We often think of "sin as an act that can be repented of but Paul sees it as a condition from which we are freed and redeemed in Christ."

It is this concept of sin that we must grasp if we are to then grasp the true meaning of repentance, the true significance of Jesus victory over sin, the true significance of the New Creation we see hinted at in the Resurrection.

(Can't remember where I pulled the quote from! Sorry, but it was off some PhD guy...)


Prayer Week

Our Church is wrapping up our week of prayer (well five days of prayer anyways...)

It has been marvelous!

God has been stirring my heart to be with Him in prayer, but also that our community must be established and maintained by prayer and worship in God's presence. It is wonderful that we do good deeds, but so does the Red Cross. We are not called to be the Red Cross, but rather the Body of Christ. Our good deeds must flow out of His guidance...

And so, we began to discuss this as a Church, and to my great encouragement, the women and men of this community have responded with passion to this call to prayer. We have come to a place of great hope in our journey as a people. We now have a group of people who are saying "Yes!" to God in ways that speak of deep conviction and a willingness to repent from a whole heart.

We began our monthly prayer meetings 2 weeks ago with a night of prayer and worship and we rented an art-space here in the city for five days (we had to choose between five days now, or seven days a month from now, and thought it prudent not to wait) and have been gathering from 5-10pm to worship and pray.

The first days have been spent praying largely for our city and the issues it faces; as well as asking God to open doors for us to be apart of the change we believe God is bringing to Buffalo. Last night, however, we spent several hours praying over each other. God wants to pour out His mercy and goodness on those outside of the Church, how much more does He pour out blessing and delight upon His people?!!?

I was filled with strength watching people lay hands on each other and pray God's will and God's word over brothers and sisters... God is knitting together a people! I also had the opportunity to be prayed over...

...don't worry if you missed out, we will pray over you yet!


Redefining a Successful Local Church: Planting Churches that Plant Churches

The Lesson from Evolutionary Biology

People often have difficulty grasping one of the basic tenets of biology. It is simple to understand, and once you 'get it' it becomes the most obvious truism. The difficulty lies not in the complexity of the thing to be understood, but in the conceptions we already hold that predispose us to other ways of thinking. We are so used to thinking about things in a certain manner, that it becomes difficult to conceive, much less think critically, in any other manner. This difficulty has to do with the evolutionary fitness or 'success' of a particular organism.

More specifically, it is the definition of evolutionary fitness that is difficult for people to see. An organism's biological 'success' is determined solely and completely by its ability to reproduce. Reproduction is defined and measured by the ability of the parent to produce viable offspring, the greater the number of viable offspring, the greater the success of the parent. Viability is, of course, defined by the ability to reach mature reproductive age and produce yet another generation of offspring.

The reason this can be difficult to grasp is that our own conception of success is so radically different. We are used to thinking of success in terms of strength, size, skill, power, intelligence, virtue, even pleasure; in short, we are used to a definition of success that thinks solely in terms of the well-being of the parent organism without any regard for the relationship of that organism to the future of its genetic code.

The parallels to the Church should here become obvious...

A Successful Church

My main contention here has to do with our definition of success. While it would be pushing the analogy too far to suggest a one-to-one correlation, I contend that our definition of church success must share the same emphasis on reproduction that we see in evolutionary biology. There are of course, other concerns when it comes to church health and faithfulness to our King; love and devotion to Jesus, deep and powerful ties to each other, practical initiatives to peace and justice in the world; but these can perhaps be seen as the content of the genetic code, whereas success is conceived as perpetuating those Kingdom genes.

We must be explicit and clear on this, a successful church is one that produces other churches, in short, it is imperative that we tie organizational success to reproduction.

Competing Paradigms

This is not, however, the definition of Church success that we have inherited. The Vineyard (and those within it) come squarely out of the 20th Century American Evangelical tradition. We have differentiated ourselves in significant ways from that tradition (without repudiating it), but have yet to significantly differentiate ourselves from the ubiquity of 'Church Growth' methods and theories that hold sway within that tradition. We still largely define success as our American Evangelical cousins do: the strength, size, skill, power, intelligence, virtue, even pleasure, that is present within the local congregation. In short, we are used to a definition of success that thinks solely in terms of the well-being of the parent organism without any regard for the relationship of that organism to the future of its genetic code.

I know of too many 'mega-churches' with no value for church planting. They are the envy of all of the churches and christians in the area, yet they are like a wealthy, elite, but aging, suburbanite wife, who has produced no children, and is growing more and more concerned with bridge games, botox treatments, and social events. No one seems to notice, nor to point out, that these healthy churches are not healthy at all. They are sterile...

No one I know would point to a young woman who was biologically incapable of becoming pregnant as a model of health, yet we have little difficulty thinking the Bride of Christ is healthy, while remaining barren. So how is it that we can divorce health from reproduction?

Practical Methods for Redefinition

The real problem, is that we hold these churches up as models to replicate in our own location, when they are incapable of replicating themselves! We are blinded by the sheen of consumerism and the glow of individualism to the reality of God's vision for the church.

We must begin to hold up different models.

We must stop buying books from large church pastors, we must stop reading their blogs, we must stop placing them in places of denominational leadership, we must stop inviting them to teach at conferences. We must stop counting Sunday attendance, we must stop talking about these numbers. We must stop using these as measurements of success.

We must start spotlighting individuals and communities who are planting churches! We must read their books and blogs. Invite them to speak at our conferences and lead our denominations. We must start counting the number of church plants sent out, and the number of church plants that have planted others.


For those of you interested in some further reading, I have attached a link to a series of posts exploring three other metaphors for Church that deal explicitly with reproduction and missional success. They came out of a sermon I preached at a friends church a few years back intended to spur on the cause of New Church Planting:

Apples, Dandelions, and Horse Manure

For Those of Us With Problems...


Who's the Missionary now?

According to George Barna: “With its 195 million unchurched people, America has become the new mission field. America has more unchurched people than the entire populations of all but 11 of the world’s 194 nations.”*

According to Lost in America, by Tom Clegg and Warren Bird, 2001: “The unchurched population in the United States is so extensive that, were it a nation, it would be the fifth-largest on the planet. . . . Researchers and analysts describe North America as the world’s third-largest mission field.”


