Some things have changed in this vision since last re-vision … umh, ok. It will be cool and humiliating and enlightening to see the differences when posting new versions of this mindmap in future posts … this thing is never finished, I think. And, this is my first image on this blog, bringing some more colors to it 🙂 Note that you need to click the image to view it in original, readable size.

Start date: 2007-09-29
Post date: 2007-09-29
Version date: 2007-09-29 (for last meaningful change)

Since 2-3 months I am occupied with demystifying my faith in God,
that is, removing “religious elements”. This article is an interim
result statement, summing up the main findings for your and my reference.

Demystification proceedings so far

  1. The creator’s greatness. It was argued that there is no
    “24/7 immediate company with God”, see “What
    kinda company with God is possible?
    “, “The
    third way of life in this world
    ” and “The
    cream white area of contact with God
    “. This is an effect of God
    being a so much higher being than we. Another aspect of the creator’s
    greatness is that his creatures are expected to be conscious of their
    createdness and live that out (see “Createdness
    and creativeness
  2. Humbleness as the essence of faith. See “Createdness
    and creativeness
    ” but probably also “Weakness
    strengthens the church
  3. The natural nature of the congregation. See “Be
    your congregation
    ” and “Natural
    transformation in the church
    ” and “Weakness
    strengthens the church
  4. The (mostly) natural nature of communication with God.
    In most cases, God communicates with us indirectly by the truth already
    revealed (see “Is
    wisdom indirect?
    ” and “Natural
    transformation in the church
    “) and not directly, concretely,
    individually (see “What
    kinda company with God is possible?
    “, “The
    third way of life in this world
  5. The natural nature of human happiness. See “Autarky
    escape from the hedonic treadmill
    ” and “Please
    define happiness!
  6. The natural nature of transformation. See “Is
    wisdom indirect?
    ” and “Natural
    transformation in the church
  7. The meaning of visible elements in the gospel faith. See
    in der Beziehung zu Gott?
    ” and “Learning
    the Lord’s supper anew

Demystification effects so far

I just can write from my own experiences here so far. First of all,
my faith got much more justifiable – I remember when I was once unable
to argue with someone why I thought character transformation in the
church would be a supernatural act of God and not just education. Now,
I’d say transformation
is indeed natural
, but that does not weaken my faith. Instead, I
got a much clearer view what I can expect for a conformation of my
faith by experience: the contemporary miracles of God, which I’d really
like to document in the “Second Acts” project. The clarity here comes
from a conscious division between explicitly supernatural elements of
faith (miracles and where God indeed speaks individually and directly
to us or guides us concretely) and “naturally implemented” elements of
faith like transformation, communication with God by truth, the freeing
effects of truth, the nature of happiness, the nature of faith
(humbleness), the essence of the congregation and the symbolic-only
meaning of visible elements like the Lord’s supper and baptism. The
naturally implemented elements of faith are real and belong to faith
but constituate no experiences that justifiably confirm our faith –
they need not either, as there are enough miracles out there yet to be
documented 🙂

I’d also say that my relationship to God got much more relaxed,
stress-free and liveable by demystification. The insight that this
world is “my universe” and God wants me to live in it by myself,
equipped with the truth he reveals, makes it easier to cope with
experiences of hardness and unrighteousness that would before have
shaken my faith in a “good” God. Now, they’re just what happens in a
fallen world; God did not intend them for me and will not concretely
remove these things out of this world (in some cases) as he’s sure I
can (learn to) handle because he equipped me with truth and with his
Spirit of Truth.

And by a stress-free relationship to God I also mean that I don’t
have to force myself into communion with God by reading the Bible or
something. Religious exercises are a myth that mostly comes from the
idea of “24/7 immediate communion with God”. Instead, in this mostly
“mediate relationship” to God, I hope I’ll emphasize loving my fellows
much more in the future, as this is how I can express obedience,
thankfulness, worship and appreciation for God. And Besides, a
relationship just has the quality it just has, and I simply (try to)
accept the relationship as it is, knowing that God will succeed in
making this relationship unfeigned and good some day.

