Friday, April 10, 2009


One of the blessings of the Internet is the creation of friendships. I know they are friendships through words and pictures only but I've been amazed at how those can become very special.

One such friendship I've developed is with an Australian who goes by the Blog name of Aussie John. You may have read at least one, if not all, of his several comments that have appeared on this blog. He's worth reading.

I visited his blog this week for the first time. You can do that by clicking on his name in last week's comment section. What a blessing. One post of a while back I asked and got permission to put up here. Enjoy it but be sure to note the last paragraph. Then read it a second time slowly. I did and wanted you to be blessed by it as well. Thanks Aussie John for permission.

Are You Journeying to the Wrong Destination?

What if, assuming you are a follower of Christ, after all the years you've spent faithfully attending church meetings, listening to sermons, studying the Scriptures with presuppositions which come from a particular theological position, that you find you have been going in the wrong direction and that you are actually farther from where you ought to have been going?Are you actually getting closer to where you should be? If you think you are getting closer to your destination, why do you so think?

Indeed, where, or what, is your destination?

As I think of the lives of the people I've known and ministered to for half a century, I'm aware that most only thought they knew what, or where, their destination was. I'm certain that many assumed that if they attained to the lofty heights of some church “office” such as “pastor” or “deacon”, or “elder” they were closer to their destination, whatever that may be.

Isn't it strange how easy it is to board a train, bus, or some other mode of transport, with the most sincere belief that the journey's end will result in being where you wanted to be? Yet, many have told how they set out on such a journey only to find they had been given misinformation, not only about the destination, but about the journey.

Asking most evangelicals about their destination would almost always elicit the reply that heaven was where they were headed. Death is inevitable, and for those who die in a saving relationship with God through the finished work of Christ, heaven is where it's at.

Heaven is for dead Christians!

What is the destination for living followers of Christ? What did Jesus say about that? What did the apostles say? Did they speak about regular attendance at meetings at which one person monologued? Did they speak of silent masses sitting on their posteriors, nodding their heads in agreement at the pontifications coming from a guru whom many call “pastor”? Did they ever say that “making a decision for Christ” was arriving at the destination, or adhering to a theological system, or slavishly following rules and regulations, or any number of other things we might add?

The destination for living followers of Christ is a far cry from what we have been led to assume or accept. Thankfully, many thinking followers of Christ are asking the questions and adjusting their journey to the schedule set down by the Shepherd of the Sheep, and His apostles.

Aussie John

Go to Mary's blog for an excellent review by a biblical scholar she has linked to on Youtube.

Her blog can be found here.



Bob Cleveland said...

Wow. What a deeply profound thought. I will print this out and read it to my class Sunday.

Thanks. Ironically, Aussie John is the only one who commented, as of now, on my post earlier today.

Lin said...

"The destination for living followers of Christ is a far cry from what we have been led to assume or accept. Thankfully, many thinking followers of Christ are asking the questions and adjusting their journey to the schedule set down by the Shepherd of the Sheep, and His apostles."

I loved this post. It describes me as I had to completely change what I thought was following Christ after some serious study and a personal crisis.

Why is it we allow others to only teach us when we have the Perfect Teacher? Why do we believe what we are taught without checking?

Why is it we are willing to allow mostly paid employees to exercise gifts in the Body? (I am not against this but just wondering. It has reached epic proportions)

Why is it the Body has mainly become spectators or an 'audience'. Why do we love our church buildings so much?

Chris Ryan said...


It is so much more fun to be the eyes of the body and only have to watch. jk. I too wonder why it is that the paid staff is so often made responsible for the work of the entire flock in their care. It is a sad testament to things that that is the case. To me, that means that neither staff nor flock are living up to their God-given responsibilities.

Wonderful post. I wonder what will happen when we wake up from escapist, other-worldly theology into the dynamics of a this-worldly relationship with the Creator. I think that it impacts us in profound ways. And because of that, I think we impact the world in profound ways.

Heaven is nice, but it is for those whose race is run. For us, let us run the race still before us with endurance. Let us be responsible for our relation to God and neighbor here and now. Then, when we have run until all we have is gone, the rest of Heaven will be peaceful indeed.