Why I Am Not A Christian

by Bertrand Russell, 1927.

As your Chairman has told you, the subject about which I am going to speak to you tonight is “Why I Am Not a Christian.” Perhaps it would be as well, first of all, to try to make out what one means by the word Christian. It is used these days in a very loose sense by a great many people. Some people mean no more by it than a person who attempts to live a good life. In that sense I suppose there would be Christians in all sects and creeds; but I do not think that that is the proper sense of the word, if only because it would imply that all the people who are not Christians — all the Buddhists, Confucians, Mohammedans, and so on — are not trying to live a good life. I do not mean by a Christian any person who tries to live decently according to his lights. I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian. The word does not have quite such a full-blooded meaning now as it had in the times of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas. In those days, if a man said that he was a Christian it was known what he meant. You accepted a whole collection of creeds which were set out with great precision, and every single syllable of those creeds you believed with the whole strength of your convictions.

What Is a Christian?

Nowadays it is not quite that. We have to be a little more vague in our meaning of Christianity. I think, however, that there are two different items which are quite essential to anybody calling himself a Christian. The first is one of a dogmatic nature — namely, that you must believe in God and immortality. If you do not believe in those two things, I do not think that you can properly call yourself a Christian. Then, further than that, as the name implies, you must have some kind of belief about Christ. The Mohammedans, for instance, also believe in God and in immortality, and yet they would not call themselves Christians. I think you must have at the very lowest the belief that Christ was, if not divine, at least the best and wisest of men. If you are not going to believe that much about Christ, I do not think you have any right to call yourself a Christian. Of course, there is another sense, which you find in Whitaker's Almanack and in geography books, where the population of the world is said to be divided into Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists, fetish worshipers, and so on; and in that sense we are all Christians. The geography books count us all in, but that is a purely geographical sense, which I suppose we can ignore.Therefore I take it that when I tell you why I am not a Christian I have to tell you two different things: first, why I do not believe in God and in immortality; and, secondly, why I do not think that Christ was the best and wisest of men, although I grant him a very high degree of moral goodness.

But for the successful efforts of unbelievers in the past, I could not take so elastic a definition of Christianity as that. As I said before, in olden days it had a much more full-blooded sense. For instance, it included the belief in hell. Belief in eternal hell-fire was an essential item of Christian belief until pretty recent times. In this country, as you know, it ceased to be an essential item because of a decision of the Privy Council, and from that decision the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York dissented; but in this country our religion is settled by Act of Parliament, and therefore the Privy Council was able to override their Graces and hell was no longer necessary to a Christian. Consequently I shall not insist that a Christian must believe in hell.

The Existence of God

To come to this question of the existence of God: it is a large and serious question, and if I were to attempt to deal with it in any adequate manner I should have to keep you here until Kingdom Come, so that you will have to excuse me if I deal with it in a somewhat summary fashion. You know, of course, that the Catholic Church has laid it down as a dogma that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason. That is a somewhat curious dogma, but it is one of their dogmas. They had to introduce it because at one time the freethinkers adopted the habit of saying that there were such and such arguments which mere reason might urge against the existence of God, but of course they knew as a matter of faith that God did exist. The arguments and the reasons were set out at great length, and the Catholic Church felt that they must stop it. Therefore they laid it down that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason and they had to set up what they considered were arguments to prove it. There are, of course, a number of them, but I shall take only a few.

The First-cause Argument

Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. (It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God.) That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity. I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill's Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: “My father taught me that the question ‘Who made me?’ cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question ‘Who made god?’” That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu's view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, “How about the tortoise?” the Indian said, “Suppose we change the subject.” The argument is really no better than that. There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.

The Natural-law Argument

Then there is a very common argument from natural law. That was a favorite argument all through the eighteenth century, especially under the influence of Sir Isaac Newton and his cosmogony. People observed the planets going around the sun according to the law of gravitation, and they thought that God had given a behest to these planets to move in that particular fashion, and that was why they did so. That was, of course, a convenient and simple explanation that saved them the trouble of looking any further for explanations of the law of gravitation. Nowadays we explain the law of gravitation in a somewhat complicated fashion that Einstein has introduced. I do not propose to give you a lecture on the law of gravitation, as interpreted by Einstein, because that again would take some time; at any rate, you no longer have the sort of natural law that you had in the Newtonian system, where, for some reason that nobody could understand, nature behaved in a uniform fashion. We now find that a great many things we thought were natural laws are really human conventions. You know that even in the remotest depths of stellar space there are still three feet to a yard. That is, no doubt, a very remarkable fact, but you would hardly call it a law of nature. And a great many things that have been regarded as laws of nature are of that kind. On the other hand, where you can get down to any knowledge of what atoms actually do, you will find they are much less subject to law than people thought, and that the laws at which you arrive are statistical averages of just the sort that would emerge from chance. There is, as we all know, a law that if you throw dice you will get double sixes only about once in thirty-six times, and we do not regard that as evidence that the fall of the dice is regulated by design; on the contrary, if the double sixes came every time we should think that there was design. The laws of nature are of that sort as regards a great many of them. They are statistical averages such as would emerge from the laws of chance; and that makes this whole business of natural law much less impressive than it formerly was.

Quite apart from that, which represents the momentary state of science that may change tomorrow, the whole idea that natural laws imply a lawgiver is due to a confusion between natural and human laws. Human laws are behests commanding you to behave a certain way, in which you may choose to behave, or you may choose not to behave; but natural laws are a description of how things do in fact behave, and being a mere description of what they in fact do, you cannot argue that there must be somebody who told them to do that, because even supposing that there were, you are then faced with the question “Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others?” If you say that he did it simply from his own good pleasure, and without any reason, you then find that there is something which is not subject to law, and so your train of natural law is interrupted. If you say, as more orthodox theologians do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those laws rather than others — the reason, of course, being to create the best universe, although you would never think it to look at it — if there were a reason for the laws which God gave, then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary. You really have a law outside and anterior to the divine edicts, and God does not serve your purpose, because he is not the ultimate lawgiver. In short, this whole argument about natural law no longer has anything like the strength that it used to have. I am traveling on in time in my review of the arguments. The arguments that are used for the existence of God change their character as time goes on. They were at first hard intellectual arguments embodying certain quite definite fallacies. As we come to modern times they become less respectable intellectually and more and more affected by a kind of moralizing vagueness.

