Prayer

Seriously thinking about prayer was the tipping point in my religious de-conversion.

I posted about it early and often when I started the Stupid Church People blog. Here I shared a quote from Karen Armstrong where she writes in “The History of God”:

I wrestled with myself in prayer, trying to force my mind to encounter God, but he remained a stern taskmaster who observed my every infringement of the Rule, or tantalizingly absent. The more I read about the raptures of the saints, the more of a failure I felt. I was unhappily aware that what little religious experience I had, had somehow been manufactured by myself as I worked upon my own feelings and imagination. Sometimes a sense of devotion was an aesthetic response to the beauty of the Gregorian chant and the liturgy. But nothing had actually happened to me from a source beyond myself.

I remember that unhappy feeling when I became truly awake to manufacturing the religious experiences in my life. Then it dawned on me how I had manufactured those experiences for others as a pastor for years.

Religion by and large is a manipulation of emotion, especially in a community or corporate setting. Prayer is used as a primary source of that manipulation.

The podcast we did early on prayer is important because I talk about these feelings openly. The “See You at the Pole” podcast also deals heavily with this subject.

Talking about prayer is a touchy subject because it is so personal to each person who regularly practices it. It’s touchy because pastors rely on it to carry on in front of their congregations as if they have a direct line to God. No one wants to be honest about prayer for fear people will realize the reality of it.

We are just talking to ourselves.

Click below to listen the “Prayer” podcast – recorded October 4, 2005

Emergent Hoo-Haa

SCP ARCHIVES – SHOW #11

First released on June 21, 2005.

This podcast contains the first ever mention of Tony Jones. Those of you in the church world probably know Tony by now, but if you don’t know who he is I suggest you google him for a frame of reference. Anyway, at this time, Josh and I had very little knowledge of the Emergent Church movement. They were just getting onto our radar, and the leaders of the group were (and are) very active on social media. We quickly found ourselves in their cross-hairs as they were seeking to engage those in a “conversation” about what emergent was and wasn’t.

To us, Emergent was no different than any other church movement in history. It was a new flavor of the church, but in the end it was heading quickly in the same direction as all the rest. And what was that direction? Irrelevance.

I share several quotes from the book “Wineskins”, but none better than this: The Church “continues to brew new wine instead of scrapping the old wine skins”.

Josh and I were so fed up with the church, we didn’t want change or a revolution – but a cataclysm. Sell all the church buildings. No paid pastoral staff and all pastors get “real” jobs. Churches should rid themselves of the “seeker” mentality and stop trying to market to the lowest common denominator. Churches would focus on the poor and spurn building kingdoms to themselves.

Churches and pastors don’t have the balls to be truly biblical. In this way most pastors are no different than I am. They don’t really believe the Bible or they’d lead their churches in the path I describe above. But it’s still a game, a job, a show and a money-grab.

I know these may be hard words for most pastors of small churches to hear. Those that don’t make a lot of money and struggle to get by and do real good work in very difficult places. But even you guys can do better. Actually it’s the small churches that have the best chance to initiate change.

So this podcast was probably one of our finest, because we get to the heart of the matter of what was bugging us about the church. We start to “dialogue” with Tony Jones. It’s starting to get good people. And I’m getting fired up again… so stay tuned.

The Road Trip

SCP ARCHIVES – SHOW #6

First released on May 14, 2005.

Road Trip. It’s a staple of Americana and this episode was a much needed one for me.

My life changed dramatically on May 1, 2005. It’s something I’ve never talked about very openly on the Stupid Church People blog or podcast, but it’s something I’ve alluded to often. On that fateful day, my (ex) wife told me she wanted a divorce.

In retrospect almost ten years later, I should not have been surprised. Our marriage was going through the paces and I was obviously disconnected from how bad it was because I was completely blind-sided by the news. So in the days that followed, I was a mess.

