Waiting for the Flip

As seems to happen a lot, Seth Godin got my brain juices pumping with a post about the way people flip from one way of doing things to another. In particular, he’s talking about how resistant we are as humans to better knowledge or technology or solutions, even in the face of evidence that refutes our prevailing view.

At this point, I feel like I’m somewhere around eight years into waiting for that flip to occur with the church. I’ve been trying to illustrate and teach and demonstrate that the church of Jesus is supposed to be something both far more profound and far simpler than what goes along with the term “church” in America: buildings and paid pastors and staff and screens and bands and worship wars and big budgets and overhead and bureaucracy and merchandising and marketing.

The church is the bride for whom Christ died. And that ought to be powerful enough that we don’t need to add to it. The church is the assembled saints who belong to King Jesus, both now and throughout all time.

Yet there’s been a strong tradition of architecture and budgets and business-y elements that really have no place in Scripture. And while they don’t need to be bad things (there are lots of things in the modern world that we use and adopt freely that the Bible says nothing directly about), they frequently turn the church into some grotesque caricature of what Jesus intends for it to be.

Whether that persuades or not isn’t really my point (I’ve written about this kind of stuff elsewhere anyhoos). I’m still convinced that this message is right. Yet I feel so isolated waiting for the flip to happen, for others to see what I’m talking about. And I feel desperate for it. Why?

Because it makes me feel like I’m either crazy or wrong.

If I’m wrong, then I simply want to be shown from the Scriptures and I’ll move on. Show me how I’m off my rocker and bring me back onto the reservation.

So far, it hasn’t happened.

Yet, I’m also not making much progress toward the flip. I’m loving me some Francis Chan for popularly putting into words some of these same struggles (though, granted, I’ve never made any substantial money from books or had a successful megachurch under my belt!). Even with all the platform he has, it still doesn’t feel like we’re getting anywhere. And this is a flip I banked my whole family on, moving us into a new city with grand plans for changing the face of Christianity in America.

Not that I would’ve ever said that out loud, but that’s really the crux of it.

So here I am, waiting. And wondering if maybe I’m just wrong, if I’m looking for a flip that’ll never come. And sometimes I just want to quit–even if I am right!–because this waiting feels too hard and the goals which were once crunchy like Frosted Flakes are now soggy in the bottom of the cereal bowl.

I believe the flip needs to happen. Some days I believe it will. I’m just not sure I’m strong enough to wait it out.

(And yes, I fully acknowledge that God regularly had his people wait much longer than that to bring about deliverance or put a plan in motion. I know I’m being dumb and dramatic–I’m just trying to do it openly.)

Book Review: Forgotten God

51rjvdzyf3l-_sy346_Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan

From Amazon: In the name of the Father, the Son, and … the Holy Spirit. We pray in the name of all three, but how often do we live with an awareness of only the first two? As Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised to send the Holy Spirit—the Helper—so that we could be true and living witnesses for Christ. Unfortunately, today’s church has admired the gift but neglected to open it.

Breakthrough author Francis Chan rips away paper and bows to get at the true source of the church’s power—the Holy Spirit. Chan contends that we’ve ignored the Spirit for far too long, and we are reaping the disastrous results. Thorough scriptural support and compelling narrative form Chan’s invitation to stop and remember the One we’ve forgotten, the Spirit of the living God.

To start with, I really like Francis Chan, especially when I’ve watched interviews with him and seen his humility on display. I’ve especially appreciated how he left behind his Big Successful Church (all rights reserved) to start small churches that met in an apartment building. I really don’t know how that’s been going (though if it’s anything like my story, that’s not an easy question to answer anyway), but I’ve appreciated how he’s bucked come conventional YRR wisdom and done his own thing.

The Forgotten God was a book that I appreciated, even if I wasn’t overly moved by it. Chan’s intention seemed to be to remind us that the Holy Spirit is God and he dwells in us as individuals and as the church. And to that point, he succeeded. The book was refreshing to my soul, calling me to “open up your mind and your life to the leading of the Spirit” as I took a fresh look at the God I was largely ignoring.

In particular, Chan challenged me to see God the Spirit as still very alive and active. At times, there was a vibe that reminded me of David Platt’s Radical, like “The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be.” But I don’t mean that as an insult, just that he’s reminding us that God calls us to a good life, though not necessarily a safe one. And in contradiction to the way most of us beg to see more of the Spirit IN ME, Chan reminded me that: “When the Holy Spirit truly moves, God is the one praised. Jesus is the one lifted up. When the Spirit moved at Pentecost, people knew there was a power present that came from God.” It’s good to be reminded that the Spirit does what he does to bring glory to the Father through Jesus, not to Bill through Bill.

Throughout, Chan wrote with a warm tone and very personally. And to be honest, I appreciate that. He wrote like a human being, and I love that. In some ways, though, it was a weakness of the book because the book left me feeling just a little meh. And I still struggle to put my finger one why, and I’m not sure I really care to. Part of it was the tone of I-struggled-with-this-once-but-don’t-anymore: “There was a time when I got excited over a crowd showing up to hear me preach, but those days are long gone.” I still find such comments discouraging, because there are so few sins in my life that I can say are “long gone”.

I think the thing more than anything else that I felt uneasy about was the idea that there’s something wrong with our view of God and we need to get on fixing that straight away! For instance, Chan says, “What disturbs me most is when we’re not really bothered that God living in us has not made much of a noticeable difference.” I agree. And it’s true of me, too. But now what? Do I need to try harder to get the Spirit to work in me? Do I need to listen to the Word of Faith folks and get myself a greater faith? I see the gap, but feel like the only solution is to work my way into getting more of the Spirit. The thing is, I know that’s not what Chan is going for, but it kinda felt that way sometimes. And perhaps that’s just me, who still tires easily of books that “convict ya till yer worn through” and if I even feel an inkling of it, I get a case of the heebie jeebies.

So, despite a lukewarm review, would I recommend the book? I would indeed. Chan reminds us not to forget that we have a triune God, where each person of the Trinity relates to us and works in us in unique but important ways. We live in the age of the Spirit. The Spirit coming down at Pentecost was literally a ground-shaking moment, but it’s just ho-hum to most of us. And so I’m grateful for the book and for Chan’s heart in writing it.

Because at the end of the book, I found myself reminded that the Spirit is both kinder than I tend to think and more interested in my good and God’s glory than my prosperity and ease. In fact, the Spirit has been given to us like the Spirit came to Jesus: so that we can walk in the path of the righteous and follow the Way of Jesus. And that Way isn’t all glory and BMWs and flashy grins, but the path of glory through suffering, joy through sorrow, and life through death. I’ll finish with this great quotation:

“Taking up my cross” has become a euphemism for getting through life’s typical burdens with a semi-good attitude. Yet life’s typical burdens—busy schedules, bills, illness, hard decisions, paying for college tuition, losing jobs, houses not selling, and the family dog dying—are felt by everyone, whether or not they follow the Way of Jesus… The crux of it, I believe, is realizing that being filled with the Spirit is not a one-time act… Walking with the Spirit implies an ongoing relationship…an active pursuit of the Spirit… All of this living and action is done in the power of the Spirit. It is not by your own strength.