dying frustrated & other highlights from off the map live

the past few days at the off the map live’s born again church tour have been a whirlwind of great conversation & challenge & people & thoughts about church and faith.  among all the swirling thoughts, one seems to stand out the most, it’s something i said during the “faith in a dress” session i facilitated:  i will probably die frustrated. yeah, when it comes to all of the things that we long for the church to be and do, i am pretty sure i will die feeling frustrated.  that it’s just a reality that in my lifetime what we dreamers hope for and somehow believe is possible won’t be completely realized.  i actually do think this is a good thing, not a bad thing, because it means that we will never arrive, that as we adapt and learn and notice and discern that we are constantly in a cycle of learning and changing instead of staying stagnant.  i just hope for more & more & more adapting & risk-taking and less entrenching.

i recognize that there are many churches and systems out here making some shifts, but i think where i go a little nutty is what i see is lots and lots of trying & effort & new inititatives to put some new wine into old wineskins. the structures, the hierarchy, the “basics” are exactly the same.  professional ministry.  seminary-educated leaders with lots and lots of student loans looking for jobs that will pay the bills and have good insurance.  a lack of diversity in terms of gender, race, theology and all kinds of other dividing lines.  a perpetuation of the us-them mentality where “we are the ones who have something to offer ‘those people'”.   a focus on building something that is ‘viable’ based on numbers of people & outcomes instead of cultivating and nurturing relationships that are unmeasurable and difficult and will never net a leader in the traditional sense.  ah, my take away is that there indeed are lots of people really wanting to make some big shifts in how they are living out their faith.   hopefully there will be a freedom and empowerment to really break free from the confines of “religion” and become more loving, compassionate, caring christians. and although i am an optimist, on this one, i think it’s a far more uphill battle than we’d like to admit.   the people are ready.  the structures & systems aren’t.

there are too many highlights to include from the past few days, but i thought i’d pass on some of the conversations i had:

“how do i become friends with people who aren’t like me when i honestly don’t know any?” – this is such a sincere question.  this is one of the biggest problems in the church, in my opinion, the segregation.  we insulate ourselves in groups of people who are just like us & so people that aren’t like us would never feel safe if they ever came anyway.  we expect people to come to us but are never willing to go to them.  the problem comes down to one of safety and presence. how can we be perceived as safer, less judgemental people?  and are we willing to live in the deep places of people’s story not on the periphery with some kind of agenda but in true-blue life on life.  the only way to get there is to become less segregated. more mixed up and tangled up with others that we wouldn’t maybe normally be tangled up with.

“really, like really, some days you wake up feeling like you might be an atheist?” yes, some days i wake up with absolutely no belief. none.  that maybe it’s all just a big bunch of wishful thinking.  i would say that christians have done other christians a great disservice by not being more honest about how tenuous faith can be, how our doubt is part of the concoction and to not be so darn afraid of it.  in the end, doubt increases my faith in Jesus instead of diminishes it.

“what if there’s absolutely no way to ever trust a church again?” no way to answer this one.  i don’t know if it’s possible for some.  i do believe it is possible to restore trust in God and maybe some people, too; they probably go hand in hand somehow.  i know and believe strongly there are some really trustworthy beautiful christians in ministry who can be trusted personally. the systems, um, i am not so confident.  i always tell people related to the refuge:  i don’t expect you to fully trust us.  you’ve just been too burnt in the past to really be able to. but maybe you could open a little crack and try to trust, even at a very small level, a few people to start.

“so when are pastors who are leading these churches actually going to start to talk about some of the things from the front that we are talking about here.” this question came up during the q & a after the outsiders interview on friday night involving several christians & several people considered “outsiders” to the church based on their experiences, one as a homosexual and another as a hispanic gang member.  the issues of doubt & uncertainty & lack of safety surfaced during this incredible conversation.  yeah, we’re a long way off on this one, folks.  pastors in the average evangelical church have people who pay their bills and unfortunately lots of these folks aren’t super comfortable with some of these thoughts.  they create tension that we are uncomfortable with.  they challenge the status quo.  they mean that doors that were typically closed now need to be open.  these conversations lead to things getting messy, confusing, scary.  they challenge the church “industry” (more on that later) that millions have counted on for years and years.  it means potentially losing their job for being willing to make some tough decisions that promote mission & equality & diversity & change.   i know there are many leaders out there taking some huge risks, but i also believe there are many more who are motivated by fear and will continue to perpetuate exclusivity, power & self-protection.

“what do you think the percentage is of women at this conference who can’t lead in their churches?” i recognize that for many mainline churches, the whole issue of gender has become a non-issue, but for the average evangelical, it’s a different story.  the good news is that when it comes to leading in some capacity, many churches represented at off the map, which mainly probably have evangelical roots, have women in some form of leadership.    that is cool and i am thankful for the inroads women have gained in their communities. it’s beautiful to see some true shifting in this area.  yet,  when it comes to actually having full access to all levels of leadership, that’s a different story.  my guess (remember, it’s only a swag and i could be wrong):  less than 5% of the women there actually could lead from the front, like all the way, in an equal role to a man in their churches.  no matter how sick some of us are of having the conversation about gender roles in church, the harsh reality is that most power in the room is still held by men & the church still has a long way to go.