The Argument from Design

The next step in the process brings us to the argument from design. You all know the argument from design: everything in the world is made just so that we can manage to live in the world, and if the world was ever so little different, we could not manage to live in it. That is the argument from design. It sometimes takes a rather curious form; for instance, it is argued that rabbits have white tails in order to be easy to shoot. I do not know how rabbits would view that application. It is an easy argument to parody. You all know Voltaire's remark, that obviously the nose was designed to be such as to fit spectacles. That sort of parody has turned out to be not nearly so wide of the mark as it might have seemed in the eighteenth century, because since the time of Darwin we understand much better why living creatures are adapted to their environment. It is not that their environment was made to be suitable to them but that they grew to be suitable to it, and that is the basis of adaptation. There is no evidence of design about it.

When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the Fascists? Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions of temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending — something dead, cold, and lifeless.

I am told that that sort of view is depressing, and people will sometimes tell you that if they believed that, they would not be able to go on living. Do not believe it; it is all nonsense. Nobody really worries about much about what is going to happen millions of years hence. Even if they think they are worrying much about that, they are really deceiving themselves. They are worried about something much more mundane, or it may merely be a bad digestion; but nobody is really seriously rendered unhappy by the thought of something that is going to happen to this world millions and millions of years hence. Therefore, although it is of course a gloomy view to suppose that life will die out — at least I suppose we may say so, although sometimes when I contemplate the things that people do with their lives I think it is almost a consolation — it is not such as to render life miserable. It merely makes you turn your attention to other things.

The Moral Arguments for Deity

Now we reach one stage further in what I shall call the intellectual descent that the Theists have made in their argumentations, and we come to what are called the moral arguments for the existence of God. You all know, of course, that there used to be in the old days three intellectual arguments for the existence of God, all of which were disposed of by Immanuel Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason; but no sooner had he disposed of those arguments than he invented a new one, a moral argument, and that quite convinced him. He was like many people: in intellectual matters he was skeptical, but in moral matters he believed implicitly in the maxims that he had imbibed at his mother's knee. That illustrates what the psychoanalysts so much emphasize — the immensely stronger hold upon us that our very early associations have than those of later times.

Kant, as I say, invented a new moral argument for the existence of God, and that in varying forms was extremely popular during the nineteenth century. It has all sorts of forms. One form is to say there would be no right or wrong unless God existed. I am not for the moment concerned with whether there is a difference between right and wrong, or whether there is not: that is another question. The point I am concerned with is that, if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, then you are in this situation: Is that difference due to God's fiat or is it not? If it is due to God's fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good. If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God's fiat, because God's fiats are good and not bad independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God. You could, of course, if you liked, say that there was a superior deity who gave orders to the God that made this world, or could take up the line that some of the gnostics took up — a line which I often thought was a very plausible one — that as a matter of fact this world that we know was made by the devil at a moment when God was not looking. There is a good deal to be said for that, and I am not concerned to refute it.

The Argument for the Remedying of Injustice

Then there is another very curious form of moral argument, which is this: they say that the existence of God is required in order to bring justice into the world. In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying; but if you are going to have justice in the universe as a whole you have to suppose a future life to redress the balance of life here on earth. So they say that there must be a God, and there must be Heaven and Hell in order that in the long run there may be justice. That is a very curious argument. If you looked at the matter from a scientific point of view, you would say, “After all, I only know this world. I do not know about the rest of the universe, but so far as one can argue at all on probabilities one would say that probably this world is a fair sample, and if there is injustice here the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also.” Supposing you got a crate of oranges that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue, “The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance.” You would say, “Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment”; and that is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe. He would say, “Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice, and so far as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule in the world; and therefore so far as it goes it affords a moral argument against deity and not in favor of one.” Of course I know that the sort of intellectual arguments that I have been talking to you about are not what really moves people. What really moves people to believe in God is not any intellectual argument at all. Most people believe in God because they have been taught from early infancy to do it, and that is the main reason.

Then I think that the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people's desire for a belief in God.

The Character of Christ

I now want to say a few words upon a topic which I often think is not quite sufficiently dealt with by Rationalists, and that is the question whether Christ was the best and the wisest of men. It is generally taken for granted that we should all agree that that was so. I do not myself. I think that there are a good many points upon which I agree with Christ a great deal more than the professing Christians do. I do not know that I could go with Him all the way, but I could go with Him much further than most professing Christians can. You will remember that He said, “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” That is not a new precept or a new principle. It was used by Lao-tse and Buddha some 500 or 600 years before Christ, but it is not a principle which as a matter of fact Christians accept. I have no doubt that the present prime minister [Stanley Baldwin], for instance, is a most sincere Christian, but I should not advise any of you to go and smite him on one cheek. I think you might find that he thought this text was intended in a figurative sense.

Then there is another point which I consider excellent. You will remember that Christ said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” That principle I do not think you would find was popular in the law courts of Christian countries. I have known in my time quite a number of judges who were very earnest Christians, and none of them felt that they were acting contrary to Christian principles in what they did. Then Christ says, “Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” That is a very good principle. Your Chairman has reminded you that we are not here to talk politics, but I cannot help observing that the last general election was fought on the question of how desirable it was to turn away from him that would borrow of thee, so that one must assume that the Liberals and Conservatives of this country are composed of people who do not agree with the teaching of Christ, because they certainly did very emphatically turn away on that occasion.

Then there is one other maxim of Christ which I think has a great deal in it, but I do not find that it is very popular among some of our Christian friends. He says, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor.” That is a very excellent maxim, but, as I say, it is not much practised. All these, I think, are good maxims, although they are a little difficult to live up to. I do not profess to live up to them myself; but then, after all, it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian.