Paul Burleson said...

Hey guys,

You guys are fast and GOOD. All of you are exhibiting the spirit I experienced as I read Aussie J's post originally. It spoke loudly to me too.

You have picked up exactly what I hoped readers identification with what was laid out so clearly, as well as, a challenge to rethink a lot about our journey in the Lord that has been largely lost in an Institutional Church.

Clark said...

Sometimes the church, as an institution, feels like a necessary evil. We are instructed in scripture to support a local congregation. But a local "church" is about paying the bills, limiting expenses, setting a budget, planning dinners, keeping the books, etc, etc. Christianity must be about feeding the hungry, caring for the widows, going into the highways and byways, and above all else sharing the gospel. Sometimes we are all so caught up in doing our "job" that we never get around to the gospel. If we're not sharing the Good News, why are we here?

Paul Burleson said...


I like your comment and especially your last question.

My personal view is that since there is no clear structure given for the gathered church in sripture each culture and generation can be rather creative there.

But the end result of ANY structure or form must certainly be the experiencing of giftedness from ALL the people and the equipping of those people for the ministry of ultimately sharing the gospel in the way you've indicated.

If we REALLY respond to Aussie John's words we may have to rethink it all. I'm ready.

Chris Ryan said...


I think you are right that each generation and each culture has to creatively rethink what it is that preaches the Gospel in their time and place. I'm a firm advocate that it is the message and not the means that is ordained.

I also think that there are many who are rethinking things right now. Emergents and House Church advocates are crying out, but the Institution is decrying them. I have concerns about both movements, but there is a great deal we can learn from them. Unfortunately, that learning challenges the institutional status quo and so institutional preservation kicks on. But as with all conservative movements (ie movements that try to keep things the same, not theological conservatives), they will eventually be forced to adapt or die. My prayer is that they will adapt before things are too late.

Paul Burleson said...


Well spoken. [As are all your comments I read on blogs other places.]

Years ago Dr, T. W. Hunt and I [I was his pastor in Ft. worth.] sat in a fast food place talking and he told me something about music I've never forgotten.

He said that it seemed as he studied revivals that each one produced it's own new music. [meter, rythmn, lyrics etc.] The interested thing was the established Church [Institution] rejected such new music. He used the Wesley revival of years ago as an example. When Charles Wesley wrote "The Church's One Foundation" it was not permitted in the established Chrch so he sang it on the hillsides with believers.

Time went by and the Church grew to embrace it. Revival came. New music came. [TW said such as the charismatic movement which he believed was a work of God although he didn't believe it's theology completely at all.] It was rejected. Now we sing those lyrics. You get the picture.

I'm not sure but what the same is true for movements concerning methods of doing gathered church. We'll see I guess.

I'm gone for the rest of the day to see the OU spring game. Look out National Championship run in 2009. :)

traveller said...

Sadly, Aussie John has described where we have arrived in an institutional expression of church. But I concur that change is occurring. As time passes the speed and intensity of the change will only accelerate.

What is transpiring and Aussie John's description reminds me of the Abilene Paradox. You can find out more about it on wikipedia at

Basically, a group of people end up at a destination none of its members intended to go simply because no one was willing to saying anything until they were at the unwanted destination.

Jerald said...

It's living the life of Christ in me every day that is my destination. It may only be the first stop but I've got to go there before I proceed elsewhere.

Lin said...

"What is transpiring and Aussie John's description reminds me of the Abilene Paradox. You can find out more about it on wikipedia at"

I once hosted Jerry Harvey for a training conference years ago where we discussed the paradox. A real down to earth guy.

It's a good thing to ask these questions before we get to Abilene so we can change course.

Lin said...

"I too wonder why it is that the paid staff is so often made responsible for the work of the entire flock in their care."

I once worked in a huge mega that had a 'guest services department'. One would think that it catered to new vistors. Nope. It was for the members, too, who were thought of and treated like 'guests' while at church. Customer service.

That sounds nice but if we analyze the thinking behind it, it is really scary.

Aussie John said...


I would love to have these same sort of thoughtful responses as I speak with people here.