“is this what Jesus told you guys to do?” this is the core of the conversation between matt casper, an atheist and partner in church-visiting with jim henderson, a former pastor & evangelical christian from their book jim & casper go to church.  after visiting churches across the country matt’s biggest question seemed to be “how could this really be what Jesus had in mind?”  i couldn’t agree more.  it’s messed up.  church has become an industry.  the exact thing that Jesus was railing against is continually perpetuated.  no, this isn’t what Jesus told us to do.  snappy sermons & amazing worship & sitting in seats facing forward getting a quick spiritual high was never the idea.  Jesus told us to go be like him.  that means in the trenches, giving our life away, coming face to face with our need for God & our need for each other, caring for the poor, learning the ways of Love.

oh there were so  many more, these were just a few off the top of my head.  the purpose for bringing this event to denver was to give some folks here the opportunity to engage in some of these conversations together here because we realize that very few people probably would be able to make the trip up to seattle.  i am really glad we did. hanging around the off the map peeps is always good for my soul. jim henderson’s heart and ability to faciliate such great thought-provoking conversation is my favorite.  it was fun working with the whole off the map gang, making some new friends, seeing in-flesh-and-blood some friends i’ve made online through the carnival blog, and witnessing all kinds of challenging conversations around the room over the course of the past several days.  so much talking & dreaming & processing & wrestling.  if you were at the event, i’d love to hear some of your thoughts of your experience there.  and for those of you who weren’t, please share some of your responses to some of the above thoughts, your perspectives make this blog better.

the shifts happening in the kingdom are real.  this restlessness is not going away.  i am so thankful for the refuge and the friends i’ve met along the way in the past few years who aren’t afraid of the hard questions and living in the tension of what was and what could be, who are humble and gentle and don’t give a rip about the next latest and greatest anything.   yeah, we’ll probably all die frustrated but there’s no one i’d rather be frustrated with.  and the good news is my frustration could never diminish the beauty and glory i see in the here and now, stories around denver, the US, the world from you & other dear friends: lives changing, hope increasing, friends risking, the kingdom advancing.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

41 Comments

  • Yeah, we’ll all die frustrated. I’ve been poring over this for most of the weekend myself. We’re rightly frustrated at ourselves (humanity in general) and sometimes we direct that frustration upstairs (terrible word). I’ve seen that re-direction topple giant faiths, like my buddy and his failed marriage, like my new friend Bart Ehrman and his analysis of human suffering, both of whom, I think, are trying to hurt God for “what He has allowed to happen” by claiming no longer to believe in Him.

    Yeah, we’ll all die frustrated, unless this whole project comes to fruition before then, though it doesn’t look likely, though God’s surprised me before. We should, however, think very carefully at who we are frustrated with…and why.

    Just rambling.

    Great post.

    Grace and Peace,
    Raffi

    Reply
  • Randi,

    If I may be so bold. Two things that might re-shape your frustration over Kathy’s frustration (or maybe not):

    Jesus taught on synagogues on Sunday right. Actually, it would have been Saturday. And I don’t point this out to take a cheap shot or to raise a trivial point. I point this out because when I hear phrases like “the Word is heard and never returns void” or “the Body” or “love God with all our heart” coupled with “Jesus taught in synagogues on Sunday,” it really, really concerns me. And this just may be getting to heart of what Kathy is trying to say.

    – I don’t think Kathy has, nor would she ever, equate the terms “church” with “the gatherings that occur in that holy-looking building on Sundays.”

    Just a few things to ponder…for me as much as for you.

    Grace and Peace,
    Raffi

    Reply
  • Kathy,
    I think I get what you’re saying… but ultimately I think God can use anybody and anything. The power isn’t it how we do things – the power is in Him.

    There are lots of people out there who wouldn’t be reached by your ‘type’ of church.

    It doesn’t matter how they come or what they come to — it’s that they come and they hear The Word. It’s that they are loved on & accepted & welcomed & helped. It’s that the Word is heard – in whatever form – it is spoken out and let in. It IS all about the relationships. and when it comes down it, people are not changed by the sunday morning theatrics or non-theatrics. Sunday is just preparation for the real work. Sunday is how people learn – just like how you all learn on your sundays. but the real ‘work’ happens during the week.

    People are changed by God and God alone….. I don’t think it’s anybody’s place at all to assume how a church does relationships by their Sunday services. .

    The attitude of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ that you sometimes present turns me off so much. We are all part of The Body and just have different talents, resources, experiences, perspectives and are at different points. The enemy is not each other. In your love for Jesus and for the ministry He has allowed you to be part of — I don’t get a feeling of love & mercy for those who are doing things different from you. So many are doing their best to attract people with the talents they’ve been given.

    ultimately – who cares about Sunday morning and how lessons are taught — what matters is that The Word is heard and that it never returns void. the power is in Jesus not in anything else. The true work of a church is in the behind the scenes work that you can’t judge unless you are there in the trenches with that church. By generalizing ‘those type churches’ with a certain Sunday service — you’re focusing so much on Sunday – and not seeing what the church is doing any other day of the week.

