Thursday, October 26, 2006

Looking At The Future Through My Rear View Mirror...The Finale

The wait is over...


Go...Daily...Go...


Wow, things were moving fast! Yet, I knew that even though very few things were making sense at this point, I was being awakened to a whole new world that would soon come into focus. I had to come to the realization that I didn't have to be on staff at some local church in a certain location to be in full time ministry. What a wake-up call. That's one of those things that I always knew...but I didn't know it! Know what I mean?

It was at this point in my life that I was reacquainted...reintroduced to my calling. That I was to go and do wherever the Holy Spirit directed...not to search out a certain position in a certain location. I had to go back to the beginning and take a long hard look at my spiritual inventory and the spiritual mile markers in my life.

Spiritual Gifts tests have always proven to me that I have two unique gifts: music/worship and evangelism. And not necessarily in that order. I have an indescribable passion for worship and to lead His people before His throne. Being a musician has always given me a vehicle for entering His presence at the highest level. My favorite place is to be in the 'zone' and imagine myself at His feet, with guitar in hand, singing my most intimate praise to Him. And to take others along with me for that ride is absolutely chilling. One day, I'll be able to stay in the 'zone'...

For my other gift, evangelism is not something I do...it's just me, it's a way of life. I'm the guy that slows up the checkout line at Wal-Mart because I'm telling the cashier just how great my Jesus is. Again, it's not something that I think about doing, or think I should be doing...I just do it...it just happens. So many people have this misconception that by inviting people to church is the same thing as witnessing...NO IT'S NOT. Witnessing is when you are so in love with Jesus Christ, that you can't help but tell others about Him and what He's done for you. The phrase that rings so true is "It's not about religion...it's about a relationship!" It's never been if you 'love' Jesus, it's are you 'in love' with Jesus. And fear has gripped the hearts and mouths of so many Christians that it's become difficult to share Christ with others.

Churches, in my experience, are notorious for putting so much pressure and demands on staff members, that it becomes difficult for them to actually 'minister'. Demands for office hours, 'job' requirements, attempting to please everyone (which by the way, can NOT be done), and so on, hinder many men from doing what God called them to do. And I'll be the first to admit that I've allowed it to happen to me to the point, that my focus has been more on churchy stuff, and not on God stuff. (This paragraph is a definite post in the making!) I found myself falling and falling deeper and deeper into a never-ending black hole...further and further away from my family, my calling and myself. Not only was I speeding in the wrong direction, I was asleep at the wheel...

Just like many a father over the years have taken their young sons outside to the woodshed for guidance and direction, so it was that my Heavenly Father had to grab me by the knapp of my neck and drag me out to His spiritual woodshed. And just like those other young men, I came away with a better...a much more clearer understanding of where I was and what I was supposed to be doing...I came out of it, a better, a much stronger man.

"You want me to what?"

"You heard Me."

"You want me to do what? You're sure? You know there is absolutely NO WAY I can do this myself."

"Now you're getting it. Remember what we've talked about...more of Me, less of you."

"More of me?"

"More...of...ME."

"More of You, less of me. All of You, none of me."

"Bingo!"

Imagine that. Through years and years of secular work, business travel, church politics and dysfunctunal churches, I've been allowed to do something that I always had dreamed of doing. Having the freedom to be...do...go...daily as He calls me. Being in a place where I can be myself, be with my family, love my friends, make countless new friends and induldge in my favorite pastime...coffee. Being able to put 'feet to my prayers', to show others what a Christ-filled life is like in the real world, not secluded or condemned to stay behind the four walls of a church. I'm actually able to be part of His church for the first time in my life. Having a place where people can come in and be themselves...to laugh...to cry...to pray. A place where the unloveable can find love...the hopeless can find hope...a place where Jesus is found at the intersection of church and the real world. A place where I can call home...a place my family can invite countless others to in a non-threatening environment...a place to serve....serve others through Him. A place that's easy to remember...a place you would want to be...a place that reflects me...Dad's Place...but we all know it's His Place.

To say the very least, I've learned a lot in the past two years. I've learned that the love my family has for each other is indescribable and incalculable...that God truly provides for you on a day-by-day basis if you let Him...that if you will just listen and watch, God will speak in a very direct way and He will open and close doors for you that only He can. I've learned who my friends really are, because there are many who just don't understand the fact that I still serve in full-time ministry, just in a much different method. I still get offers from churches to come back on staff, yet each time God very lovingly reminds me about why I do what I do. I've learned that the measure of a man is not determined by the amount of money he makes, the home he lives in, the car he drives, the church he serves in, or the people he tries to impress...he's measured by the God he serves, how he serves Him, how he leads his family and what effect he has on the Kingdom.

