Babylon Bee: Link Between Personal Holiness and Chair Stacking

It’s in the Babylon Bee so you know it has to be true!

Study Finds Strong Connection Between Holiness And Number Of Chairs You Stack After Church Service

U.S.—A new study performed by LifeWay Research revealed Wednesday that there is a “strong connection” between your personal holiness and the number of chairs you stack while tearing down a church service or other church function.

The report looked at thousands of churchgoers from all over the nation and found that all across the board, the more chairs you stack, the further along you are in your sanctification journey.

“People who stack lots of chairs were found to be very close to Jesus, while people who just stand around and talk were found to be basically pagans,” said a study intern. “There are lots of baby Christians out there, of course, who fall somewhere in between. Brand-new believers tend to mill about the meeting room and reluctantly grab a chair or two before slinking away and muttering something about having to go pick up their kids.”

The study also found that the number of chairs you can carry at one time is a significant indicator of how Christlike you are. “Men who pile up 7 or 8 chairs at once and effortlessly fling them atop a stack were much more likely to be committed disciples of Christ,” the report read. “If you’re only grabbing one or two at a time, it’s time for a heart check.”

 

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Kyuboem Lee: Jesus and Leadership

Formation

The Dominant Approach to Leadership in the Church and Why Jesus Means to Upend It

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A couple of months ago, I was with my friend JR Woodward and the V3 Movement as they had their conference in Philly, and the theme was Reimagining Leadership. JR’s colleague, Dan White, Jr., opened the time by saying, “We’re thinking about leadership a lot these days,” to knowing, albeit weary, laughter.

Indeed. We just endured a midterm election. The Catholic Church is in a deep crisis over the abuse victims coming forward after spiritual leaders used their powers to engage in a decades-long cover up. As a result, the Catholic community has been getting rent asunder. Evangelicals (or at least the ones who tend to be older, white, rural to suburban) have come to be known in this country as the demographic that will most reliably side with the power that promises to look out for their interests—no matter how that leadership exercises its power, its personal moral conduct, or its policies towards orphans, widows, strangers. “We need a strong leader in times like this,” I hear many say. But was Jesus a “strong leader”?

Working on an initiative at my seminary for mentoring pastors in transition, I’ve been thinking a lot about pastors and what they’re facing today. Many are discouraged, isolated, and on the verge of dropping out. I have come to believe that so much of it has to do with the theology of leadership and power that we had passed down from Christendom. What I’m finding is even if we subscribe to the missional theology brand, we might not have been able to do away with Christendom habits that continue to live within our bodies and the Christendom structures that continue to shape our churches, denominations, and institutions.

Christendom is a hard habit to break.

A Different Way of Leading for a New Kingdom

There’s a reason many pastors feel used and abused—they’ve been living as cogs in the wheels of the Church Industrial Complex (as my friends JR and Dan White say in their book, Church as Movement).

What is the remedy?

It’s certainly not trying harder to keep the machine going. Jesus said there is a different kingdom—and a different way of governing, or leading. A different theology of power for a different kingdom. And out of it, a different way of structuring ourselves as society or organization or community. The greatest in this society will be the servant of all.

Henri Nouwen has a beautiful little book called In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, and Nouwen’s life itself is a lesson on that subject. He was a highly respected professor in an Ivy League school, but when he left all that prestige and entered into a community where he lived among people with disabilities and handicaps, he experienced intimacy with Christ.

In this book, Nouwen looked at Christian leadership through the temptations of Christ. He says we are tempted in the same way Jesus was:

  1. to be relevant (turn the stones to bread),
  2. to be spectacular (celebrity preachers who draw big crowds),
  3. to be powerful (control the outcome, bring about your desired end).

In the end, it’s all about power. And the way of power avoids the way of the cross. Nouwen says:

Power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love … It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.

This is the way of Christendom, but it’s not the kingdom. My Anabaptist friends are very helpful in pointing this out: Christendom has conflated the cross and the power of this world for a long time; Christendom is Babylon with a cross.

Christendom has conflated the cross and the power of this world for a long time; Christendom is Babylon with a cross.CLICK TO TWEET

The Church’s Thirst for “Strong Leaders”

In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, we meet Saruman. He is someone who, unlike Gandalf, went down that road of seeking power in the name of achieving good ends, like: build the church, feed the hungry, bring about a prosperous, peaceful, moral society. But along the way, power went from a means to an end, to the end itself, the ultimate good, and this happens oh so subtly. Although Saruman began as a wise man, his compromises with power ended up transforming him into a monster. A cautionary figure indeed.