I didn’t eat, barely slept and was very very depressed. One night shortly after, I can’t remember exactly when, I found myself knocking on Josh’s door. I might have given him a call just before heading over, but there I was on his porch – a complete and total wreck.

Josh let me in and for the next several hours just sat with me. Basically we didn’t say much, he didn’t offer me advice, but just sat with me. There wasn’t much to say.

I believe it was sometime during that evening though that the mood changed a bit. We begin to laugh a little, talk about SCP and I think the idea for this show was born. “Let’s get out of town for the day and just go have some fun” was the basic idea.

This stupid little blog and podcast was my outlet during some very dark days in my life. Josh was and is one of the best friends anyone could ever want.

So in listening to this podcast, I hope you will hear it in the context of what I shared above. I think it’s a testimony to the power of laughter, friendship and living life one day at a time.

Church Detox

SCP ARCHIVES – SHOW #4

First released on April 27, 2005.

This podcast was recorded days following  the very last time I ever preached or spoke in a church setting. That seems so long ago. Life has surely changed.

I am amazed in listening to this show how naive and innocent I am to the idea of people wanting to stop going to church. You can tell I’m starting to branch out in my reading and challenging myself with different thoughts about faith, church and expressions of belief. At this point, I’m encountering people and ideas that I would avoid for fear of being led astray from faith. But I’m open to it and beginning to free my mind.

In this episode Josh and I talk about addiction to church. That concept had never occurred to me. This theme of addiction would play out in my life in many ways in the coming years. Co-dependency might be a better word. Most church people still suffer from it in my opinion, at least the church people I know.

Benny Hinn’s Road to Hell

SCP ARCHIVES – SHOW #3

First released on April 24, 2005.

Josh and I take on faith healing extraordinaire Benny Hinn. We dissect some of his more entertaining prophetic statements.

Listen, I don’t even know if Benny Hinn is still in business or not, but it’s amazing he ever had an audience. There’s always room for more guys like him because there are always more Stupid Church People around that follow him.

But what about the fakes that are hard to spot? The wolves in sheep’s clothing?  My suggestion is that there are many more than you realize.

Remember when Mark Driscoll was at his peak? Whether you liked him or his style, for awhile there he was everywhere you looked. True to form he was building his kingdom at the expense of the people that gave him the platform.

The problem for Mark Driscoll, Benny Hinn and those like them is that they begin to believe their own bullshit. The problem for church people is that they typically like a pastor that believes his own bullshit. Funny how that works.

Tickle Me Jesus… Please.

SCP ARCHIVES – SHOW #2

First released on April 22, 2005.

Listening again to this show you can hear Josh and I struggling with our involvement in the church. You can hear our growing discontentment with “the show” that the church had become for us. As insiders it was very apparent that each and every week church was a performance put on for an audience – and had moved far away from what we believed church should be. We were over it.

I recall now how underground the Stupid Church People blog and podcast was for us at that time. We were doing this very secret thing in plain sight, and I think we were somewhat concerned about the consequences. Here I was advocating for people to stop going to church to send a message while preparing to speak at my church that coming weekend.

But that had become part of the problem. The church we were attending had a formula it followed for each service, and as a speaker I had to conform. There needed to be a powerpoint, a special video or drama to illustrate the message, a thematic song and of course a message that lasted no less than 30 minutes.

Josh and I were tired of the show that the church had become. We longed for freedom from the church. The SCP Podcast had become that for us. This was just the beginning.

Death and Burning Down the Local Christian Bookstore

SCP ARCHIVES – SHOW #1

Re-release of our very first show, around April 1, 2005.

It was Josh’s idea to do a podcast. I had started writing the blog and Josh was a huge encouragement. We would get together and talk about church all the time. In 2005 podcasts were just taking off, and I had never really heard one at the time. It seemed like a good way to get our stories out and the current “religious” podcasts that were out were (and still are) by and large very, very boring. So we envisioned something a little different.