What does the future hold...I honestly don't have a clue. But for now, I'm enjoying the ride of a lifetime...the cruise control is set...my seat belt is buckled...my sun glasses are on...and the coffee is brewing...

25 comments:

Mark W. said...

Leave it to God to set you up with a vehicle that includes a coffee brewing option...what is it, a Winnebago?

Super conclusion, Jim! I love the "what does the future hold" ending with the driving-off-into-the-unknown feel to it...it IS kind of like a Back To The Future ending.

Your sentiments about the common expectations of churches are shared by me, though I am humbled by the ease with which you open up and evangelize in a natural, disarming way. For some of us (read Mark W.), that is SO hard and unnatural.

Jeff Noble said...

Love it. Great conclusion/non-conclusion. Really.

But here's my question... where does submission to spiritual authority play a role in your current experience?

I am all for expressing the assembling together of believers in fresh new ways that don't necessarily involve four walls, a band, and chairs. However, the New Testament teaches and reveals a definite "pecking order" so to speak. Our Father gifted and gave the church leaders to shepherd, guide, confront, rebuke, and serve - to prepare God's people for works of service.

I guess, in short, what I'm asking is what community of believers are you accountable to? What you're describing is attractive for a certain part of one's journey. However, I sincerely think that we're not supposed to stay in such an amorphous state.

In joy, I think we press on to intentional belonging to a community of believers who are all learning and working toward the goal of kingdom extension and bringing Christ glory.

What think ye?

Drshaneknight said...

Submission to spiritual authority?

When I was called into the ministry, I was called by God, not a local church. When I pray each day for forgiveness, guidance, wisdom, and many other things, I pray to the same God that called me into ministry, not the church.

When it is time for me to step aside from ministry (if that time ever comes) it will be the same God that called me, equippes me, forgivess me, and guidesme that will issue the call to step aside, not the local church.

Therefore, it is, to the best of my understanding that a man that is called into ministry finds his submission to spiritual authority to God and God alone, not in or to a local congregation.

After all, It is Jesus Christ on the day of the Great White Throne Judgement that we will answer to, not the deacons, leadership team, personel committee, or the local church.

So, who am I accoutable to, where do I submitt myself when it comes to spiritual authority and the role it plays in my life, THe only place that proper interpretation of scripture shows me is - Jesus Christ.

The Aplha and the Omega - The Start and the Finish - Of all things.

Jeff Noble said...

Wow. Well, drshaneknight, I would just have to say that I significantly disagree with you. I really believe you would have a hard time justifying that extreme position from the New Testament.

Of course, we are all ultimately answerable to God, but as a pastor myself, I find great joy in mutual submission and servant leadership.

With that kind of individualistic, self-sufficient declaration, the only job description available to you on earth is Pope... And I think it's currently filled.

Drshaneknight said...

Nope, I will the title or ministry the Lord has given me - Pastor.

You see, when I am accountable to God and submitt myself to Him. Then the church that He has placed me in to Shephard, will be blessed and edified.

Be Blessed.

Drshaneknight said...

Jim, tell us how God has used you in the ministry capacity since you left the four walls of the church facility!

Melissa said...

Jim, what a great testimony!! I enjoyed that immensely. I have shared those same times in my life when I didn't have an inkling were God was leading me and my family. I'm glad God sends little reminders that I am in the passenger’s seat and it's for my best interest. He still has to remind me to put the seat belt on. I'm sure the best is yet to come for your future and mine as well.

Mark W. said...

Jeff - Way to go after it! I am very uneasy about "submission" to authority myself. I have also spent a goodly amount of time being an unchurched Christian because of my bad experiences, but for that entire time I knew that I needed to have good Christian brothers around me to keep me accountable to myself, my family, etc. As my own little confrontation (last week) made mention, the church is meant to "edify" us through fellowship with other believers. Even though I am tempted at times to go be a hermit, I know that it would be unhealthy.

Bottom line - if drshaneknight really is trying to define "going it alone," that isn't healthy. It's also the reason why a lot of pastors crash and burn after a while...they see themselves as alone with no one-on-one accountability with peers.

I completely sympathize with Jim's feelings about churches, but I've also been wanting to hear for some time a full vision for how being unchurched is biblically defensible.

Perhaps that blog will be forthcoming. :)

TJ said...

I've been impressed with the way that you have changed venues of ministry. It's something that you don't see done successfully very often. I'm glad you didn't quit ministry, you simply started doing it. The best is yet to come for you, my friend, and I can't wait to hear about the roadside attractions along your journey.

