wrestling with the word "christian" – a video conversation

wrestling with the word christianwell, i’m going to take a risk here and mix it up a bit.  sometimes i think just-words-week-after-week-after-week get boring so i’d like to try some different textures on the carnival this year.  i’m going to experiment with video here and there, nothing edited or flashy or scripted; i definitely don’t have the time or energy for that.  i’ll admit, it feels kind of risky. video makes me much more vulnerable out here in the scary & often kind of weird world-wide-web.  it could be a disaster, who knows, but i thought i’d be brave and just try it.

i think sometimes it’s nice to listen in some others’  dialogue here and there to spark greater conversation & thought.  my friend john is one of my all-time favorite-people-to-talk-about-all-of-these-kinds-of-faith-things with.  he and his wife are part of our nutty little community & two of jose & i’s dearest friends; we spend a lot of time all over the map in conversations related to faith and life; every time we are together 3 or 4 hours seems like one. he is a good pot-stirrer, not afraid to tell it like he sees it.  depending on how this goes, i’d love to get some more of these conversations with him & others up here now and then.  he says out loud what a lot of people are starting to say in the quiet of their heart or in covert conversations at coffee shops & pubs.  so, here you go, a little unscripted unpredictable convo at my kitchen table.

watch it & share some of your thoughts, perspectives & questions & what it might stir up in you. there are no right or wrong answers here, just opinions & perspectives. only rule is be kind.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/9255059]

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • But… there are a number of us who self-identify as “Christian” and are in “Christian” community, who take the bible seriously without taking it literally.

    Women don’t have “a place” in Christ’s ministry. We/They are ministers.

    People who are gay and straight don’t have “a place” in Christ’s ministry. We/They are ministers.

    – – –

    “Christianity” doesn’t have to be focused on the sin/salvation cycle. It can be focused on the J/C’s reminder that the kingdom/household of God is coming, and the kingdom/household of God is hear. It can be focused on J/C’s story of “when you did this for one of mine, you did it for me”. It can be focused on J/C’s re-articulation of “the great commandment” to “love God, love neighbour, love yourself”.

    – – –

    Having said all that, I have slowly started explaining who I am as “Christ-follower” or even (and coming from a wacko-liberal Christian tradition – though the largest protestant one in Canada – this one people raise an eyebrow at) “disciple of J/C”.

    I’m just not sure that the definition of “Christian” needs to be as narrow as I hear John making it.

    Christ’s peace – Richard

  • Kathy and John
    I love this…and I love what John had to say. I am so encouraged by his ability to completely detach from the Christian Label…with all of its baggage. I struggle with what it means to identify with that word as well.

    It’s amazing how restrictive our labels are…When we line up under them we are necessarily defined by them in so many ways…some good, some not so much. They become out of control and unmanageable…and seem to eventually put is in a position to have to defend them against the ideas and definitions more comfortable to others. “Because I am a Christian I must believe this…and not that…these people are in and these ones are not…etc” This thinking always produced a lot of tension and anxiety for me as I found myself always feeling like a poser in one way or another!

    I read a book in which the author described himself as a “Follower of God in the Way of Jesus”…I remember thinking why would such a long title/description be necessary…Two years later…leaving the IC and doing life on the outside…I totally resonate with the identity crisis…

    If being a Christian means looking like the person I was back ‘there’…I would be very hesitant to wear the label anymore.

  • This made me cry, you guys. I can’t even tell you how John’s words resonated with me, and I’m grateful to hear him articulate it so well. I am not ready to shed the term, but I have been on the edge for several years. I no longer relate to the practices, the vocabulary or the rituals…I just try to follow the Man in the way of Love. But for me there is an internal debate that I haven’t been able to resolve, the last vestiges of religion that would somehow make my transition so final.

    My question for John: What are you if you’re not a ‘Christian’? Put another way, have you found any comfortable way to explain your faith to people? I still haven’t found something, a word, phrase or paragraph, that accurately describes where I am, and I wish I could. But then maybe that’s the point; that it’s indescribable.

    Thanks to both of you for sharing this!

  • It’s dangerous, particularly in some parts of the world…but even here in the US, to identify ones self as a “Christian.” It is a word that now requires a lot of explanation, because it means so many different things to so many people. It can mean you’re a right-wing, conservative Republican in many circles. It is a political identifier in some cultures. It means, to many young people, that you are anti-gay and judgmental and hypocritical (see Kinnaman’s book, “UnChristian”). It is therefore a nearly useless word, all by itself, and should be used cautiously…if at all. I typically refrain from using it, myself, for these reasons. If asked if I am a Christian, I am compelled to say, “Depends on what you mean by ‘Christian’.” Usually, to those unfamiliar with the faith, saying I am a follower of Jesus, or and apprentice of Christ makes things fairly clear to them. It almost always ends up in a really fun conversation if I refuse to assume I know what they mean when THEY use that word.

  • My favorite part: Kathy: “Sooo, even though you don’t call yourself a christian, I think you are!” tee hee 🙂 What I love about John is that by removing some (all) of the cultural trappings of language, his actual actions and movements of love regain more of the focus. Which I am pretty sure is the point anyways?…

    I do think that there are points of connotation for many, but for others of us, it just does not feel authentic to keep using the same language when our hearts & minds have shifted. There is, for sure, a cognitive dissonance when uttering the word “believer”, “christian”, etc. for many on the faith journey, and that space outside is super hard to explain, let alone define. So glad for spaces like this, that value deep honesty, without a pre-req of figuring it all out. You rock John and Kathy!

  • This was so awesome!! I love that you did a video! (even if it took my computer foreeeeeeeeeeeever) 🙂 I so want to write more, but I don’t have time right now. Does John have a blog–I would read it!

    What have been the community implications (among a variety of communities) of choosing to convert from Christianity 😉 ?
    There are so many aspects of being a “Christian” that I don’t identify with at all any more. It helped so much to hear John vocalize that. Ok, I’ve really got to stop. HOpe to comment more later.
    Kathy, you’re awesome!

  • It IS semantics. John is wrestling with avoiding a label, so he is trying to rename his belief set from Scriptures.

    What I find ironic is that John defines Christianity so narrowly, and sadly hands over control to the fundamentalists. IMHO, we MUST engage in this dialogue within the Church. The SBC does not not define Christianity.

    Jesus does.

  • For the sake of the world, we cannot leave the Church and the name of Christ to the fundamentalists!!!

  • Kathy – John

    Great video and – Yes it is “semantics.”

    is the name for the scientific study of the meaning of words and sentences.

    is closely associated with the disciplines of linguistics, logic, and philosophy.

  • Kathy – John

    Good stuff. Thanks for allowing me a seat at your kitchen table.

    Stopped using the label “Christian” and/or “Born Again” some years back.
    No longer desired to be aligned with “The Religious System” of the day.
    Too many “twisted scriptures” and “heavy weights” placed on shoulders. :-(…
    Desired to hear “His Voice,” be led by the Spirit, and follow Jesus. 😉

    Also noticed the difference with what Jesus said and did,
    and what Paul said and did.

    Like John, I too wanted to line myself up with what Jesus taught.

    Started gravitating to the gospels and Jesus, “first.”
    Then trying to make sense of what Paul was saying
    that seemed in opposition to Jesus and what Jesus taught.

    Ask different questions, get different answers.

    What is popular is not always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth”is not always popular.

    One example is “Women in Ministry.”
    “Ministry” is referring to “service by servants,” ministers.
    Not paid professionals. Not “Leaders” with “Titles.”
    Jesus told “His disciples” NOT to be called “Leaders.” Mat 23:10.

    Paul seems adamant about “women” remaining silent.
    1 Timothy 2:11-14. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

    Yet, the most important message ever given to mankind;
    Is given to at least five women to tell His disciples.
    (The scriptures give three names and says, “other women.”)

    Luke 24:2-10
    It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna,
    and Mary the mother of James, and other women.

    When the apostles refuse to believe the women, “HE IS RISEN.”

    Jesus upbraides the disciples for their unbelief. Ouch! 😉

    Mark 16:9-14
    Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat,
    and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart.

    Jesus doesn’t seem to have a problem with “Women”
    delivering an important message, “to men.” “HE IS RISEN.”

    Why does Paul? Hmmm?

    1 Timothy 2:11
    Let “the woman” learn in silence with all subjection.
    12 But I suffer not a woman to teach,
    nor to usurp authority over the man,
    “but to be in silence.”
    13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
    14 And Adam was not deceived, ( ??? )
    but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

    Why does Paul teach “Women,” Eve, “being deceived” is a reason “to be in silence?”
    But, wasn’t “Man,” Adam, “being disobedient” when he ate from the tree?

    Gen 2:16-17
    And the LORD God commanded “the man,” saying,
    Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
    But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
    thou shalt not eat of it…

    What would you say is the greater transgression and iniquity?
    “Woman” being deceived by the serpent?
    Or “Man” being disobedient to God’s command?
    Seems they are both guilty of “missing the mark.” Yes?
    Know any men Pastors, in pulpits, preaching to people in pews,
    who are deceived and/or disobediant to God’s commands? 😉
    So, Why does Paul “only” chastise and limit “women?”

    1 Corinthians 14:34
    Let your “women keep silence” in the churches:
    for it is not permitted unto them to speak;
    but [they are commanded] to be under obedience,
    “as also saith the law.”

    Why does Paul say, “women keep silence”…
    “as also saith the law?”

    Why is Paul using “the Law?” Are we still under “The Law?”
    And, Why is Paul using “the Law?” to keep women silent?

    It’s so much easier being a “Christian.”
    You don’t have to ask controversial questions.
    People with “Titles and degrees” just tell you what to believe.

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven “he” made thee to hear his voice,
    that “he” might instruct thee.

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.

    Be blessed in your search for truth… Jesus.

    • Hi to amos love,

      to respond with some of the distinctions you made,
      in 1 timothy 2, paul is referring to women not having authority over men to teach and preach.
      in 1 cor. 14, paul is giving instruction on who should prophesy(instructing in truth) and that women should not do so with men present.

      it has nothing to do with not being equal but rather God has ordained different roles. Jesus loves women but again there are different roles that they are involved in.

      the reference to the law, can be the first five books of the OT, law of moses, and in context this would indicate Gen. 3:16. adam and eve were to be co-servants together, but the fall changed that and so eve’s determination of will would be under the control of her husband. this is one of the reason for so much tension in marriage. i look forward to the day when sin and our sin nature is finally eradicated.

  • Mark, the people that are having this dialogue cannot have it in the “church” because they are the people who are laughed out of church or who are deemed heretics and invited to leave.

    I cannot call myself that word either. It’s almost like the “N” word that I cannot say. (I’m from the South and that word has a strong history). That word originally meant black. It was a descriptive word for the color of the skin. The word then became distorted and has become something ugly and vile.

    That is how I feel about the word “christian” today. I believe that the word christian is mostly associated with the fundamentalist who seem to be mostly about “levels of sin” and the dos and don’ts and is criticized by outsiders as total hypocrisy. I feel that this association to the word christian has made it an ugly word with many.

    It’s hard to know what to call myself. I’m still working on it. Maybe a follower of Jesus’ path.. not sure…

    I do feel comfortable with the word emergent though 🙂

    Thanks for the honesty.

  • I like the video conversation idea! Do it again with a variety of people and topics.

    We too eschew the word Christian, not because we think it is not a legitimate word, but because of the bad associations with unloving, unkind, narrow-minded religious people who hijacked the term. When I hear it I think of the man at a “church” leadership meeting, pounding on a table, veins on his forehead popping, screaming out his (strange, un-Biblical, un-Christian) views. That was so un-Jesus.

    When people ask, we try to say something along the lines of “we try to follow Jesus and His teachings”. If asked for more explanation, we explain that we don’t identify with religion because of all the weirdness that gets thrown into that category. Strangely (said tongue-in-cheek – the correct word here would be obviously), almost everyone (except most “church types”) seems to understand.

    It’s not just because of books like “UnChristian” and “They Like Jesus But Not The Church” (which for a lot of church folk means ‘They like Jesus But Not Us’) that point out our culture’s dislike of and problems with Christians and the church that we avoid the term. It is really because we have significant personal problems identifying with a term and a people that include so many self-centered, unloving people.

    Sometimes I do use the term when talking to older people with a church background who just do not grasp the distinction we’re making – Such as when our older Catholic friends asked for the name of our attorney – I said “This is a person you can trust. She a good Christian woman.” I see this as similar to “When in France speak French if you know the language so the French will understand what you’re saying”.

  • Thanks so much for courageously speaking about this. 🙂

    John, I’m wondering if you’re familiar with the work of John Dominic Crossan. For him, what we call “The Bible” is one source of information about Jesus and the people who lived among him-in-the-flesh, but there are other sources as well.

    He’s written a couple of books on Paul. His claim is that Paul only wrote part of what’s attributed to him. Amazingly, the parts of Paul that seem to me to be beautiful and God-reflecting are the parts that Crossan (through historical & anthropological study) found to be authentically the work of Paul. The parts where Paul seems to go off the deep end and/or preach hate, he finds to be inserted by people with an agenda of promoting Caesar’s world.

    Like many of the commenters, I don’t like the idea of letting the fundamentalists “own” the word Christian. On the other hand, it’s hard to use a word that so many misunderstand.

    I don’t think one book is a magic gateway to God, and I don’t think one word is a magic box that I can fit in, so I guess I’ll keep answering “depends what you mean by Christian” when the question comes up.

    Thanks, Kathy & John. Beautiful stuff. 🙂

  • After spending 4 years at a conservative christian college, I heard lots and lots of my peers who – because of the same reasons here – wouldn’t self-identify as “christians.”

    Which is cool and rebellious and whatever.

    But is it beneficial? Does it divide or unite people as followers of Christ.

    Sure, there are some of us who do a pretty horrible job at representing Jesus in this world. Can we be shown the same grace that you show those who think God is a joke? Sometimes it’s easier for us to show love to an atheist than a brother/sister.

    I’ve proposed this to so many people, and they instantly cite how Jesus cared for those outside the circle of religion.


    Also, we must remember THE WHOLE story.

    In the story of the paralytic lowered through the roof, a little detail prefacing the story tells us that Jesus had gathered pharisees and teachers of the law to discuss the kingdom.

    Yes, Jesus meets the woman in adultery, the thief on the cross, and the woman at the well right where they are. But he also meets the religious, hypacritical leaders of the day.

