was helping those churches fill one more chair, leaveing thousands of classmates behind. If I were in springfield today, I’d want to help start the grungiest emergent christ centered churches as close as i could to downtown/msu area….maybe right across from Martha’s Vineyard :) but you know what? Sounds to me like god has pulled you out of the fold and given this job to you. Doesn’t make James river bad, jsut different. Doesn’t demean what Central AOG does…jsut makes them different. We need all sorts of churches. Oldfolks gotta worship too. but I am jsut glad god is raising up younger pastors to shepard the emergent flock who seeks to fill a God sized hole in theri hearts. god bless, Kevin

  57. The Coreman says:

    kmike, it’s that attitude that I am always striving for. My wife is a major accountability in my life to help keep me from dogging the establishment too much.Did you read the subsequent post, “The Truth In Love”? I think it’s really important in order to get a complete picture of my views. These two posts really amounted to a journey for me, that changed the way I think.But I do contest the idea that megachurches need to exist. For a very long time there was no such thing. And the reason you give, that “they fill a market” is exactly the kind of misguided thinking that megachurches are foisting on Christendom.Lakewood, Saddleback, James River, and churches like them are always in danger of operating exactly like large corporations, and catering to people who “like that environment.” I believe one of the main reasons people like that environment so much is because it offers anonymity. They can have fun, feel like they’re part of something successful, and never have to expose their spiritual brokenness or be personally challenged to an uncomfortable degree. This is not to say that such is the intention of these megachurches. But it is a huge, and necessary side-effect at the very least.I wish you were in Springfield. In some ways, The Core promises to be pretty grungy. But instead of being across from Martha’s Vineyard, we’ll be next to Ernie Biggs.

  58. The Coreman says:

    kmike, it’s that attitude that I am always striving for. My wife is a major accountability in my life to help keep me from dogging the establishment too much.Did you read the subsequent post, “The Truth In Love”? I think it’s really important in order to get a complete picture of my views. These two posts really amounted to a journey for me, that changed the way I think.But I do contest the idea that megachurches need to exist. For a very long time there was no such thing. And the reason you give, that “they fill a market” is exactly the kind of misguided thinking that megachurches are foisting on Christendom.Lakewood, Saddleback, James River, and churches like them are always in danger of operating exactly like large corporations, and catering to people who “like that environment.” I believe one of the main reasons people like that environment so much is because it offers anonymity. They can have fun, feel like they’re part of something successful, and never have to expose their spiritual brokenness or be personally challenged to an uncomfortable degree. This is not to say that such is the intention of these megachurches. But it is a huge, and necessary side-effect at the very least.I wish you were in Springfield. In some ways, The Core promises to be pretty grungy. But instead of being across from Martha’s Vineyard, we’ll be next to Ernie Biggs.

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