We know that institutions and churches have become machines that crush underfoot the very people it was meant to bring the good news to when those in positions of power receive protection from the structures set in place by those systems in instances when abuse of power comes to light, and victims are instead silenced, shamed, blamed, and marginalized. Diane Langberg is a psychotherapist who has been dealing with systemic issues around power and abuse in churches. We need to give ear to prophetic voices like hers to help us grow in learning how to identify and fend off toxic power from infecting and disfiguring our leadership and institutions. Here’s a sample of how the machine works:

Diane Langberg, PhD@DianeLangberg
 
 

We are to have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness but rather expose them. It has often been my experience that when abuse in a marriage has been exposed the church speaks out in horror not against the abuse but rather against the exposure.

 

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A system produces exactly what it was designed to produce, and we need to own up to our systems that have protected abuses of power, perhaps even encouraged it with our desire for “strong leaders;” systems that produce Caesars rather than likenesses of the crucified messiah. Notice what I am saying here: the problem isn’t individual bad apples; the problem is systemic.

The Church must own that we have not only protected but encouraged abuse of power in our thirst for ‘strong leaders.’ We have produced more Caesars than likenesses of the crucified Messiah.CLICK TO TWEET

Not the Way of Caesar, but the Way of the Crucified Messiah

But we, as followers of Christ, are called to resist the temptation to be powerful and follow Christ in the way of the cross. When the disciples argued about who would sit at his right and left, Jesus said:

Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.

The mission of God would be much better served if the church were to find a new way than the old Christendom ways.

The theology of power that the church develops needs to better witness to the kingdom of God, not merely mimic Babylon.

We need leadership development systems that will encourage leadership fashioned in the image of Christ, not of Caesar.

Listen to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer says about our mission (HT to David Fitch for the quote) in his sermon on 2 Corinthians 12:9:

Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christians should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.

We are following Jesus into the world—not in triumph and success and power, but rather in weakness. We are witnesses of the crucified King.

Post-Christendom Theological Education

As a theological educator, I am haunted by these questions: Are we doing an adequate job in helping our students to leave Christendom and enter into the kingdom of God? Or have we been helping to feed the machine? Are we teaching them and modeling for them and equipping them with the skills to build the beloved community (which is built on confession and forgiveness, and not built on productivity and usefulness, as a machine is), the character of servant leadership (not a star or CEO), and the theology of kingdom power that is found in weakness?

Out of earshot of students, seminary administrators and professors wonder about the adequacy of the theological seminary, a product of Christendom, for the work of mission in a post-Christendom world. Do we need new wine-skins fit for the new wine of theological education and leadership development in the rapidly changing landscape? Are there ways that the old form can be retrofitted and modified to better serve the function it was created to serve? What are they?

So many questions to keep us seeking the Lord and depend on him. May the Lord give us grace and faith to sustain us.

 

From missioalliance.org

Babylon Bee: Carol Changes Cause Riots

Congregation Erupts Into Violent Protests As Worship Band Shamelessly Tampers With Yet Another Timeless Christmas Carol

PERRY, MA—Violence broke out at Everlasting Savior Community Church in Perry last Sunday after, in an audacious show of nerve, the worship band messed with another classic Christmas song. Congregants were whipped into a frenzy during “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” when a new bridge was added to the already satisfactory song. 

“Rejoice with tidal waves of grace, oh Savior of the broken, pouring over me everlasting in a rushing mighty wave of love…” the new lyrics began. It was at that point that a hymnal was lobbed into one of the speakers causing an explosion of sparks. The congregation rushed the stage and attacked the worship band, knocking over microphone stands, throwing drums, and lighting amplifiers on fire.

With the church ablaze, the angry mob took to the streets overturning cars and breaking windows. Local police arrived on the scene and were forced to use tear gas and pepper spray to control the protestors.

Earlier in the service, songs such as “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” had also been tampered with, creating a palpable frustration among the elder members of the church. By the third song, they had had enough.

A number of church members had locked themselves inside of the building and were holding hostage worship leader, 19-year-old Gavin Blaine, demanding that all Christmas songs from this point forward be played the normal way they have always been played. Officers at the scene held the worship band at gunpoint and instructed the musicians to comply with the sensible demands. “There’s no reason for this kind of brazen disregard for these beloved songs,” shouted the police chief at the worship leader. “Change the songs back or lethal force may be used.”

At press time, Blaine had refused to comply with the orders and was placed in police custody.

