Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Don’t Rock the Boat Lest You Want to Leave the Church Fellowship

As the owner of Writers in the Sky Creative Writing Services, I have assisted many authors with writing and writing, editing, and bringing books to market. While I no longer personally assist authors with this task, I do have a team of writers and editors able to provide this service (http://writersinthesky.com).

During the time that I helped Steve Brannon develop his book, The Two Agreements, we came to enjoy a divine friendship and I’m very pleased to see his book in print. As part of his book launch, I asked him to be my guest on We Are One in Spirit Podcast where he shared thoughts about why so many people are leaving organized religion. I will share segments of this interview in written format over the next few days. In fact, here are the links to those other posts:

Part 1 -Don’t Rock the Boat Lest You Want to Leave the Church Fellowship
Part 2 - Why Religion is No Longer Working for Most People
Part 3 - Emergent Conversation about Christians Leaving the Church
Part 4 - Why Words Are So Powerful

Or, you may listen to the interview, "Are You Spiritual.. or Religious?," here: http://bit.ly/JcOKFt

But first, here’s some background on Steve. Steve left the Christian church after the clergy excommunicated him from his local fellowship. He was the youth camp director for a fellowship of churches in 1976 while he was stationed at an Air Force base in Oklahoma. He was having home Bible studies and prayer meetings with some of the members of the congregation when he felt led to open up a house for young people and folks living on the street to come in and fellowship. These people didn’t have a faith system that they were following. When he shared this vision with the ministers he was working with, it didn’t go over well. They did not allow meetings outside of a church building. He was excommunicated from the church when he told the senior pastor that he was going to follow through with the home group study.
The charismatic movement was going on in the middle 70s. Some of the attendees hailed from Methodists, Baptists and Catholic belief systems. Once they saw what was going on, they caught the vision for the family atmosphere and spiritual work. There was so much love, so much grace.

After the fellowship had been open for three weeks there was a knock at the door. A deputy sheriff stopped by to introduce himself and see what the group was up to. That particular house had been a drug house where dealers were selling marijuana and had been busted it several times. Steve had left the Air Force by that time and his hair was long, he had a full beard, and was wearing bell button jeans. He fit the picture of a radical child of the times!

The group quickly outgrew the house and secured a stand-alone building in the inner city. This Christian center was having regular services and meetings when Steve turned the leadership of the group over to a young couple who had just finished Bible college. This husband and wife team is still pastoring the congregation today, 36 years later.

Yvonne: Every minute of the typical church services is formulated, planned, and organized. It’s so regimented and structured that the Spirit can’t get a word in edgewise. The church is a system; it’s an organization, and the love for which Christians are supposed to be known has taken a backseat to gossip and backbiting. However, this laid back group of people that Steve was shepherding enjoyed offering input and having discussions about spiritual things rather than being spoon-fed a doctrine from the pulpit. I personally think many people are tired of being told what to think, believe, and do. That they don’t have an opportunity to express what is on their heart and if they do they end up being excommunicated from the church for rocking the boat and causing waves.

The pastor of the last church I left tagged my husband and me as troublemakers because we didn’t go along with a financial decision he made without consulting the congregation—that pastor’s decision obligated the tithing members to more debt on an already tightly-strapped budget.

Steve: The popular interpretation of the Bible and New Testament story regarding the life of Jesus gives way to judgment, condemnation, and even damnation of folks who do not think a particular way. There’s rigidity and resistance when someone wants to question a doctrine or decision. My reinterpretation explains that the whole theme is not about trying to recover a fallen sinful nature of man, but it’s actually working to enlighten the hearts and minds of everyone. There is no distance or separation between us and God. There’s no separation between us and one another. There’s nothing to fight about. There’s nothing to war about. We’re all on the same team.

It’s just a matter of allowing the spirit to grow in us and lead us into spontaneous works like what I did in Oklahoma. When you follow your heart you have freedom in spirit. Without the church telling me what I can and cannot do, I feel like I’m living in a virtual spiritual candy store! I can believe whatever I want to believe and follow the Holy Spirit, knowing that Spirit is going to protect me and keep me from harming myself. We are unlimited in the things we can do.

I read your blogs. I read your books. I see the ways that you have broadened yourself, deepened and gained a depth in your life that you could have never had in the religion system you were in. You’re a very good example to the rest of us of the freedom we have today. That’s the freedom The Two Agreements is pointing toward. I’m trusting that my book will be a bridge for many people like us who were on the wrong track and boxed in. We knew that there was a voice inside—a hunger inside of us saying, “Hey there’s more. There’s gotta be more than this.” When we open our mind and heart to it, the door begins to open, opportunities come into play, and next thing we know, we’re writing books and teaching others.

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