    If I had to guess, I’d say that God has been stirring up the hearts of many of God’s people. God’s been showing them that God LOVE is enough. Grace is enough. I hope that this demographic doesn’t set up shop separated from “christians.” We need those voices in our communities.

  • what excites me the most is your reaching to continue to use media technology to further the message. Keep it up and I can help sometimes.

  • Thanks for letting us eavesdrop.

    I struggle with this too… even on the facebook info line, I have this big cringe and small moral dilemma.

    When I was opening my private practice, I met with some people at big evangelical churches, thinking, of course they would want to know about me! One church kept asking me, “how would someone know you’re a Christian counselor?” I had to say, I’m not. I’m a person who follows Jesus, who is also a counselor. They didn’t want to hear about grace, love, acceptance, training, skill — they finally came out and asked if I would pray with someone to accept Christ. I felt it became about whether or not they could count on me to use my practice to convert people. I’m not what they’re looking for.

    This month I’ve been in a seminar studying the latest findings in neurobiology and the implications of all this for clinical practice… all those mirror neurons, etc. and how throughout our lives, relationship actually changes our brains, forms us and heals us… it reads like theology to me. I keep thinking about how all of us image (mirror) a God who exists as relationship… I was briefly talking with a Buddhist in the class about how spiritual we both think it is, and he asked me what my religious tradition was, and I stuttered and said, “(pause, mental scramble) Christian-but…” I’m so weary of the step back people take. I’m also weary of the step back I take.

    Like Mark, I don’t want to let the word Christian belong to people who define it narrowly.

    I like the phrase Joy shared, “A follower of God in the way of Jesus.”

    Keep stirring the pot, Kathy!!

    love and peace,

  • I think the change of language is all well and good as long as we are gut-level honest with ourselves about our intentions.

    Let’s be perfectly honest here- the basic impulse usually behind a change of name is: I do not call myself a “Christian” because I don’t want other people to think I’m like THEM.

    That sounds like hate, not love. No matter how you couch it. And believe me, I struggle with this too and I don’t really know what to call myself.

  • Dear John and Kathy,
    Love the conversation! Since separating from fundamentalism I have discovered so many people of deep faith that proudly call themselves christians….and live like followers of Jesus, that I have a lot more respect for that title than I used to. The small “corner on the market” group of people that say they are the only true christians seem more unchristian as time goes on. To me, even while at times nearly atheistic in my thoughts, (religiously speaking), I find the teachings and traditions of the christian faith are a great source of deep meaning for my spiritual life. My non-literal view of the bible now has greater depth of truth for me than ever before. Faith, grace, mercy and hope are no longer associated w/ dogma or “beliefs needed to get into heaven”, but really deep anchors for my soul. So, yes, I am a Christian, but a different type of believer than my first 50 decades of life. Peace.

  • Loved the video format. John, great last question. Very challenging and convicting. I fear I have often found myself spending more time on semantics than on actually living like Jesus.

  • S wrote-
    “Let’s be perfectly honest here- the basic impulse usually behind a change of name is: I do not call myself a “Christian” because I don’t want other people to think I’m like THEM.

    That sounds like hate, not love. No matter how you couch it. And believe me, I struggle with this too and I don’t really know what to call myself.”

    I really don’t see it like that. I understand that the name change impulse honors what some Christians have insisted on- OWNING the term. i.e. “if you don’t believe rightly (exactly as I believe and expect you to believe my way or you are damned to hell for all eternity)” I think those who give up using the name are saying fine then, you can keep it. That type of Christian would define me as not a Christian anyway whether or not I wanted to call myself one. I’d rather just go and follow Jesus.

    S, in contrast to your post above, I would encourage you to see where lines of hate are cast in this complicated issue. I don’t think it is as simple as you have indicated.

    • oops, your comment came in after i had already posted the other replies, but i agree with your point that hate is too strong of a word here, in my opinion. i know it can feel like that but i think sometimes we are just really afraid of seeing things differently & living in that tension. and i like what you are saying here, sage, that i think needs to keep being addressed–what does it really matter what we are called? what people will know is did they feel Jesus’ love, compassion, grace, truth, hope through us? i think of maya angelou who said “people will not remember what you said, they will remember how you made them feel…”

  • well that stunk, i was halfway through commenting and all of a sudden i lost all that i had written. anyway, i’ll do what i can to start over. #!@&*!^#(!(*! i will say that i so appreciate what everyone has shared & the different perspectives so far. i have been really busy the past few days & so am just now sitting down to respond, but thanks for sharing & keeping the convo going.

    – thanks for the link. i have really appreciated the comments over at your blog, too. i wasn’t sure of an easy way to comment over there so i haven’t yet but i will say that i love the thoughts. i do call myself a christian still, mainly because i am a follower of Jesus and i don’t think that the conservative fundamental streams have the market cornered on the word. one of the things i want to talk more to john about that has crossed my mind if one of the reasons he doesn’t identify with the fringes or progressive christians is just that yet again a group of people are somehow deciding how the word will be applied and what you generally have to agree on to be called one. anyway, thanks so much for taking time to comment & furthering the convo.

    – i always love your thoughts & perspectives. i think that one of the things that is such a drag is that the word ended up with so much baggage, certainly so much of what is identified as overtly “christian” i don’t think was ever Jesus’ intention. so much of the baggage comes from power and influence, though. there are so many amazing christians who are humble and graceful and lovely and somehow have managed to follow Jesus and not get too wrapped up into these selective verses of paul that have split and divided people for centuries (i’m pretty sure that wasn’t his intention). those “christians” don’t seem to get much press, unfortunately, i think it might have something to do with power. they’re not to interested in seeking it, ha ha. anyway, i always love your thoughts here so thanks for contributing to the convo!

    erin – i am glad you connected with this. oh sometimes i wish you were at our kitchen table with us! john, can you answer erin’s question, i think it’s a great one and one that many are wrestling with trying to figure out.

    randy – yeah, i like that approach, too. it seems to open up so many more fun conversations…

    stacy – oh i love what you said about getting rid of all the trappings and that’s the idea anyway. i think of that song “they will know we are christians by our love, by our love” not to be corny or anything but i think that was always the idea. i hate that people tend to think “they will know we are christians by our meanness, by our meanness.” unfortunately a few of these verses in paul’s letters have really added fuel to this fire. anyway, always love your voice here. thanks for sharing.

    christen – i am glad you liked it & that you stuck it out even with a slow internet connection. look forward to hearing more of your thoughts & just glad that this makes you feel less alone in your own thoughts swirling around.

    tracy – thanks for the link. i will have to check it out!

    a. amos – thanks for your powerful thoughts. i really appreciated them. how did you find this post?

    – i hear you. i think that’s one of the reasons i hold onto the word because i don’t want to turn it over just because the powers-that-be have really messed with it. i also respect john’s decision because for him, following is far more important than labels.

    jonathan – i knew that someone would notice 🙂 the escobars are raider fans, too. yeah, not too popular in denver.

    charlotte – oh thanks for taking time to share. i am glad you connected with this thought & of course i am so sad about the whole thing, really, just how messed up things have gotten. i have no idea what Jesus would say about the whole thing, but i am just guessing that the bottom line would be “call it whatever you want, but do it, live it, that’s what matters.” it’s funny, too, because in some other circlces the word “emergent’ can create just as much hubub and misinterpretation, ha ha.

    sam – i always appreciate your perspectives. and i like what you said about it depends on who you are talking to. sometimes i adjust, too, and i think that’s fine. i can never deny that i am a follower of Jesus. i just am. but sometimes i have disclaimers on it or say it in a different way or everything in between. on the whole, it has always gone down well with people-outside-of-the-church-or-somehow-on-the-fringes.

    angela – thanks for your thoughts. i haven’t read his stuff but i have read more over the past few years of different interpretations and perspectives on paul’s teaching that are very counter-conservative-evangelical but scholarly & solid. it is so sad how much damage has been done over a few passages, i honestly don’t think that could have ever, ever, ever been the intention. it is just too counter to the over-riding bigger story in the bible. i like the “well it depends on what you mean by the word christian” thought.
    love to you from afar.

    – thanks for your thoughts & taking time to add your perspectives. i think you bring up some really great points to ponder. i think it depends on what you mean by “beneficial”? for some people, this is a necessary part of their faith journey & they need the freedom to explore and wrestle and question and wonder without feeling like if they do, then they are “out”. what i see in john and many others is a more sincere desire than ever to follow the ways of Jesus but it just doesn’t come with all the language that makes the system feel comfortable with. i think the bigger question is how to create systems/structures/places to allow more room for these questions so that we can all be together and not lose the power of divergent thought. the problem is that most systems tend to turn on those who question it, leaving many people i know no choice but to find their own way and own spaces outside of the confines of “church.”

    – it was fun & i look forward to more experiments

    valerie – oh thanks for your additions here. the reality of that “this is what makes someone a christian counselor” is just so nutty. i also hate that feeling where you have to kind of stumble and not be sure on what to say to the person-you-aren’t-quite-sure-will-misinterpret-who-you-are-if-you-say-christian. i like joy’s too. but sometimes when i say “faith community” instead of “church” people are like ‘huh? what’s that’ and sometimes when i have tried some of these alternative wording(s) the same reaction happens, too. oh so many things to chew on together in different ways. glad you are part of the convo here, i love your voice, your heart, your experience, your perspectives.

    S – thanks for your thoughts. i’m not sure i see it that way–as hate, not love. i think it’s just seeing it differently. and that’s not necessarily “un-loving”. i do think that the point you make is very valid about “well, i don’t want to be associated with THEM” but at the same time i think it’s fair for people to say that, to be clear–that’s not really what i’m about and i don’t want to be mixed into that pile because it isnt’ what resonates with me & here’s what does.” i think one of the hardest challenges for all of us is to be able to disagree, see things differently, and also love each other well in the midst. easier said than done but i think it’s possible.

    michelle – oh i love seeing your journey unfold. it inspires me in more ways than you know because it has been so honest, so sincere. thanks for sharing. i am probably more of a “christian” in so many ways than i have ever been before yet it looks and feels and tastes so different than when i clung to what-people-told-me-paul-for-sure-meant-about-certain things. it has been very freeing and beautiful and real and often un-explainable. it is interesting how much comes to life when we quit trying to quelch it with logic and knowledge.

    esther – thanks for sharing & so true, what you are saying about the time spent on semantics instead of actually living out the ways of Jesus.

  • First of all: I loved the video – I hope you will put up more of them in the future.

    As to the term “Christian”:
    I grew up in an evangelical, fairly “fundamentalist” church in Germany (where this type of Christianity is NOT mainstream) and I still consider myself a Christian – even though I now disagree with a lot of the beliefs my former church holds and many of its members would probably not consider me a Christian anymore… 🙂
    I will normally not label myself a “Christian” when talking to other people though. That has to do with the fact that a lot of people I know equate the term “Christian” with the type of fundamentalism that believes doctors who perform abortions should be shot, weapons that kill innocent bystanders should have biblical inscriptions, homosexuals are bad people, we should pray for president Obama’s death and people in Haiti need bibles more urgently than food or medicine (this “definition” of “Christianity” mainly stems from reports in the media about American Christians, I think). While I do agree with other commenters that it is important not to leave the label to one particular branch of Christianity, I have found that if I tell people I am a Christian I will spend the next hours discussing all the things I do NOT believe in. I would much rather tell others what I DO believe and what God means for my personal life than spend my time working through a list of convictions Christians are assumed to hold.
    People tend to figure it out by themselves after a while and I get a lot of comments along the lines of “Hey, it’s good to know there are different types of Christians out there”. I don’t think my main reason for refraining from calling myself a Christian in conversations is that I hate “them” (i.e. other Christians). I know a lot of evangelical Christians whose convictions I don’t share who are great people and are meaning well and I do appreciate their commitment. But if I call myself a Christian other people will put me into a “box” right away – and God as well. Open-minded conversations become almost impossible after that. So I am all for “mixing it up” and using different terms to describe who we are and what we believe. 🙂

  • Kathy…John, absolutely a wonderful conversation. I detached myself of the ” Christian ” label awhile ago. I had reached a point of 30 years into the journey where I know longer bought into a system of belief…to living. In the gospels we have no where, where they made a statement of faith..the lived with, and out of Jesus. Pure, and simple faith.

  • i thought i’d throw in my two cents since i’m john’s wife and kathy is one of my best friends.

    this has been an interesting discussion and it’s been beautiful to see the honesty and grace. kathy…you have some cool people who read this thing and who are asking some of the same crazy questions.

    it feels kind of cliche when i hear people say, “it’s just all about jesus”. but, i think for a lot of us…that’s where we’ve landed. i’m not saying anything new…but, the term “christian” (whether we like it or not) has come to mean things to people (whether they are “in” or “out”…one of the things that makes me cringe) that has become something i no longer want to align myself with. i think it’s cool that some of you don’t want the close minded, judgmental people to “own” the word…and are working to re-define the label. there are a lot of beautiful people who are showing love and grace and truly living out jesus’ words and call themselves christians. i just think there are too many loud voices in the mainstream to really shift the image at this point…i think it may be too late to re-claim that label.

    but do we really need a label at all? i’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to “call myself”. does it really matter? i love what ron said, “in the gospels we have no where, where they made a statement of faith..they lived with and out of jesus. pure and simple faith. what if we all just lived like that and shed all our labels? that feels like a “pure and simple faith” i’d love to be a part of.

    i have watched my husband and my friend, kathy, live out the ways of jesus, in the most beautiful and genuine ways, better than anyone i know.

    they love like jesus. maybe that should be their label?

  • Years of Learned Semantics

    It’s embedded in the flesh
    like a river that won’t run dry
    It carries us onward, maybe not always forward
    creating a rut in the mind

    Am I who I say I am?
    or do my words deceive me
    What image do I bear?

    Is my wording just a label
    or does it speak of something more?
    Am I who I am because of what you call me
    do your words define me?

    The want of greater things
    Freedom from confinement
    Action instead of syllables
    Love not bound by language

  • Hi there,
    I understand the frustration that comes with labels. I wasn’t raised in a home where Christianity was taught or accepted, yet I still chose it, and that came with lots of difficulties. I am a little disturbed by what John is saying about sin and salvation not being important to his spirituality. Mark’s gospel tells us Jesus came and his first words were ‘repent and believe the gospel’. Jesus constantly address the issue of sin and need for salvation, so how we ignore that? We have no spirituality without Jesus Christ being our Savior. That is the starting point, to start somewhere else is humanistic and false. I call myself a ‘Christian’, though I know that the term came about in a slur, but the Apostle Peter uses it in a good way and so do the early church fathers. It comes with history, a heritage, both good and bad. I could refer to myself as a person of ‘the way’ like the Pharisees described the believers.