Defects in Christ's Teaching

Having granted the excellence of these maxims, I come to certain points in which I do not believe that one can grant either the superlative wisdom or the superlative goodness of Christ as depicted in the Gospels; and here I may say that one is not concerned with the historical question. Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one. I am concerned with Christ as He appears in the Gospels, taking the Gospel narrative as it stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, he certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance, “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come.” Then he says, “There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom”; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching. When He said, “Take no thought for the morrow,” and things of that sort, it was very largely because He thought that the second coming was going to be very soon, and that all ordinary mundane affairs did not count. I have, as a matter of fact, known some Christians who did believe that the second coming was imminent. I knew a person who frightened his congregation terribly by telling them that the second coming was very imminent indeed, but they were much consoled when they found that he was planting trees in his garden. The early Christians did really believe it, and they did abstain from such things as planting trees in their gardens, because they did accept from Christ the belief that the second coming was imminent. In that respect, clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and He was certainly not superlatively wise.

The Moral Problem

Then you come to moral questions. There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching — an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence. You do not, for instance find that attitude in Socrates. You find him quite bland and urbane toward the people who would not listen to him; and it is, to my mind, far more worthy of a sage to take that line than to take the line of indignation. You probably all remember the sorts of things that Socrates was saying when he was dying, and the sort of things that he generally did say to people who did not agree with him.

You will find that in the Gospels Christ said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell.” That was said to people who did not like His preaching. It is not really to my mind quite the best tone, and there are a great many of these things about Hell. There is, of course, the familiar text about the sin against the Holy Ghost: “Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him neither in this World nor in the world to come.” That text has caused an unspeakable amount of misery in the world, for all sorts of people have imagined that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and thought that it would not be forgiven them either in this world or in the world to come. I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world.

Then Christ says, “The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth”; and He goes on about the wailing and gnashing of teeth. It comes in one verse after another, and it is quite manifest to the reader that there is a certain pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth, or else it would not occur so often. Then you all, of course, remember about the sheep and the goats; how at the second coming He is going to divide the sheep from the goats, and He is going to say to the goats, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” He continues, “And these shall go away into everlasting fire.” Then He says again, “If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” He repeats that again and again also. I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take Him as His chroniclers represent Him, would certainly have to be considered partly responsible for that.

There are other things of less importance. There is the instance of the Gadarene swine, where it certainly was not very kind to the pigs to put the devils into them and make them rush down the hill into the sea. You must remember that He was omnipotent, and He could have made the devils simply go away; but He chose to send them into the pigs. Then there is the curious story of the fig tree, which always rather puzzled me. You remember what happened about the fig tree. “He was hungry; and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came if haply He might find anything thereon; and when He came to it He found nothing but leaves, for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it: ‘No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever’ . . . and Peter . . . saith unto Him: ‘Master, behold the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.’” This is a very curious story, because it was not the right time of year for figs, and you really could not blame the tree. I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above Him in those respects.

The Emotional Factor

As I said before, I do not think that the real reason why people accept religion has anything to do with argumentation. They accept religion on emotional grounds. One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it. You know, of course, the parody of that argument in Samuel Butler's book, Erewhon Revisited. You will remember that in Erewhon there is a certain Higgs who arrives in a remote country, and after spending some time there he escapes from that country in a balloon. Twenty years later he comes back to that country and finds a new religion in which he is worshiped under the name of the “Sun Child,” and it is said that he ascended into heaven. He finds that the Feast of the Ascension is about to be celebrated, and he hears Professors Hanky and Panky say to each other that they never set eyes on the man Higgs, and they hope they never will; but they are the high priests of the religion of the Sun Child. He is very indignant, and he comes up to them, and he says, “I am going to expose all this humbug and tell the people of Erewhon that it was only I, the man Higgs, and I went up in a balloon.” He was told, “You must not do that, because all the morals of this country are bound round this myth, and if they once know that you did not ascend into Heaven they will all become wicked”; and so he is persuaded of that and he goes quietly away.

That is the idea — that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.

You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world. 1

How the Churches Have Retarded Progress

You may think that I am going too far when I say that that is still so. I do not think that I am. Take one fact. You will bear with me if I mention it. It is not a pleasant fact, but the churches compel one to mention facts that are not pleasant. Supposing that in this world that we live in today an inexperienced girl is married to a syphilitic man; in that case the Catholic Church says, “This is an indissoluble sacrament. You must endure celibacy or stay together. And if you stay together, you must not use birth control to prevent the birth of syphilitic children.” Nobody whose natural sympathies have not been warped by dogma, or whose moral nature was not absolutely dead to all sense of suffering, could maintain that it is right and proper that that state of things should continue.

That is only an example. There are a great many ways in which, at the present moment, the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness; and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter at all. “What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy.”

Fear, the Foundation of Religion

Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing — fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.

What We Must Do

We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world — its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.

A Thought I Had (It happens on occasion)

Beauty is not frivolous

Funny but True


Earth and Heaven

We sing these lyrics:

'Tis at the cross of Christ
Where earth and heaven meet
Where sin is overcome
To God the victory

What an amazing thing to think about! The coming together of two kingdoms.

The psalmist says, "The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth He has given to man." (115:16)

Heaven is God's Kingdom, where His decrees are carried out without delay or dispute, earth is our kingdom where we have been given rule and reign. We can choose to work towards God's "will be done, and Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven", or we can choose (as we so often do) my will be done, no matter the cost to myself, others, or the world we live in!

Obviously there are some real differences between God's rule and reign, and the dominion of humanity...


And so, earth and heaven are brought together! God has brought heaven to earth in the person of His Son. And what is the fruit of this meeting?

Jesus reveals the power of heaven, the glory of heaven, the priorities and plans of heaven. His life, his actions, his priorities, his goals; these are the revelation of heavens agenda.

The cross is earth inflicted upon the kingdom of heaven...

The resurrection is heaven inflicted upon the kingdom of earth...


We are called to be the continuation of the crucifixion and resurrection. We allow the earth to inflict it's will upon us, in order that God can inflict His will upon the earth through us!

We are points of intersection between earth and heaven.


This is not a blog...

I have been struggling lately with how to communicate this to people...

What we do on Sundays isn't church.

What we do on Wednesdays isn't church.

When we gather together to sing songs and hear a sermon, that isn't church.

When we gather together to eat a meal and pray for each other, that isn't church either.

When we get together to plan an outreach to our city, and then carry out that plan, that isn't church.

I have been thinking about starting every church meeting with the phrase, "this isn't Church!"


