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Curb Your Dogma: Where we leave the beaten path to follow Christ

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The Hard Road from Church to the Kingdom of God, Part 3 (The Way of Love)

A Way to Live Jesus taught the way of love. He told stories. At the center of these stories was a God of love and people in need of love. Jesus’ stories did not focus on belief but on behavior. Jesus had only two rules for life: Love God. Love your neighbor. He said if you did this, you would automatically get everything else right. Following Jesus is the way of love. What Is Love? Love is the superpower we all possess. It is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive,...


The Hard Road from Church to the Kingdom of God, Part 2

My Two Big Questions Now that I lived on the outside of church, two questions mocked me. The first was how to explain all the good things and good people in church. This was a problem for me because leaving was the kind of extreme step that would be in order if I had been protesting something awful, like Hitler’s Germany or something. But church is not Hitler’s Germany. In fact, it has many admirable features. Why not focus on the good? Do I expect church to be a utopia? Thousands of...


The Hard Road from Church to the Kingdom of God, Part 1

The Mysterious Presence Ever since I was a little boy, I have felt a mysterious Presence. I felt it traipsing across the hills of the Palouse with my dog, Brute. I heard it in music. I felt it in my family. I touched it in the wilderness of Idaho, where I spent summers backpacking with my dad. I called this mysterious something “God.” God was the most real thing in the world to me. I wanted God more than anything. This hunger led me to become a pastor, start a church, to get a Ph.D. in New...


The Apostate & the Infidel, Part 2

In this episode, we turn our attention from the infidel to the apostate. Strangely, these titles were the result of seeking God together. We invite you to join us in the pursuit of God.


The Apostate & the Infidel, Part 1

Both Jim and I have experienced a deep crisis of faith. In the midst of going through this together Jim started calling me “The Apostate” and I began to call him “The Infidel.” In this episode we explain why, and how our experience changed the way we think of our lives and of God. Mentioned in This Episode Richard Rohr Peter Enns (Click images below to view on Amazon) Tribe, by Sebastian Junger Educated, by Tara Westover Room (the movie)


A Tree Planted by the Water

Last week I painted a picture of the Mountain of God. On this mountain we are warmed and energized by the same light. On this mountain, we move closer to God, closer to each another, closer to truth. There is no “us” and “them.” There is room for everyone. The mountain of God is not a religion. It is the end of religion, the triumph of the Kingdom of God. The essence of the this Mountain is four relationships. The relationship between you with God. The relationship between you and your...


The Mountain of God

Question Anything But Church In case you missed it, I am making an outrageous claim. I am saying that the church is not a natural extension of the message of Jesus but a radical departure from it. If you haven’t questioned my sanity, I question yours. I am taking a swipe at one of the fundamental building blocks of western civilization. People have debated the tenets of Christianity for ages: the nature of God, the divinity of Christ, what happens when we die, how to be saved, the right...


A Kingdom Manifesto

Free at Last! Free at Last! I am free in a way that I have not been since high school. I’m not going to strip clubs, or drinking heavily, or driving down the wrong side of the road. I remain happily married to my wife. It is not my behavior that has changed. It is the world around me. It’s suddenly gotten bigger. God is no longer a small certainty but a vast mystery. I love questions for which there are no answers. I stretch my arms and wiggle my toes. I am becoming my uninhibited,...


Breaking up with Church Is Hard to Do

Buried Alive! I used to wake up from a nightmare in which I was buried alive. If it were just a matter of dying, suffocation would be no worse to go than many other ways. It’s wasn’t the dying that scared me, It was being confined to a small space, unable to m ove, running out of oxygen, alone in the darkness. This dream was no accident. Several years ago, my world started to shrink around me and start to choke me. I didn’t understand this. I had a great family, a nice house, a loving...


Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Other Power Plays

Introduction It was five years ago when I first realized I had to leave the church. It’s hard to describe how completely devastated I was by this. The church defined my whole world, everything from my weekly activities, to the origins of the universe to the meaning of my life. All of this was shattered when I left the church. I tried not to. I thought that if I stepped back for a season, I would be able to step back in. Maybe I was just burned out. Maybe I was just misplaced. But when I...


If Church Is So Bad, Why Is It So Full of Good?