What I see in Australia, and in N. E. USA, where I attended conferences twice, is that the members of the Body (including the leadership) are not personally and thoughtfully standing on the ground and walking with our Shepherd, whose came as one to "stand alongside" His people, "be with them always", and "walk" with them; instead, they are naively and unthinkingly (sometimes, arrogantly) riding on the backs of their theological/ doctrinal gurus, many who were great men of God for their time.

The members of the large church in USA, which I visited, had a mantra which absolutely frustrated me: When I asked them ANYTHING about their faith, their stock, standard answer was, "The pastor says"...".

It is my opinion, that most leaders aren't really interested in "equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ."

Evangelicalism desperately needs some great men of God for today, who will forget their personal ambitions and equip their fellow believers/priests/ministers to represent Christ where they live and work and play, to teach them that their place of ministry is amongst fellow sinners who haven't had the most glorious privilege of having a personal relationship with a loving Father who showed His great love on Calvary.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie John,

"Most leaders aren't really interested in "equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;"

Unfortunately this statement is true for more than just the part of the USA where you have visited. It is true over most of the group with which I'm affiliated.

You know, I don't think most pastors would say they weren't equipping the Saints for the work of ministry. But their idea of ministry is often define by whatever is church programing and is identified with a piece of property. And what the attendance is at that piece of property defines success or failure as a church. On top of that, it is a one man teaching show.

I'm convined that until we are looking at equipping people so they can build relationships and so they can live life gossiping the gospel while they invest in those relationships with time, energy, money and service whether it be neighbors, co-workers, family, or other nations and, when needed, even at a piece of property somewhere sharing their giftedness of the Spirit with others, we are NOT being the Church.

Growing marriages, parents and kids learning to communicate with each other, neighbors having connection with someone who ultimate is able to "give and answer for the hope," and believers learning what their gifts are and excercising them for the edification of all the saints when gathered, is the way I believe we will need to start measuring whether or not the "Church" is successful, healthy or growing.

But it will take a whole new paradigm for that to happen in my SBC group.

It's a cliche' but "using programs to build people" is a whole lot different than "using people to build programs." It is the latter that we do, unfortunately, and the former we need to do. As I said...a new paradigm will be needed.


Your last comment perfectly described the latter in the statement above. Unfortunately it is bigger than just mega churches.


I had never heard of the "Abilene paradox." How enlightening is that!! AND..if you operate under a system where questions or views can't be given because you are to live "under authority" to a pastor you guarantee a wrong destination will be reached. Good stuff.


I believe you have made my favorite statement for my own life. It may be the "first stop" but like the sport of baseball, if you miss that FIRST base, you'll NEVER get to any other destination.

My conviction is if you DO really experience this "first stop" you WILL NOT miss ANY destination intended biblically. But that's just my opinion. Very good word for all of us.

I hope you guys [I wish some gals would] keep weighing in on this with ideas, illustrations or even suggestions as I have a lot of other pastors who read but don't always comment.

[In fact, some of you other reading Pastors weigh in and help us out following in the vein of thought Aussie John has opened up and these comments have taken us.]

Chris Ryan said...

That is the very definition of scary.

Aussie John,
All I can really say to that is "Amen." There is nothing I could add to that that Paul has not already.

I have to "Amen" your comments, too. But I don't know that we need a new paradigm: we need an old one. A paradigm in which the church was the people. A paradigm in which it was understood that if any member didn't contribute, then the entire body would die (and not just spiritually). A paradigm in which a lack of personal and corporate growth was inexcusible.

In short, we need to return to good-old-fashioned discipleship: teaching people to live like Christ in the world around them. Teach them to navigate a world of uncleanness and wickedness with grace and mercy. We need a discipleship that doesn't teach you to say the right things but to live the right way because of the right words. If we can get back to that...

Aussie John said...

I'm glad Traveller comments on your blog. I also, had never heard of the Abilene Paradox, but after a little research..... OH boy! Have I ever seen it happen amongst believers!

I thought The Shack review was sensible, balanced and realistic.

Paul Burleson said...


I stand corected and rightly so. It would be a new paradigm for many in our present generation but it REALLY IS an old paradigm that was announced in the scriptures and has been abandoned or forgotten.

