Honesty is Hard to Come By

I have been thinking alot lately about relationships and the kinds of relationships I foster. I have come to the conclusion that developing genuine relationships is one of the most spiritual things that we can do. Think about it for a minute. When we are developing an honest, open, genuine relationship we are doing so with a human being, created in the very image of God. How many times have we prayed and not had our hearts into it? How many times have we sung worship songs and not meant a word of it? It is impossible to really initiate, develop and nurture a genuine, honest relationship with another human being and not be engaging the God of the universe.

This was the topic of discussion for our weekend gathering last week. We talked about how we have a tendency to develop relationships for selfish reasons. For me it is about giving...Earning the right to speak into someone's life...Wanting to help them. This is a VERY one sided relationship because for me I am developing not a true relationship but a dependent. NOT HEALTHY.

After I got done sharing I asked everyone to talk about where they are in the area of relationships and what God was speaking to them as to what they need to do in response to where they are.

The honesty was astounding. I have never been in a church service where people are so open and honest. It was truly breathtaking. It made me think: why are churches havens for fakeness? Why do we set up systems whereby people are not only allowed to be fake but most of our actions lead them to be so?

What would the American church look like if more pastors would just get up in front of their congregations and say, "So I have been pretty fake. Who you see on Sunday mornings is not who I really am." I think we would become a place of healing and safety that would change the world...

Just a thought.


Honoring Heros

It all started with this article: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/baseball/243041_mari01.html

For those of you who won't take the time to read it, I'll give you a synopsis. It is the account of Dan Wilson's last game as a Seattle Mariner. It was not just his last game as a Mariner but his last game as a Baseball Player. As of this morning, Dan Wilson is no longer a Professional Baseball Player. But that is not what inspired me to write this article. What inspired me was the way in which Dan Wilson was honored last night.

Baseball, in my oppinion, is the greatest sport in the world and this account is one of those reasons. What other sport would honor someone in this way? Dan had what seemed to be a season ending injury. He was in what everyone considered the last season of his career. Since 1992 he had been a fixture in Seattle. He even played on the immortalized 1995 team that saved Baseball in Seattle. He was consistantly one of the best catchers in the game...arguably the best pitch caller currently playing. What would football do with a player like this as he ends his career? They would invite his family to the field and give him a little ceremony at half time. What would basketball do? Probably something similar. But baseball...now baseball is an all together different sport. In baseball special accomidations were made. The Mariner's even let him come back, suit up and catch one final inning. Not only did they let him do that, they let him catch on the night is oldest team mate was pitching. They made provision for him to do what he as done one last time with people around him that he loved. As I read the account of Dan heading back out to the field for the last time to warm up his long time friend I couldn't help but tear up. This was a sacred moment for those two men, 34,000 fans, and a host of others who have followed this team.

As I sat thinking about this moment the thought occured to me: Why do we not have these kinds of moments in the church? Why are we so affraid of honoring people and making everyone else feel like lesser Christians? Not only was last night quite possibly Jamie Moyer's last game in a Mariner's uniform, but Ichiro became the sixth player in the history of Baseball to hit 200 base-hits in 5 consecutive seasons. Still I would wager to say that not one of the players, managers, or coaches in that building felt any less. In fact, I would wager that the opposite was happening. They were, like I was, inspired. Something that happens far to seldom in our world.

The real problem comes when we honor those who have position but have not garnered respect. People feel slighted when they see someone who has a position but not sacrificed. People get jealous when they see someone who is self serving gloat in the spot light. People feel inspired and want to do more when they see someone who is truely great do what they do one last time in a meaningful way.

Last night Dan Wilson not only showed us what a great Baseball player is, he showed us how to truely honor somone who has accomplished great things. It is just another reason why guys like this deserve to be honored, and why we in the church must be constantly looking for people like Dan to learn from.


