I grew up in a church that was boring. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. It was so boring that church was the best place to get an hour nap at the beginning of every week. But the pastor was a really nice man who cared about everyone. The best part of church happened after the worship service. Everyone would gather in the basement of the church to share a potluck dinner together. Mom always brought something good and the dish was always brought home empty. Many of the women were great cooks and their dishes were usually empty at the end of the day. A few ladies really didn’t cook, so their dishes were usually prepackaged, canned from the store, or just not made quite right. But you know what? Their dishes were returned empty as well. Nothing was thrown out. (None of it went to the pastor’s refrigerator either.)
How is it that every meal brought in love, no matter how good or bad, was completely eaten by the end of every Sunday potluck? The potluck was a full day affair. It wasn’t just a lunch thing after church. Sunday service was a full day at the church from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. The potluck was laid out two times. The first time for the dinner after service. Then the men would talk church business upstairs. The ladies would clean up the first meal. The children would play games outside. Then a second spread was arranged. This spread had the desserts and snacks. When the business meeting was over, (it usually took an hour or two), everyone got together for dessert. By then, we were hungry again. This would be about 3:00 PM. Leftover dinner would be available too. This time we could have our dessert with the dinner. By 4:00 PM all of the food was gone. This time everyone cleaned up together. The men would be in the kitchen cleaning the dirty dishes. The women would be directing and helping the children mop the floor and set the chairs and tables for next week’s Sunday School Classes. At 5:00 PM, the evening service would start, but with full bellies and another “meaningless” sermon, this usually meant another hour for napping. This is how I grew up in church and I look back to those memories with fond happiness but I missed something really important. The “meaningless” lessons were really not meaningless, but only to the mind of a child. And whether I wanted to admit it or not, I was a child. I was immature, both as a human, but also as a believer.
The church I attended was a small church in a small mid-west town. My class in Sunday school had only twelve children. Some grades were larger and some were smaller but our class was the average size. Until I graduated from public school and left for college, these twelve people, (eleven children and the teacher), were my closest friends. And it was from this group that I learned how to live my entire life. My personal values were formed from Bible lessons and group discussions with these people. No, I didn’t agree with all of them. I even gave my teacher fits with questions about God. I knew I loved God, but I wanted to know Him more. The problem was simple, we all knew about God, I wanted to know God. No matter how much my teacher and the other students tried to explain that knowing about God was all that mattered, I just couldn’t be satisfied.
At twelve years of age, I asked the pastor: If the believers in the book of Acts had so much power, why don’t we have the same power? If God never changes, why is He so powerless today? If witchcraft and sorcery is true, and taps into the power of Satan, and our God is more powerful than Satan, why can’t we demonstrate and experience His ability to overcome evil?
The answer I received was: You just have to take it by faith that God is more powerful.
Faith without an understanding of what faith “is” was a problem I couldn’t understand as a teen. Maybe the pastor explained it in his sermons. But I was too distracted (or sleeping) to hear and realize it. Whether I was physically sleeping in the pew or mentally sleeping doesn’t matter. I was checked out. Sure I was present, but not really there. The verses he read made no sense to me. His explanations in church talk was even more confusing. He told us we needed to study the Bible more, but he never showed us how to do it. I never knew what a Concordance was, let alone how to use it, until nearly eight years later. And it took even more time for me to realize that the Word was really fun to study.
To all of you that are in your twenties and have that love and desire to dig deep into God’s Word, kudo’s to you. You’re way ahead of the game than I was at the same age. If you have great sections of Scripture memorized, you have much more information than I did. It’s taken me a lifetime to build the trust in God that I have now and it didn’t come easily. Nobody showed me how to build my faith. I made a host of mistakes. But the underlying theme of all my searching with God always came back to the series of questions I gave my pastor at the age of twelve. And the motive for my search goes all the way back to the reason I asked my parents to go to church when I was four. I’ve always wanted to get to know God.
It’s impossible to get to know somebody without a two way dialogue.
This is the failure of religion. It’s great at getting us to desire to know God. It great at leading people to a point of decision. The first being: will you make Jesus your savior? For 2000 years, Christian religion has brought many people of every nation on the earth to accept Jesus as their savior. But after the conversion, there is a second point of decision. Will you make Jesus your Lord? Under religion, the rest of our lives are spent cleaning up our habits to copy the perfection of God while being imperfect. Religion teaches that we make Jesus our lord, as we serve or follow the church. Our only standard of truth has always been the interpretation of God’s Word according to the doctrines of the church we attend. So my first instinct told me that maybe my church at home may not have the right doctrine, I knew about God, but still didn’t know God. When I left home, I needed to find another church, so I checked out every church around me. I was eighteen when I went to college and as luck would have it, the college I attended was close to, and affiliated with, the first church I ever attended when I was four.