    Categorizing everything and labeling does have its set backs, but God uses labels to identify His people. Royal priests, holy priests, ambassadors, ministers, joint-heirs, and so on. Keep things simple, back to what it means to be a Christian, ‘to be in Christ’, or ‘follower of Christ’. Christianity doesn’t need new definitions, it needs to get back to demonstrating it no matter what background we come from, get back to the Bible.
    Ps. the distinction of Jesus and Paul. the church was built on Christ, then the apostles…they expound and add by divine authority what Jesus taught.

    good discussion,

  • um…this ‘symantically-enlightened discussion’ may “intrigue” your conscience, but oh what a slip-and-slide you are embracing.

    “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” 1 Peter 4:16 TNIV

    • Umm… Pastor John – the greek (which I can only transliterate here as ‘christianos’) could just as easily be read in English as ‘one of Christ’s’.

      Part of the difficulty in translation is that there is no one-to-one correspondence. Did the writer mean it as a title or name or description or something else?

      As I listen to John in the video, I don’t hear him being any less a ‘christianos’… just not being prepared to accept the additional baggage that has been added to the english word, “Christian”.

      Christ’s peace- r

  • I’ve been thinking about the various comments here about “labels”, and I’ve got a bit of a question.

    Label seems to have a pejorative association to it. I’d like to suggest that a label can be a self-identifier, and used as a place to start discussion.

    When I was doing some extended study, I decided to step wayyyy outside of my comfort zone and get stretched. I’m on the progressive fringe of a liberal protestant denomination in Canada, and decided to do doctoral studies at an evangelical seminary in the US. (Fun! Wonderful! Full of culture-shock! *grin*)

    Much of my time getting to know people was spent in ‘unpacking’. After hearing me talk about something, one of my classmates might ask, “Are you really a Christian?”

    My favourite response, “Well… what do you mean by Christian?”

    “Well, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour?”

    “Ok. Let’s unpack that. What do you mean by Jesus? By Christ? By personal? By Lord? By Saviour? I’m certain we’ll find a number of things we agree on… but I need to know what you mean by it, before I can say if I’m there or not.”

    Labels are a form of “short-hand” – but by their virtue of being general they need to be unpacked to make sense.

    Christ’s peace – r

  • another esther – thanks so much for your thoughts here. yes, hope to get some more video convos up here in the future. i think you communicate what many others have experienced; if people hear the word “christian”they immediately put you in a box. one thing that really makes me sad is we tend to not hear the stories of christians who are loving, kind, merciful, sacrificial, inclusive, and doing really wild & beautiful things that are so contrary to the message of a right-wing, fundamentalist, in-out, turn or burn kind of christian that we mainly see in the media. that is sad to me.

    ron – oh your words are beauty. thanks for sharing and for the reminder of the simplicity.

    marty – thanks so much for chiming in, i really loved your thoughts. i, too, agree with you that i really resonate with ron’s thoughts. i think the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what we’re called, Jesus’ reflection will always come through. people who see judgemental, harsh, in-out people do not see Jesus when they see them, they know that’s not consistent with Jesus’ message. it’s a lot like what gandhi said–“i like your christ, i don’t like your christians. your christians are so unlike your christ.” i want to be like christ. i see you, john, and lots of other people being like christ, and i don’t care what you want to call it. it’s beautiful. it’s real. it’s powerful. we’ve got to get you in on one of these convos!

    skylark – now that was seriously pretty. thank you for sharing.

    colin – thanks for your thoughts. you said “Christianity doesn’t need new definitions, it needs to get back to demonstrating it no matter what background we come from, get back to the Bible.” i agree with you that it needs to get back to “demonstrating it” and i think that’s the point that most people seem to agree with. i once heard someone say “we know what the bible says to do but we just don’t want to do it.” i think it’s much easier to talk about the bible, to study the bible, to know the bible, to quote the bible, to point to the bible, than to actually live the bible. when it comes to your second point toward amos about those passages of scripture, i’d just add that those are your interpretations of the passage and the bigger story. there are others, including me, who see it differently and embrace an egalitarian view of men & women in relationship with each other.

    pastor john – thanks for taking time to add your thoughts. that is your opinion. i know that many are scared of these kinds of conversations, but i’m not and many of the people i know aren’t. i think fear keeps people from experiencing the solid ground underneath.

    richard – i really appreciated your response to pastor john’s thoughts. i also love your additional thoughts & agree with you, labels are sometimes helpful to understanding. they help organize our thinking, they help us make some semblance of some ideas, etc. i love what you shared back to your fellow student & it demonstrates so clearly how some have the market cornered on what all of these things are supposed to mean. can you send me the link to where you have this conversation posted on your site? there were some great comments there but i wasn’t sure if the link was open access or not.

    • hi kathy,
      appreciate the video and its very neat to listen to others who sincerely want a deeper relationship with God. to live out what the Bible says, yeah, it’s hard, but God gave us his Spirit to lead us and cause us to walk in His ways. Ez.36:27 has been a great encouragement to me.

      when it comes to interpreting the Bible, somehow we started to doubt what it really says. when it comes to Jesus walking on water we begin to ask ‘well was it really water that Jesus walked on?’, ‘was it 3 days and 3 nights jonah spent in the belly of the whale?’, ‘when Jesus said he was coming back to receive us to Himself and later to judge, did he really mean that?’ ‘when Jesus describes hell as a real place, more often then heaven, is it true or just symbolic?’
      when these questions get raised it really does show that we’re losing faith in the bible that is ‘God-breathed’. if paul said ‘women don’t express authority over men in a public meeting on doctrinal issues (paraphrase)’ and if the Holy Spirit gave paul that passage to write down, then what paul says God says. if it sounds wrong or offensive in our culture, we should reinterpret the Bible in light of our culture but take what the Bible says and transform our culture. i take the Bible historically-grammatically-literally bc that is what it says we are supposed to.

      again great discussion,

      • thanks, colin, for your thoughts & these are the moments where i think it’s perfectly okay to just say “yep, we see it differently.” you & many others i know & love hold that view and i know many others who don’t. one of the dangerous grounds that i have always avoided, very intentionally, on the carnival blog is trying to argue scripture interpretation toe-to-toe. i have never seen it go down well in the end. this is a place for a wide variety of divergent thoughts & experiences, that is one of the things i like about it the most, that we can see it differently but respect each other on the journey. thanks for your contributions.

  • Oh my. I have come to hate the word christian. But still I don’t want to abandon it just because many, including me, have made it into something untrue. I find myself wanting, even in my embarassment, to stand up and say I am a christian, a follower of Christ, this is what it looks like and it is beautiful. I wish somehow, as we stand up proudly, that our lives could redefine the word Christian.

  • Growing up in the evangelical community, it took me a long, long time to step outside of the “givens” and truly wonder about the root of evangelical thoughts and beliefs. It took me a long time to realize that mainstream “Christianity” was funneled through a white male SUBJECTIVE interpretation of texts (texts written by men as well). I have found in my own journey that the closest I have ever felt to god, has been in releasing all of the ideas I have about her/him, and entering into the radical process of my own way of relating to people, and living in the world. I no longer feel that what matters is what I “think/believe” or how I label myself, or where I go to commune, but rather, how I love those around me, what I do when I witness oppression/injustice, where I participate in liberating people from shame and self-contempt, and how free I really am. I found that being a “Christian” was not about freedom, but about a cultural set of rules based on a patriarchcal and white supremest perspective. I can’t imagine anything could be more honoring to a creator, than participating in creation through a radically inclusive and open heart towards all “others” be they other in gender, race, social class, politics, or even….dun dun dun….other religions. I truly can’t “believe” in a god, or a me, that doesn’t include all people into community, dialogue and the dignity of participating in the definitions of what matters to god. Thanks for sharing Kathy and John, and for linking me to this conversation Marty, it is ALWAYS good to see folks walking away from dogma and into mystery and embrace.

  • mary – oh i am with you, this is why i still hold on to the word & see so many beautiful and courageous and lovely and humble people helping re-define the word. you are one of them!

    liz – thanks for taking time to comment & share some of your journey. i love what you shared in so many ways. i think the part i resonate most with is that being a christian hasn’t been about “freedom” for so many of us, the one thing that i believe Jesus was bringing–freeing the captives, setting the oppressed free. the good news has turned into bad news for so many & that is just sad to me. great line, too: “it is good to see folks walking away from dogma and into mystery and embrace.”

  • Hi Colin

    You write to Amos…
    “in 1 timothy 2, paul is referring to women not having authority
    over men to teach and preach.”

    You write to Kathy…
    “ paul said ‘women don’t express authority over men
    in a public meeting on doctrinal issues (paraphrase)’
    and if the Holy Spirit gave paul that passage to write down,
    then what paul says God says.”

    Here is where I appreciate John for being able to admit to
    questioning Paul and looking to Jesus. 😉
    Took a while to admit that. Yes, fear of man and “The Religious System.”

    Didn’t Jesus teach “His disciples” male and female,
    Not to “exercise authority”over anyone? Or be called “Leader?”
    For you have “ONE” master/leader, “the Christ.”
    Mark 10:42-44. Mat 23:10.

    Didn’t Jesus teach “His disciples” male and female,
    NOT to be called rabbi/teacher? Mat 23:8.
    For you have “ONE” master, “the Christ.”

    The questions for me became…
    Why did God have Paul write what he did? The way he did?
    And, Why not “start with” what “Jesus” taught “His disciples?”

    Paul’s statements, to me, became questionable,
    different from “The Traditions of Men” taught in the IC,
    questionable, because of what Jesus taught “His Disciples.”

    So why is Paul limiting “only” “Women?” Hmmm?
    And, “Sometimes” he limits them, but “NOT always?” Hmmm?

    Often, What “Paul said” didn’t seem to line up with what “Jesus said.”
    And, What “Paul said,” didn’t line up with what “Paul said,” in other places.
    Hmmm? Why did God have Paul write these things the way he did?

    In 1 Cor 14:26, Paul seems to make NO difference “who hath a doctrine,”
    or “a revelation,” male or female. He refers to “every one of you.”

    “All brethren” can, are expected to, participate
    and teach “ONE” another, “always.”
    That seems different then 1Tim 2:12, But I suffer not a woman to teach…

    1Cor 14:26
    How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, “every one of you”
    hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation,
    hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

    Isn’t that very different then what happens Sunday morning? Why?

    1Cor 14:26, seems consistent with Jesus and the NT “ONE another’s.”
    “Consider” one another. “Edify” one another. “Admonish” one another. etc.
    All participating, with “ONE” another, always. “ONE” body. Yes?
    Paul taught, every part of “The Body” is important. Yes? 1 Cor 12.

    And, in Gal 3:28, Paul says we are all “ONE” in Christ.

    Gal 3:28
    There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free,
    there is neither male nor female: for ye are all “one” in Christ Jesus.

    Does this verse say, male and female are equal?
    Or, Does this verse say male and female do not exist?
    And we are “ONE?”

    If, in Gal 3:28, Paul says, “male and female” do not exist, Ye are “ONE?”
    Why, in 1 Tim 2, and 1 Cor 14, does Paul make a distinction? Hmmm?

    It’s “Not I that live, but “Christ” that liveth in me. Yes? Gal 2:20
    It’s “Christ” in “me,” the hope of Glory. Yes? Col 1:27.
    It’s “Christ” in “my brethren” “male and female” the hope of Glory. Yes?
    Yea, all of you be subject one to another… 1 Pet 5:5. Oy Vey!!! Now What? 😉

    Didn’t Jesus warn us about “The Traditions of men,” Mark 7:13,
    that make the word of God of non effect? Nullify the word?

    When I was part of ”The Religious System” of the day,
    I was constantly infected with, “The Traditions of Men.” 🙁 Ouch!

    There are some interesting answers to these questions.
    You just have to start asking “the questions.”

    Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
    John 18:37

    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
    John 10:27

    And, I believe the Bible is written just the way God intended it to be.
    I used to follow “man.” Thought they knew better. 🙁 ouch!

    Are you following “The Traditions of Men?”
    Or, Are you following Jesus?

    Who better to “interpret scripture” than Jesus? 😉

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear my voice;”
    and there shall be “one” fold, and “one” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?


  • Hi again to Amos Love,

    what a great discussion we can have on these very important questions. some do not have the luxury to be able to share openly about their faith due to persecution. let me respond but know that i don’t do this in an argumentative tone, these are the types on conversations that i have with many in our church over coffee, in our bible studies where there’s a loose atmosphere to discuss bible passages.

    one of the key factors that helps me read and prepare for bible studies is knowing that it is beautifully woven in unity. i don’t understand how over a period of 1400 yrs, by 40 different authors, some women, that there is this unity, but it’s there.

    matthew’s gospel has a jewish flavor to it, that is his audience, and the verse that has been quoted has the pharisees as its background and target, lol i think how strange it would be that the sons of thunder, james and john wanted to call fire down from heaven and destroy a town. and how they wanted to not only sit at Christ’s right hand but his left hand to, in order rule with him but Jesus tells them that it is not his to give and warns the others not to have that type of attitude. but the fact of them ruling with Christ later on is true, Matt.19:28. but to shepherd God’s flock with a lordship attitude is not permitted throughout the NT. (1 tim. 3:1-9;1 peter 5:1-4)

    mark’s gospel pictures Jesus as the perfect servant. therefore no genealogies bc a servant doesn’t need one. there in Mark 10:42-45, within the disciples there should be this attitude of submission to each other, to the point of a slave. the key words are ‘lord over’.

    unfortunately, many pastors, priests, and leaders have that controlling attitude which has turn off so many. teaching with authority is not the same as lording over others.
    at this i must quit, i do not wish to stir up trouble of any kind, know that i am interested in hearing more of why people have decided not to use ‘christian’ to define themselves, or have a trouble with titles with leaders in the church…here is my email if anyone wishes to message more about this. Jesus is coming, one day, we’ll be able to ask him to tell us why some of the things are the way they are.


    take care

  • If Kathy Escobar ever looks at you with that crazy grin and says “I have an idea!” realize that if you are involved, the implications might be a little bigger than you first expected. It’s an interesting experience to have a lot of people listening in on a conversation. That ten minute conversation that Kathy and I had captures just a fraction of the hours spent putting words to the journey that we’ve (our spouses included) been on these last couple of years.