From The Babylon Bee

Mario Murillo: A Weapon Called Christmas

A WEAPON CALLED CHRISTMAS

The leading newspaper in the nation has not mentioned Christmas in 10 years. Christmas is attacked by both God haters and religionists. It has fallen into great disfavor—accused of everything from paganism to materialism. It is socially unacceptable to celebrate Christmas.  It is 1843 England. Also known as the hungry 40’s.
A young and gifted writer is deeply restless and can’t sleep. He asks an assistant to meet him in the middle of the night, “take me to see the worst of London. Do not spare me anything.”
What he saw horrified him and left a mark in his soul that would haunt his novels for the rest of his life. Children, living like stray dogs scavenged through garbage in sub-zero temperatures.
Charles Dickens had to do something. So, he mustered his considerable weapon: he marshalled the English language and sent it into war against child abuse. Vast corruption must be exposed! This nation-destroying curse must be lifted!
He set ink to paper with the force of a volcanic eruption and the skillful cuts of a surgeon. The result was a pamphlet entitled An Appeal on Behalf of the Poor Man’s Child.Then something happened:
He never released the pamphlet. Historians are divided about why. Usually, it does not fall upon facts but on anti-Christian bias. Here is what really happened: He heard the voice of God. “If you release this pamphlet it will bring good for a season, but if you write the story, I am about to give you, it will bring good for all time.”
It would be a story where the main character is the most uncompelling, and unsympathetic character to any audience: an old man—a wealthy miser! Even his name is off-putting: Ebeneezer Scrooge.
With only weeks left before Christmas how could he finish it and get it published? Astonishingly it was published on December 19, 1843. Not only that, it was made into a script and opened in 2 theaters that Christmas day.
 
This story is not only credited with saving Christmas, it has been synonymous with Christmas ever since.  Outside the Bible, no written word about Christmas has been more influential and widespread in its power to evoke love for children and the poor.
Christmas has inspired the best music. Musical artist regardless of their fame are compelled to release a Christmas album. It has a power that no one can explain or predict. Opposing armies have stopped combat, met on neutral ground in the middle of a war to celebrate Christmas.
Here is Nephew Fred from A Christmas Carol: “I have always thought of Christmastime… as a good time: a kind forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
The supernatural power of Christmas is also seen in the creation of Silent Night. It was written because the organ broke and a song for a guitar was necessary.  Christmas again showed its power with Handel’s Messiah. Handel wrote it in 24 days. When he finished the Hallelujah Chorus, he said it was as if the roof came off his room and he saw the great God Himself.
Christmas is a weapon! It brings proof of the Deity of Christ by its inexplicable effect on the world. Even when it offends it is doing God’s work. Even Scrooge screamed, “then let me leave it alone!” But Christmas won’t let us leave it alone.
But the message about Scrooge transcends even Christmas. It is about God’s power to create a weapon to combat evil through anointed artforms.
It is because of Scrooge, that I find much of today’s formulaic Christian music unimaginative, predictable, and even snowflake like. Bono from U-2 called it “dishonest.” How dare I make such a criticism? Because we didn’t use to scare so easily. We wrote songs of sacrifice and commitment; towering themes filled majestic hymns.
Somewhere in the mid to late 20th Century the church developed an insecurity complex and began to “do things almost as good as the world does.” Not just in music, but in all art forms. We even have green rooms which is a nod to Hollywood.
A great exception is Black Gospel Music. It was so original the world had to copy it for Motown and R and B. Black Gospel was so powerful the world kept trying to steal talent out of the church. Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and many others began in church.
The spark of divine creativity does not rest on those who surmise what might sell or what won’t offend. It comes on those who would sacrifice all to obey God.
However, there is another reason creativity is in short supply: We don’t recognize the multiple opportunities of service outside the pulpit. Not everyone is a preacher—nor should they be! The gifts of God fit in business, art, media, healthcare, education and yes, politics.
Because God came upon a famous novelist like Charles Dickens, the devil was blindsided. What if you are supposed to create something no one has seen before?
Finally, the idea that we need to tone anything down to win souls is hogwash. Johnny Cash comes to mind. It is truly amazing the influence he carried. Bob Dylan, Elvis, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones revered him. Yet, he never muted his faith or his witness. God gave him a sound the world couldn’t resist.
A heart filled with love for God and hatred for evil, who is willing to be completely open to do something new is our greatest need today. God is searching to drop original miracles on someone like you.

The North Sentinel Islands Retain Their Deadly Reputation

North Sentinel Island lies between Thailand and India. It has the reputation of being the most isolated territory on the planet by reason of the inhabitants killing anyone who lands on the island.

From Christianity Today:

85361

US Missionary Killed by ‘World’s Most Isolated’ Tribe.

A 27-year-old American missionary was killed on a remote island off the coast of India, where he attempted to share the gospel with the most isolated tribe in the world.