It is so hard to see people leaving community for bells and whistles, dropping out of community so they can have a fog machine. It makes you doubt your ability to communicate! Am I doing something wrong? Is there a reason why people just don't understand that church is church?

I remember a conversation I had with a hip young post-modern urban Christian. She was talking about the problems with Church and how the Church 'just doesn't get it' when it comes to what the Christianity really is all about. We had a long conversation. I tried to communicate to her what the Church is. I asked her, "so what would the ideal church look like to you?" Her response was disheartening, and enlightening; she launched into a description of her ideal Sunday service!


Church isn't worship, or preaching, church isn't fellowship or mission.

Church is all of the above and more...

...church is the people of God, pursuing God, and His purposes.


The Body and Blood

Click on the title link for a 'Jesus Creed' post on the topic...

I have a real interest in this...

As inheritors of protestant tradition we largely ignore communion. However, the church that discipled me went through a process of change on this while I was there that has effected the way that I see communion. By the time I left we were serving communion weekly with the table in the back for whomever wanted, and monthly partaking together as a whole body.

I have come to see communion as a very important, if not central act that defines and shapes the church, and individual Christians.

Is communion a symbolic act, or something more?

What is the significance of communion?

What significance do we take from the Jewish Passover roots to this meal?

How does it speak to us of Christ? ...of community? ...of ourselves? ...of mission?

Who is communion for? ...anyone?

What are we communicated by taking communion? ...should someone understand this before they take it?

Does the community bear a responsibility for restricting some from participating?



Click on the title link for a Jesus Creed blog...

What dya think? Is our current economic crisis really an outworking of... gulp... sin?


Erasing Choice

The capacity for choice, the ability to create, the drive for purpose, that comes from the heart of a human being is also the source of human evil. We find ourselves in a state where our will does not rule the self, but is rather subject to it; emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations telling us what to choose, as opposed to our capacity for choice and purpose re-aligning our thoughts and emotions around the will.

1) There is an impulse within our culture to "be true to yourself."

a) What this usually means is who you really are is defined by what you feel

b) This implies that your feelings should rule your life

c) This also implies that not letting them do this is harmful, repressive, false, and constrictive

2) The reality is, however, deeper than our culture, and more complicated...

a) Our culture is woefully unreflective, we listen to what screams loudest.

b) Emotion, sensation, scream loudest

c) Human nature is more than what the psychologists say. There are endless debates about what is more important in determining behavior, our essential nature, or the environment that shapes that nature. The will/heart/spirit has no place in the nature-nurture debate. This is an unfortunate blunder.

d) In reality, your emotions are not the core of who you are. The will is the center of a person, not the whole of a person, but definitely the central part that gives shape and direction to the rest of a person.

3) The Will is the core organizing principal of the human being.

a) The will is the seat of drive, yearning, purpose, and choice; it is the place which chooses and says "yes or no" to our physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, and relationships.

b) The will as heart, organizing principal, core, gives shape to our mental, physical, relational, and personal aspects.

c) The will as spirit is non-physical, personal power; this does not mean that it is fuzzy or lacks reality, simply that it is non-physical. It is, however, concrete, we interact with the spiritual realm constantly as is evidenced by phrases like, 'spirited' and 'strong-willed;' or 'hard-hearted' and 'broken-hearted.'

4) The results of, "Being true to yourself..."

a) You are inculcated with the rational framework, the impulse, and the moral ambiguity to simply do whatever you want, with no possible check on evil.

b) Changing your emotional and sensational states, is no longer an option (not even thought of as a possibility, and if it were possible it would be "unhealthy.")

c) We are discouraged from exercising our will to override our emotions and sensations

d) We are essentially discouraged from choosing anything other than what we feel

Your self is being defined as emotions; not will, body, intellect, or social self. The "organizing principle" is emotion, sensation, as opposed to purpose and choice.

The will is the seat of choice, it is the part of the human being which has the power to choose, the mind is the part of us that has emotions, thoughts, etc.; we talk about choice and empowering people, making them free, what we really mean is that people should always do whatever they feel like doing, and by consequence, they should not choose to do anything they don't feel like doing. This emphasis on "being true to yourself" is really exalting the emotions over the will; we are telling people that they should not choose to do something they don't feel like doing!

Choice is a word that is attached to many political issues, but when we begin to think it through in this light, we can see that often the rhetoric of choice, and certainly the cultural impulse behind it, is not really a desire for choice so much as a lack of intentional choice for good, whenever that good conflicts with our own comfort or emotional and physical pleasure.

The impulse we have here discussed ends up, in spite of the language of choice, erasing choice...


Khrushchev's Space Theology

In a speech Nikita Khrushchev once remarked that 'Gagarin flew into space, but God wasn't there.' I assume that Mr Khrushchev was speaking glibly, and that he was aware of the fact that if Gagarin had seen God in orbit, Christianity's picture of God would have been proved false!!!

This gets at, however, a popular misconception about our understanding of reality. Often in conversations the following statement is trotted out, "well, of course the ancients believed the Bible to be true, that was before people knew any better, they believed all sorts of superstitions you know..."

(This of course, begs the question, whether or not we have any superstitions of our own, but we'll save the conversation about American idolatry and cultural superstition for another day)

This simply doesn't make any sense.

A simple read through the very Bible that skeptics say can only believed by the gullible and unsophisticated will show precisely the opposite. If the miraculous was so commonly believed by the ancients why were they so incredulous at Jesus own miracles?

A simple reading of scripture will establish that resurrection was known to be impossible in the ancient world; the Christian belief was never that resurrection was a natural phenomenon that would happen to everyone as a matter of course, but rather that human nature was destined for death apart from the working of the Creator God. This is the very implications of the Resurrection! Jesus' victory over death is seen as precisely the first-fruits of the unraveling of the established order of things. God was doing something new in the world that needed to be seen precisely on the order of magnitude as the creation of the cosmos out of nothing. (Read the intro to the Gospel of John alongside the intro to Genesis)


clarifying the thoughts about heaven...

This is Tamy ...