Demystification issues not yet addressed

This list contains, to my current knowledge, the issues I need to
investigate further before I’d think that my practical living with God
is non-religious and sound. At this point of time I will hopefully be
able to proceed to put the “Second Acts” idea into practice, which is
to document critically and objectively the supernatural acts God does
today, to confirm my faith and the faith of others. I know that
succeeding here and even being able to start this whole thing is not
dependent on my own creative power (what is this, actually) but on
God’s grace. The good news is, God is full of grace, so I
justifiably hope that this “Second Acts” thing will once be done!! And,
dear readers: you’re really really welcome to join me for this, so if
you share the same desire for seeing and soberly documenting God’s
contemporary acts, please let me know!

Now, the list of issues with (my) faith where demystification is
still needed to some degree:

  1. Marriage demystification. What is marriage in God’s
    view, actually? And what is the taboo-loaden human conception of it?
  2. Prayer. How to thank God for a meal without religious
    catchphrases? Probably, prayer is more about transhipping sorrows to
    God than to expect answers as from a wishing machine.
  3. The Holy Spirit. How can I recognize the admittedly
    supernatural stuff he dos within me? He seems to be
    perceivable as an “undirected positive force” in a Christian, but how
    to prove scientifically that others don’t have this that way and that
    this force is supernatural?
  4. The Revelation of John. How to deal with the symbolism
    of this bible book without introducing religious meta-physics and
    unverifiable exegetic myths?
  5. Decision finding. How to deal adequately with the
    freedom God grants us regarding concrete decisions? How to know where
    God indeed wants us to be obedient to some concrete hint or command?
  6. Objective view on miracles. Most contemporary miracle
    reports carry some religious bias, as opposed to the sober style how
    the bible documents miracles. So sadly, many miracle reports today will
    probably turn out to document natural phenomena only.
  7. Conversion. Is it a naturally implemented phenomenon or
    is some naturally unexplainable miracle implied?
  8. Who belongs to God? What is really meant by being saved
    exclusively by Jesus?
  9. Has the Bible supernatural effects? Is it the
    “supernatural word of God with strength of its own”, or is e.g. dynamic
    understanding of bible passages (i.e. an understanding which changes
    over time) a natural phenomenon which can be observed with other texts
  10. The theodicy,
  11. The subtle acts of God. I don’t really know what this
    will be about, but it deems to me that the greatest part of what God
    does today is subtle in nature and difficult to recognize.
  12. What means that our supply comes from God?
  13. What is the nature of God’s promises? Where does God
    promise average results, and where individual concrete blessings he’ll
  14. What does the devil and the demons really do? And where
    do we only thing they do something, while it is a natural consequence
    of this world’s quality, e.g. a bad coincidence? And, what is the
    nature of how evil spirits work: do they do evil concrete deeds, or are
    they an undirected evil force in people’s mind?

Start date: 2007-09-29
Post date: 2007-09-29
Version date: 2007-09-29 (for last meaningful change)

Yesterday and the day before that I thought about some commercial
activities I wanna get myself into. And I had to think about if that
sorta planning and intending is alright in God’s sight or not. As I
knew of some verses which say something hereunto but I wouldn’t
understand. Me thinks I got some better conception now. Here are these

(13) Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go
to such and such a town, stay there a year, conduct business, and make
money.” (14) You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your
life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
(15) Instead you should say, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live—and
do this or that.” (16) But you boast about your proud intentions. All
such boasting is evil. [James
4:13-16 ISV

The Int’l Standard Version cited here preemptively takes you on the
right track. Until yesterday I had the following conception based on a
German translation [James
4:15 GerElb1905
]: it depends on the concrete will of God if we live
another day, and God might want that or the opposite for us; and
likewise for what God wants us to do concretely; so only in the
incident when God wants us to live another day and do what we
plan to it will come to pass. To me, this now smells like folk
religiousness. Let me explain why and then conclude with an alternative
(and grammatically justified) translation.

