Recently, I’ve seen articles about the death of the traditional contemporary church, I’ve heard messages on how the “missional movement” will also fail, and all around I see churches closing down, pastors in recovery, and the general tone is that the ship “the church” is going down.” Today as I write this I’m actually training about 150 pastors in church renovation practices, and I see the same hunger for some nugget of truth that can reverse the trend.
They ask, “So how should we do church?” “What should I stop doing, what programs should I begin? “Where should I spend my time and money?” And more questions about church.
The answers to our tensions are not found in these questions. The answer is more simple than that. You can’t fix the church by focusing on Church. The Church is something that God builds completely and utterly as “disciples” are made. In other words, if we create disciples that make as big a deal as Jesus did about kingdom living, church sort of takes care of itself. As we see most churches struggling, and millions now leaving the church; and as we see the unchurched culture around us absolutely un-inspired and uninterested in doing church with us, I believe the real issue to be that of what a true disciple is and what they do.
In early church stories recorded in scripture, (Hugh Halter translation) “people held them (the disciples of Jesus) in high respect, but were actually afraid to join them.” “They (the disciples) turned entire regions upside down.” “Word about them (the disciples) echoed how they had turned from idols to serve the living God.”
The disciples(the peasants, prostitutes, woodworkers, soldiers, rabbis, and riffraff) were taking on not just the message of Jesus, but the life of Jesus and although they were an intimidating bunch, people just couldn’t stay away from them, and THE CHURCH GREW!
It is with this dilemma but also this great potential, that I finally wrote my “discipleship” book called SACRILEGE. Most know me from our church leadership books, but the simple truth is that it’s almost a waste of time to talk church leadership if you don’t reframe what the bedrock of church is. The Disciple. If the disciples are consumeristic, materialistic, individualistic, and religious, that’s what our churches will be like. If our disciples would rather watch an episode of 24 or have dinner with their in-laws that open their home to the lost, leery, or least, then our churches will continue to be wasted space and wasted time. But if our disciples are redefined around the actual life of Jesus, then everything will change.
This is why SACRILEGE could make a difference.
Sacrilege is about the Incarnational life of Jesus. In it, I expose Jesus as the least religious person you would have ever met, and show how his non-churchy ways and his absolute sacrilege with the scriptures, the Sabbath, sin, sinners, and a host of other kingpin issues, were exactly why people were drawn to him. But the book isn’t about Jesus. It’s about us and how seriously we take his invite to re-orient our lives around the whole gospel of kingdom life.
Sacrilege is a walk through the Beatitudes as a grid for Kingdom living and each chapter should begin to erode away some long held beliefs that have made us very ‘unlike,’ Jesus. Yes, there are some pretty hard challenges and you may go cross-eyed as Jesus is exposed in His true light.
But as honest and as heartfelt as I can say it, I believe most Evangelicals and Mainline Christians have no clue what true incarnational life looks or feels like and until they get it, our churches, and your church will continue to fail the harvest, including your own children.
Why do I think Sacrilege can make sense out of the mundane Christian paradigm? Because it made sense to my own 16 year old daughter. This message sent to my church community on Facebook last week.
“So today I went to Starbucks with 3 of my girlfriends and dedicated myself to reading my Dad’s latest book, Sacrilege. After just finishing the introduction and the first chapter, I’m already feeling a stronger connection to Jesus. Lately my life has had some pretty rough patches and I haven’t been able to be my normal happy, lovin self. At this point I feel so happy and I feel as though maybe things are starting to look up, and I’m finding faith in God to lead me to bigger and better things. I just want to thank my Dad for the amazing life he has blessed me with and allowing me to find Jesus on my own, and I truly believe I have. I love you Dad and I hope you have a safe trip. I’ll be praying for you.
That said it all to me, and I hope the heart of this book will change everything about how you live and what God does with your life.
How to Use SACRILEGE
First, Sacrilege is only for the stout-hearted or those who have become jaded with their past and present experience of church and Christianity. I would not give it out as a Christmas gift to the whole church. You will for sure get strung up! Find a handful of friends who are serious about their future and their faith. Grab some jaded buddies that have left the church, even give it to someone who has never been in church and read it together for a month or two as a learning experience. (There is a free study guide at www.missio.us) Your posture should be, “I’m starting over with Jesus and I wanted to include you in my processing of the real story.”
If at the end of the reading, your friends have a smile on their face and burning heart, then a practical next step is to grab the TK or Barefoot Primers on the same website and begin living the life of Jesus. There’s plenty of help for you on our site and I’m happy to answer questions via my Facebook page.
As you consider your own life and faithfulness to Jesus, I pray you’ll become a sacrilegious disciple with me!