As far as the churched/unchurched bunny trail (hey, I've been on one of those lately!) is concerned, having your name on a membership roll and being a regular attender of a corporate gathering that we call "the church" doesn't necessarily mean that you are connected with THE church. I personally can neither condone NOR condemn someone not belonging to a particular congregation as long as there is regular fellowship with the body. From what I've seen and from discussions we have had, there is no disconnect between you and the body of Christ. It's clear that there are men of God that you allow to speak into your life as a covering of accountability. Fellowship and studying the Word with other believers is not being neglected. The only thing I see in scripture that provides an example of going to a formal location to pray and worship is when we hear of the apostles going to the temple. So, in summary, I see no evidence of a disconnect from the body through fellowship, nor a lack of accountability to leadership in your life. The seeds you sow and the impact you make upon those who you see at Dad's Place who don't know Christ far exceed what you could do in a place with the word "church" over the door. Never forget - we are the church. We are the temple of the Holy Ghost. Jesus never told us to invite people to come to a place, He said for us to go to them.

Where are the people? They are looking for COFFEEEEEEEE!

Robert Fellows said...

What a wonderful testimony of what happens for people (and more importantly, the Kingdom) when we open our ears and hearts to God.

dean said...

wow!
well, i'm about to walk out the door to attend our agency-wide retreat for the weekend, and i just got too backed up to get in on this discussion. i will say this for now... i can completely understand the lack of options in monticello for someone who wants to stay true to their southern baptist roots.

Jimmy Way Out In West Texas said...

Hey Guys, I believe the holy father (just kidding :) Dr. Shane Knight has it right! Any Christian pastor or layman ought to worry about being accountable to God not man. In Fact if every pastor would take the stance of being accountable to God first and formost seriously we would not have scandals in the church -- Seems like scriptures says to Fear God, rather than man -- Being accountable to God requires a hefty measure of Fear (something I believe as christians we have lost)

I am confident that when I appear in heaven to answer for how I have served God it will be before my Jesus not my former deacons! And I am glad of it!

To the Reverend Jeff Nobles I would like to say that as long as you consider yourself a servant of the church --not God and accountable first to man and secondly to God You Are Headed for a Train Wreck! Holding yourself accountable to a board of deacons whom may or may not be spiritual led men of God is a recipe for disaster (I am speaking from experience) What will you do when they tell you that God is telling them that you are preaching to long, that you are not a "spiritual" preacher because you use sermon notes, That you should not preach on sin and repentance but rather on the benefits of being a Christian, that you love the lost more than your church members, that you spend to much time studying Gods word and not enough time visiting the church members that have not been to church in months, That visiting disgruntled church members is more important that evangelizing the lost, that they are cutting your pay in half because tithing is down, or that you need to move out of the parsonage because they want to sell it to make up the budget deficit --- (I have been told all these things and more by the those that I have been Accountable to on earth) Hey! I would rather be accountable to God --He ALWAYS has my best interest and the cause of Christ in His Heart!

Jim I emmpathize with your "Journey" I too am on a similar journey (although not as far along as you are) I am searching for my place in God's on going work. When I surrendered to God I did not Surrender to the call of pastor, or youth pastor etc. I Surrendered to God! I have been critized for putting it this way, (one pastor even told me I couldn't have been called by God unless it was to a specific area of ministry) But when He called me He called me to to what he said and go where I was sent, not to be a pastor (although that did lead for a season to pastor four churches) and that is why then and Now I am Accountable first and finally to God and God alone (No, I don't want to be the Pope, just a servant of God!)

But I differ from Jim in one respect, although at this point I don't ever want to be a "Pastor" again, I love church, I love going to church, I love the people of church, I love the body of Christ and hope to join with a local church soon!

Who am I to judge jim and his family -- they may not be on the roles of a local church but from what I hear even though Dad's Place doesn't have a steeple or a choir loft it is fullfilling the function of a local church -- does fellowship occur there? Does discipleship occur there? Does worship occur there? Does ministry happen there? Does evangelism happen there? If I know Dad (and I Do) the answer is Yes!

Jeff Noble said...

These are all fantastic comments. Great dialogue, and Jim hasn't said a word since the post! Thanks for letting us park here on your blog and interact, Jimbo!

I too agree and am grateful for the real and authentic ministry taking place at Dad's Place and through the amazing lives of Jim and Denise. It has never been my point or conclusion to suggest that the kingdom of Christ is not being extended there. I'm sure Jim knows that since he knows me.