Some one might say,,"Well old or new, it doesn't matter." But I think to refer to it as Chris has STRENGTHENS our ability ro get our desire across. I'm not asking for a cultural mode here. I'm asking for a biblical model to become a reality somehow in a modern dy mode whatever that may be. Good word Chris.

Aussie John,

I honestly hesitated to put up the link to the "Shack" review and mix our thoughts on this post out of concern that it might detract from our conversation about your words. I think you and Chris have proven my concern to be unfounded. Thanks.

You guys keep it up. This is the most fun I've had online in a while.

Bob Cleveland said...

I frequently jest that we need the Learner's Books in my Sunday School Class, so my folks will know what it is I'm not teaching. Never has that been more true than this morning.

Couple this post of Aussie John's with parts of William Paul Young's testimony last week, and I can hardly wait to hear what I'm going to say, myself.

Thanks again to AJ for writing it and you, Paul, for posting it.

Paul Burleson said...


You're more than welcome. How exciting to face a future where we are surprised by even ourselves because of the work of God in our lives. May it be so in me.

Aussie John said...


I'm beginning to think that the debate (??) surrounding The Shack proves what my article declares.

As I read through the comments on Wades blog I am forced to wonder about the journey some of the more prolific and outspoken ones are on.

They remind me of a deacon in a church I was privileged to serve. He was always bombastic,voluminous in his opinions, and always certain he was right. He was church secretary, as well as being a deacon for those 26 years, he was leader of Boys Brigade, and because he had shown a sound grasp of Baptist doctrine, had filled the pulpit many times in the past, sometimes for months.

One Monday morning, this brother tearfully came into my office, to request an opportunity to speak to the congregation at the next Sunday morning meeting.

This is what he said,between heartfelt sobs, "I want to apologise for deceiving you all during the many years you've known me. I confess that I trusted in the finished work of Christ for the first time last Sunday."

Needless to say, the congregation was shocked. In the days and months which followed, the one thing they did notice, was the absolute changed heart.

What had been text book correct, had become a heart fact. Someone once said that until information travels the 12 inches from the head to the heart, it is useless.

I think The Shack does fit with what I wrote. Do you agree?

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie John,


I have, as have you, been around too many people who's words and deeds, as well as spirit, smells of death instead the aroma of life. And while none but God can know a person's heart, I've seen so many as the deacon that surprise is never my response any longer. How sad is that?

Great story of the true working of God's Grace in that deacon.

Lin said...

If you guys want to see how dangerous 'group think' can be, check out this:

It is the story of what caused the Challenger disaster.

Paul Burleson said...



Somebody's got to do a post on that article soon. Thanks for the link.

ezekiel said...

I have been doing a little research lately on the rapture. Doing this has required a good bit of time in Revelation along with other books.

One book was written by someone closely associated with MBTS and endorsed by it's then president. If you want the details, I can get them when I get home.

The writer's position was that as we get closer to the end time, the churches will begin to fall into 2 catagories. One a picture of the church at Philadelphia and the other the church at Laodicea.
One being the faithful, remnant church and the other being the lukewarm church.

Reading Revelation 2-3, I can't help but wonder if he is right or if in fact, we still see them all, the seven, in the churches we see everywhere today.

We never hear anyone preach from this text these days. Is it just to powerfull and convicting or does it in fact expose each church for what it is and how God looks at it?

I am becoming more and more convinced that a new troop of "special messengers" should be sent out to the churches of the land to just simply read Rev 2-3 to the congregation and ask them where, as a church, they see themselves. Revival might break out.

Paul Burleson said...


Interesting thoughts. I have to admit my views on the Second coming [I believe it's going to happen] have gone through a real change over the past two decades.

But I DO believe your suggestion in the last paragraph would be a good idea to do in every fellowship on a regular basis. Maybe a believer in their particular church could BE their special messenger to do that pretty regularly.

ezekiel said...


I don't want to derail the discussion with a discussion of the rapture (I can't find WHEN it happens). I think the church is going to see a lot more tribulation than I have been taught. I am certainly not one of the pre-trib crowd. Like you, my views have changed a whole lot but in a shorter time period of a couple of years.

