“More” - The What and Why behind my new YouTube Channel
…the way out of sin is to see through the falsehood, to be really convinced that someone else is sustaining you, that you don't have to sustain yourself, that you are already given more affirmation, nurturance, respect, love, life, joy than you can even imagine desiring. - Beatrice Bruteau
David Brooks recently wrote an article about the woes of evangelicalism. You can read it here, and in your reading know that there are many more like it because the reality is that these past years, the established church has witnessed a flight from its walls. I’m not here to debate the merits or shortcomings of this exodus. Plenty has been written about that too! It’s the people of this ’church exodus’ that are on my heart - not to ‘get them back’, but to provide food for their souls right where they’re sitting.
Because I’ll be hard on the church at times, I need to say that I’m a firm believer in the gathered community of faith. The example of totalitarianism’s collapse in eastern Europe during the 80’s and 90’s can trace their courage, their love of freedom, and their solidarity, back to the faith roots of churches, whether Catholic, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Baptist, and others as well. History shaping movements for justice, immigrant care, ending slavery, and more have happened because the gathered saints do things that make a difference. The church I led in Seattle has helped villages in Uganda and Rwanda develop clean water, economic empowerment, and community development, and our local works in Seattle have made a difference as well. This doesn’t even take into account that value of deep relationships as families journey through life together sharing joys and bearing one another’s burdens. Yes. I’m a fan of the gathered faith community!
And yet… many are leaving. Politics. Science and faith. Silence on Race. Historical shortcomings related to slavery, colonialism, and treatments of Native Americans. Disagreements over sexual ethics. Those matter, but for many, are nothing compared to the steady stream of sexual and financial scandals and the lust for power that are the headwaters of leaders’ abusive traits. I could go on, but you get the picture. People are leaving. Russell Moore, who resigned from his leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention for over their unwillingness to address racism and sexual abuse scandals in its ranks said this: “We now see young evangelicals walking away from evangelicalism not because they do not believe what the church teaches,” he said, “but because they believe that the church itself does not believe what the church teaches.”
Who is speaking to them?
Who is articulating the good news that their deepest longings for meaning, peace, beauty, hope, freedom from addiction, intimacy of friendships, rhythms of work and rest, environmental consciousness, and many more matters that weigh on millions of hearts, are really cries for Christ, who is the headwater source of answers to these yearnings?
The global response to the current Ukrainian crisis makes it clear that “all of us” (all colors, nations, religious affiliation or non-affiliation, sexual orientations, net worths… all) have longings to live in a world where 4 year olds don’t need to ask their moms who blew up their house and “Where’s dad“? and “What did we do that they‘re taking our land?” Humanity wants peace and justice. These longings are in us because our Creator has made us to long for eternal values, values that align with the Creator and the way the universe ought to be.
People are longing for freedom, healing, beauty, and companionship in their ongoing journey for wholeness (individually and collectively), and I don’t want people who have ambivalence or antipathy toward institutional religion to miss the journey. Instead my hope is that everyone will see Christ (not the Americanized Jesus so often rejected) as the true source and headwaters of all that is good, right, and beautiful in this world. To share that news, we need keep the welcome light on in our faith communities without implying that the sacred is only ‘inside the church’. The sacred is everywhere, and all of us need to see with fresh eyes how much “more” Christ is in our world and lives than we’d perhaps realized:
Christ is more generous, pouring gifts out on all creation, and sustaining creation moment by moment. He upholds all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:3), which means that gifts of rain and sun, seasons, rhythms of work and rest, longings for beauty and intimacy and justice which propel us and cause the world to stand up against madmen like Putin - all this comes from our Creator. Every good and perfect gift as James wrote in his letter in the Bible.
Christ is more inclusive. I don’t think it happens intentionally, but nonetheless, the God Christians proclaim isn’t perceived as inclusive. Our problem reminds me of a cartoon I saw years ago. A church reader board said: “First Church of God - We are complementarian, anti-Charismatic, pre-tribulational, dispensational, led by men, anti-critical race theory, and anti-alcohol and dancing” And then, in all capital letters: “EVERYONE WELCOME”. A caricature, surely, but nonetheless, I’ve had conversations with people who’ve left the church because of exclusions named in that cartoon.
In contrast, read Paul’s pleas to Jews and Gentile Christ followers to quit bickering and learn to worship together because God had “broken down the dividing walls”. He envisions diversity of ethnicity, economics, and opinion, in a group held together by something bigger, something more universal. You see it in Isaiah‘s vision people of every tribe and nation ascending the mountain of God together (after ditching their weapons), in order to worship and learn of God’s ways. If it’s every tribe, there are capitalists and socialists, feminists and traditionalists, people with dietary laws and those with freedom, and every other possible dichotomy ascending together.
Finally, I’m discovering that is Christ is more grace based than I’d known. There’s literally not a single thing you can do to diminish the Creator’s infinite love for you. Christ is unconditionally, irrevocably, infinitely committed to loving every creature on the planet, and that love is the starting point. It’s already there before you do anything good or bad and will always be there, regardless of what you do tomorrow. You know how investment commercials always offer the caveat, “Past performance is not a guarantee of future results”? In Christ’s case the opposite is true. Unchanging pre-emotive love is our birthright, and will always be ours. Until think sinks in, we’ll always have some background noise accusing us that we’re not enough, and that will lead to lots of other problems. There are tools available to help people absorb the truth of Creator’s infinite love, and I’ll be sharing those here.
This lavish grace is the most liberating truth of all, because as I shared in the quote at the beginning, knowing this experientially, and living out from the reality of it means I’ve no longer anything to protect or defend, because the most precious gift of all - the capacity to be in union with my Creator and know I’m loved - will never be taken away!
I wonder if the average person on the streets would rush to generosity, or inclusivity, or generous love as adjectives to describe God, or the church? I doubt it. To the extent that we’ve misrepresented God, the reality is that people leaving the church aren’t rejecting God, they’re rejecting our caricature of God.
My second realization during this ”space between” is that this message is for everyone, including those who have left institutional religion. That’s why I’m starting a youtube page, and bringing more intentionality to this blog. I don’t believe that people need to be insiders of faith communities to discover the reality of what it means to live God’s intended life of wholeness. I want to provide tools for people to pursue that wholeness with me.
The youtube channel and this website will do that! I’ll be working hard to bring you material that answers the deep cry of our collective hearts for meaning, beauty, justice, intimacy, hope, freedom from fear and anxiety, capacity to move beyond shame and guilt, and more. The answers are found in response to the six ‘meta-questions’ in picture below. In my 40 years of ministry, I’ve found that hardly anyone is interested in escaping hell. But everyone, or nearly everyone at least, wrestles with these questions!
What we’re really longing for is a life beyond just ‘getting by’. We’re longing for wholeness, defined by Jesus as having the capacity to joyfully serve and bless this world as we live out our lives in intimacy with others, creation, and our Creator. There are answers! They’re found in Christ, but revealed in ancient texts, ancient practices, and other voices of wisdom. I’m looking forward to giving people the tools and next steps for that journey. Please join me!
You can see the first youtube video, and subscribe to the channel here!