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Pushing religion, pushing a denomination, or pushing Jesus?
by Michael Tummillo
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Does anyone recall comedian Steve Martin's "Wild and Crazy Guy" routine? If so, you may recall his skit on teaching kids how to "talk wrong." Simply tell them the wrong words for common items and get a laugh out of hearing them say something like: "May I mambo dogface in a banana patch?"

When we don't know any better, how can we say this or that is wrong when those whom we perceive as well-meaning will teach us the wrong things? In Islam, many people who have never read the Koran for themselves, are following the lead of many apparently well-meaning leaders and are preparing themselves for jihad; they are driven to killing the Christian and the Jew.

During the Crusades, many Christian soldiers were deployed by their Christian leaders - not to win the souls of the Muslims and Jews- but to destroy them with Church blessing.

Jason Duncan (The Way) wrote some good stuff recently. In part: "If the boy who was taught that a table is a chair begins to have his paradigm challenged based on empirical evidence, anomalies will certainly occur. "I have always wondered why chairs were so uncomfortable." "I wondered why people at restaurants ate off of chairs." "I wondered why people thought I was weird for sitting on the big round chairs in their dining rooms.

"As these anomalies occur, his brain will begin fighting against the need for a paradigm shift. "But my parents taught me that this big flat thing is a chair." "But I have always sat on these things and called them chairs." "I will have to make a huge change in my behavior--and my furniture purchases in the future--if this is true.

"Eventually, enough anomalies will occur that will force him into shifting his paradigm to accept that the things he had always called "chairs" were in fact not. Once this shift from one paradigm to another occurs, it will be impossible for him to accept the notion that a table is a chair any longer. For once the shift occurs, it is highly unlikely and psychologically improbable for him to revert to his old paradigm... for me--and perhaps millions of other Christians all over the world--I grew up with a certain paradigm about what "church" is. As I grew up "in the church" I was taught certain fundamental things about church: It is a building; it is a place where Christians gather to worship; it is an event that I participate in (as a spectator mostly); it is an organization. As I grew older and began developing my own understanding based on my own experiences as a vocational minister in the church, my paradigm about church grew to incorporate ideas about church leadership, organizational structure, ministry styles, etc. In short, I learned how to manage the machine I called "church" ...

"About four years ago, my paradigm about "church" began to be challenged. I began reading books by other followers of Jesus that pointed out anomalies in my understanding of what church was. I read ideas and assertions about church being the people and not being an institution to be managed. I read about church being the result of individual followers of Jesus doing what they were supposed to be doing. This made me view the New Testament and its descriptions of the church in an entirely different light. I began seeing that the church I fought and worked so hard to maintain was not anything like the church in the New Testament. "Could this be true?" I asked myself."

"Scripture confirms that the church is indeed not a place, an event, or a list of group activities. The Church is a community of people who have been redeemed by the Father and empowered by the Spirit to live life as Jesus in all of their relationships--individually and collectively. If we are growing in our understanding of Jesus and His teachings, then we will all undergo a paradigm shift in our view of what "church" really is. It really does make a difference."

Day in and day out, as I enter into conversations of a spiritual nature via eMail or face-to-face, I hear people - sometimes tearfully - explain to me how much they love Jesus but how difficult it is - or has become - to attend church for a variety of reasons, among them hypocrisy, greed, cliques, to name a few. In my own hometown, an Hispanic minister has just divorced his wife for his pregnant girlfriend. His church has disbanded. Already, I've spoken to several people who are sickened by his hypocrisy, one of which knows him but was not a Member of his church.

In the January issue of Newsweek, Lisa Miller says in Finding Spirituality at Home,“[Believers] mistrust authority and institutional hierarchy.” This, according to her, seems to be the principal reason so many are abandoning the big churches in favor of house meetings—commonly called “house churches” (a term I dislike). And some of the big churches are hurting. They are not hurting in spirit, but in the pocketbook!

About that article, Buff Scott, Jr. wrote in Reformation Rumblings, “I agree with Ms. Miller’s diagnosis that it is mainly because of mistrust of authority and institutional hierarchy that so many are walking away from institutional religion and the big churches. There are other reasons as well.

"Believers are sick of meaningless liturgy—stand, sit, bow, sing, contribute. These rituals, rites, and formalities are totally empty of any coherent and edifying message, and they do nothing but breed disheartened believers. Truth-seeking believers long for a family-like atmosphere where everyone is free and encouraged to verbalize, share, mutually participate, and where no one is dressed up like he’s on his way to a Halloween party.

"Believers are finally recognizing that once they formally “place their membership” with a church or denomination, they get caught up in all of their projects and programs. Many have begun to realize that the Christian community has moved from compassion to project. As a result, she has lost her anchor.

"Most believers who are walking away from established churches are aware that Satan is shouting “Hallelujah” when 85-percent of church contributions is squandered on materialistic projects and programs and only 15-percent go to support evangelism and to alleviate the needs of the destitute. These were the only two undertakings the early believers contributed their money to—evangelism and alleviating the poverty of the destitute.

"Believers are also becoming more aware that “church conversion,” as opposed to heart conversion, is not the way of salvation. Religion and church have polluted the stream flowing from the river of life. On a personal note, I ceased long ago trying to convert anyone to any of the modern-day religions or to any of the numerous sects. I now point them in the direction of Jesus only, because 2000 years ago there were no church factions for believers to join. They identified themselves with other believers of a common cause, thus forming Christian congregations or communities. None of the early believers were afflicted with “mad church disease.” And none were church addicts.

"As the apostles and first believers were not Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Mormons, Catholics, or associated with any of the other sects that sprinkle our current partisan landscape, recovering church addicts are also free of these schisms. These religious parties did not exist in the apostles’ time. Therefore recovering church addicts will not be formally aligned with any of these except to work within for reform.

"If Jesus were on earth in the flesh today, I’m confident He would view our present-day religious institutions as He viewed those of His time. He worked among partisan systems for reform while not joining any of them. And so it is with recovering church addicts—work within and among partisan groups, whenever possible, without subscribing to any of them."

I've often said, if we were take a first century Christian, pluck him out of the pages of history, and stick him in the biggest church in America, he would ask things such as: "Why is that man dressed differently than the rest of us and why is he doing all the talking?" "Who is this 'Jesus' he keeps mentioning?" "Where's the food?" "Whose house is this and why are we sitting in rows?"

How about YOU? Is the Holy Spirit saying anything to you that you dare not utter for fear of upsetting the apple cart? Have you miserably settled into "status quo Churchianity" and hating it? If you are one of the many with ears to hear what the Spirit is saying these days - stuff that simply won't conform to what your church, denomination or orthodox Christianity just can't handle - trust me, you are NOT alone.

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