As to the original post, Aussie John sees and has expressed, I think, what more and more folk these days are beginning to see. We, like Israel, are awash in our own dead works bound up in a blanket of ritualistic leagalism and religious exercise. Just like they were in Isaiah 1.

The scary part is that this practice of religion is what I have been taught and it is hard to ignore that teaching or break away from it as the WORD begins to illuminate what should be rather than what is in our religious ceremonies and practice of religion.

As some have said, how do we stop doing church and begin to be the church? How does the church stop glorifying herself, repent and be healed? We are told it happens by washing of the WORD and if we don't read it, how does that happen?

Thanks for you guys and your thoughts!. Stay strong in faith as the day draws near!

Paul Burleson said...


That, my friend, was a prophetic word. Thanks. My wish is that you would have a far wider audience for it than this simple blog.

But a story written for a few children in a family has given me hope that a word to a few can become fish for a multitude. May your words so multiply.

Rodney Sprayberry said...


I cannot speak for everyone but I have had multiple conversation with brothers and sisters in ministry who are in their 30s and 40s. Their stories all have similar themes.

While in seminary we were exposed to good theology (or at least how to think thelogically). There was very little taught concerning interpersonal/relational issues.

Any leadership training that we got was designed to apply to the average church. The average church had a 1950s structure/mentality even in the late 80s-90s

Don't get me wrong, this postWW2 manifestation of church life was at one time effective. Check most church histories...and see when their "glory days" occurred. Yet, the church maintained the structure/music/leadership styles/methods even as most SBC churches experienced decline in the decades that followed.

By the 80s and 90s. The leadership models that were "effective" were gleaned more from business models rather than the Bible. Once again good leadership is good leadership wherever one finds it, but IMHO it appears that good leadership was determined more by "nickels and noses" rather that disciple-making and concentric circles of relational impact.

So with bad interpersonal skills and faulty leadership training (either 1950s style...or a pragmatic buisness mentality) many of us entered into circa 1950 churches...that were stagnant and dying because that is what you started small and grew the church or moved to a larger church when God "called you" to do so.

Or we got dream jobs in successful churches.

We tried to lead but we did not always do well.

We were naive enough to think that Christians were (or at least wanted to be), in general, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually healthy. For that matter most of assumed because we were "called" were were emotionally, relationally, and spiritually healthy...

Like spiritual pornography we fantasized over every other glossy airbrushed beautiful testimony of a glowing ministerial position and growing ministry given to us by a peer,book, or church growth/ leadership conference and assumed that was what the church was created to be.

Then one day we found ourselves face to face with reality. Ministry did not measure up to what everyone said it could be.In all honesty we were drying up inside.

We blamed the churches we served. We blamed the people in our churches. We blamed the devil. We blamed ourselves. In quiet moments we secretly even blamed God.

When folks in ministry wake up one day and realize that most everything around is a carefully crafted facade they have a decision to make. They can continue to pretend and maintain the status quo. They can crash and burn. They can get cynical and get out. Or they can be stop struggling to stay afloat so they can be rescued by God's grace (Any lifeguard knows that a panicky, struggling swimmer needs to stop struggling before he/she can be rescued!)

Many of us have been brought to this point by personal crisis. Addictions, moral failures, financial disaster, marriage difficulties, depression, catastophic illness, and job loss.

We found ourselves at a place where we had to question everything and the answers we found were no longer pithy, glossy, simple, or even easy to express. Yet they nourished our souls.

We still believe that the Bible is true.

We still believe in Jesus.

We still have a heart for people inside and outside the church.

We still have questions

We still struggle.

We are still learning.

We still have good days and bad days every day is hopeful

We still want to be successful but the criterion has changed.

We still don't how all of this will shake out "vocationally" because in reality the churches we serve don't quite know what do with us...In general they love us but....

There is at times great discomfort when we admit to the fact that we have clay feet and that we do not always know what we are doing... or that we would rather be along side them trying figure it all out our rather than standing in the the pulpit with a proclamation "perscription" to help their "aches and pains, struggles and strains"

Paul Burleson said...


I have three things to say in response to your comment.

One..My wife has a blog she calls "Reality check." She does exactly that on any issue she addresses. You have done that my friend. You have given a gut level, honest, no holds barred, look at where we [unfortunately] are in our present day ministry wise and church wise.

