Friday, 27 June 2014

It's life Jim, but not as we knew it.

We've reached a milestone.

It's been one and a half years since my husband and I decided we couldn't take it any more.

18 months since we officially said, "No More!"

No more pain. No more abuse.

And we walked away from life as we'd known it.

Away from 'going to church'. Away from 'doing' church. Away from an institution that used to mean safety, security, religious observances - but  had come to represent wounding and rejection and judgment and grief and fear and heartbreak and loss.

We started a journey into the unknown.

And it's been hard and lonely at times, but I'm so glad we did.

It's not that we have all the answers now. In fact far from it. We seem to have less certainty than we've ever had before. But we're finding peace in that.

We've questioned many of the things we were taught to believe and found them lacking. We've discarded the man-made traditions and committed ourselves to following the Spirit - wherever that might lead. We've cast off the need to perform or comply with other people's expectations.  We've claimed our freedom.

We chose the Red Pill, and just like Neo, we woke up to a world we'd never known before.

And it's scary and disorienting at times. But we're learning to live in it.

We've found that God will not fit in a box - not even a 'church-shaped' box. That his love is better and greater and deeper than we'd ever known. That Jesus's rebukes were for the religious leaders who, convinced of their own righteousness, used their religion to hurt people. That the Spirit, like the wind, cannot be controlled and will not be constrained.

That if we live in fear and seclusion to keep ourselves 'safe' and 'pure' then our god is not big enough.

We are certainly experiencing a new and different life. But definitely not as we knew it!

Thank God!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Things That Should be Obvious to Every Christian

By Sam Powell @ My Only Comfort

Jesus expects and commands us to distinguish between wolves and sheep (Matt.7:15-16)

A wolf is known by his appetites. A wolf wants to use the sheep to fill his own lusts, and does not care about whether this hurts the sheep or not.

A man who rapes children is a wolf, not a misguided sheep.

A man who molests children is a wolf, not a misguided sheep.

A man who beats his wife, cheats on his wife, demands complete and absolute obedience from his wife, and believes that he is the voice of God in his home, is using his wife to fill his own lusts for self-importance, power, and self-worship to the hurt of his wife. He is a wolf, not a sheep.

A man who has his children in absolute terror, who holds or gives his favor to his family based upon his whims and his lusts for power and control is using his God-given authority to destroy and devour the sheep. He is a wolf, not a sheep.

And here is a biggie. Matthew 18:15-18 are the instructions of our Lord concerning brothers who have sinned against each other. They are not intended as instructions on how to deal with wolves. Wolves must be cast out and left in the hands of God. Wolves have no problem pretending to be sheep – even to the point of tears and all of the right words. But Jesus said that you will know them by the fruits, not by their tears and empty words.

Before you apply Matthew 18, you must ask yourself if you are dealing with a wolf or with a sheep. Jesus commanded us to tell the difference. You will know them by their fruits (see above).

Continue reading here…

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Jesus the Buddhist?

Jesus the Buddhist?
At one point in the hostilities we experienced at our last church, my husband and I agreed to a meeting with the elder who was at the centre of the leadership struggle, and with his wife, both of whom had been close friends of ours. We were still hoping that somehow we could find some sort of resolution to the conflict. We had asked one of the board members* to mediate for us, because our previous attempt at reconciliation had only exposed me to more abuse.

(* We didn't realise until later how partisan he actually was!)

Some way into the discussions, elder J's wife got angry and started articulating how she really felt towards me. I can only guess this caught her off guard because she suddenly clapped her hand over her mouth as if to dam the words, giggled, and then said, "Oh, look at me, I'm manifesting!"

Her smile was then firmly clamped back into place and she resumed saying 'the right things'.

Needless to say, the meeting finished with us all saying the magic words, and then love and peace abounded. NOT!

Nothing was ever owned or dealt with, and therefore nothing was resolved. We all pretended that everything was suddenly ok and made like the nice, little christians we were supposed to be. Om….

Why are christians so afraid of being honest!?

In this case, the couple needed to prove to the board member what 'good' (calm, loving, in control) christians they were - proving their claim to leadership, I surmise. In other words, they had something to lose by being honest.

All I managed to achieve from that meeting was prove in their minds what a 'bad' (angry, hurt, emotional) christian I was! In their world, my honesty made me a loser.

And at first I bought into this lie. Deny your feelings. Stay calm. Be nice. Say forgiveness.

Recite the mantra. Emotions are wrong, feelings are bad. Repeat the chant enough times and those things will just disappear. Believe, and your pain no longer exists. Then you'll have achieved christian enlightenment.

This is the lie I was sold. Except I wasn't really buying it. Something just didn't add up.

And eventually I realised the truth. I hadn't lost at all. I'd actually gained. My freedom and my integrity!

I had gained permission to be myself. I no longer needed to perform or pretend. To be measured by someone else's yardstick.

It is God's work to conform me to the image of his son. Not mine. Definitely not someone else's.

And I certainly won't make myself fit an image of Jesus that doesn't exist.

I don't buy the nice, calm, unemotional facade that some christians think they are supposed to present. Always peaceful, always serene. It makes me wonder if they believe Jesus was actually some kind of Zen Buddhist!

Is that the real Jesus? Or is that some kind of comfortable image we've been sold?

Nice Jesus.

Safe Jesus.

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.

The Jesus some christians seem to follow would have made the money-changers a nice cup of tea and sat down to have a friendly chat with them, suggesting that perhaps they might like to reflect on their behaviour and possibly think about how they could maybe do things differently… but only if they felt like it.

Peace man! Chill!