Men’s duality as a created creator

God created the human being to be “his image” [Genesis
1:26 ESV
]. According to the verse just quoted this means that man
should have dominion above all other things in this world – just as God
has dominion above all things in the whole known and unknown universe.
Man resembles God in that the world is his universe. So man can be
called the “god in this world”, perhaps see [Psalms
82:6 ESV
] for that.

So man is in a complex relationship: in the direction toward God he
is the creature, and in the direction towards this world he is the
creator. As the creator, man can work and build and reach and govern
something; as a creature, he should know that he lives because of the
goodwill and grace of his creator. Sadly, his creator is invisible
while the things he can create are visible; which serves as a steady
temptation to deem oneself as creator only. Which obviously would not
be appropriate to reality.

Nonetheless, Adam tried it, and every human being since him: we
wanted to be just as God, a creator only, not just a humble creature.
It deems us unjust that God demands us to be humble creatures while he
allows himself to be creator only. But he does not! God is Father and
Son (and Spirit), and as such Creator and Creature in “personal union”.
So the error begins with the misconception of God when we want to be
“just as God”. What we want is to break “free” from love … we wanna
be egoistic, wanna have all for ourselves. This is not just confined to
the love relationship to our creator only, but affects also the
relationships to our wife or husband, to our children and to nature. So
the deepest cause of all of man’s problems is his rebellion … against

But: there is no way except love; where there is more than one
entity, there is society, and society without love does not work.
Between complimentary entities, love is respect in one direction and
care in the other; and every human being has part in many such
complimentary love relationships, so cannot complain that this is
unjust. Human beings are to respect God as their creator, yet care for
their fellows; husbands are to care for their wifes, while wifes are to
care for their children (here, in their natural, worthy role as mother,
which is being closest to the children). Children are to respect their
mother, and wifes are to respect their husband, and husbands are to
respect God. In Paul’s words:

Now I want you to realize that Christ is the head of every
man, and man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. [I
Corinthians 11:3 ISV

So man’s task is to live both things out at the same time, in love:
being creature and creator. In the directions towards God this demands
just obedience to love, and humbleness before God (in the most positive
sense of the word) [Micha
6:8 ESV
]. A lack of humbleness towards God might be expressed by
explicit rebellion. Or it might be expressed by a lifestyle that is
intended to convey complete independence from God, so as if we’d be
immortal by our own virtue. James denounces exactly this lifestyle in
the concerned passage [James
4:13-16 ISV
]. As an example of explicit rebellion against God
(hidden in all kinds of God-independent lifestyles) let’s have a look
at what is said about Nimrod and the Tower of Babylon after the deluge:

(2.) Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront
and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a
bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to
ascribe it to God, as if it was through his means they were happy, but
to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness.
He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other
way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a
constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on
God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he
would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and
that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers!
(3.) Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of
Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and
they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree
negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands
employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect;
but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built,
that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it
really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar,
made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water. [Flavius
Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, book 1, chapter. 4, paragraph. 2-3

There are many more interesting considerations about how to deal
with our createdness adequately. For example, James advises to express
an adequate, humble attitude towards our creator in some way [James
4:15 ISV
]. How can we do this today, without resenting to the
stereotypical religious expressions or the folk religiousness often
found in prayers before meals. Or, what the “tree of life” in paradise
means here: in my view, there is reason to think that only regular
eating from this tree’s fruit guaranteed eternal life and healing from
injuries and illnesses; thereby man was remembered of being dependent
(ultimately on God’s favor) and had no self-immanent eternal existence.
While by eating from the “tree of knowledge” man expressed the wish to
be independent “just like God” (with the misconception about God
implied that we discussed bove). Another thought: me thinks the book of
Ecclesiastes is a big advise how to live our createdness out adequately
… look for example at [Ecclesiastes
3:12-13 ESV
]. What do you think, guys 😉