Seasons Versus Systems

Once again the church has screwed it’s members into thinking they suck! Ok maybe screwed is a strong word but I think it illustrates my point very accurately. How? By giving the people of the Western church “systems” thinking instead of teaching them “seasons” thinking. What, you may ask, is the difference? Let me explain. For the past 150 years or so science has been “king.” Scientific method has so permeated our society that we even have cultural icons that represent the logical end of such thinking. Think of TV characters such as Spock from StarTrek. We have become so infatuated with logic and systems thinking that we want a system for everything. We have developed 12 step groups, deal-a-meal programs, educational benchmarks. Our whole society is run by systems. This is in no way to say that “systems” thinking is a bad thing. I personally think that “systems” thinking is the way that business, economies and governments should be run. The problem comes when you try to apply a system to something that is not, has never been and will never be a system.

Before I give you an example of the absurdity of applying “systems” thinking to areas it cannot be applied to, I should give you an over-simplified explanation of systems thinking is. “Systems” thinking says A + B = C. If I do “A” and add it to “B” the result in my life will be “C.” So in very common terms: If I (A) work out and add it to (B) eat healthy then I will (C) look like Mel Gibson. Sounds absurd doesn’t it. But in reality it is exactly what most people do when it comes to spirituality. If I (A) read my Bible everyday and (B) spend daily time in prayer then I will (C) have a close and meaningful relationship to God.

This kind of “systems” thinking CANNOT be applied to some areas of our lives and spirituality is one of those areas. Let me give you an example to prove my point:
Imagine that you meet the man or woman of your dreams. They are funny, thoughtful, spiritual, humble, assertive, beautiful…you get the picture. Then the first time they ask you out for dinner they sit you down and say the following, “I have been working on a relationship system for some time now and if we are going to have a relationship we must adhere to my system. The system must be strictly adhered to and we cannot move on to a new step until the last step has been completed. The system is as follows:
a) Spend 30 minutes each day talking
b) Share with each other the 5 biggest triumphs of our lives
c) Hug. Short. Not overly stimulating
d) Share with each other the 5 biggest disappointments of our lives
e) Hold Hands. This must be done in a private place or a darkened place as to not cause any unneeded attention from onlookers.
f) Share our life’s passion with one another
g) Kiss. Only once and only a peck
h) Meet each other’s families starting with our Parents then moving on to siblings and finally extended family.
i) Fall in Love
j) Get engaged
k) Get married
l) Live a happily married life

I wonder how many of us would stick around for date number 2? You simply cannot put that kind of “system” into place for a relationship. It just does not work.

Why then is this the kind of tactics we use when in comes to our faith? We want to give people a 4 base system to becoming a church member. 101, 201, 301, and 401, classes on becoming a productive member of the Kingdom of God. 10 Steps to the life you have always dreamed of. Am I the only one who reads the titles of these books and feel like I’m hearing a class president election speech from Pedro? “Vote for me and all your wildest dreams will come true.”

The church has screwed it’s people by teaching the a systematized spirituality. Screwed literally. Screwed because something new has been created by the action. Maybe raped would be a better word. Like an unwanted pregnancy, The church (and by church I mean well intentioned leaders) has “created” within the minds of it’s people a systems approach to the spiritual that each individual will be left to deal with on their own.

We need to change the way we teach people. We MUST start teaching them in terms of “Seasons” not “systems.”

Seasons thinking is the agricultural approach to spirituality. It is the farmer’s way of thinking. I plant some day in the spring and tend some days in the summer and harvest sometime in the fall. Notice how our minds tend to put this into a system? Think of it this way…The day you met (or someday will meet) the person of your dreams you will have planted a seed. That seed must be watered, weeded etc. but most days you can only watch it sprout. WHY? Because God is making it grow. This is the way our spiritual lives must be. Not a linear race but an evolution. A slow gradual shift in our inner beings until one day we can look back and see that we are new creations in Christ but will never be able to pick out the exact day or time that that transformation took place. We have told people that salvation is a system…Believe in your heart, say a prayer, mean it and you will be saved. I don’t buy it. I have seen too many people follow this system and end up either disillusioned or “backslidden.” We can debat the issue of eternal security until we are blue in the face the real issue is that we have taken a love relationship (our relationship with God) and applied a man made system to it to create a sense of achievement.