    Jesus taught in synagogues on Sunday right – but it never talked about how He did it. The words were the focus. The Word always is. and the majority of what is written about Him wasn’t on Sunday. That should be the focus – now how the teaching is done. His miracles were flash & bang! and doesn’t the Bible talk about there always being people looking for the sensational alone — people just being spectators — but that doesn’t mean that Jesus stopped offering it. It’s the people’s issue if they make the sensation or experience an idol….. that’s the people’s haert – that’s the devil’s work — but we don’t take what can be a beautiful offering away just because some allow it to become their idol. He will work on those people – we must focus on ourselves and loving Him with all our hearts, talents & selves and then 2nd on loving others…

    I do love your heart but your frustration posts frustrate me 🙂 …. I know that you have experienced so much more than I have… but this is my heart.

    Reply
  • thanks Raffi….

    you’re right — the actual day doesn’t matter whatsoever. I should have said the sabbath — Jesus taught in the synagogues on the sabbath… but the rest of His life was lived out in the community. My point was — why are we focusing so much one day? That’s not where the majority of work was done….. I have no idea why quoting verses and then linking it to Jesus’ teaching on the sabbath concerns you? My point was that the sabbath teaching was just one tiny part of what happens to disciple people and reach as The Body…. it’s only a part of it — and really it’s a tiny part of where the true work is done, right? Explain your viewpoint, I am so lost…

    and b) that was my point… church isn’t Sunday. so why do we keep trying to pigeon hole or put down churches by what they do (or do not do) on Sundays and how they teach on Sundays? You can’t assume what they do or do not do during the week by what they do or do not do on Sundays. by focusing so much on the buildings and how they do things one day of the week — you are not taking into accout their hearts, their work during the week — what other things they are doing that you don’t see.

    Reply
  • p.s. I do not believe ‘church’ is defined by a building… and I don’t think I ever in any of my comments made it seem like I do. I definitely think I must have typed things wrong — because you didn’t get what I was trying to say at all.

    I don’t think a church body should be judged by the building they meet in one day a week. I don’t think they should be judged by how they teach one day a week. I don’t think we are called to judge other parts of the body at all, actually. We can discern right or wrong about the doctrine they teach — but who are we to judge?? What was wrong with the religious leaders Jesus was against wasn’t their actions… it was their heart. Why do we pretend to be able to know people’s hearts? That is not our job… to condemn an entire people by what they do one day a week doesn’t seem right to me. How can you condemn something on external factors without knowing the hearts behind it? How can you pretend to know what a church is by what you see one day a week?

    In so doing — you are doing the very same thing you say you don’t want to. You are defining a body by their building. You are defining them by what you see. You are defining them by a big screen they might have. by a type of worship. by creative outlets they do. these are all external things. why focus on them?

    I don’t get it…..

    Reply
  • raffi – hey always great to hear from you here. yeah, God surprises me all the time and in my frustration the last thing i want to do is miss what i said in the last line of this post–the beauty and glory of what is happening all around in denver, in the world. it is wonderful. but the tension of living in what is and what we hope for will hopefully help us rely on God & walk out in faith on other’s behalf. i also like what you are saying about directing our frustration in the right direction…

    randi – oh i am sure it can be so frustrating here. i hear what you are saying and of course i cannot defend myself and say that i do not often come across in a really judgemental way. i recognize that in some of what i am communicating and of course want to focus on being kind rather than being right. at the same time, we must recognize we are all in different places at different times. and along with that, each post i write cannot take care of all the ins and outs of covering all ends of the spectrum or making all sides happy. i have respect for big church. i know God is far bigger than my little limited opinions. he works in wild and wonderful ways through all kinds of things that i disagree with. i never for a moment would hope that every church would look like the refuge. i believe in diversity in the kingdom. we need all shapes, sizes and colors. at the same time, i will not be able to easily accept that a $40 million building campaign is ever a good idea or a kingdom principle. i just can’t. i do believe that what Jesus told us to do isn’t reflected in many churches, it’s just not. i do not by any means believe i or we have the market cornered. we are just managing through like everyone else, giving it our best shot. but the purpose of the strong words i write are just to process some of what i am wrestling with. i am sure some of what i am saying now will not be exactly what i am saying a year from now. i’m less mad now than i was a year ago, but i am trying to put to words what many people are thinking and feeling and sometimes don’t have an outlet for. i am grateful for the challenge. i like it that you bring another perspective and yes, sometimes i can be an opinionated jackass, and that is why grace and mercy and lots of laughing at the crazy conversation is where i hope to land. all of the things expressed here are complicated, no easy answers to, no right or wrongs, they are just ways to stir the pot. personally, the more uncomfortable we are, probably the more we will grow. some of your comments make me uncomfortable, but it’s good for me. i will not be able to be all things to all people on this blog. yep, i have issues with big church. i just do. my experiences are different than yours and i am continuing to explore ways to accept our differences and be willing to stand by what God is stirring up in me and not be afraid to say it. thanks for sharing. yep, it’s frustrating, but i think it’s good.

    and raffi – i appreciate your responses back, the conversation is good.

    Reply
  • I know what you mean kathy — and I of course come with the best intentions to challenge and just wrestle with my frustrations too haha which is why I know it’s okay to voice them here….. I like opinionated people… and I enjoy the sharpening…

    but I guess what frustrates me is a disconnect between what I ‘feel’ you are trying to stand for as I read your blog — and then the words I read in the frustration entries…. I mean we all have those disconnects and inconsistencies in what we say & what we do…… but that’s what confuses me.