It was a different denomination. But after only one year there, I saw that there were problems being hashed out in the denomination. The problems were doctrinal and the entire church structure was involved. It was a problem that had existed from the very beginning of the denomination, during the Reformation, and they were trying to find a solution. The church was divided and opinions were strong on both sides of the issue. The verses being quoted appeared to support both opinions and that made the issue even worse. At the end of the year, I transferred to a college in another state and to another denomination.
This time I chose to attend a more tolerant denomination that appeared to be secure in their doctrines. This church had a history that went back to the very beginning of Christianity. Yes I knew of the accusations against them from my background. But what did I have to lose? It was obvious to me that the other two denominations had different opinions about God and Christian life. Maybe going to this church would answer my need to know God. But it was not to be. The people there were really friendly. The worship habits were nearly the same as the church I attended at home. The few changes I needed to make were easy to do and I fit right in as though I had always been there and was raised in that denomination. In fact, this was the denomination that my father converted to before his death, and is buried at home as a member of this denomination. It even continued the same pattern of preaching I received as a child. I could learn about God, but I still couldn’t know God personally. There was no pretense or attempt to copy God in our frail and imperfect lives. When we sinned, we simply asked for forgiveness. The standard was simply obedience to the doctrines of the church and penance when we failed. These people were much more tolerant, and much less judgmental. But, I still wanted to know God, not know about Him. By this time, I was disillusioned with mainstream Christianity.
After another year, I moved again and needed to look for another church home. This time, I was introduced to a “Spirit filled” church. I went to only one service there. What they tolerated in that church, I felt was an affront to decency. They were running up and down the aisles and jabbering incoherently here and there during the pastor’s sermon, then afterwards, altogether at once. I thought they were mad. I also thought that this was not the kind of spirit I wanted to know or experience. It was their doctrine that taught that God would take over the believer and make that believer do those things. I love God, but I couldn’t believe that my God expected me to allow any spirit, (including Himself), to take over the controls of my body against my will. I believed then, and now, that it was nothing less than devilish possession. That opinion is based upon the teachings of every denomination I attended previously. On this point, they all agreed, and I chose to believe this one particular point as well. If this is knowing God, I didn’t want to know this God.
Eventually I was introduced to a ministry that taught me how to study God’s Word and experience His Spirit. Until this ministry also experienced a spiritual meltdown and doctrinal split, I was content and happy to be counted as one of their members. However, since leaving that ministry, I’ve come to recognize that they too had a doctrinal foundation that was based more upon reason and logic rather than the Word of God. Their doctrine was educational and logical. It raised the importance of the written Word of God almost to the point of idolatry, but it was idolatry based upon the methodology of study. Sure, it led the believer to a free will experience with God. But the methodology of study was more important than building a relationship with God. It’s not enough to experience Jesus, when God made it possible for us to know Jesus. When this ministry fell apart, I was more vocal and left by “burning the bridges” behind me. There is no going back to this ministry or its way of life ever again.
By this time, I was fed up with church. I spent the next ten years simply studying the Word and testing God’s Spirit within me. By now, I knew how God worked within me. My attention shifted from learning what everyone else said about God, (doctrinal instruction), to what God is saying to me, (practical instruction). These ten years built the foundation for my book below. I learned how God teaches a believer. I also learned that being a follower of Jesus Christ wasn’t as pretty as I was led to believe. I experienced more trouble, not less. But I was also getting to know God directly. During these ten years, I experienced a divorce and remarried. I saw my first two children for the last time 17 years ago, and got a son that I’m proud of today. I’ve lost countless employers. Some by the business closing, some because of physical injury, some because of my health, and some because of my own weakness and stupidity. So I’ve been forced to move, look for work, look for places to live, and scrape by for food in the most unusual ways. (Can you imagine eating nothing but Ramen noodles for a month? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt and trophy. I can’t stand Ramen noodles today.)
Through all of that, I’ve learned that God always provided a way to have my need, and my family’s needs met. My wife has learned to build her own relationship with God. She had to grow as well. Her relationship is not the same as mine, but ours together seems to work really well.
In response to this verse in scripture, we returned to church years ago when my ten year sabbatical came to an end.
Hebrews 10: 25 “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
As a family, we searched for a church that had a strong spiritual backbone, good people that cared for one another, and worked to help people understand Scripture. We’ve found none. A few came really close, but opportunities to grow spiritually were withdrawn just as quickly as one person who disagreed with the opportunity made their opinion known. A church is only as spiritually strong as the pastor allows. In nearly every situation, the pastor, when confronted, would say, the congregation is not ready to know the full truth. The Christian church of today is no different from the Christian church of 30 years ago. It is just as fractured, fearful, and faithless as it was then. Opportunities to teach disappear just as soon as God’s Spirit is made known in any manner that offends someone’s opinion.