I guess I would say that God does not care about us going to heaven in the way that most of America believes. I do believe he is very concerned with what happens when we live. I believe that we are living eternally now, that the life we lead and live is a participation either in heaven or hell. As far as the destination of our souls when we die and whether or not it goes up or down I don't really buy into I don't think, because I think that as our physical bodies come to rest our souls have already began an eternal life living in the presence of God or not. What if following Jesus was more about particiapting in a divine reality that exists now that most of us do not see, instead of being about where you go when you die. What would that mean for our sense of "calling to Christ". Some smart person said it once that God's concern is not getting people into heaven but rather HEAVEN into PEOPLE. How many Christians are oozing out heaven everywhere they go??? (Not me but I am trying!!) I know that this blog was a bit of a rant and I am sorry for that. However I am really tired of christianity being a social club for people with the right beliefs who are destined to go to the same place when they die. Christianity is a group of people following Jesus into the same revolutionary life he lead to overthrow injustice, peel off oppression, cast out hopelessness, unify the divided, and to do all this by an unashamed, unconditional love and humility for everything around us. This sounds so very big and lofty I know but why is the call to Christ to be a small call of a good life and being a good person. Is that all that is really possible with Christ??? I don't believe so.

So where does this huge call of Christ start, I think at his cross where we as a church need to come and die and pick up Jesus' life for us. When I said as a Church I meant ME and YOU cause we are the Church!!!! So my prayer is that Christ's bride would get down on her knees and repent for being concerned only for herself and not truly trusting her only love and then get back up loved and restored to walk out her days loving her Bridegroom. I am down on my knees are you???

And I believe that Christ's life for us is filled with connection to him in an intimate way ( so we gotta be spending time with him, praying and LISTENING to him), connection to the rest of the people connected to him (so Community, the church), seeking to grow up in him (discipleship), and a passionate love of the world around us (John 3:16 ...he loved the world enough to die for it, DO WE???)

Lord I am sorry for being concerned only for myself and for thinking so often of myself first!!!! I desire to be a woman full of the passion and love of Christ, I desire for heaven to ooze out of me into this world that so badly wants to be loved. May I be a woman quick to love and repent and slow to judge and condemn. May the pride that I often feel myself full of be laid down and instead a love of all things good be picked up. May I no longer make excuses but instead walk into the realm of faith. Can I become the woman that is for my husband, my children and those around me, can I be a dream caster and encourager instead of a dream killer. Jesus I love you, I love your promise of redemption for this world and your faithfullness to walk that out even as we fail in doing so!!!!


Cultural Kickback

I take it as a sign that I am on the right path whenever people call me an 'idealist' and try to get me to 'be realistic.' I get very excited when I experience genuine confrontation.

I have had a couple of interesting responses to our presence in the neighborhood...

Most recently we had a building inspector show up at our home. He looked a little miffed. He had been told we were using our house for church meetings, and he seemed a little perturbed by the obvious fact that our house is still just a place of residence.

Some of our neighbors don't like the fact that we have people over regularly, and I am tempted to believe that the real issue has more to do with the particular type of person that they don't want in the neighborhood.

Oh well...

In some countries women get sexually assaulted and men get beheaded for serving Jesus. I can hardly complain about people harassing me for letting homeless people come to my house...


Jesus is Cool?

Jesus isn't cool...

And following Him won't make you cool.

If you want to be cool, don't follow Jesus, do something else.

Get tattoos, play musical instruments, or build wells in third world countries, become a community activist, start a successful business, you can even start a successful ministry, or even become a Christian (just make sure you don't go to church, or at least if you do, go to a house church with candles, those are kinda cool)...

...in the right social circles these things may make you 'cool;' but following Jesus never will.


“A leader is not a person who can do the work better than his followers; he is the person who can get this followers to do the work better than he can.”

Fred Smith

Who is qualified to lead?

How should a leader become a leader?

What makes up the quality we call 'leadership?'

Just had a good conversation about this with a good friend...



So my friends were talking about monogamy at work yesterday and I thought I would blog a little bit on this subject. I listened to what they had to say and all day yesterday my mind pondered thoughts about monogamy and what I agreed with or disagreed with. For the sake of this blog monogamy and polygamy are mostly in reference to marriage but not necesarily.

I feel like monogamy is a noble thing. I feel like anybody can go out and screw around with multiple people. In fact I feel like mostly everyone does. I feel like chosing to be in a monogamous relationship is actually a noble thing. I feel like it all really boils down to rights and entitlement here in our country. I have the right to be comfortable. I have the right to be happy. I have the right to do basically whatever I feel like at any given moment. I have the right to do what feels good and not necesarily whats right. I feel like we here in America aren't willing to deal with our issues or our stuff. You hate your old car, so you get a new one. You hate your old job, so you get a new one. You wife or husband just ain't doing it for you any more so you get a new one. Heaven forbid that you talk things out. Heaven forbid that you are uncomfortable for any length of time. Heaven forbid that I am uncomfortable for any length of time. I am an American too.

I feel like choosing to be with a person exclusivly and also choosing to have other partners or relationships at the same time is selfish. I feel like it is a lack of willingness to commit. Duh that's obvious, I know. But I feel like it is an unsaid truth. I feel like as a society we are very unwilling to commit to most things. You know what commitment involves don't you? It involves getting real. It involves putting down your comfort, your "rights" for a certain lenth of time and really just face the facts about what you are commiting to. Marriage is no longer a commitment. Relationships are no longer commitments. I feel like we were created to be with one person only. If we were created to mate like animals there wouldn't be such emotions attached to having sex. If we were made to just be recycled through many people then it wouldn't hurt when our significant other moved on and we still loved them.

Conservative Politics

I hear conservative Christians say:

"social justice isn't the church's business, the gospel is"

and then I hear then turn around and also say:

"social justice isn't the state's business its the churches"

So which is it?

The same people who will say the mission of the Church is to 'get people saved' not 'get people fed,' are the same people who will say 'the Government can't fix the problem (in fact the Govt. IS the problem!), it's the Church's responsibility to care for people.' You can't have it both ways!

I know how I see that question answered in Scripture:

The gospel is not divided into 'social' and 'spiritual' issues, but rather is about the Kingdom of God coming which holds sway over everything, both 'social' and 'spiritual' arenas, and all else besides. The gospel is not unconcerned with what we might call 'politics' but was, and remains, politically subversive because it comes from a deeper source. So yes, the Church is God's plan to bring justice to the world!!!