    Although I’d love to, I’m not capable of responding to everyone’s comments and thoughts. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure how Kathy has done that AND post another blog. Please know that I read each one and got something good out of each of them. If I was still a Christian, I would even say it was like “iron sharpening iron”. (Insert laughter here)

    So I am going to limit what I have to say to just Erin (and you all can listen in if you want to).

    I loved what you had to say Erin, thanks for the honesty. And you are right, for me there was sort of a finality when I no longer used the word Christian. And I can tell you honestly that I was so scared and freaked out about what was happening to me. Contrary to what some people might think, there was nothing cool or rebellious about watching a faith that I loved, begin to unravel and become undone. I can go into details about my journey as a Christian but the details aren’t important. Just know that it began when I was a very young man and I’m almost an old man now. Everything in between; my wife, my kids, my friends, my career, everything…I believed was “centered and given in Christ”. And in what seemed like a second, it shifted. Like an earthquake. It might have been simmering for years, but once it began it all happened so fast. Just like you said, the practices, the rituals, the vocabulary, no longer held importance or value or relevance.

    Here’s the funny thing…through it all I continued to feel the same presence, the same God movement as before, it was just more mysterious, more unknowable, more inviting; and really frightening.

    This has been a pretty tough process to walk through; ask my wife who probably cried everyday for about four months when it began. It was scary for her too. She watched me go through anger, confusion, apathy, and a bunch of other emotions directed at anyone close to me. I’ve been told I’m being deceived, I’ve been accused of back-sliding, falling for the liberal b/s that is prevalent today, abandoning the church, just being bored with God, being difficult, and many other things.

    I tell you all this so I can get to the heart of your question. “If not a Christian, then what?”

    I don’t see it as an “if-you-are-not-this, then-you-must-be-that” sort of proposition. (I used those dashes because Kathy uses them a lot and I want to be cool like that!) For me, I came to see Christianity not as a good or bad thing, or truth vs. non-truth, or even light vs. dark. It had nothing to do with the baggage or even the very beautiful things in the faith. For me, Christianity, or more specifically being a Christian, was a vehicle that could no longer take me where my faith journey was going. And that is how I see Christianity now; it’s a vehicle that people use to take them closer to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. I am simply choosing not to ride that vehicle any longer. I rode it as long as I was supposed to.

    I have tattoos that take a really long time to explain. A lot of thought went into them. There are many people who don’t have the patience to listen to the whole explanation, and I can’t blame them. It takes me a long time (as you can tell) to tell people where I am spiritually. And most people don’t have the patience to hear the whole thing about that. But hey, they asked right? They end up hearing about Gods-economy as an answer to the economy of the world. I talk about how we find Jesus in the least of these. We talk about having margin; and those who don’t. We talk about our place in line, and the mystery of grace and mercy. I always walk away from these conversations realizing that it’s a lot like you said, it really is indescribable.

    And that is because we are talking about the person and the way of Jesus and there is no way we are ever going to get our hearts and heads around that. The incarnation is simply a beginning and not an end all point. Sin and salvation has a small part in the story, but it’s not the point, especially when you are hungry, abused, marginalized, forgotten or lonely. I see Jesus as scandalous and notorious for not being what the world (or me) wants him to be. I think even Jesus knows Christianity is way too small to contain him. So yes, I do not think Jesus is exclusive to Christianity. I am fiercely loyal to what Jesus invites me into. This is why Kathy still thinks I’m a Christian…. and I don’t think she is.

    So I am going to go try to find him. And I would encourage you to do whatever it takes to find him as well. Cast off any system or doctrine or dogma that conflict with your heart’s picture of Jesus. Remember what Jesus said about the least of these, about the first and the last, and the 99. Lost coins, lost sheep and lost sons. And most of all, remember that he said it is finished.

    I seek to live like that. I hope you find your way as well.


    John Nunez

    • Thank you John. Your words are very meaningful to me. I left “church proper” five years ago, and I have been wandering every since. I am off in some no-man’s land, knowing I will probably never go back, but not knowing what I’m going TO, if I’m not going back.

      The weird thing is it mostly hasn’t been uncomfortable for me, in fact, it’s been beautiful and peaceful and I’ve been happy here. I don’t need a destination, and I don’t need a box. But then, so many people are not ok with me not having a box, especially a label-box. It seems like every Christian I meet wants to label me. My hesitancy to drop the label is held simply as some kind of barrier between me and the “wolves”, if that makes sense.

      I love what you said about Christianity being a vehicle, and that it was no longer taking you where you were going. I LOVE that, it’s great. I think I’ll adopt the metaphor.

      And I also have tattoos I have to explain. 🙂

      Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. It’s a challenging journey, but I wouldn’t go back to the system for anything.

      • hey erin – someday i hope you can come hang out with us down here for some fun convos. meanwhile, though, tonight john & marty were here and this thought of the “wolves” came up. i was sharing how with my friends who aren’t christians or are completely out of the system i never, ever, ever worry about having to defend myself or having them pick apart anything that i say. but pretty much always i feel the potential scrutiny of christians–which things they might take issue with, which thought is over the line, which thing can i not defend with scripture, etc. some of it is just stuff in my own head but some of it is real. i have been in many a conversation where the wolves found some fresh meat. anyway, that’s a real drag and so not the way it should be. sending love up north. xo

  • I think I just erased my comment. I sort of hope I did so this doesn’t look silly.
    John–I wanted to say that I enjoyed your beautiful (short version 😉 ) explanation of your faith/spiritual journey and only wish I were close enough to listen in on more of these conversations in pewrson.
    Kathy–as always thank you. It was fun to hear the voice behind the “voice”. Your willingness to open the conversation always blesses me.

  • Colin

    You write…
    “i am interested in hearing more of why people have decided
    not to use ‘christian’ to define themselves,
    or have a trouble with titles with leaders in the church…”

    “Titles” and “Leaders” and “The Church”
    are topics that have my interest and concern now.

    As Richard said, We have to unpack that.
    First we have to come to an understanding of what is “the Church.”

    I could be wrong but…
    When you say “church,” most folks will think of
    A building with a steeple on it.
    A Pastor, in a pulpit, preaching, to people in pews.
    Is that “The Church of God” in the Bible? 😉 Nah, don’t think so.

    When I use the word “Church” I explain to folks what the word means.
    In the NT it’s always the Greek “ekklesia” Ek = out of. Kaleo = to call.
    It always refers to “people called out” of one place to another, an assembly.

    “Ekklesia,” in the Bible, never refered to a building, an institution,
    an organization, a denomination, or a corporation.

    Should we call a corporation “The Church of God?” AAARRRGGGHHH 🙂
    That’s what “The Traditions of Men” say today. Corporation = Church. 🙁

    In a corporation you have to have “Titles” and “Leaders,” it’s “the Law.”
    And you obey “the Law” in order to get a tax $ deduction. Oy Vey! 😉

    No, No, No, – Jesus is the “only” head of the body,
    (the ekklesia, the called out one’s) “The Church.”
    Don’t need no stinken “Titles” or human “Leaders.”
    Jesus be the “Leader.” And He is pretty good at it. 😉

    Church = Ekklesia, called out one’s, assembly.
    Church = God’s people – always
    Church = Kings and Priests unto God
    Church = The Bride of Christ
    Church = The Servants of Christ
    Church = The sons of God – Led by the spirit? Or led by man?
    Church = Disciples of Christ – Learners and students of Christ.
    Church = Ambassadors for Christ. Messengers obeying Jesus.

    Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is
    there is liberty. Thank you Jesus.

  • Hi again amos,

    you’re right on the greek word for church being’an assembly’, ‘called out ones’. Ephesians tells us all about the church and what it is. Chapters 1-3, what it is theologically, and 4-6 what it does. those who are saved by faith in Christ not works, are apart of the church.
    proclaiming God’s truth is God’s means of bringing the good news of salvation and has been a central part of the universal church since its inception. Acts 2. the Church belongs to God and should be led by God, and He has chosen to do it through men who are to be filled with His Spirit. there is the universal church (all saved throughout the world) and there is the local church ( those saved who meet locally).
    i know that pews are not sacred, neither is the pulpit, nor the fanciful pictures. has the local church been a sore spot, yes, throughout history it has made some big mistakes. should it be run like a business, a concert, an amusement park, no of course not. not all churches have given in to that type of thinking. some traditions are okay, not all traditions are bad. Jesus warned against the traditions of men in regards to the Pharisees who instead of being content with the Law (610 civil and religious laws) added to it, including such as how many steps you should take on the Sabbath that don’t count as working.

    those who are ‘un-churched’ have never understood what the church is, what it does, because they don’t have the Spirit. Jesus said that all of His disciples will be hated by the world because the world hates Jesus, if the world loves the church, then something has gone terribly wrong with the church.
    great book that helps with these issues, “why we love the church” by Kevin Deyoung and Ted Kluck

  • Interesting discussion, hope it keeps going.
    I might jump in later, but for now I’ll get a big bag of popcorn and watch.

  • Colin

    Kevin De Young seems like a nice guy, and smart.
    Went to seminary, wrote some books, and loves”The Church.”

    Only problem is “the Church” he loves
    and “The Church” I love, just aint the same thing. 🙁

    I think he is stuck in the “Traditions” he learned in “seminary.”
    Seminary has been the downfall of many a believer.
    You often learn the “ways of man” not always the “Ways of God.”

    He says he loves “The Institution.” Hmmm?
    How has “The Religious Institution” been working for 1700 years?

    He loves “The Traditions of the Religious System.”
    If that’s where he wants to be, a Reverand, a Senior Pastor,
    I can understand his defending his lively $ hood
    and where he has invested much of his life.

    I had to struggle to “Leave the system” had years $ invested.
    Very hard to admit I was wrong all those years. 🙁

    When you see the “Truth” of what The Bible really says
    it’s hard to lay down your “Titles” and what comes with “The Title.”
    Power, Profit, Prestige, Recognition, Reputation, Importance, etc.

    All those things that Jesus spoke against. Yes
    Jesus humbled Himself, made Himself of NO reputation
    and took on the form of a servant. Yes?

    “Titles” give you prestige, reputation, whether you want it or not.

    Kevin also wrote a book about “Women in the Church.”

    Freedom and Boundaries:
    A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church.

    See, he doesn’t know what “the church” is/means either.
    He is refering to the “Religious Corporation.” AAARRRGGGHH!

    When we are in Christ, we are “ONE” neither male nor female.
    What arrogence to think he knows “The Boundries”
    and what the “Role of a Women” is in God’s Ekklesia. Mercy Lord…

    Aren’t “women” supposed to hear the voice of Jesus and follow Him?
    Isn’t it God’s job to lead, guide and teach “His disciples?” Male and female?

    Lot’s of stuff going on NOT in the Bible. Yes?

    You mention “Local Church,”
    Can’t find “Local church” in my antiquted KJV.

    Keven is a Senior Pastor and a Reverand. Yes?
    Can’t find either of those “Titles” in my antiquted KJV.
    Why would you take a “Title” not in scripture? Hmmm?
    Power and controll couldn’t possibly be the reason.
    Sounds like the beginnig of “Spiritual Abuse.”

    Kevin is the Senior Pastor of a “Reformed Church.”
    Can’t find “Reformed Church” in “any” Bible. Can you?

    Jesus didn’t “reform” “The Religious system” of His day…
    And took “His disciples with Him.”

    He “Called them Out” of “The Religious system”
    into a reltionship with Him.

    IMHO – “The Religious System” gives God a bad name. 🙁

    See my challenge.
    Nice guys like Kevin are why I don’t refer to myself as “Christian.”
    I don’t care to have folks thinking I believe like Kevin.

  • to amos love,

    it seems like you are looking for the ‘thou shalts’ and ‘thou shalt nots’ of the Bible when it comes to titles.
    Eph.4:11 mentions pastors-teachers as a gift Jesus gave to the church. most of the NT letters are written to local churches and pastors, the seven letters written to the seven churches of Revelation was written to the pastors and churches. 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus are written to pastors and it describes their calling and what they are to do. Bishop(overseer) and Elders describe the same person (can be a pastor) but with emphasis on different function.often names of churches were used as a slander or a way to distinguish them from other groups. One group believes in baptistm by immersion, all of the sudden people call them baptists. another believes elders or presbyters (a biblical word) should be leading the church so people refer to them as Presbyterians.

    The different names for churches and leaders often comes from a doctrinal teaching more emphasized. Catholics and Protestants are two completely different systems of thought, that can’t be meshed without giving up some doctrine…specifically salvation. Where does “Reformed” come from, you know, the Reformation which was a crucial point in Church history…I am very thankful that it happened.
    is division among God’s people bad? Yes, unless it is over the doctrinal truths that can’t be moved.
    i’m not a ‘Kevin follower’ but he makes some good points.

    Many seem to not like what Paul had to say but want to stick with Jesus, failing to see the unity, yet Jesus was harsher than Paul ever was. Jesus describes Hell in detail, He says many will enter there and only few will find Him, He says to the nation of Israel that they are children of the devil, he says he came to divide home, mother against daughter, father against son, he said if we love our families more than Jesus then we cannot be His disciple, he says fear the one who is able to destroy both body and soul, if we hate someone we are guilty of murder, he said marriage is not for everyone….Jesus was tough on his listeners, he wasn’t shy he took a whip and scared away a crowd from the temple court. Jesus said he was the only way to the Father. Jesus is God, of course He is love, but He is also a just Judge and righteous and holy which means He must punish sin.
    It scares me to think that many who say they are followers of Jesus is missing His entire purpose for coming to Earth to die. It scares me to think that many are giving up their trust in the entire new testament. Pitting Jesus against Paul or Peter. I know many who are thinking this way have come from an evangelical or conservative background, that i wished i had, but are now giving it up because they had a rough go.
    Well, lol, that’s alot. I think i’ve taken up too much space on this wall, so i’m not going to be notified of replies, but again if you want to Amos, please email me.

    take care

    • sorry i had to run out to my son’s late basketball game just as i was finishing that other comment and meant to say that i appreciate you participating in the conversation, colin. it is hard to be the minority voice sometimes & you have done a great job here of being kind and sharing where you are coming from. thanks for that. how did you hear about the carnival?