At the time, Josh was on staff of a church as a youth pastor. I was no longer in full-time ministry but was a volunteer at the same church, helping with the youth groups and also preaching on occasion whenever the Pastor was unavailable.

Josh and I were both just beginning to be very disenchanted with the way church worked. I guess I had been pretty burned out on church for awhile but was trying to figure my way through it. The new church we attended was hip and cool and we had made some friends there. However, the church and church culture was really beginning to wear on me. It seemed to be such a game. Josh and I were kindred spirits from different generations.

Our lives were forever altered by these podcasts we did together, but more by the friendship we forged together during this time. Josh and I spent many, many hours together during this time and as you can tell, we were pretty comfortable together.

We actually taped this first show (and I think the first few shows) in the church office where Josh worked. It’s pretty funny to think about it now… Josh and I going into the office late at night to record a show about how much we couldn’t stand the church. How appropriate!

This first show was a little rough around the edges, not great but not horrible. I think we get better.

When Life is Hard, Stop and Think

Angry-GodRecently I have started following Mark Driscoll on Facebook and Twitter. Although he is good for a daily dose of SCP fodder, I have no interest in zeroing in on him. However, I would like to make an observation and respond to a recent group of posts surrounding one of his sermons.

 

Driscoll wrote a series of posts in his social media feeds that went like this (edited here for coherence):

When life is hard…

  • God is not punishing you.
  • God is not failing you.
  • God has not abandoned you.
  • God is not acting evil toward you.
  • God will be with you, but he will not answer every question you may have.

In the transcript of this sermon, Driscoll has this to say about trials:

When those seasons come, our emotions tend to be very elevated and escalated. We feel sometimes more clearly than we think.

In the midst of tough times, Driscoll is asking us to think and not feel. I’d say this is good advice. Because if we really think about the five statements above in conjunction with the final three points of the sermon, we have to make tons of logical leaps to accept the fact of what Driscoll calls “a good God”.

Here’s what Driscoll says God says about trials.

  • You are going to get trials.
  • Trials are a test and an opportunity.
  • You will get trials of various kinds.

Think about it. A good loving God allows trials in your life, for a test and an opportunity and he allows all kinds of trials from small to large.

Recall the worst thing that ever happened to you in your life and God allowed that to happen. Why? To test you and give you an opportunity for you “to prove who you are in Christ”. Why? If I am in Christ, and that’s true, what do I have to prove? That I am really in Christ? According to Driscoll God is consistently and constantly sending you all types of trials. It’s all good though because God isn’t doing you any harm, and he’s there for you and he will get you through.

I want you to take Driscoll’s advice and stop feeling for a second. Stop feeling how good it is believing that God is out there and that he loves and cares for you. It makes you feel so warm and fuzzy inside knowing that no matter what happens, large or small, God is there to help you through it. This feeling has gotten you through some pretty hard stuff in life – the loss of a parent, the loss of a child, the loss of a marriage. Feeling God’s love and not thinking about God’s love has been pretty valuable.

But stop feeling and think about it. Does it make rational sense that good God would allow trials in your life? Is it right that someone who says they love you can permit difficulties in your life and not have to be accountable for their complicity? It’s a win-win for God all the time. He never has to answer your questions, he gets no blame and gets all the credit no matter what happens in your life. Does that makes sense to you?

If God’s ways are higher than our ways I would argue God has a few things to learn from us. As a parent, I would never treat my children the way he treats his children. Only people trapped in dysfunctional and co-dependent relationships allow such abuse to go on. The reasons they do so is because they love the abuser so much and can’t imagine life without them. Think about it.

BULLETIN: Fake Driscoll Isn’t Real Driscoll

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 2.19.54 PM Seems like Mars Hill wants it to be clear that the Twitter account called Fake Driscoll is in no way, shape or form related to the real Mark Driscoll account.

Hats off to Stephanie Drury and SCCL for keeping it real by playing it fake!