You say, don’t you, ‘In four more months the harvest will be here?’ Look, I tell you, open your eyes and observe that the fields are ready for harvesting! – John 4:35


Black Tuesday

Don't Just Read this post...Listen to it: Click Me

In Early 1929 a large number of “experts” and analysts, who’s pleas to change the way the American business system functioned, went unheeded and even scoffed. They were called “doomsayers,” “pessimists,” even “opportunists.” They could sense, like animals before a storm, that impending tragedy was lurking around the corner. More importantly they not only sensed it they could see the signs that it was coming. I’m sure that many of them felt like Chicken Little, crying, “The sky is falling” and meeting responses of disbelief and disregard. For many of these “experts” their reputation and livelihood became more important to them than the eminent failure they saw in the economic structure of the United States. By as early as April of 1929 many of the “experts” of economics had not only warned the politicians, bankers, brokers and the public, but then just as quickly went against their better judgment and changed their message in fear for their own longevity in the economic and academic worlds. Black Tuesday took the country by “surprise.” How could something so destructive come so suddenly and without warning?

Fast forward to the year 2005. There are a group of “doomsayers,” “pessimists,” and “opportunists,” in the American church that are pleading with church leaders to change the way that American Christianity is structured, and implemented but they like their counterparts 80 years earlier, are largely being scoffed, mocked, and even charged as being heretical. It helps when big names and researchers like George Barna seem to confirm what grassroots leaders have been saying for some time, but for the most part it is business as usual in the American church. In the years that preceded the great stock market crash of 1929 business was booming. Markets were at all time highs. Profits had never been higher. Remember they were called the “Roaring 20’s” because of the “boom” in most aspects of American life. Look at what internet encyclopedia says about “The Roaring Twenties:”

The Roaring Twenties refers to the North American historical period of the 1920s, which has been described as "one of the most colorful decades in American history." The decade encapsulates a fascinating story, beginning with the return of young soldiers from the fronts of the First World War and emergence of a new and confident face of the modern womanhood, and ending with the sad note of the Black Tuesday, harbinger of the Great Depression. The years of the Roaring Twenties are marked by several inventions and discoveries of far reaching consequences; emergence of unprecedented industrial boom and accelerated consumer demand and aspirations, coupled with significant changes in the lifestyle; and a series of events, national as well as the international, which shaped a large part of the history of the 20th century.

Call me a “doomsayer” but this is exactly where I believe the American Christian Church is headed.
“But look at the acceptance we are getting in society!”
“Look at the way the Christian music market is growing!”
“For the first time in years we have a real Christian in the White House!”
I can hear all of the objections now. I have even heard some say that by my thinking that I am headed down a slippery slope of heresy, and “liberalism.” I think my feelings about the current state of the church can be summed up by a comment by a good friend of mine that recently quit his position as a pastor at a large church. He said, “The more churches I visit the more fearful I am for the future of the church [in America].”
Why? Because even though we are enjoying a time of prosperity, and acceptance by society, we are on the verge of a spiritual collapse. Even though we have Rick Warren selling more books than J.K. Rowling, the church is becoming irrelevant. Even though Joel Osteen just bought the Compaq Center, the majority of churches in America are in decline and selling off their buildings to developers or Buddhists to be transformed into temples. We are, in many ways, like the naked king, thinking we are robed in the “bridal gown” that we will don prior to the return of the Lord. We are exposed, naked, and on the verge of humiliation but we are the only ones that fail to see it. Documentation of this would take volumes and pages too numerous to write here.