  • a. amos love – i am tracking with you! i think that you bring up the important point that we so easily can say “well this is what the bible says” but so many things are what man have taught us. when i read some of these paul contradictions that huge church divides have and continue to be over, i always, always, always come back to the freedom from oppression & equality that Jesus brought. i think it’s so simplisitic to say some of the things that people have honed in in scripture and build an entire system/structure around it and miss the entire point. anyway, thank you for your engaging in the discussion & for making such excellent points. how did you hear about the carnival, by the way?

    colin – i also respect your passion for scripture and dedication to what you believe. i kindly disagree on some of these points and believe that a lot of it is a contradiction that is extremely convenient for those with power & not so much for those without it and entire church systems have been built upon what i believe is a faulty foundation of man’s ways & not kingdom ways. i think i always go back to that when we fundamentally see the bigger story about the Bible from a different perspective that trying to reconcile our differences is nearly impossible. but it doesn’t mean we can’t have an honest and kind discussion. i see so much differently from you about human beings & the image of God in them regardless of the words they say. i believe that many unchurched people understand the principles of “church” – true loving community–far more than “churched” people. yes, some core things, when the roads diverge, are really too hard to navigate back to a common place on. for many, what it means to be a “christian” is very different than in is for others. i deeply respect john’s and many others i know desire to shed the words and the bible-interpreting-through-the-lens-of-whatever-system-they-happen-to-reside-in and actually live the life, a life of mercy, not sacrifice. thanks for entering into the conversation.

    john -no idea what i drug you into, huh? i didn’t really know either and i have so appreciated the wide range of perspectives and conversation. i absolutely loved what you shared in a very succinct (ha!) way. it was beautifully said and i think really provided some bones to your journey that our short convo couldn’t. i think the power in what you are saying for me is that by dropping the word so many confines were lifted. the vastness of an it is finished Jesus can be terrifying, too, but oh so beautiful. words aside, that is the road i am on. i will keep following it downward and wrestle with the pain and confusion of living in these dark places with hope. thanks for the challenge & the wild & crazy conversations. it has led me closer to a true-r place in my heart than i have been in a long time. the whole downward descent and breaking down of so much of what used to keep us so safe is definitely nutty. and yeah, “john, i have another idea…”

    minnow – thanks so much for your faithfulness here. i hope someday we can sit around the table and get to have a real conversation. it’s been fun from a far but not the same.

  • Kathy

    You asked, “How I found your site?”

    I answer, “Because God loves me.”

    Enjoying the topic, Can you tell?
    Also your insights and courage to post “the elephant” no one notices.

    “Christian?” Hmmm? Who couldda guessed? Wow!!!

    Didn’t know so many folks had similar feelings about the word.
    Makes me feel better knowing there are others hearing the same thing.
    Oh, and I agree with John, your not a “Christian.” just don’t know it yet.

    And John noticing Paul and those “seemingly” contradictions. That’s rare.
    That’s really taboo in “Christianity,” questioning “Paul?” How dare you?

    Now, I believe God has the Bible written just the way he wants.
    And Paul did write that because God wanted it that way.
    I also believe, He also wants us to search out “The Truth.” and Hear His Voice.
    When you see the differences in the Bible and “The Traditions of Men” taught.
    When you see “The Corrupt Religious System” avoiding what Jesus said
    and only teaching what Paul was saying you start to wonder. And FEAR.
    You have no place else to go but to Jesus. Benefit, Benefit, Benefit…

    Jesus is the best teacher. Yes?
    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be “all taught of God.”

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to “hear his voice,”
    that “he might instruct thee:”

    Psalms 32:8
    I will *instruct thee and *teach thee in the way which thou shalt go:
    I will *guide thee with mine eye.

    IMO – We’ve depended too much on man teaching us and not Jesus. 🙁

    And what looks like contradictions, mis-statements, or opposition to Jesus
    has a purpose and an understanding. 😉

    It seems you have to find the answers for yourself. Just start asking.

    God’s ways are not our ways. His ways are higher. Yes?

    And it all works together for good. Yes? Benefit, Benefit, Benefit…

    And your zeal to comment back to folks. Much appreciated.

    And, Do you mind if I answer some of Colin’s last comment here.
    Seems he wants to go off line and discuss.
    IMO – These are important topics for us all.

    Be Blessed…

    • glad you are here and i appreciate your thoughts 🙂 i think my take on an ongoing conversation between you and colin here is to sort of think of this as my living room, our house of refuge for example that meets at our house on wednesday nights. we have all kinds of crazy topics and the refuge community is very diverse theologically so you never know what direction things will go and who will pull in another direction. as a facilitator, i love that & think we all grow and are challenged as we listen and engage. we learn that what matters most is our relationship with each other & that supersedes any of our theological ideas. at the same time, sometimes in certain group situations i have said that it’s time for 2 people to take a conversation in the other room & continue it beyond our time together as they might be more passionate about it than the rest of the group. in this moment, we don’t have the confines of time, no one needs to go home and get kids to bed or wake up early tomorrow morning for work. so i think i’m inclined here to say if you want to comment back, feel free. i don’t want to limit conversation here.

      but i also want to remind everyone else listening in that i do not want commenters here to have to worry about defending their responses with scripture. that has never been a piece of the carnival culture here and i don’t want it ever to be. i always want this to be a place where people can say what they need to say with no fear of getting jumped on or pressed to defend. i think we’ve done a great job of that over the past 2 years and really want to make sure that continues.

      i have appreciated yours & colin’s back and forth as an example that i want everyone to have a space & i think it’s been a very kind and good discussion, but i will just say that there is a time to say “okay, i think we’ve said everything that we need to say and if we keep saying more, it’s not going to get us anywhere new.” i have no idea what that time looks like for you or anyone else but just want to toss that out as a thought for all of us to consider.

      everyone – i wanted to just say how glad i am that you all take the time to comment and participate and lay whatever these posts stir up in you out there. i can’t stand crickets, especially after some hot topics. it’s like that horrible moment in unsafe, weird groups here you share your story and everyone just stares at you. nothing’s worse than that awkward silence. so thanks for speaking up, piping in, and participating and not leaving me out to dry.

  • good morning,
    thank you kathy for making it a comfortable place to talk about some hard issues. i didn’t want it to feel that amos and i were taking over your wall and going off topic and coming back on.
    many of these topics come up alot when i’m talking with people. being a young pastor i guess i don’t know any better than to ask some of these questions to the adults in our sunday school class. lol last year i taught a series about the ‘christianeze’ language we use and yet we often expect unchurched to know what we are talking about. i do wonder what they think we’re talking about at times when we use phrases such as ‘born again’, ‘the kingdom’, ‘faith’. i came across the same confusion in church history where many Christians were being arrested and killed for mistakenly being ‘atheists’ since they denied emperor deity, and for being cannibalists because they talked about eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus.

    i do take a conservative view of the Bible and on teachings, many of us still do, and because of that we often feel that we are in an uphill battle. i love talking about these things, but i do realize that many times i will fall on the opposing side. but i guess having one of these types is not so bad, The View does have Elizabeth hasselback for that purpose, i think we are able to actually discuss more than they are able to get though on that show. lol
    have a good one

  • Colin

    I too have enjoyed the conversation. Thanks for shareing you‘re a young pastor.
    Becomes a real challenge NOW on how to answer so you can receive in “LOVE.”
    To speak the truth in love, at least what I see as “The Truth,” NOW, in “LOVE.”

    What I have to say could be thought of as not “being loving” to a young pastor.
    And, Jesus is the truth. And, “The Truth” sets you free. Yes? Liberty = Love. Yes?
    I’m not thinking that you have to agree with me now. Put in on the shelf.
    You, and others in your postion, have been taught by men, who were taught by men.
    This is how error get’s passed from one generation to another. “Traditions of Men.”

    You write…
    “i do take a conservative view of the Bible and on teachings”

    Conservitive – dictionary
    Holding to “traditional attitudes” and “values” and cautious about
    change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.

    Is your “Conservitive View” based on the Bible? Or what you were taught?
    Is your “Conservitive View” actually based on the teachings of Jesus?
    Whose “Traditional Attitudes” are you holding on to?
    That of your denomination? Your seminary? Who gave you your papers?
    Kevin De Young? Or others you have read? And hold in high regard?
    Don’t ask me. Ask Jesus. He said, “MY sheep hear My Voice.”
    I too had a “Conservitive View” based on what man taught and not Jesus.

    You’ve listened to man a long time. Maybe it’s time to get alone with Jesus?

    You see Colin, Your “Conservitive View” and my “Conservitive View”
    Just aint the same “Conservitive View.” Oy Vey!!! Now what? 😉

    Isn’t that one of the dangers of “Titles/Labels/Christianty” mis-understanding?

    “Conservitive View” IMO – is a “Title/Label” you have taken for yourself.
    And, that “Title/Label” could make you “feel superior” to other believers. Yes?
    And, a “Title/Label” will most likely serparate you from other believers. Yes?

    In my “Conservitive View” “Titles” are dangerous. 🙁

    I’ll explain in the next comment.


  • Colin

    I’ll just give you a little of my take now on “Titles/Labels.”

    Here is some of what I found about “Titles.”

    Job 32:21
    Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person,
    neither let me give “flattering titles” unto man.
    For I know not to give “flattering titles;”
    in so doing my maker would soon take me away.

    Mat 23:8-10
    But be not ye “called Rabbi:” for one is your Master,
    even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
    And “call no man your father” upon the earth:
    for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
    Neither be ye “called masters:” for one is your Master, even Christ.
    But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
    And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased;
    and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

    Seems Jesus is teaching “His disciples” to avoid “Titles.” Yes?
    Don’t be called, Rabbi/Teacher, Master/Leader. That’s Jesus’ Title.
    And don’t call anyone Father, Only one Father. Hmmm?

    “Titles” are dangerous because when you accept that “Title”
    there’s a whole bunch of stuff that comes with the “Title.”

    Power, profit prestige, honor, recognition, reputation, etc.

    All those things that Jesus spoke against. Yes?

    Jesus humbled Himself. Made Himself of NO reputation.
    Took on the form of a servant. Phil 2:7

    Seems to me “Titles” make a reputation whether you want it or not.
    “Titles” cause people to “honor you” whether you want honor or not.

    Jesus said, in John 5:41-44
    I receive NOT honor from man…
    How can you believe who receive honor one of another.

    Joh 8:54
    Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing…

    When your “Title” goes on a business card, office door, office wall,
    street sign, sunday morning bulletin, website. etc.
    Is that “Honoring” yourself? Hmmm?

    Don’t titles become idols? Don’t titles make us a name?
    And cause walls of seperation?

    Don’t titles say, I am, you’re not?
    Don’t titles say, we are, they’re not?

    Baptist, Lutheran, Assemblies of God —- separation.
    Reformed, Evangelical, Charismatic —- separation.

    Clergy – Laity,
    Leaders – Followers,
    Pastors – Sheep,
    Teacher – Student

    And we have one greater then the other. Causing walls of separation.

    And some will “exercise authority” and “lord it over” others, yes?
    Isn’t that the beginning of “spiritual abuse?”

    In my experience “Titles” are dangerous because…

    No matter how loving… eventually…
    No matter how humble… eventually…
    No matter how much a servant… eventually…

    Pastor/Leader = exercise authority = lord it over = abuse = always

    Peace and Love.

  • Kathy and John-

    Great conversation-thank you for inviting us into your conversation. My main reaction to your video is “hope.” I became a “Christian” in my adolescence to try to “identify” with the powerful dominate group of white upper middle class. I am a Latina woman, born of Colombia immigrants and it wasn’t til my late twenties that I realized that my Christianity wasn’t about spirituality but about cultural acceptance with what is powerful in our country-and because of the shame that I had internalized due to the negative stereotypes of Latinos/marginalized groups in our country-I didn’t want to be me, I wanted to be Christian white middle class-that is what I thought God wanted me to be and what is deemed “holy” in the Christian community. Thankfully, I now proudly identify as a Latina, and no longer identify as a Christian. I now live with much more integrity, love for myself and others, openness and mercy for the world and those who have the experience of being marginalized than I ever did when I was trying to “identify” being a Christian. I am struck with hope with your video because you both deconstruct my bias and stereotype that white middle class will not think through those are not accepted in Christianity and actually are seeking for spiritual congruency in your lives. Thank you for your authenticity and your humanness in your conversation

  • Jessica! Thanks for sharing that about yourself. That is an incredibly intimate thing to share but very revealing as well.

    Being a middle class white lady, I had no idea that anyone would feel that way. It’s great that you have regained your identity and don’t feel you have to fit in with what you believe will get you acceptance. If you are writing about this some place I would love to read more.

    I have coached some women and love to know what women are thinking deep inside.

    • hey charlotte.
      i’m john’s (in the video) wife.
      you used the word “coaching”…i’m wondering if you are a life coach? i am in the process of becoming certified as a life coach. i would love to talk to someone (probably better outside of this conversation) who is doing that. and, how you personally blend or direct their spirituality in the midst of coaching.

  • To Amos,

    Don’t worry, I dont’ think you are being unkind or unloving. You are sharing your concerns and true thoughts which i respect, yet disagree. When I say “conservative” right away I know that red flags go up. Some assumptions are made, perhaps one that I grew up in sheltered home, in the south, home schooled and was spoon fed the Bible. Something like that, lol, funny thing I have come across those types. I grew up in a place where you don’t take ‘church’ seriously. God’s name was used in my house so many times, and not in a good way. Divorced parents, lots of drinking and fighting, not a good environment. I came across different groups, baptist, bretheren, anglican, unite church, and all very different approaches. But I chose Jesus and chose a place where Jesus was taught. I took sciences in college, joined groups that admired the likes of Brian Mclaren and his post-modern approach. But I evaluated the different approaches as i was taught to do with my science background and chose the ‘take the bible as it says’ group.
    Where there’s an narrative and history, i read it as history, where there’s poetry, i admire it as such and read that way, where there’s parables as Jesus often told, he even tells us how to interpret them properly, cuz the disciples didn’t get them the first time either :).
    Where the Psalms say that God surrounds his people with his wings. I don’t assume God is a bird, I understand it as poetry, God’s protection, love and care.