Two..You have nailed the overriding purpose For which God has raised up a little book to unheard of levels it seems to me. It is a small life jacket for drowning people who need to relax and float in the Grace of God because we, again, are brought to Him alone as our hope.

To be reminded of the Eternal love of the Father, the earth shaking loving sacrifice of the Son and the ever present Spirit who makes real all God is to us is some life jacket for what you've described so well as our present state. [I'm talking about, as are you, where christians and ministers are at present.]

Third..It seems ludicrous to me for me to try to write something beneficial for people when I have a comment like this put up on my blog. I want, as I did with Aussie John's words, to use them as a post if you would permit. I may have only a few regular readers but I'm afraid, for whatever reason, they may choose to NOT read the comment section. I don't want them to miss what you've said. Let me know and i will respect whatever you say.

Aussie John said...


What a joy it is to read Rodney's comment! It is extremely sad that it MUST be said, but "joy" is what I mean now, because I have, for many years, been trying to find an honest church leader who will say what needs to be said.

Paul, I am encouraged, and blessed, to be finding,via the internet,several such men and women,as you and your wife, in your neck of the woods.

I wrote a letter to a pastor friend, similar to what Rodney wrote, he immediately disassociated himself from me, as did several others. (Be warned :))

Your fellow countrymen, whom I link to on my blog are worth reading.

I joined Bob in an "Hallelujah" the other day, and again I say, "Hallelujah!"

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie John,

I'm not surprised you saw Rodney's words the same way I did. I have to admit I get a sense of joy, as do you, and it must be that I've lived long enough to know the truth of it in my own life and found a true rest in His grace that was needed all along.

But until everything is shaken that can be shaken there will be no experiencing the unshakeable Grace and strength that He is as our very life.It seems to me that a wider spread shaking is going on than I can remember.

For crying out loud Aussie John...we may be getting ready to see God work in ways that we've longed for. You think? :)

Aussie John said...


Yes! I think so!

Rodney Sprayberry said...


Feel free to use my comments as you see fit. Thank you for what you do.

Aussie John,

We have a IMB missionary to Australia staying in our mission housing until May. He sounds a lot like you and I have learned a great deal from him as I have from you. Thank you for your post it resonates with my soul.

Both of you,

Lest I come across farther along than I really am...

There are days when I opt to stay safe rather "sold out"

There are days with I want put my mask on and hide my heart from others...

There are days when I struggle to really trust in the sufficiency of Christ know what?

There are days when I catch a glimse of what God is doing in me and what He is doing in this church and through the lives of people and I am cautiously filled with wonder and hope.

Paul Burleson said...


Welcome to the club.

Paul Burleson said...


Let me explain my comment above.

None of us has arrived anywhere. But to see that and admit that and to hunger for our rest in Him is rare among ministers in my experience.

It is exactly what Paul Young says in his controversial book. No heroes. It isn't about our performance good OR bad. It's just about God being there when we look for HIM as we meet Him in the midst of the stuff we admit as reality in life.

He's there as our life and it is quite a journey. THAT'S the club I referenced. This IS biblical Christianity in my view.

By the way, thanks for permission to use your comment. It is a blessing to read.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

You are welcome and when you said welcome to the club I knew exactly what you meant.

Thanks again

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Feel free to correct the typos!

Chris Ryan said...


Amen. I remember when I found out that no church was perfect. It was shortly after I acknowledged a call to ministry. The events were so horrific I almost left the church altogether. I certainly didn't care to be her servant.

But I remember even better when I found out that I wasn't perfect. And then I can't blame the church for being how she is, but I can rejoice in how great and merciful God is.

Thank you for such an honest post. It is so nice to remember that we aren't alone in the redeemed sinners club (I'm hoping Paul allows me to join too :) ). I think you are right: when our churches start living out the fact that we are flawed people saved by grace we will see Christ in our congregations once more. And, again, thank you.

Paul Burleson said...


Since we're just forming this club, you can be a charter member. :)

Seriously, it's interesting to me that I find myself emphasizing two tracks of reality and truth in my christian life. It causes what I read James I. Packer call an antinomy when he was writing the forward to A.W. Pink's book "The sovereignty of God."