    I just I wish understood more why you feel the way you do ya know? I totally get WHAT you feel… I have from the first blog entry I read — but what I wish I could learn more was WHY these feelings, hurts, resentment, animosity in The Body…. and why you over-lump too many together in a stereotypical group (in my opinion)… when many don’t belong in that group.

    I just don’t get all the divisions/anomsity in the Body… and from somebody who is pretty new in her journey — it’s discouraging sometimes. It doesn’t have to be like this…

    I will have to wrestle more later – right now time to wrestle with my boys 🙂

    Reply
  • “they challenge the church “industry” (more on that later) that millions have counted on for years and years. it means potentially losing their job…”

    I wanted to touch on this one. It is very close to home for me. The church I walked away from in February of last year… well. Bluntly, the senior pastor, while counseling a woman (who became a good friend of mine) and her husband for their marriage, pursued her overt the course of a year until, between the abuse at home and his relentless push drove her to give up and give in. When his wife confirmed what was going on, my friend was shunned – she and her husband were both leaders in the church and they were kicked out – quietly – forbidden to set foot on the property ever again. Then the leaders (of which I was one an the only one who knew what had happened) were told that my friend and her husband had chosen to seek counseling elsewhere and sis not wish to be called by the leaders – the my friend, because of her marriage situation, had gotten too close to the pastor – a grain of truth. Then the leaders were told not to talk to each other about it and to leave it alone. I walked when I was chastised for not following this directive – and for not shunning my friend. To this day, there are people in leadership at that church who now know what happened and are still covering that man’s backside. This kind of crap is why so many don’t want anything to do with church.

    Okay, I am still a little angry about it. 😉

    Reply
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  • Great to get to see a little piece of the weekend since I couldn’t be there.

    Re: “the shifts happening in the kingdom are real. this restlessness is not going away.”

    …so true. and I “get” that the church as we have known it will always have a place for some. but it is not the end-all, be-all. I don’t think any one structure is. If it all looked like the refuge, or House for All Sinners & Saints, or Solomon’s Porch or Ikon or (insert your own community), that would really suck. God help if it all looked alike. None of us would last!

    Reply
  • Kathy- what a great experience meeting you and hearing some of the challanging perspectives shared in the few hours Jim and I were able to participate in the Born Again Church Tour. I am still mulling over the concept of the “Kingdom of God being a secular reality”…(Todd Hunter) I so appreciated your segment on Faith in a Dress. As you know…it just wrecked me as my own painful experiences are still right on the surface of my life. Thanks for your tenacity and passion.

    Randi-
    A few thoughts…I have appreciated reading your perspective. I can sense your passion and love for Jesus and the Body. You remind me of me like 20 years ago (o; You are right on in so much. However, on another note, I sense that you are young and a virginal Christ follower so to speak and are relatively new in your journey? I say this because I am 42 as I believe Kathy is and sometimes… unfortunate experiences and realities exist within the body of Christ that can change you forever.(not always)
    While there are many healthy faith communities there are just as many that are not. It appears that you have found a good church home and I am so glad for you. But…unhealthy communities and the people that ‘run’ them are pervasive and they can do terrible damage to your faith journey. It’s these broken man made systems of religiosity that Kathy rails against.
    Things like being marginalized, shut down, shunned, dealt with harshly, labeled as schismatic or heretical, openly criticized even being asked to leave your church home just for having a different theological perspective…All of this is guaranteed and more if you dare to challenge many (not all) institutional churches…and good ol’boy networks. These experiences within the body of Christ are always crushing…even life and faith altering.
    I can understand your concern as it seems that Kathy and others in this camp perpetuate the ‘us vs. them’ mentality…when in actuality…what Kathy and other passionate Christ followers desire is to be agents of change where change is needed…this needs to start with conversation.
    Sadly, the suffering of pioneers, like Kathy, in this current church shift is often immeasurable…and unbelievably, it is perpetuated from the pulpits and mouths of brothers and sisters in Christ…

    Reply
  • Kathy,
    I totally enjoyed the experience at OFTM Denver! I loved meeting you and your husband and look forward to a continuing dialogue.

    Keith Broadbent

    Reply
  • Kathy,
    I like the post, and I enjoyed Off the Map. One of the things that I like most about your post is that it challenges the status quo. Society, and this includes Christians, are so easily programmed to believe that what they are involved in is the end all, and obviously that is the farthest from the truth. Now that’s not to say that good things are not occurring, but that there is ALWAYS a better way to do things. The church is not an exception to this rule. Of course, all churches do great things for a large number of people, but that doesn’t mean we have to idolize them because they do so. I am thankful for the many things that the church does for so many people, but, to use a term brought up by Kathy at Off the Map, isn’t it an injustice to justify everything else that they do and stand for merely on the merits that they do a lot of good things too?
    The poignant question is “is this what Jesus told you guys to do?” Sure, I think that many of the programs that churches have directly relate to Jesus’ teachings, but there is so much more that does not. You can justify it all you want with scripture but can you justify $100 million buildings and budgets that are heavily weighted by mortgages and salaries. Sure, they do a lot of good things, but could we be doing better things with our resources?
    This doesn’t even touch on the subject of gender (in)equality. Now, some would have you believe that the Word calls for this, but there is plenty of scripture to the counter. And, the truth of the matter is that when you look around the room, the evangelical church is predominantly made up of white men. Is it merely a coincidence that 50% of the congregation is not represented in the executive leadership suite? (Women are sometimes allowed into middle management, but certainly not in charge of a male dominated ministry (too unbiblical).) If you go to a big church, look at the org chart (I’m sure there is one) and ask yourself if this is an accurate reflection of who you see on Sundays. I believe that the question again is whether there is a better way?
    I agree that the church does really good things for the community, but it would be an injustice to not question it. The status quo might be good, but there are definitely better ways. Getting to those better places begins with the type of questions brought up in Kathy’s post.
    Great dialogue points. Keep them coming!