    I read the Gospels and study the contexts, so as to stay true with the writer’s intention and meaning. Most of the verses quoted above by many with the ‘titles’ passages are to warn the disciples not to be like the Pharisees and ‘lord over’. But he gave ‘titles’ as gifts to the church as Ephesians tells us.
    That passage is Job 32 is Elihu talking, which is contradicting Job, and we know that Job did not sin throughout the discourses and God was very angry with all those who tried to accuse Job of doing wrong when he didn’t.

    Call it a ‘science’ if you will by interpreting the Bible as it is. I may not like what I find at times but to quote Mark Twain, “it’s not the stuff that I don’t understand that bothers me, but it’s the stuff I do understand that does”.

    Now if I may make a comment concerning your thoughts. That they are not original in this generation, but have been around since Immanuel Kant and Karl Barth ( and we know what their teachings did to Chuck Templeton), and back farther. Rationalizing faith and God and taking out the divine factor in the Bible, not a very good thing. I take all new testament letters as equal authority as written to me but not all of it is for me. At times Jesus makes a distinction that his disciples were to go to the house of Israel not the gentiles or the samaritans.

    It seems strange to think that the church accepted all the NT letters right away as God’s truth. some letters were questioned, Jude, 2 and 3 John, Revelation and 2 Peter, a council got together a few hundred years later to settle the question because of false letters going around. But it is traced very well that by 100 AD that the NT letters were in circulation and to be read. But the silly thing to be is that how is it that almost 2000 yrs. later some have rose up to question what has already been settled. It’s an act of God that he has preserved the Bible that way. Jesus took the OT literally and quoted it as God’s authority, with creation, and the Law, the miracles, the prophecies (25% of our bible is prophecy).
    And here is the kicker, if my view of Jesus and your view of Jesus are totally different, then one of us is wrong and we both can’t be right.
    the passages you quoted above concerning ‘traditions’ are taken out of context. it seems you are reading our sense of ‘traditions’ into it which we can’t do. i can’t read a tradition of sitting on 300 hundred year old pews, singing 500 hundred year old songs on old instruments. that’s not what Jesus referred to. the principle still stands as to watch out.
    yes there is a danger with being in a position of leadership, we’re all sinners, that’s why James warns that people shouldn’t be so quick to become teachers for they will receive a greater condemnation.it is a sad sad thing when so many leaders fall today but that shouldn’t deter us from following what the Bible clearly outlines. i don’t advocate the pastor is all, does all and says all, that’s not right. but i do respect the calling and gifting that God has given to me.

    i enjoy our talks.

  • sorry amos,
    more again,the Philippians passage you quoted concerning Christ who made himself of no reputation. He’s God in the flesh, but he didn’t go around publicizing it saying ‘hey, look at me, i’m God, ain’t I great”, he did share that He is God but never in a flaunting way. great mindset for any believer. not to go around saying ‘hey look at me, i’m saved, you’re not, nah nah nah” lol that would be ridiculous, as a pastor i don’t go around to everyone i meet and say ‘hi i’m pastor, now respect me, i’m better than you are’ but rather ‘ hi, my name is colin, i am a pastor at such and such, is there something i can do for you, serve you, pray for you, share the good news with you’.
    it sounds like you have had bad run ins with church leaders, i am sorry for that, the writer of Hebrews says to respect the elders for they watch over your souls’. we are to pray for our church leaders that they may stay strong and follow the Spirit’s leading.
    take care and good night!

  • amos,
    you brought up many good points, i’m trying to answer some of them.
    i know there are so many different denominations and sub groups and it can be really annoying that there are so many and it looks divisive. but separation is not always a bad thing. if on the right reasons. i don’t mean separating one group from another because of their style in music or clothing, but of doctrinal things.
    for example, if one group does not believe in the Trinity but just one of the persons of the Godhead, then that’s a major issue.
    take baptism for example, it’s a command from Christ, what it pictures is seen in Romans 6. and immersion is crucial to the symbolic nature of it. therefore its important to be obedient and go immersion. or the Communion table, some think its the literal body and blood of Jesus, its miraculously turned into the real deal instead of a memorial. some think we are saved by faith plus works, others saved by faith alone. some don’t know if they’re saved or not because they don’t believe in eternal security. there are those who believe in continuing revelation into our day, meaning the Bible is not enough we need more.
    most people don’t like divisions and i’m one of them, but you have to admit that the above examples are crucial points that hinder fellowship to God and to others. this is not ‘wear a shirt and tie’ deal, these are core beliefs. i mean some don’t even believe in the resurrection of Jesus, and if that’s the case, Paul said that their faith is in vain.
    church life is messy, the christian life is messy because we are still imperfect waiting for all things to made new.

    trust i have given you some things to think about as you have given me.
    have a great day

  • Hi Colin and all-
    On the topic of unity, I hear you saying that it is more important to be right than to be together. The history of protestantism supports this. Since the initial split of the reformation, over seventy-eight thousand (78,000) distinct denominations have formed because they are right, and everyone else is not. Apparently that is a hallmark of true “christianity” as well- to have right belief as the core of our identity, to reject all who do not see as rightly as we do, and to split off and form smaller and more purely devout groups as you go in order to insure ideological and doctrinal purity.
    Frankly, I don’t see where this great religious self-confidence comes from. Right belief relies on reason- is that what we have put our faith in? Is our reasoning perfect? Right belief requires study- is our interpretation perfect? My point is that while I support employing both reason and study as a part of knowing who we are as Christians, without love and humility they are rationalized attempts at self perfection, having no need of God.

  • Hi Sage,
    yeah 78,000 is just ridiculous. i’m not suggesting that each group was right. At times it was the ones who were right that were removed. Luther was given the papal bull, John Wesley was also kicked out of the anglican church. many of the reformers didn’t want to leave the established church but rather purify from within. that was not acceptable and so they were hunted down and made to recant or killed. i’m not saying either that the reformers were perfect. they did have justification by faith alone in Christ alone down. which is what the Gospel message offers primarily more importantly. do i think that the church i attend has it all together. nope. but we’re growing and working through it. there needs to be a balance that comes from humility, mixed with truth and love. frankly most ‘take the bible as true and literal’churches stink relationally but have their ‘q’s and ‘p’s together, which is not enough and there are ‘throw away archaic expressions, music, words, pick and choose what makes me feel good in the bible’ churches that are great relationally but lack doctrine. balance is a tough road. the letter written by Jesus’ half brother Jude, is a good example of balance, its tough and loving.
    have a good one

  • The solas were originally 5, and they were just a man-made artifact anyway. All 5 together are
    1 Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”)
    2 Sola fide (“by faith alone”)
    3 Sola gratia (“by grace alone”)
    4 Solus Christus or Solo Christo (“Christ alone” or “through Christ alone”)
    5 Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”)
    that kind of got squeezed down to one over the years, loosing the somewhat paradoxical beauty of holding all 5 in tension. In any case, these are the basis for protestantism, not the basis for Christian faith (the solas being man-made principles). It seems that all we really have left at the end of the reformation is SOLUS HUBRIS.
    I think there is a lot of integrity in walking away from the title of “christian”.

  • If I could choose a new set of “solas” for the present reformation, they would be-
    Sola Agape
    Sola Phileo
    Sola Storge
    Sola Eros
    English translation-
    “by Love alone”

    • hi sage,
      i like your ‘solas’.
      the solas of the reformation were just summary statements of what they stood for. they did come from protestant minds. man-made. they summarize salvation and the christian’s mandate.
      based on the Bible, not one church that adds their owns teachings to it (what the Roman Catholic church had done)
      we are saved by faith alone, not by doing penance or buying indulgences
      we are saved by grace, we couldn’t earn salvation even if we tried to, we are undeserving of it yet God did it anyway
      it’s through Christ alone, no other possible way to the Father. we are not saved in Jesus plus anything else. just Him.
      God did this for His own glory. not to make us happy, but that we may give him glory.

      christian living: for the glory of God, in Christ, by grace through faith that is founded on the Bible.
      summary statements are man-made but they are helpful.

  • Colin

    Just to set the record straight,
    I haven’t challenged your view of Jesus or your love for Jesus.
    He has also been my source of strength and peace in challenging times.
    Maybe we can both be correct in our individual relationship with Jesus
    and how we see and experience Him. His ways are higher. Yes?

    Isn’t it important to warn about what the scriptures warn about?
    The commandments of men, The Doctrines of men, The Philosophies of men,
    That wind up being, “The Traditions of men” that nullify “The Word of God.”

    IMO – The most dangerous “Tradition” is sitting on 300 year old pews.
    And having, Pastors, in pulpits, preaching, to people, in those pews.
    People remain spectators and not participators, becoming Pew “Potatoes,”
    expecting paid professionals to feed and entertain them. They remain docile.

    Is there real “Fellowship” or real “Assembling yourselves together,” going on?
    All you get to do is look at the back of someone’s head for an hour or so,
    listen to one or two people instructing you, and go through the motions.
    Stand together, sit together, and don’t know the name of the one next to you.:-(
    Can’t wait to get out the door and be about their business. Pews. AAARRRGGGHHH!

    When “All” can and are expected to participate. Where two or three are,
    youngest to the oldest, weakest to the strongest, And Jesus does the leading
    and the teaching. Participants learn, Jesus can teach and lead from day one.

    1 Cor 14:26
    How is it then, brethren? when ye come together,
    “every one of you” hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue,
    hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

    Seems “All” are to hear and learn from Jesus for themselves.
    Then share their doctrine, revelation, and interpretation. That’s real joy. 🙂

    1 John 2:26-27
    These [things] have I written unto you concerning “them that seduce you.”
    But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you,
    and ye need NOT that any man teach you…

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be “all taught of God.”

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven “he” made thee to “hear his voice,”
    that “he” might instruct thee:

    IMO – “Pews,” “Titles,” “Positions,” are harmful to the “Body of Christ.” 🙂
    Much better when you learn to hear “His Voice” yourself, and be led by Jesus.

    Jesus is the best teacher and leader. Glory hallelujah.. 😉

  • Colin

    Thanks for sharing a little of your life.
    I too had a desire for “Titles/Position” once and was reading all the
    “How To” books to be a good “Pastor/Leader.” There are lots of them. 😉

    “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”
    I thought that meant Pastor/Leader at the time.
    That’s what I was taught by “my elders.” Oy Vey! 🙁

    I was already doing the work of an elder, (???)
    shepherding, teaching, praying for the sick, cleaning the bathroom,
    sweeping the sidewalk, repairing the roof, visiting the hospital,
    staying overnight and christmas day with someone who was dying of Aids
    so the family could rest a little and have some time for themselves.

    “My elders” wanted to make it official, and give me the “title” elder,
    I refused and said, being a believer was good enough for now.
    I didn’t need or want a title.

    I wasn’t being humble at the time.
    I knew I still had a few “character defects?”(You know – SIN.) 😉

    I knew I didn’t yet measure up for the qualifications for a “leader/elder”.
    Must be blameless, ( I wasn’t.) 🙁
    have your family in order, (Mine wasn’t.) 🙁
    holy, just, temperate, not quarrelsome, etc… (Tough act to follow. Yes?)

    How many believers take those qualifications for bishop/elder seriously today?

    The Bible talks about bishops, and elders.
    And qualifications for bishops and elders.
    Can’t have one without the other; Can you?

    Overseers/Elders “must be” blameless… Hmmm?

    After finally leaving “the religious system,”
    (Much pain, tears and spiritual abuse.)
    And struggling with these things about elders/leaders/shepherds/bishops, etc.
    (as I see your struggles and many others here also.)
    I now see it this way. Well today anyway. Subject to change? As I write this?

    That “must be” is the same Greek word as; You “must be” born again. John 3:17
    Seems to be a small word but very important.

    It’s Strongs #1163, die. – It is necessary (as binding).
    Computer – necessity established by the counsel and decree of God.

    Bishops “must be.” Hmmm? Very important or…?

    Blameless… How important is this word?

    Webster’s – Without fault; innocent; guiltless; not meriting censure.

    Synonyms – faultless, guiltless, innocent, irreproachable, spotless, unblemished.

    Computer – that cannot be reprehended, cannot be, rebukable, reprovable,
    cannot find fault, not open to censure, irreproachable.

    Strongs #423 – anepileptos – inculpable, blameless, unrebukeable.

    How many, who honestly examine themselves,
    seriously considering these qualifications,
    can see themselves as blameless, without fault
    and thus qualify to be an overseer, elder?

    And if you can see yourself as blameless;
    Is that pride? And no longer without fault? 🙂

    The Bible talks about bishops, and elders.
    And qualifications for bishops and elders.
    Can you have one without the other? 🙂

    This is only one of many qualifications.

    But some would question;
    Don’t you need leaders/elders?
    Maybe, but only if the qualify. Yes?
    Can’t we just ignore some of the qualifications?
    Seems that’s what most do in “The Steeple Corporations.”

    Didn’t Paul also leave us a way out
    “if” we can’t find someone who qualifies.

    In Titus 1:5, Paul tells Titus to ordain elders in every city.

    But in verse 6 Paul leaves a a way out (?) saying,

    “If” any “be blameless.”

    This is a very large, little, word: “IF.”
    This “IF” is found many times in scripture. Yes?

    In verse 7 he explains why he leaves an opening.

    For a bishop/overseer “must be blameless.”

    Now, I’ve met a few Pastors, Priests, Reverends, in my time.
    I just never met one, who thought they were a “leader/overseer/elder,”
    as nice, as humble, and as serious about Jesus, as one might be,
    who could live up to that “one qualification,” “Blameless,”
    never mind all the other qualifications.

    Paul didn’t say “they” can grow into being blameless.
    To be ordained bishop “they” must “be” blameless.

    Titus 1:6 If any be blameless…
    Titus 1:7 For a bishop “must be” blameless…

    Who do you know who is “blameless,” without fault? Are you?

    Only God, and sometimes me, know the hidden motives of my heart.

    Only God, and sometimes me, know “the idols” of my heart. Ezek 14:3-7

    In my experience, always, “titles become idols.”

    Doesn’t God then talk to us, and direct us,
    according to those “idols” of the heart? Ezek 14:3-7

    That’s my “Conservative View” of the Bible
    And it’s teachings on qualifications for “Overseer/Elder.”

    For a bishop “must be blameless.”

    Be blessed in your search for truth… Jesus.