An antinomy is when you have two truths that SEEM [emphasis on seem here] to be contridictory. Thus Divine sovereignty and human responsibility in the book.

For me...I must never forget WHO I am because of the Grace of God. I am loved, I am forgiven, I am accepted, I am holy, I am a Saint, [Paul called the corinthians that even when acting unsaintly.] and I am a new person because Christ is my life.

Then I have to be real and honest about my performance which never measures up and is never needed for me to be who I am by His Grace.

But, unfortunately, my bad performance USUALLY causes me to hide from God and others out of shame and fear [thus a shack created to hide my secrets as Paul Y. says.] and I wind up believing I am what I do in my weakness and failure and I start assuming God DOESN'T accept, love, or even like me. How could he with what I've done. Oh He does and will never NOT. But I HAVE to maintain an openness and honesty about all this ie my failure as well as His Grace in it all.

So...I face this antinomy of who I am by His Grace and what I do [often] in my pitiful performance. I guess the secret REALLY IS knowing it isn't about me but Him. God IS my Father with all the resulting relationship. Jesus IS my life and that like is real. The spirit IS my power and guide with an undersdtanding of His revealed Word.

Now don't ask me why I would wax eloquent at this moment. But I did didn't I !! [Club members we are now dismissed.] :)

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Though I grew up in really good church I did not learn how to be open and transparent in that congregation. When you cross a southern culture with church culture and sprinkle in a bunch of imperfect/sinful people..openness and transparency is a rare thing.

Don't get me wrong...there was awareness of one another's sin/struggle but no one talked about it (unless they were whispering!)

When I entered seminary in January 92, I found my seminary experience to be dry(emotionally and spiritually) There were classes that I found interesting and professors that I enjoyed. I had a few close friends but once again it seems to me now that, in me, there was very little spiritual vitality and quite a bit of isolation and loneliness.

I now know that there were others who were going through the same things but at that time we were really good at pretending otherwise

After all we were not just Christians! We were ministers!

Once I became a pastor and a husband,the roles became more defined and the expectations became more demanding. Yet, how I presented myself was a far cry from what was really going on inside of me

As before, I know now that there were others who were going though similar things at that time but we were really good at pretending otherwise.

After all Christians have it all together because the pastor (who has it all together) told us so :)

In 1997 I entered a Clinical Pastoral Education Program in a local VA hospital.

My peer group consisted of a Church of Christ woman (wrongly fired school principle); a 7th Day Adventist grandmother; A disabled Disciples of Christ Chiropractor turned minister/chaplain; a three time divorced/ recovering drug/alcohol addict Church of Christ man who had been radically saved (not by baptism :) ) and was hoping to become a chaplain; and me.

This group was perceptive and persistent, raw and honest. We laughed, cried, prayed, encouraged each other. We challenged, confronted and connected. We poked, prodded, irritated, and loved one another.

We refused to let each other hide behind anything. I must admit they were, at first, more open than me.Yet they refused to let it stay that way.We managed to honor each other's uniqueness and to celebrate a common faith (not all CPE groups can say that..but this group...we did).

It was an exausting yet amazing year. That began the process that God used to radically change me, my marriage, and how I do ministry.

It was not therapy...but it was therapeutic.

We were not "at church" but we "were doing church"

It was a Christ-centered, grace-filled, spiritual community that faciliated authenticity, worship, growth, and service.

Since 1997, I have experienced a few occasional examples of this kind of spiritual community. I long to see the day when,in Baptist circles, such phenomenon is the general rule rather than the exception.

Paul Burleson said...


Another choice comment.

I have a friend who told me one day that he felt more confortable talking of his real life and struggles at a bar on Friday night than he did in Sunday school on Sunday. [He's done plenty of both at one time or another.]

Groups in a gathered way as the church should be the one place where acceptance, forgiveness, understanding and love are experienced as we talk of our sometimes sorry performance. But they aren't all too often.

Of course, if we don't know GOD loves, accepts, forgives and understands us we sure can't be that to someone else can we.

