Yesterday’s blog seemed to require more reader time than one might have expected, so I’ll pick up today. As mentioned before (for the sake of new readers), for years now I have given thought to what might be next after this late-stage capitalism we find ourselves in, which parallels with the late-stage American Christianity which we now practice. Both comfortable with consumerism, justifying greed as reflected in the gap between the have's, (the politically and socially well-positioned) and the have-nots. As I mentioned before, the latter now make up 90%, a trajectory that is unsustainable.
I served for years on our local planning board, even elected three terms as mayor of the small bedroom community where we build our home in 1996. I say all that lest I be pegged as a siloed Christian who practices their faith on Sundays and like many almost change “uniforms” when they go to work on Monday. I love the Body of Christ but am convinced that community and service to others was at least in part, the message of the cross! If you are offended by that, I will take the risk, knowing how much is lost when the sufferings of Christ are reduced to the doctrine of substitutional atonement alone, but that’s for another day.
On the morning of December 28, 2008, while praying and giving deep thought to priorities, given the numerous roles I was then serving, I heard, “My Church is in Foreclosure!" As strange as it may sound, I simultaneously saw a sheet of paper pass before my eyes with four block-printed letters, REPO. As a practicing realtor who has been a part of foreclosure sales, both residential and commercial, I instantly recognized that abbreviation.
I shuttered given what this might mean, until the Holy Spirit spoke to me of the scroll described in Revelation 5, a deed being returned to its rightful owner, the Lamb that was slain. I immediately knew this deserved a book, one that would end with Chapter 13!
It really did come that easily.
Some of the confidence to consider writing was inspired by my wife back in 1986, when she presented me with a blank journal for my birthday, and a somewhat prophetic encouragement that I would one day need to write a book. I had journaled since that date and after REPO: The Church in Foreclosure was later published; I then began blogging almost daily, in case you were marveling at my recall abilities at age 75!
The book was less scholarly than my professional eye would desire, but it was my first attempt and did seem to channel my thoughts toward a need to continue recording my thoughts, given a growing awareness of the hurdles ahead for the institutional church. Church-speak would call this “a prophetic word,” given all that has happened since 2008, but I am now more comfortable with terms like progressive revelation, though too that adds further risk of the label of heresy by those who might now resistant my thoughts. I know I must sound negative, but my heart is thrilled with what I see happening daily among those hungry for a new awakening!
I was hopeful that if communicated in a way so as to serve the institutional church in her impending decline, and simultaneously encourage a marketplace awakening, which I believe is occurring, the concept of church as we know it would benefit, though surely morph greatly.
Today, more and more of the young mentees with whom I spend so much time in what I like to call “Cabin Talks,” seem to get me, even given that their ages range between years 20-50. That is an amazing privilege, a gift from God to me!
They are mostly marketplace oriented, less prone toward congregational gatherings than me, but are equally hungry for a move of God, rather than only weekly sermons and songs in buildings that require substantial funds in order to maintain.
Though these are somewhat painful words to write, the Good News is that the Kingdom of God is among us, his revelation progressive, and the gifts of the Spirit at work in our culture, one with a growing number near Done (a term used by sociologist Josh Packard in his book, Church refugees, 2015) with conventional church. Many youth see little benefit from church, apart from those vestigial few whose parents have retained the spiritual agility to navigate both church and today's culture in a heathy way.
Recent Pew Research implies that among Millennials, only 37% see the benefit of church, with Gen Z's even less interested, many referenced as Nones, wanting nothing to do with what Boomer church has to offer.
Something must change as religious belief, church attendance, and a sense of community have always been recorded as significant to successful families and their prosperity.
Soon after publishing REPO, and while serving as mayor I was asked to participate in the funeral of a community leader's son. This tragic death from an overdose created quite the ripple in our small community, with its population a little over 20,000, having only one high school.
Some weeks after the funeral, in a related strategy session held at the high school, I was asked by a local journalist/author, if I would consider allowing her about a year to do monthly interviews with me and other associates, to produce a book that explored the learnings assumed, given my service in five major sectors. I agreed, and for several months, I answered questions, set up interviews with friends and associates, as she drafted the manuscript. I wrote only the last chapter in A Catalyst for Change, though technically it was co-authored, and much was learned. The title reflected my early days in the science classroom.
Yet still it seemed much was missing as to the "why" behind the "what and where" that I had served. So, you guessed it, there seemed to be another book in me! By now, with some sense of confidence in my story, along with a growing skill set for writing and a strong network of copy editors and authors around me came, The Christ I Came to Know.
It was framed around my WWII Veteran dad, now 98 and his post-depression walk out of poverty. The more I interviewed him, his challenges with escaping poverty seemed to parallel the struggle at walking out of religion.
Once published, that felt so affirming that, with the help of a writer's coach, a well experienced millennial, we moved almost headlong into Finding Your Kingdom Sweet Spot.
You'd think I was finished, but as I first mentioned in this quite lengthy series of post, words again came to me during a recent Sunday morning communion service, "Will you ‘do this in my name.’" I knew it was the book that would require a deeper dive and painfully transparent sharing of what I had learned both the church and the marketplace, framing a spiritual practicality around this walk with Christ, one that is quite different than today's Christianity.
The words, "In my Name" have also become quite meaningful, now having served as Power of Attorney for five seniors, four now deceased with their wills executed. My point being, that following Christ not only provides a sense of empowerment behind words spoken in prayer and over others when one walks in His Name, but also a deep responsibility.
Whether the eventual title be, Cabin Talk, or Spiritual Practicality In a Capitalistic Culture, perhaps even both, with the former as title, and the latter a subtitle, I am compelled to share the underlying thoughts of my spiritual orientation in the workplace, one of a devoted Christ follower, somewhat charismatic, deeply rooted in the Pentecostal movement, who tends to write in run-on sentences!
All that being said, you might sense my growing reluctance to identify with American Christianity, given its deep political attachments of late, the questionable antics of fundamentalists which too often border on racism and a mounting fear of minorities.
My fifty years in scripture when overlaid with my learnings from the belly of the whale (not Jonah's), but the deep underbelly of church politics, her hierarchical leadership... well, I’ll just say, that my once literal, God-breathed text of scripture beliefs are now being challenged. I often ask myself, if that very fundamentalist culture hasn't unintentionally produced what the rightful owner, The Christ has now challenged by foreclosure? If so, God might just be saying, "How's that working for you?"
Once again, I’ll give my readers a chance to breathe UNTIL TOMORROW!