However, I am still uncomfortable with pastor/leaders claiming the "I'm not accountable to anyone but God" routine as a knee-jerk defense. Do you just ignore all the "one another's" in the NT and think they apply to just ordinary lay people? You see, I don't see a distinction between laypeople and pastors. We are all called to serve in the giftedness with which we've been given. I just happen to do it through preaching and teaching.

That does not absolve me from being accountable to my Christian brother or sister. I still have not seen biblical examples from those of you claiming to be above account from the saints.

You see, I've seen what is described as fleshly churches abusing a pastor or teacher BUT I've ALSO seen lazy, unaccountable preachers who use their "authority" under God as an excuse for being above question. I've seen pastors abuse their positions, engage in questionable moral practices, refuse to build authentic relationships and even practice a CEO mentality in the church - all the while using their "I'm only accountable to God" routine to defend their actions.

Both extremes are wrong. Churches are to trust their leaders, and leaders are to practice servant leadership to their flock.

"Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly - not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don't lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example." ( 1 Peter 5.2-3)

I think this speaks to the humility and servant-mindededness of one who would be a shepherd or leader of God's people.

On another note, if one is not to belong to a local consistent gathering of God's people - whether it has a membership role or not - how does an elder or leader know who has been "assigned" to their care? How does a leader care for the flock that has been "entrusted" to them?

The image of shepherding here was a purposeful metapor the apostle employed. Shepherds knew which sheep belonged to them. They had a definite "flock" over which to guide. Again, this amorphous "churchless" experience that has grown in popularity in this generation is not, I would contend, a healthy direction for the people of God. It's a symptom of our individualistic, authority-rejecting, and selfish culture. It's a way to have all the warm fuzzies of religious experience without the true accountability of authentic Christian community.

How did Paul write to the Corinthians to put the sinning believer out of their fellowship unless there was a sense of membership, or belonging there? That both indicates membership (in a loose sense) and accountability. And how are we to prevent false teachers from arising if there is no accountability for leaders from the saints? Wouldn't these false teachers also claim the "I'm accountable to no one but God" mantra?

Eager to hear your thoughts and responses.

Jimmy Way Out In West Texas said...

There is a big difference in fleshly pastors who SAY, they are only accountable to God as an excuse to "abuse their positions, engage in questionable moral practices, refuse to build authentic relationships and even practice a CEO mentality in the church" and an authentic man of God who believes he is accountable to God and ACTS ACCORDINGLY. As I said before someone who is accountable only to God Fears God, not man and after all if we live our life in a way that pleases God HOW CAN WE GO WRONG no matter what man thinks! A man who fears God will have a life and ministry that is a model of true Godliness. And by the way this goes for all Christians not just Pastors.

For example if we obey law of man that says if you steal and we catch you you will go to jail only because we are accountable to man. Then we can steal with impunity if we can be sure of not getting caught. However if we believe we are accountable to God for everything we do and honor God's command thou shall not steal. We will not steal no matter what even if no one would ever know.

A simple example but true.

Do you agree that our accountablity to God Must take precedent over our accountablity to men?

What will you do when your church, elders, deacons, whatever tell you to stop doing something that you know God wants you to do? Will you be accountable to them and stop or will you be accountable to God and continue (incuring their wrath)?

Example: I was once told by a church board to stop preaching evangelistic messages and giving altar calls because "Everyone in the congregation is saved and we don't need to go to the altar."
I felt that my accountability to God required me to continue to giving altar calls and preach eveangelistically and that is what I did, incurring the wrath of man.

Should I have in accounatbility to the church stopped preaching what God had led me to preach?

I do agree with Jeff Noble's statement that, "this amorphous "churchless" experience that has grown in popularity in this generation is not, I would contend, a healthy direction for the people of God. It's a symptom of our individualistic, authority-rejecting, and selfish culture."

However I do NOT agree that the issue is accountablity, or that a primary function of a local church is to provide accountability to its members -- if a church's members are truly fearing God and holding themselves accountable to Him, there will be No need to be accountable to a church, pastor, or board.

Drshaneknight said...

Amen Jimmy

TJ said...

Two separate issues are being laid onto Jim here that are erroneously being grouped into one issue.

First issue:
I believe that not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together is essential. This speaks to the body getting together for fellowship, worship and edification. Is Jim forsaking this instruction? If we remember that the church is not a corporate entity with a name over the door - I would say an emphatic NO.