Well the Jesus I see is thoroughly alive. Embraces life in all its messiness and complexity. Is the ultimate example of what it is to be fully human. Passionate, emotional, sometimes even overwhelmed by his feelings, his struggles. Real. Honest. Authentic.

That's the Jesus I want to look like.

Acquainted with grief… and other emotions!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Why Church Leaders Abuse

In recent days there has been a huge outcry online about the publication of an article written by an ex-youth pastor who is now in jail for abusing a young girl in his care. The article has now been removed and an apology posted by the magazine involved. But in an initial attempt to respond to the backlash it was receiving, the magazine printed an editorial update which included this line: "...the intent of this article was to serve as a cautionary story for church leaders…"

In my opinion, this explained a lot! As I wrote in the comments section of one of the protesting blog posts: "They see this as a 'leadership' issue, not one of justice for a child whose life has been devastated. It's about damage control, not reparation. I'm just not sure Jesus would have seen it from that perspective!"

It got me thinking about what fuels the attitude and perspective I was seeing - that leadership is about wielding power and authority rather than seeking justice and serving others.

And it reminded me of a time shortly after I became an elder in my former church, when one of our board members was offering us advice about being in leadership. At one point we were talking about pastoral care of the body and he suggested that we be wary about taking on the unreasonable expectations of the members.

The scenario was presented of a church member complaining that they had been sick and unable to attend church and that no-one in leadership had noticed or contacted that person. It was suggested that the appropriate response was to tell this person they should have contacted the church to let the leaders know of their situation, thus putting the responsibility firmly back on the one in need. Now I agree that we do need to take responsibility in our own lives and cannot expect others to carry us all the time, but the implication of this approach is, "We are too busy doing the important job of being leaders to care about your needs. It's up to you to make sure your needs are being met."

Despite the fact that Christ modelled Kingdom leadership as serving - a position of coming under and lifting up - too many christians seem to see leadership in terms of having authority over other people. And as long as there is this belief in the church that leaders are a higher/better class of christian, we will continue to see abuse because that belief is the doorway to an 'empire' mentality - that those who are 'superior' are not only justified in imposing their will on their inferiors, they in fact have an obligation to do so. After all, it is for their own good!

And where leaders are more concerned with protecting their positions and defending their authority, than simply caring for 'the least of these' (Matt 25:37-40), people will end up being thrown under the bus. When that attitude of entitlement creeps in, people are soon perceived in utilitarian, rather than humanitarian, terms. Until we see each other as brothers and sisters, equal before God, the body will continue to be hurt by these 'leaders' who place themselves over others.

It's just that I think Jesus had something to say about this attitude...
"At about the same time, the disciples came to Jesus asking, “Who gets the highest rank in God’s kingdom?” 
For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me. 
“But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse—and it’s doomsday to you if you do." Matt 18:1-7

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Which is Kingdom?

Naked Pastor
Scenario 1:

Men using politics and power plays to 'do church'. Machinations and manipulation. People being abused and sacrificed to the gods of 'unity' and 'leadership'. Submission and respect being demanded - on pain of rejection and shunning. Sheep being scattered and slaughtered by the wolves who have seized control. 'Leaders' refusing to be accountable to anyone except yes men, refusing to even talk to those they have abused. The bruised and battered being thrown out of 'the church', blamed for their own woundedness. Those responsible for the wounding flinging accusations of 'trouble-maker', 'bitter', 'divisive'.

Scenario 2:

One young woman moving to a foreign country simply because she wants to share the love of God with others. Trusting him completely for guidance and provision. Rescuing those who've been abused by the world's system. Loving them - treating them with dignity and worth. Pouring her life out in service to those the world has used and thrown away. Caring for the outcasts, the rejects, the 'least of these'. Sacrificing comfort, security and privilege; yet seeing it not as a sacrifice but a joy and delight.


Which of these two pictures best illustrates the Kingdom of God? Which do you think makes Jesus smile? Which is the outcome of being Spirit-led?

Thursday, 5 June 2014

"Church Leadership can be Brutal"


A short time after I'd been hounded from the 'church', someone apologised to me because they felt they had not been supportive enough of me while I was in leadership. This person explained that they had had experience of being in leadership in that context and said to me, "I know that church leadership can be brutal."

At the time, I accepted the apology at face value and moved on.

But in recent months, those words have been haunting me.

And in light of the latest revelations regarding a certain business franchise church where the tally of leaders who have been "thrown under the bus" is rapidly mounting, I've become increasingly perturbed by those words.

The person who uttered them to me meant well. They were trying, in their own way, to offer comfort and at the time I received the words in that vein. But I've been thinking about what those words really mean.

That the people of God, to whom Christ gave the commandment to love one another, and who should be identified by that love (John 13:34-35) are, instead, known for their brutality toward one another.

And we see this as normal… inevitable… acceptable.

What, in the name of God, is wrong with us!?

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Christians, Stop Shooting our Wounded

By Suzannah Paul

We talked about sex in the summer camp dining hall. It was staff orientation, and we unpacked consent, abuse, and how virginity is a lousy measure of the purity of one’s heart before God. We deconstructed bad metaphors, exploring the significance of the incarnation and the imago Dei.
She found me later, a young woman who’d been through hell and back. Her courage blew me away.
“Thank you for seeing me,” she said, eyes shining. “Sometimes I feel so invisible.”


Our sisters’ and brothers’ blood cries out from the ground. Others bear unfading scars from sexual, psychological, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuses, suffered even at the hands of those claiming Christ’s name.
We may not have hearts to understand, but we serve up solutions all the same… Continue reading here.