A Third Option … May 29, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Maple Avenue UMCThe summer is nearly upon us so it is time once again for conclaves, church camps, seminars and conferences, where the more religious of our populace will gather to consider the questions of the day which plague the faithful.

There is an “unsettling” in the religious system.

Yes, we have baffled Baptists, muddled Methodists, petrified Presbyterians, confused Catholics, puzzled Pentecostals, mystified mega-churches and leery Lutherans.

All of them are trying to separate the sheep from the goats, but are finding out that the real problem is separating the sheep from the sheep. For within our congregations we have those who are literal and those who are lateral.

The literal souls believe that even if the Good Book speaks only on a few occasions on a certain morality, that it is important to enforce it as church doctrine and apply it across the board, to all individuals.

The lateral believers contend that the most important parts of the Good Book need to be honored over obscure passages which hinder the execution of love and forgiveness.

So the literal people turn to the lateral people and say:

If you accept that the Good Book does not accept you as you are, I can accept, as you repent and gain acceptability.

The lateral contingency comes right back and replies:

Accept me as I am, even though your beliefs don’t accept what I do. Then I believe that because you accept me, that you are acceptable.

Most church leaders have found that this problem is insurmountable. They think their denomination will have to go one way or another, and that a schism is nearly inevitable.

So let me pose the question: is it righteous to speak against something we find morally wrong, or is it more righteous to support people as they are?

If you will allow me, I choose to ignore that question, and offer a third option to both literal and lateral. It’s quite simple.

1. Read the Gospel.

Preferably the Sermon on the Mount.

2. Let it settle.

Let’s be honest–none of us are immediately smart. We need time to absorb.

3. Talk about it.

As you chat, realize that for every point you make, the Good Book has an annoying way of offering a counter-opinion, just to keep things lively.

4. Leave people alone.

Yes, this is a Jesonian idea.Let the wheat and the tares grow together, because we aren’t good at separating the truth from fiction.

5. Love and live.

If you find yourself leading with a desire to love people instead of instructing, you will find that living is much easier for you in the long run.

6. Let the Spirit do the work.

That’s why we call it Holy.

So this is an option to avoid exploding the Kingdom of God because one group is literal and the other is lateral. It is not your decision.

Let the Spirit do the correcting and leading.

 

 

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Jesonian: Exodus (A Sequel) … February 16, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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crowd exiting“Where are all the people?”

It is the pleading question I hear week after week, as ministers, church leaders, secretaries and music directors stare out at the depleted ranks for evidence of the faithful, probing the pews for the chosen “fews.”

Matter of fact, many proclaimers of the gospel find themselves exaggerating the numbers attending the holy sanctuary in order to maintain any shred of purpose or semblance of clerical ego.

There’s no doubt about it–people are leaving the church.

You could assemble a panel of those of a theological bend to discuss the matter for hours, and come up with all sorts of theories, many of which would have grounding in fact without having any footing in solution.

  • Yes, it is posh to be agnostic.
  • Yes, there is a new indifference masked by the wording of “being busy.”
  • Yes, people are more isolated in their homes than they’ve ever been before.
  • Yes, the Christian movement has done a lot to shoot itself in the ass by being either too conservative or too liberal
  • Yes, we have allowed the “rain makers” to control the message instead of keeping it simple and gently watering the plants that are growing by faith.
  • Yes…

You could go on and on. But truthfully, I believe the main problem is that the Sermon on the Mount has hit the valley–because the thrust is now a proclamation of infinity, when mankind is desperately requiring a voice crying in the wilderness for afinity.

Since we are human beings born on Earth, pursuing the promise of heaven, we need to be careful that we don’t “Pinocchio” the gospel–in other words:

  • comforting people who are wooden puppets by telling them that “someday they will become little boys and girls.”
  • looking at people who have life now and telling them to be overly interested in the life to come.
  • addressing human beings who need to be exhorted to excellence, but keeping them weak on a pabulum of their own sinful nature.

Whether it’s Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal or Lutheran, there is some curriculum teaching that Jesus wants us to focus on “infinity and beyond.” To keep this message in the forefront, you have to emphasize (1) personal weakness so people will be reminded that they need a strong God; and (2) personal salvation, so the elect recognize their weakness and are grateful for a heaven someday.

If you have one ounce of motivation adding up to a pound of desire you will get bored very quickly with this “bad news,” suitable only for the pitiful.

Fortunately, the real message of Jesus of Nazareth was “afinity and be here:

1. Recognize your personal blessing and do something about it.

  • To he whom much is given much is expected.
  • Go the second mile.
  • You are the salt of the earth.
  • Go and do thou likewise.

2. Personal responsibility: “Whenever you’ve done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you’ve done it unto me.”

Yes, there is a second exodus. The people of God are running across the “over-read sea” into the desert of social nothingness, wandering around complaining about the provisions available, dreaming of a Promised Land.

It comes down to this: if the church continues to preach “infinity and beyond” instead of afinity and be here, we will eventually follow the model of the European church, which is now more or less a museum in remembrance of dead ideas.

If you want to stop the exodus, you’re going to have to start preaching the gospel. And the gospel of Jesus is very simple:

As I bask and rejoice in my personal blessing I take up my cross of personal responsibility and go out and make a better life and a better world.

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

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