    Reply
  • Thanks AZJoy.

    Briefly, I would agree that I am new on the journey though I accepted Jesus a long time ago. When my grandma passed away May 2007… I found myself at that “anything it takes God” desperate place face on the cement in the middle of the neighborhood… screaming out to Him that I was ready to REALLY love Him and love others like He wanted me to. I wanted to love Him like she did. and daily I have been seeking Him without fail since May 2007 and I am in love with Him, and learning to fall in love with The Body more and more.

    I too have had bad experiences with parts of The Body — who hasn’t? — but although it stirred my family members to want really nothing to do with church in any form at this point and has given them a wrong impression of what church is…. I recognized that I couldn’t judge The Body by mistakes that some made.

    To this day, I am still hurt by people, disagree with how they do things, what they do, how they treat others, I am frustrated with some of the church ‘leaders’…. but I recognize that the best thing for me to do is BE the change I want to see…. I recognize that change happens at the grassroots level….and the best place to BE that change is within the very Body that hurts and has grown stale in many ways. I truly believe God brings us to the part of the Body we are at for a reason….. and I recognize that people will always always always sin, hurt others, make mistakes… because of our sin nature. Sin is what has hurt me, what hurts you all — not systems, structures… structure isn’t the enemy, people in the structure aren’t the enemy….. there is nothing inherently good or evil about a structure…. the devil is the only enemy.

    are some tempted to sin in one structure more than the other? yeah probably…. but that very same structure can be used to glorify God by others, by people who don’t allow the power to get to their heads… who follow Him wholeheartedly and are Jesus where they are…. it depends on the heart – not on the structure. There are leaders in man made structures who DO treasure people not on their position, role, productivity, but because of who made them.

    I think we should recognize the enemy for what it is and not allow him to project our anger onto a system or people or any specific way of doing things.

    I believe that we are called to ‘stick it out’ with those people God has brought us to until God gives us a blatant very clear slap on the forehead to get out. I DO believe you all have had those clear slaps to get out….I DO believe that you all have good reasons to leave and I trust you all are more mature than I am in your spiritual maturity so that move to get out was between you & God and was a right move….. but at the same time, because you were given that slap — doesn’t mean we all have, or are going to. I am determined to stick it out with my messed up, sinful, imperfect part of the Body God brought me to —- I believe I should be as committed to The Body as to my marriage.

    ultimately my point is… to condemn an entire structure or system … to write them off as being intentionally evil, off track, not Jesus-like.. to tell them they are without hope and not seeking Jesus like they should — can be detrimental. I think of my friend that just accepted Jesus last week and is part of my part of the Body… would talk like this totally burst her bubble to think that the place she is in is actually not where God wants her to be? that even other christians believe that the people that introduced her to Jesus aren’t doing things right? I know that she would want ALL christians to be excited for her and excited for the people that introduced her to Jesus – no matter how they did it, where they are, etc… I think she is exactly where God wants her…. and He brought her here… who cares what we do on Sunday — who cares how the body is structured — what matters is her relationship with God and her relationship with me and others who are clinging to her and allowing her to cling to us.

    I honestly don’t even know what you mean by “the system” or what exactly you are talking about man-made religion systems…. but I do know that Jesus can work through anybody and anything. I do know that I’m in a ‘structure’ that I don’t always agree with — but I do know that God is working in a real and tangible way. It’s a 114 year old church and I can imagine that you would not even step foot into our body. but look at how things are changing because of a grassroots movement. the people aren’t breaking away – they are uprising.

    I do know that the people I have been inviting to journey with us have been changed, have come to know Jesus — and it has nothing to do with any ONE day of the week…. but evrything to do with Jesus and the relationships He allows us to have because we are unified in Him.

    I believe that a people’s hearts & intentions can’t be judged on the outside and can’t be judged by others…. and I do know that we are all sinners and there never will be a perfect church type. and I know you all know that too….

    I have always had childlike faith in Jesus, in His power and in the power of unity He brings…. and I hope I never lose it. no matter how far I get on my spiritual journey. I hope that God will continue to use the burns I receive from others to simply be fuel to the fire that He is creating in me. I feel the shift, I feel the restlessness and I believe now is the perfect time to be inviting others to journey with us…no matter what system we’re in.. I am fired up, I am going to continue to engage people in my every day life and ask them to journey with us… and I believe that God will use a beautifully imperfect people, and system to bring others to Him. He is building up His army. If we grassroots Jesus lovers continue to cling to just a few others and not the leaders, continue to find new people to journey with us — then it doesn’t matter what system we’re in, who the man ‘leaders’ are — the church will become those you cling to – your small church body. change works from the bottom up. change doesn’t work from the top down.