Let me just say this: Let the leaders of the church that are living at the grassroots NEVER stop calling to the leaders in their ivory towers. Let us be vigilant to the vision God has birthed within our breasts. Let us keep loving Christ passionately, and seeking to heal the infirmities of the Bride of Christ. Let us guard our hearts against cynicism, and feelings of rejection. We must remember that even though the stock market crashed it did not die. When Jesus said, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” he was talking about the same church we are.
It is the guinea pig that often gets killed; and the Pioneer who suffers the greatest. Remember that we are the pioneers of the American Church. We are forging into uncharted waters, and forests that hold all manner of danger. We must have a right heart before God if we are to brave the “dangers” and still receive the blessing of God.


I'm going to resurrect this Blog!

So most of you know that I have moved my blog to chriscochran.etumos.org, but I am going to resurrect this blog as the other one has been taken over by The CarCast.

God has been teaching me a lot this weekend. I can't even tell you how much I feel like I have learned. Most of it happened within a few short hours on Saturday. It started when I was getting ready for church (truth be told I was writing out the notes for my message) and one of my core team members called me and told me that he was not going to be at church...Because he was tired due to the fact that he went to a DJ concert the night before. I was really pissed to be honest. Not happy. A conversation about the situation with my wife ensued. It was not one of those happy conversations like where you talk about how proud of your kids you are. It was more like one of those conversations where you get really honest. The funny part is that while it was not exactly fun it was VERY healthy.

When we got to church it turned out that there were only 5 adults and 2 kids there. At first I was kind of dismayed but then as we were about to get started it seemed kind of pointless to run a "service" for 5 people. So I gathered everyone around a table and God began to speak to my heart. He began to talk to me about how many people (like our community) have lost the heart that God has for the Body of Christ.

He calls us his Bride. Think about that. Think about the weddings you have been to recently and how the bride and groom looked into each other's eyes and were so enamored with each other. That is how God thinks of his bride. Think about how you love your own body to the point that you would never let something bad happen to even your pinkie toe. That is the example that God gave us.

So we sang some worship and then had a time of prayer for the Body of Christ. The Bride of Christ.

In the middle of it God spoke to me about my feelings about the Body of Christ. He also told me that one of the things our church needs is more of the power of the Holy Spirit. Not freaky weirdness but the true genuine power of God that changes lives. We need more joy, prayer, freedom, and direction from God.

How do we do church differently and still allow the power of God to move? I have no clue...But I'm about to find out.

A funny thought occurred to me: It is often the guinea pigs that get messed up the most...But oh how fun it is to be the first guinea pig.



Well not physically but I have moved this blog to here:


As you can see it is a lot more flexible and better looking.

So go there from now on....Sorry if it is an inconvenience.



A New Hermeneutic

I am speaking for the first time in about three months this coming Sunday. It will be at my father in-law’s church in Bremerton. It is funny because for the first time in a long time I feel like I am struggling with the message I am supposed to speak. Why the struggle? Because I am about half way through writing what I really feel like God has called me to speak to them and my recent changes in philosophy of ministry are nagging me.

I set out to just write a sermon like every sermon I have ever written before. The church is a very traditional Pentecostal church so the kind of sermon I would normally speak would be just fine. As I was writing it today I kind of started second guessing myself. Not about subject matter but about how I should be communicating it. Am I selling myself out if I “go back” and preach a message like I would have a year ago?
I kept asking myself if this sermon was me or if it was God directing me? I kind of think it has to do with something I have never put into words before….Something McLaren calls letting the Bible read you rather than you reading the Bible. It is something I have always done instinctively but never articulated. The concept is this: rather than reading the Bible for answers to all of our questions we should be “honestly [listening] to the story and put[ting] ourselves under it’s spell, so to speak…trusting God to use it to pose questions to us about us.”

It is funny how therapeutic writing like this is…In writing this I just answered my own question. The problem is that I am using scripture to answer a question…In this case: “How do I live a life of faith?” What I am not doing is something that I usually do when I speak…letting the Bible ask me the question and searching that out to it’s conclusion (if there is really a ‘conclusion’ to the question).

So with the revelation I have just received I go back to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show me where it is that he would have me “let the Bible read me?