Church, Church, Church

Sep 22, 2020

I’m a writer. I write books. Sometimes they sell and sometimes they don’t. Mostly they don’t. I used to care, but after a while you realize that unless you’re willing to take out a second on the house and pour tens of thousands into ads every month … you heard me … there’s really no way to make a living as an author who also has a life away from the keyboard.

I finally shut off my social media accounts, the only connections I’ve had to the author-world for the past five years. I didn’t even say goodbye, but most of the people I’d made friends with eventually realized I’m not a leftist ideologue and dropped me … or, to be current and correct, canceled me. Whatever. Just as a side note, it’s amazing how terrified people are of being canceled. Really … what the hell does that mean anyway? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been canceled, but guess what? I’m still here.

My writing journey started well, but I was naive. Eventually, being the savvy efficiency expert and cheapskate that I am, I noticed that the rate of change in the writing industry is increasingly and prohibitively fast; too fast to ever reach a stable and predictably routinized state which would theoretically afford me enough time to actually write.

I retired early from my high paying profession to write, not to learn the Facebook and Amazon algorithms, spending hours running expensive A/B Testing scenarios to discover just the right (target audience)+(creative image)+(bid amount) formula that would bring in enough sales to reach the tipping point, thereby magically transforming my writing business into a self-sustaining money machine. And even if I did find the magic, the unicorn ad would only produce for a few weeks before FB tweaked the algorithm, or hired more newbies that didn’t understand FB’s ad policies, requiring that I spend days launching into-the-black-hole-appeals of their decision to take down an ad because the image contained a book. Uh … I’m an author?

The last time I checked the FB feeds of my author groups (before D-day … deactivation day), they were talking about writing ten novels a month (this could be an exaggeration).

Riiiiiight … Not with kids, distance learning, and a family of mess-makers.

Anyway, it appears that speed and volume to market is the latest essential key to success … feed the fans’ addictions and ridiculous expectations that they shouldn’t have to wait for the art to emerge in its own time. What a surprise.

Anyway, my real point is that I was going to write a book entitled something like “An Open Letter to Churches,” but then I thought about it too long and went down a rabbit hole of alternative recipient labels to use for my letter’s intended audience. Thankfully, I caught the misguided line of mental inquiry and backed myself out.

Basically, I want to write a letter to all the Stepford Christians who take up space at church, leaving no room for the people who want and/or need to know Jesus.

At the moment, I’m thinking of the poor souls burning down our country, dragging their own futures along for the after-party they think they’ll be invited to. Have you ever heard the term “useful idiots?” Anyway, these brainwashed gas-lit angry robotons need Jesus, but they’ve slipped into the hands of the enemy, and there’s now an open war on truth. They will certainly be hard won, especially since the people who know Jesus, or claim to know Jesus, haven’t connected with them … and there’s no sign they have any plans to do so.  This leaves the anarchists who once wanted and now need to know Jesus in a bad spot. Everyone’s afraid of them. Is it too late? I hope not.

The church (and what I mean by “church” is the current-day congregational and programmatic model that runs a church as if it’s a slick entertainment business) is failing in its fundamental mission. Most are stuck in form over substance, right down to scripting the staff to “handle” attendees with plastic-wrapped language.

It must have happened when I wasn’t paying attention, but at some point, leadership lost its courage … its fire in the belly, hiring compliant yes-people who go along to get along, creating a bubble filled with, yes, Stepford Christians.  That leaves anyone seeking real spiritual substance to the drudgery and disappointments of a long hard search.

The thing is, our days are numbered. We don’t have time to be dinking around with building campaigns and fog machines for the worship team (I’m not kidding!). There’s some real work to be done RIGHT NOW.

Has an entire generation been lost because of the church’s lack of authenticity and courage to walk out a risky, dangerous, and audacious faith? The kind of faith that would, despite apparent risks, take the gospel down untrodden paths shrouded in an intimidating uncertainty? Where is His Bride?

Pastors … forget your “careers” and surrender yourself to God! Your willingness to see where the Spirit is leading is needed.

Women in the church … get over your insidiously judgmental attitudes toward strong women who have taken on more than motherhood and family. We will never know how much spiritual power, courage, and know-how the church has turned away by shunning women who don’t fit the mold.

And men, stand up in your integrity; watch and step into God’s movements with your whole self. Be willing to be enter the arena of heros.

Really … the things the church focuses on are a big distraction from the mission, and a chilling development in the life of Christ’s Bride. This entrenched pattern continues at great cost unless we do something about it.

There’s one solution. And it’s a solution that gets short shrift. Here it is:

Prayer. It is the single most important thing we can do and the most powerful supernatural tool of divine access that we have as a church (church in the global sense). Yet we don’t give prayer its due.

I recently left a church. Shortly after I first started attending, there was a call for proposals from attendees. The church wanted to fund the development of any ideas that would further her mission. I was excited to have the chance, and I sent in my proposal, learning later mine was the first to be received.

What was it? Well, I wanted to hold a 24-hour event where anyone who wanted to could participate in praying the hours, all eight windows. [1]The “hours” are rooted in the Benedictine practice of praying at eight different hours during the course of a 24 hour period. My belief was, and remains, that the power and intensity of the experience would not only sensitize our awareness of God’s presence and reignite a fire in the belly of the individual church members, but also awaken a new spiritual hunger in anyone else who chose to participate. I believed that lives would be changed in profound ways. I would keep it simple, using a beautiful book to guide each session, Lauralee Farrer’s book “Praying the Hours in Ordinary Life.”

Out of all the proposals the church received, mine was the only one that was not approved. The leadership was more interested in funding block parties, or so I was told. I don’t have anything against block parties. I just think they’d be a lot better after a full day of prayer, and maybe … just maybe … be held in places other than our own comfortable neighborhoods.

So, after getting the run around for months, it was clear … again … that there was no room for me. I left.

In the meantime, I’ve taken to watching online services held by a Messianic Rabbi out of Macon, Georgia. That is, until God leads me to where I’m supposed to be. Maybe I’ll move to Georgia. In the meantime, I’ve taken a weekend job as a tasting room server at a local winery. I don’t know why … it just seemed like the next thing to do.

 

 

 

[1] Ever constant, ever changing—the only way St. Benedict could imagine keeping up with the abundance of God’s ongoing creation was to pray without ceasing—a state of being as much as a state of doing. This is one of the reasons why it is impossible to live the Christian life fully while maintaining one’s own agenda. Who’s got the time for anything more than staying engaged with what God is doing next? That’s why Benedict stopped eight times a day to pray. (And, for a little bit of irony: who invented the mechanical clock by which we count the hours of Chronos but the Benedictines! They did it in order to mark the time every day to pray the Hours.) Lauralee Farrer, Clayton J. Schmit. Praying the Hours in Ordinary Life (p.49). Cascade Books. Kindle Edition.

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