    I know the devil feels the army getting built up too and he is going to do anything he can to keep our eyes off of Jesus and onto the mistakes of each other.

    phew. now I feel like I want to throw up or dance, not sure which.

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  • I know some commenting here have experienced extreme hurt at the hands of building-based Christianity. And obviously some have not had that experience. I have not been overtly harmed, asked to leave, labeled, or stopped from going down a path of ministry. However, I have struggled against the prevasive attitude that women do not belong in leadership roles in the Church my whole adult life. Because I have known “the rule” I have self-censored and not listened to the call on my heart. I blog along these lines myself so I won’t go into it here. I only wanted to bring it up to say that the “damage” done at the hands of building-based Christianity is often subtle and impacts the whole Body because it limits gifts, talents and vision. I should probably save the rest of what this stirs in me for my own blog.
    Thank you Kathy!

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  • You and the team did a great job Kathy – wish I could have come back down on Saturday and spent more time with everyone. Thank you again for the chance to lead the workshop, I enjoyed chatting with everyone about safe spaces and being a safe person. And thanks for the chance to share my story on the panel. I think people were simultaneously encouraged, challenged and frustrated…a good combination IMO.

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  • p.s. sorry if I seemed to come across ‘mad’ or offended or defensive….. or however you’d say it.

    I am not mad nor offended… I am pumped up that the conversations is going on.. but just trying to show a ‘different’ view… and I really do appreciate so much everybody’s:

    a) willingness to let me share
    b) comments back and the open conversation
    c) mercy with my innocent, new, childlike, untainted… whatever you want to call it.. trust/faith

    thanks everybody – especially Kathy for allowing me to stick around and think outloud with you all

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  • randi – there are so many things that are so hard to communicate online. and i do believe that there are some ways that unless we’ve walked in each other’s shoes we will never truly know. one of my favorite songs (warning, a few bad words here and there) is by everclear “then you might really know what it’s like…” it’s a great tune & i think hits the nail on the head here. i think your points are great and of course we all need to be careful to not become reverse pharisees (of which i am quite capable). i think sometimes the way to be safest when we really don’t understand is to continue to ask questions and also have lots of things we don’t really know. i am excited for you on your journey, it is clear God is up to all kinds of things in your life and never for a minute would i want all of the talk here to diminish what you are experiencing. at the same time, it is good to know that while you might not have bumped up against it and hopefully never will, some have. and the beauty is that most people here aren’t “out” yet–we’re all still hoping the kingdom can be advanced in other ways that maybe don’t work for you necessarily but will work for us. Jesus is with all of us, across the board, at work and to respect that we are all in utterly different places and will never be able to fully understand why each of us see certain things certain ways no matter how many words we try to use. there’s this lovely respect that needs to be considered. and to never ever assume that frustration is bad–it is the wonderful tension of living between what is and what could be. i am glad you feel safe enough to share here, i recognize it’s risky, for all of us, so let’s just keep trying to understand each other as best we can and know that none of us can ever fully know all the ins and outs of relationship and journey and wrestling with God and faith from comments online!

    azjoy – oh it was so great to meet you both. so great how that all worked out and so sad that it had to be so short, we need some more conversation and i am really looking forward to phoenix visit in december! you know so well how tricky this next leg of the journey really is so thanks for articulating it so well here and i hope you know you are so not alone.

    keith – it was so fun meeting you this past weekend. looking forward to hanging out soon. your heart is so evident.

    urh – always great to hear from you here. yeah, what i like about what you are saying is that these difficult questions that people raised over the course of last weekend are the kinds of ones we need to keep dialoguing on. yep, they’re hard. yep, they mess with the status quo. yep, they stir up different opinions. but just because they are hard doesn’t mean we should ignore them. all change will come through this kind of proactive tension…thanks for your thoughts!

    minnow – yeah, i think there are many people in your situation who aren’t necessarily wounded or damaged (i don’t ever like to get labeled as ‘oh, they’re the ones who got hurt by the church’ because that is only one piece of my journey) but you have a restlessness that i think God has been and will continue to stir up, a sense that “something is awry.” that is much more the place that i would like to continue to hit in the words that i share here, something is awry, and are we people who are willing to be catalysts to make some things right, to listen to God and discern what he might be asking us to consider, do…look forward to what you have to share on your blog!

    randi – i hope you never feel shut down here. that’s the last place i would want this blog to go, we just all need to hang in and keep doing what we can to honor and respect our differences 🙂 and lots of mercy and grace in all directions!

    makeesha – oh it was so great you guys came down. loved your voice on the panel and i heard that the workshop went well. hope we can hang out soon, thanks for being part. love these kinds of conversations and yeah, i so agree–the frustration & the encouragement & the challenge are a great combo.

    jeff – oh no, that doesn’t sound good. you need to expand more. the last thing i want to do is inflict pain like that, please share what you mean 🙂

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  • hi Randi- just want to say I appreciate the fire you bring here. I reflect on the things you say and can check my thoughts with them, and make sure that I am bringing the love I want to bring to many thoughts and situations.
    one note on blogland- minnow’s comment came in just a few minutes after yours- I have had the experience before on blogs, when I made an impassioned comment, and someone else was writing at the same time (unknown to me), posted following mine and I thought it was about what I had said, and it wasn’t.
    my favorite thing that you said was
    “phew. now I feel like I want to throw up or dance, not sure which.”
    🙂
    thanks for sharing your thoughts here, you are among friends.