Here is where the rubber meets the road. As Americans we give more than others (and studies show it is American conservative Christians who give more than any other category), but the reality is, it is not enough! When the money required to provide food, clean water, and basic health to the world is the same amount as the annual expenditure of Americans for ice cream there is a problem; saying 'we give more than others' doesn't change the fact that our neighbors are starving whilst we are sticking our fingers down our collective throats in order to make room for more expensive caviar...

...that we give $20 a month to the Christian Children's Fund is wonderful, but...

Have we really taken ownership of these things?


Have we just given enough to cleanse our conscience?

Sure, we give, but are we actually involved? The money is often about conscience cleansing, and usually will do little, what is needed is personal involvement! Leverage your personal resources to work towards God's agenda for this little blue ball we call home! This is the adventure God is calling us to: He is pouring Grace and Peace over the earth, releasing His favor, and putting things in their proper places, and He is inviting us to find our place within that agenda. Will we join Him or work for some other purpose?

What about systemic injustice? We are blind to it! In our city there are children without the ability to read (or even speak passably!), this will have profound and compounding effects upon their lives, and our society as a whole. God is asking us to get involved! Sharing our lives, not the spare change from our cappuccinos!

On top of this there is a real inability in the American Church to distinguish between theological conservatives and political ones. It is uniquely American phenomenon that theological conservatives are also politically conservative. In the UK those Christians who are theologically conservative tend to be politically liberal...

Ponderings of Hope and Frustration...

This is just a bit of my thoughts the last day or two, so if you are used to reading Steve this maybe a little different!

So we are trying to plant a church in Buffalo New York. What I feel like I am here to do: to love Jesus with all my heart and pray that love will overflow onto those around me, that I would invite people into my life and live beside them until God moves us or offs us (haha!), that I would be a woman of encouragement to those around me that Jesus lived, loved, died and then came back to love some more so that we could experience a life of restoration, healing and redeemption of both our own lives, those around us and all of creation.

What the rest of the christian world hears that I am here to do: open a building where people who believe the exact same things can come and gather once or twice a week to sing songs and talk about the bible.

Ok so that was a bit cynical and I am sorry, but I feel like there is this culture in christianity that even people who have not grown up in it believe it: we are hear to have a nice life and be good people and believe that Jesus died for our sins, so that we could repent and believe and go to heaven. Give me a break!!!!! Does Jesus really care if you go to heaven NO, he cares about how you live not how you die because it is about soooooooo much more that the afterlife. So that being said and with deepest aplogies about the cyncial nature and dark humor, please laugh, I am (kinda of!)

I experienced a life with a community of people that was so amazing and life altering that it could only be God at work in it. Why am I so sure? Because all of those people were just like everyone else in this world except one thing; that they really and truly believed that their Jesus was God over everything from their pride to their finances, from their parenting to their occupation. There were no delusions about having a nice life and attending church twice a week to study the bible and sing songs.

Their very being existed through and for Jesus and his plan of loving and restoring the world. The goal of their lives was not to become a successfull father, husband, wife, professor, businessman, or even pastor. Their goal in life was to love Jesus with everything they had and allow him to become the success. Being in this community of people was something that I had thought I would never leave and even now since having left miss more than I have words to express sometimes. But I did leave that community ( I was sent out, I didn't bail) and I left it for one reason; I felt like Jesus had more for us somewhere else, he showed Steve and I that around this world there are people who don't even have a slot for what this kind of life with Jesus and community looks like, nor would they even dream of being able to live this way. It was this drive to go get the world saved, it was this pulling at our hearts to go to a new place and live our lives with Jesus the best we understand how and to also live for others as well. A life of service and love...

SO here is the 'but,' it is so hard to carry this picture around in my heart and soul; of a community of people passionately in love with Jesus and learning to love and care for each other and the world around them, when I feel like in America we don't need community. Instead we are quite content to cram the newest best technology into our lives to replace the gaps where relationships used to be. We are happy watching TV instead of playing with our kids or talking to our wives. We are on the internet instead of having real life communication with a person across the table from us.

The Anti-Empire

Here is the outline for what we discussed last Sunday night:


Why was Jesus crucified?
Why did the people in power crucify Jesus?
Why was the first community of followers of Jesus persecuted?

How many of you have seen the movie or read the book "The DaVinci Code?"
There is a tremendous popularity to alternative ways of understanding Jesus. The Gnostic writings, the Gospels of Mary, Peter, Thomas, Judas are being read and discussed (they aren't new, they have been around for centuries), and it is becoming popular to assert that they are a more accurate picture of Jesus than the one we have in the Bible.

This is an indicator of people's desire to see things change. People want to believe that there is more to Jesus than what they learned in Sunday School. People want to believe that a true understanding of Jesus would cause a radical upheaval to the status-quo, that following the 'real' Jesus would change everything...

...this is a wonderful thing!!!

The reason all of these new concepts about Jesus (that are really old concepts that were rejected by the people who knew Him) are being explored is because people rarely understand just how radically threatening the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, really are...

Why was Jesus crucified? Why did the establishment take Him out?

!!He was a threat to the status-quo! He threatened to undermine the system that allowed them to exercise control and dominance!

Why was the Church persecuted for the first three centuries of it's existence? They were a threat! They threatened to overturn the way of life of an entire Empire!



The First Church was:


By political we are refering to an awareness and interaction with the surrounding power structures not necessarily policy debates, elections, or offices; remember Jesus was crucified with a political title over His head.

"But our citizenship is in heaven"
Philippians 3:20

All within the Roman Empire were required once a year to enter the Temple to Caesar, burn incense in worship to Caesar, and proclaim, “Caesar is Lord.” It was a spiritual/religious act, but it was simultaneously a political/patriotic act.

In contrast to this, the first followers of Jesus said:

"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
Romans 10:9

"Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, 'Jesus be cursed,' and no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit."
1 Corinthians 12:3

What this ammounts to is that the first disciples of the Way of Jesus were saying, "We don’t belong to Caesar’s Empire, we belong to Jesus’ Empire."