  • to amos,
    i am sorry for your past history with how leading and the ‘titles’ push made you feel.
    but don’t you see what you are doing with the some verses you quote above, you are taking verses out of their context and stringing them together.
    deut. 4:36 – God talking to Israel and reminding them what He did for them and took them out of Egypt, he made them to hear through the 10 plagues. that verse is not directed to us.
    1 john 2:27- again warning about the false teachers who will sneek into the assemblies and lead them astray. but they are to stick with the apostle’s teachings as John points out. believer’s do have the ultimate teacher, the Holy Spirit indwelling them, but they must be surrender and submit to His teaching.
    john 6:45- Jesus’ offer to Israel reminding them of the prophecy concerning the Messiah and the kingdom available to them if they accept. but they didn’t so Jesus’ removal of the gentile rulers didn’t take place. the Father draws men to Christ, people don’t come naturally on their own to Jesus. Jesus said he would draw all men unto himself, and we find out the Holy Spirit draws men. but not all men accept this drawing because they can’t handle Jesus’ teachings. John 6:66

    a bishop/elder/pastor-teacher. all describe the same person. don’t think the word ‘bishop’ means what presently it means. a ‘bishop’ means ‘overseer’, which was of the ministry. so overseer is the function of the position, elder is the maturity of it. pastor-teacher (Eph.4:11) does simply that, shepherds the assembly, the apostle Peter was both an elder and shepherd in the early church.
    was he blameless? he denied our Lord 3 times but was restored. yet he showed partiality to the Jews and Paul had to rebuke him publicly for that.
    were any of the 12 disciples blameless? well, Judas wasn’t even saved, and the rest scattered when push came to shove. many assume that the man in Mark’s gospel who ran off without his clothes was actually Mark himself.
    Am i blameless? hmm i certainly see the sin in my own life, every Sunday morning when i get up to preach, this feeling of joy and yet humiliation and feeling unqualified for the task certainly is there. but by God’s grace i continue.
    the apostle Paul certainly felt that way, he persecuted the early christians, death and imprisonment, he considered himself the worst sinner out there and the least of all the apostles.
    the question arises, do the people in our church see me as blameless and does the community, is there something that can be raised against me and i be found guilty of. do i take those qualifications seriously, for sure. i pray over them, i ask God to continually search my heart, for i know that if i lack in either, i would step down. if my children don’t grow up to be believers or don’t respect my headship and the church, as Titus and 1 Timothy outline, then i would step away. it’s quite terrifying really. but on ‘if’ part, of there being blameless men or not, Titus was to instruct them and train them to be so.
    do i like the reverand title or think its necessary, no. do i expect everyone to call me pastor and be at my beckin call. nope. but i do what i’m called to do because it was Christ who gave me the gift of pastor-teacher and i will fulfill His calling on my life. lol funny thing, at one point in my life i wanted to be a biologist or lab technician, God has a funny way of changing things.
    thank you for sharing and i enjoy this challenge that you bring and your heart that you share,

  • to all,
    sometimes its the little things in christianity that are hard to cope with. i just spend time with two ladies in their 90’s today who lost a loved one, sharing hope and comfort during this time of sadness. but what could i say if i didn’t take Jesus’ words to be true when he promised eternal life and spoke to the thief on the cross promising that he would be with Jesus in paradise that same day. Jesus’ truth does set us free, but it also sets us apart from what isn’t truth. the farther you go down the teachings of christianity, the more we realize just how isolated we become from those who think differently. for example,
    bible teaches:
    that there is a God — separated from atheists and Buddhists
    He is one. not many—separated from Hinduism 1billion people, Mormonism
    He is creator, not apart of creation— there goes pantheism,panentheism
    there is a Trinity in the Godhead—those who disagree, oneness pentecostalism
    Jesus is the Son of God, died for our sins, buried 3 days, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven— many deny including Islam
    there is power in the blood of Christ to redeem—
    there is a heaven and a hell—-those who disagree
    Jesus is coming again to set up a kingdom—ammillenialists
    We can know with absolute knowledge we are saved 1 john 5:13—- those who deny that, Wesleyans and Mennonites, others

    and there are plenty more teachings than these…
    but this doesn’t mean that to say these things or to write them down is being mean-spirited.it’s bible truth, some of those above are core beliefs that necessitate one to be in Christ. this shouldn’t give us any sense of pride, but humble us and cause us to have compassion on those who don’t know the God we love and adore.

    Jesus is King!

  • I am exhausted from reading all the comments but I wanted to weigh in on a couple things because it has stirred some stuff up for me. First of all, I am part of the same community as John and I had no idea where he was at in regards to calling himself a “Christian”. I don’t know John very well but I do know one member of our community who would be considered “marginal” by society whom he has poured out all sorts of love and compassion towards. I have nothing but the highest respect for John. That song Kathy referred to “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love” is one of my favorite hymns and it totally reflects what I have seen in John. I would call you a Christian John because you love people as Christ loved people and you do it in Jesus’ name.

    Second, I also come from a very traditional evangelical background but I have of late been wrestling with some of the new testament teachings in particular some of the teachings of Paul. When he talks about head coverings in I Cor. 11. that men shouldn’t cover their heads but women should. Lots of guys at church wear ball caps and not too many women wear hats or scarves over their heads. Does that mean that we are all acting in “disgrace” over a head covering? In regards to women Paul seems to be extra restrictive and for the majority of my life I have just accepted that is how God saw me as a woman (less than a man and not able to lead or be of any signifigance in Christian society other than to get married and bear children). Recently, I determined that I really wanted to look into what Jesus said and to focus on living according to the words of Jesus and not the interpretation of Paul – God inspired or not. I felt like such a heratic and didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. I wanted to see how Jesus viewed women and how they were a part of his ministry. It was apparent that Jesus only chose men in his inner circle of 12 disciples so I wanted to look behind the scenes. I discovered a couple things. In John 2 Jesus first miracle was at the urging of His mother even though he clearly states that it wasn’t yet His time. He honored His mother regardless of His own agenda. In Luke 8 there are three woman that are named that are part of Jesus ministry. It seems that they were financially supporting Christ’s ministry which struck me because it doesn’t seem to be in line with Paul’s view of women. Women were funding Christ’s ministry not just acting in some subservient manner. Also Jesus didn’t seem to give preference or honor to anyone other than God the Father. He spoke to the Samaritan woman and offered her eternal life in John 4:13. It’s encouraging to me and allowing me to see myself in different terms than I previously did. When I heard John utter his own personal conflict with following Paul versus Jesus I felt somehow more free to continue on my path and not feel so alone in questioning things.

    Finally, and this might be rather silly to say but some of the images of “Christians” out there are not something I want to be associated with. For instance there is a woman on the television “Christian Network” who makes Tammy Faye look timid in comparison. She has this huge pink hairdo and wears gobs of make-up. The program she was on was about a Holy Land theme park in Florida. I watched it for a little bit with my mouth agape. I usually try to avoid “Christian T.V.” because I find it mostly offensive but this was over-the-top. I just don’t see the connection to Jesus at all in building a theme park. The amount of money spent on this must have been crazy. Maybe it could have funded the entire rebuilding of Haiti as to what they paid to build this thing. Jesus lived his life without money or posessions or a wife or children as far as I know. His entire focus was in bringing lost people back into relationship with God. Where I grew up in the midwest if you said you were a Christian people were pretty accepting. My experience living in Boulder is completely the opposite. I have literally had people cringe when I tell them I am a Christian and I find I am hesitant to even say that anymore. I wonder if they are picturing the woman with the pink hair and thinking about how many times I have visited the Holy Land theme park.

    I appreciate the banter between Amos Love and Colin. I have to say that I agree with a lot of what you both say. I am thankful for this journey and that I don’t believe God wants us to be in a box. There is one truth in my view and that is that Jesus is the way to relationship with God the Father and that we are supposed to treat other’s better than ourselves. The other stuff I am not so sure is absolute anymore. That’s were I am at.

  • sage – i like your solas, very nice.

    colin & amos & sage, too – whoa, quite the back and forth going on here but i think i will hold to what i have said before and believe–at some point it just keeps going round and round and there’s no way to get to a new place in the conversation. i think you have given it a great run & been very kind and respectful, which is great, but i guess i wonder: “what’s the point of keeping going round and round?” i am not ruling out that sometimes it’s just fun to banter and have a place to listen and hear where each other are coming from; that is enough. but i think as an outside observer this is where i kind of tune out because it feels like the same old thing–once one person says “i know this is what God says and means” then there’s nothing more to really talk about. it’s like a trump card or something and we can keep trying to trump each other but in the end i don’t think it really matters. i am not trying to tell you to stop talking but i guess i feel comfortable saying that i don’t think you’re really getting anywhere new. and this is where those-who-couldn’t-care-less-about-the-things-we-spend-so-much-time-picking-apart & christians-on-the-bubble & those who have decided that they dont’ want to be associated with christian subculture lingo say “see, this is why i can’t stand this christian stuff.”

    julie – i love your thoughts & voice & sincere journey of seeking Jesus and his heart in new ways. as you mentioned head coverings, etc. i do think that it is quite interesting that many who tend to really raise the banner strongly for interpreting the bible literally when it comes to homosexuals & women in leadership don’t seem to have trouble throwing out other passages. it’s all just wild to me and i wonder how much time we spend mulling over some of these nitpicking things is a perfect distraction from the much more important work of living the life of sacrificial love & humility & mercy that Jesus embodied. thanks as always for tossing in your perspectives, they are always appreciated.

  • good morning,
    i’m not really sure when you just say ‘alright, i’m done’. until that happens, i guess you keep going. since finding your video and website by accident, it really made me more aware of how many are struggling or past struggling with what to call themselves as they associate themselves with Jesus. for me it has been what proverbs said ‘iron sharpens iron’.
    lol it also reminds me of marriage. my wife and i are two different people. from different countries, different upbringing, different view on politics and history. but we both love the Lord.we challenge each other’s thoughts and learn more about one another. lol to quote the Matrix ‘ you don’t really know someone until you fight them’. of course not literally fighting, she knows how to handle a gun better than me. i love her, therefore i seek to do things for her and get to know her more, i don’t want half-truths about her or lies, or misconceptions. sometimes what i find drives me crazy and i don’t know what to think, and what she finds out about me drives her crazy. we knocked heads from time to time, yet we made a vow to love, care, seek each other’s needs and more til death do us part. i still refer to her as ‘my wife’ and she ‘my husband’, even those both words mean different things to different people, and some don’t even like using those words at all because they feel locked in or in a box. i wear my wedding band, its an archaic tradition, most people in the world don’t wear one. some wear it on the other hand. it ties me to my wife, a constant reminder of who i am to her. many think the whole system of marriage itself is unrealistic and useless, repulsive and outdated.
    i hope you see some parallels but just as i am not ashamed to be called ‘husband’, an old archaic term that comes with lots of baggage, where there are plenty of horrible examples of husbands in the world. i am not ashamed to be called ‘Christian’. it identifies me with Jesus Christ, sure many call themselves christian not knowing what it means, but i know.
    ( but just so you know, if we start diving into the ‘how many angels can stand on the head of a pin” debate, lol i’m gone)
    have a great day everyone

  • Quantum Gravity Treatment of the Angel Density Problem
    by Anders Sandberg

    Assuming that each angel contains at least one bit of information (fallen / not fallen), and that the point of the pin is a sphere of diameter of an Ångström (R=10exp-10 m) and has a total mass of M=9.5*10exp-29 kilograms (equivalent to that of one iron atom), we can use the Bekenstein bound[3] on information to calculate an upper bound on the angel density. In a system of diameter D and mass M, less than kDM distinguishable bits can exist, where k=2.57686*10exp43 bits/meter kg.[7] This gives us a bound of just 2.448*10exp5 angels, far below the Schewe bound.
    However, if angels have mass, then the point of the pin will collapse into a black hole if c2R/2G< Nm (here I ignore the mass of the iron atom at the tip).4 For angels of human weight (80 kg), we get a limit of 4.2089*10exp14 angels. The maximal mass of any angel amenable to dance on the pin is 3.3671*10exp16 kg; at this point there is only room for a single angel.
    The picture that emerges is that, for low angel masses, the number is bounded by the Bekenstein bound, and increases hyperbolically as mcrit is approached. However, the black hole bound decreases and the two bounds cross at mmax=1/(4GkM/cexp2+kD), very slightly below mcrit. This corresponds to the maximal angel density of Nmax=8.6766*10exp49 angels
    Just Kidding, Colin! I like having you in the discussion, thanks. Have a good day.

  • Kathy

    Thank you for the liberty, allowing us to go on and on.

    Julie said. “I am exhausted from reading all the comments but”
    Well, when I read that, I thought, yea,
    I’m exhausted from reading all the comments too. And writing them.

    But, just maybe that’s a big “but” Julie ended with. 😉

    For me it’s become a worthwhile exercise in sharing with others,
    in writing, what I’ve experienced with; this “worldly” thing
    called “Christianity,” with “Steeple Corporations” called “church,”
    the abusive “Religious Leaders,” taking “Titles” not in the Bible,
    so they can lift themselves above the rest, Senior Pastor, Reverend, Dr.,
    “Traditions and Doctrines of men” with out being “too” offensive.

    Most comments involve hours; reading and re-reading comments,
    thinking, about what to say, praying, what do you want said Lord,
    and then the writing and re-writing. This is not taken this lightly.

    You write posts and answer comments. You can appreciate the time and
    emotional involvement that goes with that writing. The responsibility.

    When someone first told me, “There are NO leaders in “Christianity.”
    I rejected that then, 1988, because I was told, I was called to be a “leader.”
    The trap had been set and baited. I can be someone important. 🙁

    Pro 29:5
    A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.

    Pro 20:17
    Bread of deceit is sweet to a man;
    but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.

    Yep, failed the test. Wound up with a mouth full of gravel. 🙁

    BUT, NO leaders, hmmm? it got stuck there, I heard it,
    and started seeing things a little different. Took a few years.
    2 or 3 before I agreed. Another 2 or 3 till I ripped up those papers,
    made it official, gave up the “Position,” became a lowly servant,
    very fearful at first, going out “not knowing” where I was going,
    or where the Lord was leading. We walk by faith not by sight,
    and entered in to a life of liberty with the Lord. Jesus loves me. 😉

    Now it’s – We are “One,”“All” equal. Jesus said, “We are “All” brethren.
    Jesus wants to be the only “Leader.” of the body, “The Church.”