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  • I can honestly say that my OTM & CO experience forever & ever changed me, and in really hard, gut-wrenching ways. It is one thing to learn, listen, and feel at the intellectual level, but when that stuff truly sinks to the core, man, it is t-o-u-g-h. A lot of what I heard & listened to made me realize how much I have become complacent, by virtually dying inside to not have to feel the pain & damage that unhealthy systems can & do bring. Now, however, I am so so so excited to stop just talking about how I want to be in the trenches, and be an advocate, and to live in a real community, but actual be a part of the solution. :)I may be imperfect & also frustrated, but at least I will soon be in good company. Here is to hope amongst the confusion. 😉

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  • Is this what Jesus told you guys to do? – now there’s a question I need to ask more often …

    Thanks for this Kathy – I would really love to attend one of these things oneday, but the highlight would be JUST catching up with those on my Blogroll. The closer to the Ocean and a Boogie Board the better!!!!

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  • Randi–Absolutely NOT directed at you! I don’t think with my fingers too well and often need to write my blogs off-line so I can edit–a lot!–Then copy them to a post. So much was stirring in my head that I was feeling a need to mull over, write, edit, and eventually print. Your comments that posted just before mine are good for me to hear. I tend to be sinfully judgemental of much of the Body and lump groups together in order to not have to deal with people one-on-one. Getting to know you via the blogs has helped me confront that sin area in my life so thank you. Oddly, Kathy’s blog has helped me in a similar way. Iron sharpening, I guess.

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  • ohhh no Minnow I knew that it wasn’t for me directly at all!! I recognized we were writing our comments at the same time — I just thought it was funny how appropriate it probably was for me to read — but I didn’t get the chance to until after I posted haha.

    I probably should take more time to think first, figure out exactly what i want to say how… but I don’t haha.

    I type so so fast and so I just sort of let my heart overflow since I type just as fast as I think….

    anyway! 🙂 thanks everybody

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  • I like what Urh says there! Yes there is a lot of good beng done but that does not mean we have to accept everything else that comes with that!

    It is a constant puzzle to me this movement within the established or institutionalised sector.

    The Methodists got a fresh revelation and said “That’s it, we have it all”

    The Baptists then said “No, we have a fresh revelation and must move forward. We have it all!”

    The Assemblies then came along and said “Now we have a fresh revelation and must move on. We have it all!”

    and so it goes, from one movement to another and whilst ‘criticising’ the previous lot, they then refuse to look any further themselves.

    Weird!

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  • Pops,
    I never hear denominations talk about other denominations like that — where do you all hear this stuff? From the pulpit? your friends? radio? where?

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  • I went back to Uhr’s comment after seeing Pops…. and I just think it’s so interesting how we could all see totally different things….

    he said that when you look around evangelical churches the majority are white men.. but actually, every church I’ve gone to, all evangelical… are mostly women… it seems to be a new(er) phenomena that men aren’t staying around as much as they used to…

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  • Hi Randi:)

    Oh, your a new one – welcome to the family!

    Okay, when ever a new movement started the old ones would let off a stream of accusations like “This thing is demonic. They are hearing the wrong spirit. blah blah blah”

    It is ‘church history’ as such. Each new movement of God has the old one up in arms. It is just one of those things that happens over and over and over … much like what is going on now with the emergent move, the old guard stands up and says “No way is this of God…”

    and so we learn from history that we never learn from history.

    The folk that have been around for a while (20, 30, 50 years)will know what I am talking about.

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  • thanks Pops — I’ve been hanging round ‘here’ as in this blog for a few months (I think it’s been a few months – I can’t remember haha)….

    I know I don’t know what you’re talking about — that’s why I’m trying to figure it out haha. what is the new movement? who is speaking against it? and can you give me an example of a movement that was ‘new’ but now is ‘old’ …..

    I appreciate you taking the time – I think so much of MY frustrations come because I just have no clue what you all are talking about. I get what you’re saying & the frustration but I don’t get WHY…. or how real it is…

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  • to go into my thought little more than just a knife comment …..

    your post hit home and i am one that at times do not push as hard as i sense that i need to push ….

    i have pushed hard at times to “axe” the building program. we can live with what we have and lets invest that money into our community …

    there are many scenarios ….

    but there is a fear and the fear can be very gripping. i am the only one who brings money into the house …

    we scrape by, no reserve, if my job gets axed .. we are doom. if my job is axed, my health insurance is gone and i have a wife and two children who are “seriously” ill and if that goes …. who knows what might happen to them

    i hate the paradox that i find myself it. full throttle on the gas till we almost hit the wall .. then reverse it a little to “relieve pressure” and then gas it up some more …

    hoping and praying we can make necessary changes, hopingand praying we can be more and more the church God wants for us .. w/o me destroying my family because we fear/feel we need money and insurance …

    going to pray

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  • I’m 25 by the way. so I’ve ‘been around’ for 25 years…. but I’ve been aruond this blog for a few months. not sure which you were referring too haha….

