Context: I surrendered to the gospel ministry as a teenager. Then, I attended college (Oklahoma Baptist University) to study and train for it. I never made it to seminary, though I never stopped trying to study on that level on my own. I spent hundreds of dollars on books, but eventually kept only a few. The journey out of bondage to Western evangelical Christian religion was long and painful, but it began with something I heard back in college. “The Bible is an eastern book; Jesus was an eastern man. Christianity is an eastern religion.” It took awhile for that to sink in.
During that long lag time from the late 1970s in college to my final departure in 2005, I did my best to volunteer in churches on whatever basis they would tolerate me. A couple of times I was granted an official internship. Several other times I was hired as Music Director simply because no one else would do it, and I just barely could. So I was frequently working as church staff and often hanging out with the pastors in daily work and conferences and just anywhere I could. I was trying to absorb the culture and hoping someone would notice my spirit and talents and sponsor me for something more permanent. While that never happened, I did learn a lot about the culture.
It included endless whining about how the mass of church membership just barely showed up. Never more than something like 20% actually got involved enough to make things happen (by their estimates). Today there is an endless supply of books and studies and programs on how to provoke your membership to a greater degree of spirituality. As you know from reading much of anything I’ve written, it can’t happen because they confuse “spirituality” with “better thinking and acting.”
Now, I will tell you that I did learn how to grow an organization so that more people showed up and put their money in the offering plates. And I was pretty good at that part, but I always felt that I failed because the majority of the people were unchanged. They liked how I could talk and stir up their enthusiasm, but they never did much. They had too many different reasons why they just couldn’t. Eventually, I got used to it.
It was good training in one sense. That kind of disappointment as “normal” made me capable of tolerating the lack of response on these two blogs.
Brothers and Sisters, what we do here makes us total aliens to the mainstream. It’s not that we can’t find mainstream folks who can love us and deal with us; the church leadership wouldn’t let someone like me stay around very long. The honest truth is that what I teach undermines their programs, and I refuse to attend a church where I can’t teach. I will not be silent, so that means they have to marginalize me at best. I’m not going to sit there and sing and enjoy the music and chat with friends and knuckle under bad teaching.
I’ve known for at least a decade that my calling was to prepare, to make myself an arrow in the quiver. I knew that a time would come when chaos would come and then my gifts from God would be activated. The small things I’ve accomplished here were training, sharpening, proving that these things work. A few of you have responded and found this stuff useful. God bless you, because that blesses me. It keeps me on the path, but sooner or later that path will meet chaos. Indeed, my prophetic gift tells me we are all headed for the chaos of tribulation. That’s what I’ve been prepared for; that’s what it will take to break open the somnolence of souls chained to all that bad teaching. It will be my faith and shalom in the midst of chaos that will call to those who suddenly realize they need something they don’t already have.
Now, God can do anything He likes. This could turn into a huge movement of sorts that reaches millions. Let’s pray to that end, but let us also hear with our convictions what God tells us He wants us to believe. Some of you are already with me, standing in faith until He pulls us out of the quiver and launches us into the battle. Some others of you will blossom and join that work. And some of you will tell me about it and we will rejoice together in the miracles. Still, my heart right now says we shouldn’t expect much in terms of numbers. We aren’t doing a religion that is designed to draw crowds and our socio-cultural context doesn’t encourage genuine heart-led conviction.
So while some mainstream Christian leaders know how to game human behavior to attract large audiences, we aren’t in that game. What we do is inherently “inefficient” in those terms. Those pastors struggle to get their huge numbers to really get involved in religion; we will struggle to avoid attracting that kind of audience. We’ll give freely to all who ask, but we know there won’t be that many takers once they understand what it involves. We aren’t building a system that automates religion. What we do is a lot of work right from the start. That’s the only way it will work at all.
Christian Mysticism will never be a mass movement, unless it becomes fake.