Second issue:
Submitting yourselves to one another vs submission directly to God. An important balance one must have. I must repeat, I know that Jim has men of God (pastors, evangelists, etc) he trusts and has willfully submitted himself to a relationship where they can speak healing and even correction into his life. As far as pastors being "submissive" to those in their congregation, I agree with "Jimmie way out in west texas" that it is a recipe for disaster. A pastor should have some who he feeds off of and can recieve correction OUTSIDE of his congregation. (This is the good thing about organizations like the SBC and the Assemblies of God - they provide a covering for their pastors, evangelists, etc.)

Back to the subject of the post - Wow, inspiring message, and I hate that comments got out of hand that took the glory from God for the testimony Jim shared.

Drshaneknight said...

Excellent points TJ. Amen and Amen

Kevin Stoxe said...

Wow! Everyone makes great points. and... as always there are different ideas and interpretations of how life as a Christian should live.
My input on this goes to the individual at hand. I honestly believe that Jim's personal experience is right where he needs to be, just by knowing first hand at some of his experiences. I think that it is great that Jim can stay focused on the "common denominator" that we all should share in life, and that is "Jesus Christ".
In many cases I have seen many families get dumped on by individuals in different churches, (sometimes knowingly, sometimes not), let's face it, there are some evil people out there that really enjoy seeing others hurt at their expense. I've seen these families walk away from everything that remotely even reminds them of church. The sad thing is that includes "God, and Jesus Christ" on who they are walking away from. I know that we all should have the theory of "If someone throws lemons at you, make lemonaide" but that true fact is, words do hurt, just as much, or even more than sticks and stones.
To sum this up:
I think it is great that Jim has made lemonaide. I think I'll have a glass.

PS: Jim, the Jericho message this week was, "THE EMP HITS"

God Bless

Mark W. said...

Hey Kevin! Actually he has made COFFEE...which is so much better than lemonade!

In fact, I suggest we change that idiom enitrely..."when someone hands you burnt beans...make coffee!"

Off I go to brew some...

TJ said...

the people are looking for coffeeeee!

Jeff Noble said...

TJ, I think your identification of the two lines of thoughts was helpful. Thanks. I think I would also add that the very theology of "church" is an issue in this conversation. You've described the universal church, but I think scripture also implies an expression of local church that was far more organized than what you are implying.

I think an excellent resource to follow up with this line of thinking is Gene Getz' Elders and Leaders. I'd encourage you all to pick it up.

It might be revelatory to realize that many of today's most dynamic, biblically-centered churches are practicing team leadership.

Jim, thanks so much for sharing with us your journey and for allowing this instigator to be a part of it.

Jim said...

Wow...what a ride! Another journey begins in just a few days...

dean said...

i'm back off retreat but still pressed for time unfortunately. i do want to bring up something that has been a concern of mine for years. i served as church staff for 12 years before approaching youth ministry from this new angle of houseparenting. one of the biggest challenges for me, and i also believe for the vast majority of ministers, is having somebody you can confide in and be accountable to (yes, i agree that we are ultimately accountable to God, but i also know that its imperative that we have Godly people in our lives as accountability partners, and quite frankly, just somebody to vent to). its nearly impossible for that to take place within one's own church. just about every minister i know, including myself, has had to go outside of their own church to find that kind of relationship, usually with a minister or member of another church. it is at great peril and risk to his ministerial future that a church staffer would dare to be totally transparent with a member of his own congregation. a very sad, but very true commentary on the state of relationships within our local church bodies.

having witnessed firsthand (and having been part of the collateral damage of) the events that led to jim's current ministry venue, i see nothing but positives in the current flow of things. even without the traditional trappings of what we've come to expect as part of a "church" setting, and what constitutes the "staff" of said church, i believe with all my heart that dad's place is as much a "church" as any facility in this town that you'd find listed under "places of worship" in the classified section of the paper, or under "churches" in the yellow pages of the local phone book. and i consider jim whaley to the the senior pastor of that highly caffeinated church.

i just finished reading the new barna book "revolution" and what he's finding more and more is that there are people of faith all over this world that yearn to do more, and they are going beyond the walls of the local church to impact their world for the Kingdom. in many ways, its a shame that its come to that, but the local church has nobody to blame for it but themslves.

Mark W. said...

Dean said: "it is at great peril and risk to his ministerial future that a church staffer would dare to be totally transparent with a member of his own congregation."

Sad, sad, sad!!! I would never stay at a (so-called) church where this was the case. That kind of crap is SO NOT what I'm looking for in my life...and I doubt that any sane people are. SAD, SAD, SAD!!!

Words fail me.

Phillip Slaughter said...

Jeff, on your 3rd post on this string of posts you misspelled the 9th word of your 10th paragraph; its "metaphor" not "metapor." Just figured I would be random!