But even though the church is only as spiritually strong as the pastor allows, an individual believer can become as spiritually strong as they want, with God. This is the lesson that took me a lifetime to learn. Spiritual strength with God is completely separate from doctrinal authority in the church. Six years ago, a lot was being said about Saul Alinsky’s book, Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals. Yet for all that was said, there was no practical Christian response that involved the Holy Spirit and the spiritual battle.
Rules for Radical Conservatives was the book that led to the rise of the current political movement reviving Constitutional discussions. Rules for Radical Christians: 10 Biblical Disciplines for Influential Believers by Robert Giles “is a road-tested, dominion blueprint that will equip the young adult with leadership skills and sufficient motivation to rise to a place of influence in an overtly non-Christian culture.” It is a leadership training manual. Rules for Christian Radicals: A Primer for Biblical Radicalism by Freddie Davis teaches about Christian Radicalism. This is his quote: “Those who would be Christian radicals must do it God’s way. First, they must be absolutely and exclusively devoted to Jesus Christ. Then they must be equipped with the knowledge of God’s purpose in the world and the skills to work toward its accomplishment.” This is also a leadership skills training manual. Rules for (Christian) Radicals: A Reflection on National Themes (+ a Devotional Exercise) by Recovering Evangelical is a call to understand and do what Jesus and Paul did. The author included a chronological ordering of Jesus’ words and works from the Gospels and a chronological ordering of Paul’s writings. It is a call to reform our habits and character using the examples of Jesus and Paul. They are all good books. But none of them focus on the spiritual walk of faith with God’s Holy Spirit and how to develop that walk from newborn believer to battle ready spiritual warrior.
My book is different in that the goal is not Bible Study. You can get that at church. The goal is not leadership development. John Maxwell is great at this, as well as many other sources. The goal is not bashing the doctrinal structures of churches. None are perfect, and all are good at bringing people to the point of decision. Choose Jesus or choose the world. The goal of my book is to lead any believer of any Christian denomination into a personal and balanced spiritual relationship with God. Radical Christianity is spiritual Christianity. From this vantage point, God is able to raise up leadership in every area of culture and influence. My book points the believer to God. It is filled with practical faith building lessons that you can do on your own with or without the knowledge of anyone else around you.
If your goal is to influence people and culture, God will show you how. You can be a Radical Christian without becoming a political or cultural radical. If you need deliverance in your life, God will supply the deliverance. If you want to have a personal relationship with Jesus and know His voice in your life, this book will show you how to build that relationship. Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14: 18) He calls the comforter the Spirit of truth. (John 14: 17) And He said “he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14: 26) These are things you need to know to overcome the world just as Jesus did. Because as you overcome the world, you become prosperous and influential. It is by your influence that you change people and the culture around you.
What you’ve learned in church and what you know from God’s Word is what He will bring to your remembrance. He will teach you what is happening in the background of any situation. And He will show you how to stay one step ahead of disaster. He will lead you in ways that will help you achieve your personal goals as well as God’s purpose for your life. We all have a mission to fulfill in this life. The mission we fulfill is tied into our life’s dreams and desires. As we build a relationship with God, his working within us becomes more and more seamless, yet never adds or subtracts truth from the written Word. God doesn’t need us to build or start more churches, He only needs us to learn that obedience to Him brings deliverance and health to our lives. Then as we obey or disobey Him, we learn and grow with Him and we become influential in ways we cannot imagine. But all will be revealed at Jesus’ return.
This kind of Christianity is unpredictable. It won’t appear like the expectations we are told. Victory is obtained through failure. Strength is achieved in weakness. Wealth is proven in poverty. God’s methods appear contrary to all of the world’s methods and tactics. Yet through all of these opportunities, your personal safety, health, and peace in God grows and grows. Then God will give you an opportunity to lead and become an influence to others. This blog is my opportunity, it was not what I expected. But I am free to write anything that I believe God wants me to write and I hope through the writing that you will be blessed and inspired to get my book and change your life with God. Radical Christianity is messy Christianity. It cannot be quantified and measured like religious Christianity. It cannot be judged by others like the way religious authorities judge their followers, because it is personal. It is your private relationship with God. And nobody can judge how you’re doing, or what you’re doing, because your spiritual walk of faith is between you and God alone. God bless you and thank you for reading this. If you want to get my book, click the link below and while you’re at it, thank you for voting for the book at the Author Academy Award site that follows. Feel free to share and repost this message.