    Hmmm? What do I call myself now, for me “Christian” falls way short.
    I’ll stick with, Amos, a servant of Jesus Christ.
    Servant means servant in any language and we can “All” be servants. Yes?
    No one higher or greater then the other. Just servants serving Jesus. Peace…
    Isn’t servant ultimately the highest call there is. And then friend.
    Jesus said, I no longer call you servants, but friend. John 15:15.
    Jesus even took on the form of a “servant.” Thank you Jesus. “One” master.

    IMO – This just might be an important conversation
    for those involved and the others that look on from a distance.

    Like Colin who said…
    “it really made me more aware of how many are struggling
    or past struggling with what to call themselves
    as they associate themselves with Jesus.
    for me it has been what proverbs said ‘iron sharpens iron’.

    Like Julie, who shared her experience, how “The Religious system,”
    made her feel and think about herself, AAARRRRGGGGHHH! 🙁

    “less than a man and not able to lead or be of any significance
    in Christian society other than to get married and bear children”

    Julie – I appreciate and applaud your efforts to go to Jesus and
    find out what Jesus has to say on the matter. NOT man. NOT men.

    And I appreciated what you had to say about women and Jesus.

    Ask different questions get different answers.

    IMO – The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me.
    And, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in Julie. Yes?

    You, and everyone, can hear “His Voice” and follow Jesus.
    You need NO man teach you. 1 John 2:26-27

    John 10:27
    My sheep hear “my voice,” and I know them, and they follow me:

    John 18:37
    …Every one that is of the truth heareth “my voice.”

    John 10:16
    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall hear “my voice;”
    and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

    For more scriptures on hearing “His Voice” and
    “They Shall All Be Taught of God”

    It’s a free download – go to…

    “God’s Words of Comfort & Healing”


    And click on the “His Voice” box. Be blessed…

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice

    If not now… When?

  • Julie

    I really appreciated your thoughts and where you’ve been.
    Thanks for sharing “wrestling with some of the teachings of Paul.”

    You write…
    “I felt like such a heretic and didn’t tell anyone what I was doing.”

    Yea, me too. Told some folks and got that funny look and silence. 🙁
    The good news is I don’t have to tell anyone till they are ready.
    Same with “the Religious system.” Don’t have to talk with everyone now.
    Just wait for folks who have been abused, people who are uncomfortable,
    or know there has to be more then “The System. Jesus stirs them up.

    I’ve come to appreciate what Paul wrote now. There is an explanation.
    You have to hear “His Voice.” You have to get it from Jesus for yourself.

    Mark 4:34
    But without a parable spake he not unto them:
    and “when they were alone,” he expounded all things to “his disciples.”

    “Disciple of Christ” to me, means a learner and student of Christ.
    Jesus, will, and does today, teach “All” truth.

    Here’s a few women in the scriptures I admire and learn about. 🙂

    Miriam the Prophetess
    Led Israel out of Egypt with Moses and Aaron.
    Exodus 15:18- 21. Micah 6:3-4. Moses didn’t get into the promised land either.

    Deborah was a Prophetess
    The children of Israel came up to her for judgment.
    Judges 4:1-10.

    Huldah the Prophetess
    Was sought out when
    the King commanded the Priest to enquire of the LORD.
    2 Kings 22:12-17, 2 Chro 34:22

    Anna a prophetess
    Spake of him (Jesus) to “All” that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
    Luke 2:30-38. Sounds like an important teaching. Yes?

    Four daughters which did prophesy.
    Acts 21:8.

    Woman and men were in the upper room
    when the 120 were filled with the Holy Ghost.
    Acts 1:12-15. Acts 2:1-4.

    God pours out “His Spirit” on “All” flesh.
    On His Sons and Daughters and “All” shall prophesy.
    Acts 2:16-20.

    Unfeigned faith in Timothy’s grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice;
    2 Tim 1:2. Hmmm? Is timothy learning about faith from two women?

    Jesus rebukes the eleven for not listening to Mary Magdalene.
    To whom he appeared “first” after the resurrection.
    Mark 16:9-14

    At least five women were the first to see Jesus after the resurrection.
    And they had the responsibility to deliver the greatest message
    ever delivered to man kind. “He is Risen.”
    Luke 24:2-11.

    I trust Jesus will have more important messages delivered by women.

    Have a blessed journey…


  • Colin

    When I see stuff about “Church Leaders” I want to scream.
    I left “The Religious System” after much spiritual abuse, pain, and tears.
    Most caused by, that’s right, “Church Leaders.” AAARRRGGGHHH!!! 🙁

    I have seen the dangers of “Titles,” of “Pastors/Leaders.”
    Spiritual abuse for both the “leader” and those “being led.”
    IMO – The “Title” “Pastor/leader” is very, very dangerous for both.

    I’m not not new to “ministering healing” to those who have been “abused”
    by those who “thought they were pastor/leaders.”

    Folks, **burnt,** ** burnt out,** ** kicked out,**
    and **crawled out** of “the religious system” most call “church.”
    with it’s leaders, submission to authority, tithes and offerings,
    and other unbiblical “heavy weights” put on folks shoulders.

    I also spend a fair amount of time with pastors,
    “so called leaders,” who can’t do it anymore.

    Trying to please the denominational leaders,
    the congregation and it’s leaders, his family,
    and of course Jesus.
    Who is often relegated to last place. Hmmm?

    So many masters, that’s tough. Yes?

    Preaching every week… and it better be good, being the CEO,
    the team leader, councilor, marrying, burying, smiley face. etc. etc.

    If “pastors/leaders” (as we see them today) are of God?
    He’s not taking very good care of His shepherds; Is He?

    This is info from a website helping burned out Pastors.

    PastorCare offers support and encouragement for pastors and their families.
    At PastorCare we care about YOU and we want to help.


    According to the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership (2007)
    • 77% say they do “not” have a good marriage.
    • 71% have felt burned out or depressed.
    • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
    • 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
    • 38% are divorced or seriously considering divorce.

    According to the Ministering to Ministers Foundation…
    • Over 1600 pastors in the U.S. are forced out of their positions each month.
    • Nearly 1 in 4 pastors experience a forced termination at least once during their ministry.
    •Only 54% of pastors go back into full-time church related positions.

    Think we might have a problem here?
    70% of pastors are depressed or burnt out.
    70% Don’t have a close friend. Hmmm?

    That’s who is running the show. “Pastors/Leaders?”
    77% who say they don’t have a good marriage. Hmmm?
    That’s who is “abusing” God’s sheep.

    Think there might be a problem with “Pastor/Leader?”

    1600 pastors a month, that’s 19,000 a year, leave or are pushed out. Wow!!!
    That’s 1600 families a month suffering “abuse” from a “Corrupt Religious System.”
    That’s a lot of broken hearts, disappointments, feelings of failure, pain, abuse.

    Why don’t the denominations and seminarys,
    tell these young wannabees, before they spend all that money for a degree,
    that they are entering a very dangerous profession? “Pastor/Leader.”
    Dangerous for the “Pastor/Leader” and family. Yes?

    Some more statistics. This is serious business. Yes?


    # 95% of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.
    # 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
    # 80% of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged as pastors.
    # 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
    …………..Many pastor’s children do not attend church now
    ……………because of what the church has done to their parents.
    # 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
    # 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
    # 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
    # 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
    # 33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.

    IMO – You are part of a system that eats up and spits out the wounded? ;-(

    Both “Leader” and “Led.”

    Yes, iron sharpens iron.

    Jesus loves me and forgives me all my sins.

  • collin & amos,
    it was exhausting to read so many of your back & forth comments (until i just couldn’t do it anymore and stopped reading them).
    maybe you should just agree to disagree…or swap emails and continue the conversation?
    hopefully you’ll see this as kind. but, i think most of us are a little tired of the exchange.

  • Amos Love,

    Thanks for your response to my post. The scripture passages you wrote and your words of encouragement mean a lot to me.

    I am glad to be on this journey with others who can appreciate the struggle and the need to press on.


  • I’m hoping the next video with John will be describing what it looks like to live by the words of Jesus. To be perfectly honest, it’s scary to wash feet, stop and feed the person on the side of the street, to give a theif your coat, be kind to the mean people – stuff like that. Just trying to define the real stuff – not the name calling (christian or not).

    I think my favorite part was when John said – (to paraphrase) “can someone else see Jesus in you by what you’re doing”? Once, a long time ago, i read the gospel of Matthew and decided I would do all that Jesus said – man – I gotta confess – I was saddened by my inactions and then I stopped reading – cuz it was really hard and I felt so guilty and un-Jesus like.


  • Kathy,
    this is why I love you – u r fearless and joyful. glad you r giving voice to this
    thoughts and questions:

    I love Frank Violas decsription of a “revolutionary” in Pagan Christianity and “identify” with and try to live out that description more than any other.
    Although challenging and adventurous -pursuing action vs thinking and revolutionary kinds of “lifestyles”are high risk, not safe and require great trust of God.

    We live in a complex world – we need not only radical revolutionary thinking but radical revolutionary communities and doing.

    Coming to Christ shouldn’t mean giving up one set of baggage in exchange for another set of baggage to carry – but often it does. people tend to spend alot of time sorting through the baggage trying to figure out what to wear, what they should wear to fit in, or what suits them. The most meaningful answers come when you are truly following Christ and engaged with various types of opportunities and challenges.

    Why do we need brands to align ourselves with/ and why do we need Christian identities anyway? I wonder about that alot. Why can’t we be true to our own DNA what we’ve been created to do in honor of our Creator? We are each unique and our respective communities are also unique. We seem to be asking the wrong questions – what should we be doing vs what should we be thinking and how should we be appearing before God, communicating and representing God as ambassadors to others outside Christian community as well as loving those inside.

    Most of things we feel ashamed or embarrassed about come from how christians often unknowingly, because they are growing, treat others in unchrist like ways that can tend to alienate -as well as the negative PR that’s been created. Even if the good stories proliferated – only the bad examples get press. How do we change that? Bible states that the world will hate you and love not the world – how does that fit in? I struggle w am I reaching out or compromising by working w and hanging w non believers. Other times I feel really secure in my faith and can relate to anyone. Often find that this very conversation and being honest will open people up to accept you as a christian and open dialog about your faith – if that makes sense.

    maybe instead of saying you are a Christian you could just say I am forgiven – how can I extend that grace to my brother and sister, to those who hurt and offend me – to those I don’t understand or agree with and to the world.

  • Cynthia, I love your comment. What a great idea to respond with “I am forgiven” and how can I extend that to others.


  • sage – okay that made me laugh, too

    amos & colin – thank you for letting us listen in on your conversation. i am glad it wrapped up because i do think at some point it just circles around, but i appreciate your passion.

    anonymous – thank you for sharing what you were thinking.

    jean – thanks for taking time to share & i think you hit on what so many others feel and wrestle with. the ways of Jesus are freaking hard. it is scary and so counter-cultural, counter-intuitive. i love john’s statement there, too, about if people saw us would they go “oh, so that’s what Jesus looks like?” i don’t think Jesus wants us to feel shame in all the ways that we don’t live it out like we wish, but i do think that the challenge is presented to us & that on the whole, we’d much rather talk about the big ideas, theological differences, what we believe, and all kinds of other surface-y issues that distract us from what’s really the point–living it.
    thanks for adding your thoughts to the discussion!

    cynthia – oh i agree with julie, love your thoughts & what you added. i love this line, especially: “We live in a complex world – we need not only radical revolutionary thinking but radical revolutionary communities and doing.” i so agree. the world is crying out & we’re wrestling with doctrinal statements. nutty. sending lots of love to you from colorado & glad that you’re part of the conversation here.

  • I’ve come to this clip and conversation only just now, so I haven’t read everything above fully.

    I shan’t stay long, except to thank you for sharing. John spoke a lot about what he no longer believes, or finds affinity in with Christianity (sin, redemption etc). I’d be interested to hear now some snapshots of what he *does* believe.

    I struggle with the label ‘Christian’, but perhaps on different levels. The ‘C’ word, I believe, has suffered far too much abuse to be redeemed to any state of positive meaning. In my experience (on the other side of the world to you), people who hear ‘Christian’ don’t think – “Hey, you’d be a good friend, or great person to get to know”… instead they think, “There’s a judgmental, close-minded, sexually repressed person who’ll look down on me and see me as a project/prospect and desert me if I don’t meet their expectations for joining the club”…

    Another issue for me (which I wonder if John shares?) is not whether I label myself ‘Christian’, but whether Christians would still be willing for me to be labelled ‘Christian’ when I no longer share belief in some of the fundamentals of Christianity (as it is today). I’m a heretic on key issues of salvation and destination, as well as some other major points, so I have to ask if it’s fair to call myself ‘Christian’ when my orthodoxy is so generous ‘they’ would disown me…?

    Cheers :).

    • hey steve, thanks for taking time to share. we’ll have to see if john will chime in. where i currently land on this is to be careful to not turn over the power to the “theys” in terms of what defines a christian. i know that is tricky ground so i tread lightly, but i guess we need to be more clear on what the fundamentals really are, what the essence really is. and of course, many would disagree on what those are. it seems to me that in the gospels specific point-by-point doctrine wasn’t at the top of Jesus’ list. but following him, doing as he did, opening our heart to his power and hope & contrary ways of the kingdom vs. the world…those things were

  • this comment came in on the vimeo site last week. i thought i’d post it here since that’s where the conversation is:

    from frank pontillo:

    “Jesus is God and became flesh and dwelt among us. He is the same God that gave us the Old Testament, the same God that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. It is crazy to think He approves of homosexuality considering what He did to Sodom. Jesus speaks of the church and He put the apostles in charge of the church. If we do not believe the writings of Paul or the apostles then how do we know what the church should be like. We cannot just pick and choose. If a person has truly been born again then he will want to be part of Christs church as described in the New Testament and he will find it a delight. The fact the man in this video does not like to go to church read his bible or pray is because he is not saved and has never been saved. Once a pperson is born again he becomes a new Creation in Christ. He assumes a new nature. To say someone was a Christian but now is not is like saying the butterfly used to be a caterpillar and decided not to be a butterfly and became a caterpillar again. Its impossible. The fellow was a false professor. Jesus spoke about them in the parable of the sower.

    He is wrong to say it does not matter what someone believes. That is the most important part of Christianity. Only when we believe Jesus is Lord and Savior will we be born again and able to discern what scripture and the Holy Spirit are saying.

    I urge the fellow to repent of his sins and come to Christ before he wakes up in hell.”


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