In spite of the pomp and circumstance of Rome, the largest Empire of it's day, with the longest continuous reign in human history, excercizing power from Britain to India, Africa to France, the first Christians were convincingly proclaiming:

"Caesar is a play-king, Jesus is the real deal…"


The first Christians looked to Jesus as both the perfect revelation of who God is, and also as the source of God's presence within their lives and their community.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
2 Peter 1:3-4

The first disciples of Jesus believed that God was in the process of putting the world back together through Jesus. They experienced the very Spirit of the Resurrection filling them and empowering them to live a very different quality of life.

These first communities were emphatic about the centrality of Jesus to the spiritual explosion in their midst.


The Jewish world, and the larger Roman world, were rife with distinctions between different types of people; hierarchies establishing the interactions between these people. Some people were taboo, others were inferior, others were less than animals. In many cases this systemization of people was foundational to the peace and order of the surrounding culture (slavery and women).

In the communities of The Way, however, one of the first leaders of the movement observes:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

The same individual elsewhere notes:

The Messiah has made things up between us so that we're now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody.
Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.

Ephesians 2:14-18

The first Christian communities were notorious for setting aside the social divisions found within the wider culture. Women and slaves were considered the equals of men and citizens.


The first church was decentralized, it was a people movement. The earliest accounts of the community life of the Church record:

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47

There was something happening, and it was organic, people were simply passing to others outside of the 'official' means of communication. Something was happening in houses and public spaces, God was touching people. There was no 'central fund,' no organization, no clergy, no official building, there was just God and people.

No one was in control


The first Christians were playfully rebellious in their approach to those in power. Inscriptions have been found proclaiming:

"There is no name under heaven by which men might be saved than that of Caesar."

To which the disciples responded:

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
Acts 4:12

Caesar was given Titles like "Son of God," the Christians however, made another use of those titles:

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.
1 John 4:15

Even popular 'Christian' words have origins other than we might suppose:

The term for a community who had recognized Caesar's lordship, worshiping him, and accepting his rule, was called an 'ekklesia' which is the Greek word we translate into English as "Church."

When Caesar would conquer new territories, or accomplish civic victories he would send out proclamations announcing this: "Caesar has brought peace and prosperity to yet more people, he is the bringer of peace and the source of life, etc. etc. etc."
These proclamations were called in Greek "euangelion" which means "good news" and is translated into English as “Gospel.”

The first Christians were saying, in effect, it is NOT good news that Caesar's armies have brought 'peace' through bloodshed; at the point of a Roman spear and by way of the Roman cross, that is not "good news;" the King of the Universe, the Creator of Everything came and brought peace by bringing bloodshed upon Himself, bearing the brunt of the world's brokenness, being nailed to a Roman cross, and so providing freedom and life to us, THAT is "good news!"

7-10My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can't know him if you don't love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they've done to our relationship with God.
17-18God is love.
20-21If anyone boasts, "I love God," and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won't love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can't see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You've got to love both.
1 John 4:7-21

The first Christian community was offering an alternative Empire within the Empire, and alternative society with the society; ignoring the attempted control of the dominant society, but still serving the needs of the other society.


There iLee Harvey Oswald renouncing citizenship as an act of antagonism

What if becoming a disciple of Jesus was no less (but rather more) a defection from citizenship in this world, and this nation. This amounts to 'traitors in the midst' to the government in Rome! This is why Rome destroyed so many Christians they were a political threat...


What do you do with people who have dedicated themselves to the overthrow of the established order? They propose an alternative way of living that is based around loving service instead of power and control. Their lives are so beautiful and attractive that they (by simply being who they are) are inviting people to ignore the status-quo and shift into their paradigm... But they aren't approaching the city with swords or threatening to nail people to crosses, nor are they attacking with diatribes; they don't wish to leave and start an alternate community but proclaim, rather, their intention to subvert this one from the inside, and they are unwilling to compromise, they won't bow to threats of death, nor cave in to promises of reward... such a people must be eradicated, or else they will be the cause of the greatest political/social/economic/spiritual upheaval in world history.

THREATENING :: Economy, Military, Taboos, Religion, Politics, Social


There is a long period of history between the first centuries after Jesus and today, but interestingly enough, we find ourselves in a similar place. The church for over a thousand years was granted the place of honor in society, the Church was the center of culture and power, influencing political, economic, social, and even military structures. This is no longer the case.


We can no longer rely on people coming to the Church, or desiring to participate in the vision Jesus' has of the world. I believe that this is an exciting thing! It means that we are back on familiar ground! The church is where it belongs, in the margins, collecting the people on the outside looking in! I think the Western world is moving to a place where the Church can once again offer a compelling and beautiful vision of an alternative reality. We are going underground, we are a part of a secret movement plotting to overthrow the established order!


So where do we take this?

19-22That's plain enough, isn't it? You're no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You're no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He's using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he's using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.
Ephesians 2:19-22

Jesus is Lord U
Community I
Subversive/Inclusive O
Grass Roots F

Small communities of people, who are willing to accept anybody!!! into their midst, and are genuinely seeking to experience the life of Christ within, in a way that offers the world a radical alternative of love and service instead of dominance and manipulation. Meeting in bars, libraries, homes, parks, restaurants, wherever... but seeking God's Kingdom together, learning what it means to renounce our citizenship in the kingdom of self, and how we can become as a community a dwelling place for God's spirit. Welcoming the marginalized, serving the poor, standing up for the oppressed; because that is who God is!


This will cause us to be subversive, to challenge the way things are. As followers of the Way of Jesus, we should be challenging the 'Caesar' of our day. I know some would be tempted to see a specific person as our contemporary Caesar, but there is something more insidious going on here. We are talking about systemic problems. Economic systems that essentially force poverty on people in other countries, world banking systems, international lending, environmental degradation, materialism that grips our culture, a breakdown of simple human relationships, people treating each other as means to an end in terms of sex or control, systematic racial inequality,


Renounce our citizenship, pledge our allegiance to the world's true king and loving servant, Jesus; listen to His vision for the universe, (prayer, re-reading the story of God); truly belonging to one another at a deeper level than simple affection; taking responsibility for the spiritual community (Leadership); creatively subverting the way of the world. (RED) Creative acts of power and beauty, that through love and service, pull down the way of the world and replace them with the way of Jesus.

The intersection of Heaven and Earth, the people in whom God's Spirit lives and makes himself known.