All Nations, a Christian missions agency based in the US, confirmed that John Allen Chau travelled to North Sentinel Island after years of study and training to evangelise its small indigenous population, who remain almost entirely untouched by modern civilisation.

According to news reports based on Chau’s journal entries, the Oral Roberts University graduate shouted, “My name is John, and I love you and Jesus loves you,” to Sentinelese tribesmen armed with bows and arrows. He fled to a fishing boat when they shot at him during his initial visit, with one arrow piercing his Bible.

The young missionary did not survive a follow-up trip on November 17.

“You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people,” the native of Washington state wrote the day before in a letter to his parents obtained by the Daily Mail. “Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed.”

Indian police have not retrieved the young missionary’s body and, since contact with the indigenous tribes in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago is prohibited, cannot prosecute his murderers.

The Sentinelese were known to refuse outside contact and attack anyone who stepped on their island.

Some have declared Chau a martyr and compared him to Jim Elliot, who was famously killed at age 28 while attempting to evangelise an isolated indigenous group in Ecuador.

“John was a gracious and sensitive ambassador of Jesus Christ who wanted others to know of God’s great love for them,” said Mary Ho, international executive leader of All Nations, which says it trains and supports 150 missionaries in 31 countries, including India.

“As we grieve for our friend, and pray for all those who mourn his death, we also know that he would want us to pray for those who may have been responsible for his death.”

This was Chau’s third visit to the Andaman and Nicobar island chain. Its police chief called his recent trip “misplaced adventure,” but his family and friends insist that he knowingly violated protocol to enter the dangerous territory for the sake of sharing the gospel.

According to All Nations, Chau joined their organisation last year, after serving on mission in Iraq, Kurdistan, and South Africa. The agency described him as “a seasoned traveller who was well-versed in cross-cultural issues.”

His family posted a tribute on Instagram, saying they forgive those responsible for killing Chau and requesting that charges be dropped against the fishermen accused of endangering his life by helping transport him to North Sentinel Island.

The Joshua Project, a ministry dedicated to tracking unreached ethnic groups, reports that little is known about the Sentinelese due to their isolation and hostility, but asks supporters to “Pray that the Indian Government will allow Christians to earn the trust of the Sentinelese people, and that they will be permitted to live among them.”

How To Hear God

Many christians struggle with the issue of hearing the voice of God. Some have been wrongly taught that God doesn’t speak to us. Others believe that He does speak to us but still seem unable to hear.Whole books have been written on the topic whether it is framed in terms of “Hearing God” or “Guidance” (The latter term is often used by christians who don’t believe that God speaks to His people but still want to know how to discern the will of God.)

In the 1980’s I came across this little book and it revolutionised my spiritual walk. Mark Virkler simplifies the whole business of hearing God’s voice to a few easy steps and an important concept. 

The concept is this: God speaks to us in the flow of our thoughts more often than through an audible voice.

The steps to hearing God are simple

  1. Still your mind. When our brains are racing away with our own thoughts it is very hard to hear what God might want to say to us. Some people like to use the “Jesus Prayer” to help this process.Settle your breathing into a regular rhythm. As you breathe in say slowly “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God” and as you breathe out say “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”
  2. Ask God a question. “What do you want to say to me?””What should I do about …?”
  3. Listen to the thoughts that go through your mind in response to the question. Write them down in a notebook or journal- this process of writing your thoughts is vital, because often we start to analyse what is being revealed, but that breaks the flow.
  4. When you finish, look back over what you have written and check if it agrees with Scripture, with the things happening in your life, with other things the Lord has shown you, and so on.

This is a wonderful method to help us hear God’s voice. Like many things in life, it may seem difficult at first but with practice the process of discerning God’s voice becomes more fluent.

Anna Gibson- “No Longer Thirsty.”

A powerful testimony from Mark Virkler’s blog of God reaching into a person’s heart and transforming her life.

No Longer Thirsty Since I Received the Gift of Speaking In Tongues – Testimony by Anna Gibson

At the age of 6, my dad introduced me to a prayer that if I prayed it, he claimed I would then be a Christian. I wanted Jesus in my heart. I constantly lived to please Him, but after this prayer, I expected to be perfect. No more spankings, no more corners. But instead, I felt worse. I struggled more everyday and I didn’t understand. My parents didn’t explain.


At 14 I began realizing I was trying to be good on my own. I didn’t know the next step. For several weeks at church an elder came up to me and asked if I wanted to be baptized. I denied him each time. One Sunday he asked my dad. To my dad’s knowledge I was saved so he told me to get baptized. I was frustrated. He didn’t see my heart. There was no way I was saved. But because I had been taught to be submissive, I did not argue with my dad. “In the name of Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I now baptize you.” I arose out of the water as if a heavy blanket were over me. Burden… I felt the guilt and shame of lying to the church as they all cheered for me. Every compliment that day made me sick.