    I’ve been in different church families, in and out , my whole life. Been in the church family I’m in now for 5 years…….. maybe I’ll be like you all when I’m 30, 50?? ….

    but not everybody who is 30 or 50 is like you all….. how come I know people that have been in the same church body for a LONG time and are in their 40’s 50’s 50’s 70+ and are still so passionate about God and the specific part of the Body they are in… as imperfect as it may be? Yet they have stayed in the same ‘denomination’ and ‘structure’ and aren’t defined by it at all…is something ‘wrong’ with them for not seeing what you see? do you believe they are less mature than you?

    thanks for the conversation! 🙂

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  • sage – i always love your voice here.

    stacy – i am so glad you were part of the convos here and that it stirred up all kinds of stuff that needed stirring. i think you hit something so important–for those of us who have experienced some of the things we’ve experienced, there’s nothing more healing than knowing we are not alone, that God has somehow brought people into our lives that remind us we’re not crazy, we’re not alone, and there’s hope. love to you!

    mark – i am with you. how about san diego???? or maybe the beaches in australia (i was there 16 years ago and still remember how beautiful it was). i know somehow, someway our paths are going to end up in the same room and that is a day i greatly look forward to! yeah, those words “is this what jesus told you guys to do?” have reverberated in my heart for the past year when i first read them. so good.

    minnow – yeah, i just wrote about this judgemental thing in my newest post. there’s such a fine line between honesty & judgement, that’s for sure, all’s we can do is give it our best shot and trust each other’s hearts and intention. otherwise, there’s too much soft pedaling that will lead to an inauthenticity, in my opinion.

    randi – oh i am not sure we can really edit all of our responses all of the time, that is just too much work. i think what urh is saying (and i agree with) is not that there are more men in the church, just that in almost all of the upper levels of leadership women are usually few and far between. yes, there are more women in the pews, but that is not at all reflected in the leadership of the communities most are part of. yeah, there is so much going on “out there” in church world that isn’t expressed in any one blog. i’d say keep reading a wide variety of stuff–check out the links on my blogroll & follow some of their links, too. i have kind of a short list compared to most. the bottom line: change in the church is hard. some don’t want it to change, are perfectly happy with the way it is, and there are just as many others who have a restlessness for something more. i don’t believe the people who are satisfied with church the way you described are less mature, of course not. we’re just all different. i recognize fully how things are working for you, for them. it’s just really important to also recognize that for many, it’s not working and neither one makes any of us good or bad, it’s just each of our reality…

    pops – i agree with you and urh–just because it’s all part of the big body of Christ doesn’t mean we have to go “yeah, love every part of it!” and this idea that anyone has the market cornered is always a bad idea. yeah, the we learn from history is that we never learn from history thought is so good!

    jeff – oh yeah, you are so on the front lines of all of this, in a place of great influence in your community and also in the dilemma of how to shift some things that are so firmly entrenched. no easy answers here, just so much respect for the work you are trying to do. will continue to pray for strength, wisdom, direction and will be supporting you from afar!

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  • Hey Randi 🙂

    I have sent you an email as I don’t want to clog up Kathy’s space here.

    Kathy I will copy you in so you stay in the loop!

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  • I know what you mean about church leadership/women/men….

    and I know that I can’t get all the answers / knowledge/ experience here or on any one blog — but I’m just trying to stretch each entry as far as you all will let me to see what I can get out of “yall”….

    thanks! 🙂

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  • Kathy,

    My favorite thing at OTM was the “Outsiders” discussion. It was amazing to me that the folks on the panel were so open and honest about how the church has influenced (both good and bad) their lives. I was especially touched by the fact that they “showed up” to discuss the issue! The things that were discussed have never been talked about at our church, which I think is too bad. I loved the slide that kept rolling through that said, “make dialog not debate.” I was also really impressed with Matt Casper’s sense of humor and his insights about the church, comparing it to Jesus’ words and actions in the Bible. It was good to have an outside-in perspective for a change!! Of course, I loved your session on the role of women in the church and was blessed to be there and hear your heart! Just so you know, things are changing little by little up here in Evergreen. A woman led both communion and sharing time on Sunday – whoa. . . .

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  • pops – thanks for engaging in the conversation, LOVED your thoughts! i wish you would have posted them here but thanks for sharing and for caring.

    randi – i love what you try to stretch out of these conversations…

    patty – i was so glad you and john could be there! i have used that vonnegut quote several times now 🙂 yeah, i loved the outsiders interview, too, and that is so exciting the moving and shaking God is up to up there. so cool!

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  • “how do i become friends with people who aren’t like me when i honestly don’t know any?”

    A BIG AMEN to this and the segregation!!! Many seem to only hang with those they are “like”, have similar views, enjoy the same things, etc. which can be normal and fun. But, I also believe God asks us to fellowship and love ALL and BE with all…AND get into the amazingly MESSY things that life can bring! :-/ We all seem to “run” when it gets tough…or as I like to say, just as it gets REAL!!! God have Mercy on us all! God bless you, Kathy!

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  • minnow – thanks for the link & for continuing to stir the pot on your own blog

    tammy – welcome to the carnival, great to hear from you here, and yep, i am so with you, our tendency to be with people like us is so strong and so we miss out. we so need to fight against our default to run when the going gets tough and only spend our time with people we feel safe & comfortable with. how can we learn the ways of love if that is all we are willing to do? thanks for sharing!

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