Then we would have to build an atmosphere of safety by being committed to no shame, condemnation, or fixing of the one talking and no speaking of what is said outside the group without permission. [Unless helping is requested by the one talking.] I do this in the several Pastor's Seminars that I do annually and what we ultimately hear from the guys is it's the safest they have ever felt.

Our consolation I guess is that we're in the construction stage as the Church and not the consumation stage so He's still doing a work in us. Aussie John and I are convinced that a MAJOR work could be on the horizon. Wouldn't that be something!!!

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Yes sir...that would be amazing.

I too believe that God just might be up to something BIG. I also know that the church is "in process" so that is why I choose not to throw in the towel

After my CPE was completed.. and my carefully constructed world began to unravel...and I began to experience healing...God moved me to another church...where I decided that as He gave the opportunity...I was willing to cultivate those "safe places" for others to experience God's grace.I did it so that I could minister to people. I was surprised at how much those encounters minister to me!

I shouldn't be surprised. I have a hunch that is as it should be.

Aussie John said...


During a church service the preacher spoke about transparency. He used a plain glass window in the church as an example as he told the congregation the clear pane represented how they ought to be with each other.

After the service as he stood shaking hands as people filed out (must have been Baptist) a little old lady looked him in the I and said,"Pastor! You are a real pane!"

Well! She may have meant "pain"! Who knows?

I can assure you the transparency beginning to show up here is a breath of fresh air. I can hardly believe that I'm corresponding with those who are "a real pane", and not a "real pain".

Wow! Imperfect fellows like me, and, dare I say, Peter, and Paul (the Romans one), who've got the scars of the stumbles and falls from the lessons of the normal, rough, pathway Christians are called to walk!

All of a sudden there is a sweet smell in the air!

Check out the following blog comment:

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie John,

How is it that you always say what I wish I had said? :)

Nothing could express what's inside me more than what you've just said is inside you. I REALLY like that.

traveller said...

I have had a busy week so no time to read here until tonight. Good stuff!

Rodney, your comment that some days you play it safe is normal in my view. It is a journey.....a transition....

This is a journey I have been on now for almost 15 years. It has taken a number of twists and turns....I have taken some side trails I should have avoided....

One of the things that used to surprise me but no longer does is that people across every generation are on this same journey. Some of the most unlikely folks are leaving religion to follow Jesus. But religion is so much a part of us that it reaches out and tries to return us to those ways.

Personally, like others here, I am encouraged by what I see happening in many lives and situations. I am less sanguine that the institutional expression of church will make the transition....but would be happy if it did so. We are in a reformation that rivals and may exceed the one five hundred years ago. Transitions are always messy so our time will be a mixture of good things and less than good things.

I am convinced we can watch and participate in this but more importantly remain focused on those persons that Father brings across our path each day. Some of those people we encounter only once, others we are in relationship with for years. Whether it is a moment or years, loving them as Father does is more transformational than a thousand programs, sermons or other things most often done in "church". In my view, this is why The Shack is so meaningful to people. It speaks of human to human and human to God relationships that are transformational. Somewhere along the way most institutional churches lost meaningful relationships between humans and with God.

Mary B. said...

This is Paul B. writing on Mary's computer in a Texas motel.


Great comment.

Mary and I are on our way to Jackson Miss. to spend three days with Paul Young, Malcolm Smith and a couple of other speakers I don't know. I may blog about it if time and inclination are there.

We're listening to "The Shack" [having already read the book] on audio and it REALLY is an eye-opener as to it's full meaning. It helps to have already heard Paul Y. talk on what the metaphors all mean.

I'm again impressed with the quality of writing as fiction, it is a real moving small novel. But I love fiction writing. I think your assessment of that little book's relationship value is spot on in my opinion.

Chris Ryan said...

A quote I can upon while researching that seemed pertinent:

“There was a time in my life when I sought the continuity of truth in 'the trail of blood,' the communities who defined themselves against the established church.... When I turned away from a sectarian view of the church to embrace the whole church with all of its triumphs and failures, I sensed a belongingness to this vast community of people. I also experienced a connectedness to history that broke the arrogance of my sectarian attitude and created a humility that allowed me to be defined by the church as the worldwide community of people to which I belonged.”

Robert Webber in Ancient-Future Faith