At the age of 19, just before going to college, my spirit was being tormented. I heard the Holy Spirit calling me, but my flesh was crawling with demons of fear, desires, lust and hatred. I slammed my Bible to the floor and spoke out loud, “If you really are God, then show me a verse!” I really wanted an answer!!! Immediately I put my finger on a verse that said, “Be slow to anger.” That made me more mad. I said, “There is no way I am settling down.” Again I slammed the Bible, threw it open and put my finger down. This time the verse was, “Be slow to speak and quick to listen.” How could I listen!! I was so mad and there was no way I wanted to cool down. I wouldn’t hear a thing!! The third time, again, “Be slow to anger.” I just dropped to the floor. “Okay, God! What is it?”

I heard God say, “Choose this day. Me or the world?” It wasn’t long before I said, “Jesus! I want Jesus!!” Immediately God led me to repentance. The next step was baptism. A bitter word in my mouth, but I knew this time, I was depending on Jesus to help me through this life. He wasn’t just sitting on the sidelines waiting for me to mess up so He could go back to the cross. The day of the baptism we went to the river. As I went into the water, my eyes were open and I saw a bright light enter my soul and darkness rushed out of me. I just watched the spirit of shame wash down the river.

I began to journal my prayers when I realized I would fall asleep during prayer on my bed. I didn’t want to fall asleep on my Lord. During these prayers I heard the spontaneous thoughts and knew it was God. I just had no idea I was doing what you teach, Mark! Miracles and pain, blessings and curses later my dad sent me an email from your videos with Charity explaining dreams. My dad knew I dreamed a lot. That’s when I started hearing more. I wanted what you had. I wanted what Charity had. Joy didn’t seem to stop flowing from you. I felt that through the videos. I asked myself, “Why am I not happy? I have tried minimalism, I’ve tried requesting my husband to do more for me. I’ve tried hanging with new friends. I’ve tried working from home. I’ve tried having children, etc. Nothing is working.” There were days I was happy and thought that was the Joy of the Lord, but it was not sustaining. I wanted MORE!!!!!!!!!

Then I received the email that you were coming to my area… wow! My spirit jumped up and down. I just knew we were to go. The first evening my husband and I met Don and Kay Martin from Kansas. I heard they led groups in their home. That’s what piqued my interest. Saturday morning we arrived early. When Don and Kay walked in I inquired about their meetings and how they did that. From that moment, Don gave us a word from the Lord and we were connected. We had lunch together, then from 4:30-11:30 p.m. we were with them. At 10:30 Don asked, “Are you filled with the Holy Spirit?” We said, “Well yes….” He added, “With the gift of speaking in tongues?” Immediately, “NO!

Oh goodness, no.” That moment opened up questions and I began to shake. I told them that for many years how I felt something in my stomach rise up and flow to my head whenever I prayed, but it was becoming far more frequent that I was beginning to think I had a disease that would come on if I bowed my head. Don asked me if it made me feel like it just wanted to come out and I said, “YES! I feel like my brain is going to explode!” He led us to his hotel room and there we yielded to the Holy Spirit and within moments, Spiritual beautiful language was flowing from our mouths! The Holy Spirit was finally flowing! What a relief!!! I felt ten pounds lighter within MINUTES!!!! How could this be and how can you explain this feeling?

My sweet Jesus brought this illustration to my mind: The Potter and the clay. When you find natural clay to work with, it is suggested to bring it in and dry so that you can smash it and grind it into a smooth powder. At this point you pour a little water at a time to mix it in. Once you can make ribbons of clay through your fingers when you squeeze it, it is ready to be formed.

Before receiving this gift I felt like a clay pot that had been formed but set aside and dried. I was thirsty. I was not a good vessel. I could not hold what was being poured into me. The occasional moisture was nice, but I was not where I knew I could be. When we met with Don and Kay Martin they took us to the Potter’s house. My opinions, my analytical self and my weariness were crushed and refined to powder. Yielding to the Holy Spirit I felt Him adding water and mixing together my spirit and His. He threw me to the wheel and began spinning! I am refreshed! I am redeemed! I am whole! I have been made into a beautiful vessel! Already the demons are fighting, (this is where the fire comes in.) Just enough fire, just enough heat will “bake” me. I will mature the longer I am in the fire/ the kiln. I want to be completed in His time!

I thank God for being patient with me. His mercy endures forever! I am His creation! I am proud of it! Thank you for yielding to our Savior and not giving up after 11 years of silence.