I began this summer series by giving seven reasons why I found it necessary to leave the church. Then, two of weeks ago, I showed that the word “church” is a very good word not found in the Bible to describe an institution not found in the Bible. Last week, I offered a definition of ecclesia that I consider in line with Jesus’ intent. If you haven’t picked it up already, I am conflicted about church. I would have no problem if it was all bad. I would kick it to the curb and move on. But...


Ecclesia Is Everyone

The Rise of the Dones Good people are leaving church. They’re not leaving one church to look for another. They’re ditching the whole institution. It’s easy to write these people off as whiners but it goes deeper than this. In his book, Church Refugees, Josh Packard shows that these are not fringe people with petty gripes. They are pastors and staff, deacons and elders, ministry leaders and board members. People who have given their lives to church. They don’t leave easily, but when the do,...


Church: An Odd Translation with a Sketchy Past and an Outrageous Claim

“The contempt which I had to fear because of the novelty and apparent absurdity of my view nearly induced me to abandon utterly the work I had begun.” —Nicolaus Copernicus Shifting the Center of the Universe In the 16th century, Nicolaus Copernicus shook the world by demonstrating that the earth was not the center of the universe. Copernicus was a devout Catholic and knew his ideas would not go over well with the church. He was smart enough to publish them on his deathbed and avoid...


Seven Reasons I Left the Church to Follow Jesus

Introduction Why Church Can Never Be Fixed For as long as I can remember, people have been trying to fix the church. The idea is that if we find the right formula we can get things back on track. We modernize the music, reformat the service, put a finer point on the theology, change the meeting place, make it harder, make it easier, make it sexier, make it stodgier… In spite of endless tweaking, the statistics all point in the same direction: church is dying. The reason why no modification...


Habit 7: Rest

Why God Took the Day Off In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey recommends “sharpening the saw.” The idea is that every now and then you need to take some time off to refresh. This will make you more effective than if you keep sawing away and never take a time to recharge. It’s good advice with which I wholeheartedly agree. But it has nothing to do with God’s rest. God did not rest to “sharpen the saw.” God rested because he was finished. God saw all that He had made,...


Habit #6: Shine

This week is pure fun. Shining is not a chore. It’s not a task on your to-do list. It’s not cranking up a factory to produce something. It’s more like breaking up a log jam to let a river flow. The first five habits are about breaking up the log jam. When you practice them, it is impossible not to shine. Let’s review: Habit #1 Make brokenness a door You admit your need. You don’t pretend all is well. You declare bankruptcy and throw yourself on God’s mercy. Habit #2 Trust Jesus You take...


Habit #5: Love Everyone

Rejected! How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the best Dr. Seuss movie ever. In the 2000 version with Jim Carey, the Grinch lives in exile and on a snow-covered mountain. Every day he wallows in his hatred for the people of Whoville. How did this situation arise? Rejection. The Grinch was different from the other kids so they were cruel to him. He packed his bags and went into exile. The story is about how a little girl named Cindy Lou softened his heart with love and brought him back to...


Habit #4: Let God Love You

Dueling Billboards As Julie and I travel around the country, we see many billboards and church marquis. Most of these say in one way or another that God loves us. But along with these glad tidings of a loving God stand others, which tell a very different story. One of these, for example, has a picture of glowing clouds on the left and wicked flames on the right. It read, Where will go when you die? Heaven or Hell? An 800 number was given to find out. Another warned in giant, capital letters,...


Habit #3: Hope in God

We Owe the IRS. What’s Your Story? Julie and I just got our tax information. We were hoping to get money back this year but due to some stupidity on our part and bad advice we owe $5136. The real challenge is not coming up with $5136. The real challenge is not letting the bad news sink us in a pit of despair. What did we do wrong to bring all this on ourselves? Why can’t we live on easy street like other people? Is God punishing us? These are foolish questions. The truth is that no one lives...


Habit #2: Trust Jesus

Shooting Star The summers of my college years were spent working with youth at a big church in Richland Washington. I loved all of the kids but there was a special connection with a few. Jeff was one of those. He showed up early to help me set things up and was one of the last to leave. Some mornings we met to go jogging together. That’s why, one evening, when we couldn’t find Jeff, I was worried. We had been waterskiing on the Snake River. The boat would take five or six kids out at a time,...