James 4:15 re-understood

Now here’s how I would explain the verse I misunderstodd previously:

Instead you should say, “If the Lord wants us to live (as
he does, but it depends on that), we will live — will hopefully
do this or that.” [James 4:15 explained]

That’s because I conclude from context [James
4:14 ISV
] that John just wants people to recognize and live out
their createdness, i.e. our immanent transientness which is extended
day by day by the grace of our creator. James does not want to say that
God may want our death, but we must be conscient that God
wants our life [John
14:6 ISV
; I
John 5:11-12 ISV
; I
John 4:9 ISV
]. And that we live beauce God wants us to and not
because we want to. After all, we normally die not from God’s will but
from sin and a sinful world, that is, from our wish to be independent
of our creator’s sustaining grace. And he does not want to say that
what we can do concretely depends on what God wants us to: but the
freedom to be able to do “this or that” comes from God.

Start date: 2007-09-27
Version date: 2007-09-29 (for last meaningful change)

In this post, I take you on a journey to a fictional church you’ll
love and to one you’ll hate. Then I explain a paradox: to become the
spiritually strong church you love, it must be composed of weak people,
in human terms; and to become the spiritually weak church you hate,
strong people are enough. Hopefully you’ll feel encouraged to display
much more of your weakness in church. Dear folks: let’s get authentic

A weak church made of strong people (fictional story)

You might say I am on an odyssey through the various churches.
You’re wrong. I just found no church of sufficient quality. It started
with that little Methodist church in my home town. From age age 16 on,
I started to serve the LORD in the youth group of that church. I was
determined to kick all that old-fashioned stuff outa that church as it
deterred my youth group and the people we invited. So when we were
allowed to conduct the service at Christmas Eve we did it all
different, playing with e-guitars, bass, drums, and dancing before the
church, introducing our new style. The young people who’d been forced
in here (“It’s only once a year!”) started to rave, and some of the old
people left. We had some wrangling around the PA equipment when the
vice pastor tried to unplug the amplifier, but succeeded to praise the
LORD without any traditional ballast during the worship time. In the
end, I had to do some talk with the pastor who argued that our kind of
excessive music was unbearable here as it tended to provoke an
excessive, ungodly life. When I started to discuss the matter soberly,
I was deposed from my yout service. When I started to speak about the
matter with various church attendents after the service I was termed an
heretic and got barred from church.

So I decided that those people were too stubborn to hear the
The right faith is not the part of all people, the Bible comments on
such occasions. It was hard for me to find a new church in my town as
the pastor had written letters of “recommendation” to them, so I moved
home. Next station was a charismatic congregation. Sadly they had
already many prophets and teachers, so there was nothing to do for me
(as regards the gifts I received from my LORD), and they wouldn’t let
me either. Next I went to Bible college and met some people from a
quite cute church, but they had untolerable (I mean, really
untolerable) views on marriage, viewing it as the only sexual
allowed by God. To make things worse, it turned out that the Bible
teacher at my college thought that way, too. I couldn’t believe such
religious stubbornness in beginning third millenium, so far from
Discussions did not help here, we only agreed that God was on our
(respective) side only. So I
nailed 95 theses (version 2.0) to the college and church door and left.

Now I’m in a really big church and I learned something: the right
people must exceed in number or cleverness, or they’re lost. We’ve here
several councils and boards to discuss every single question of the
church. And I learned that it is just as in politics: you need to
partnership with those people who think alike, to stuff the mouth of
all these trash-talkers out there (as the Apostle Paul said). Fighting
for the Gospel is a hard task (foremost, to fight those religious
people in our church who emphasize a “personal, humble relationship” to
Jesus so much and tend to not respect our leadership as the Bible
admonishes them to do). But I’d say that fighting for the Gospel is a
rewarding task also … at least if viewed from an eternal perpective.

A strong church made of weak people (fictional story)

I remember these feelings when I left work today … ‘t felt like
roaming about for some hours, bearing the weight of my thoughts to
avoid these quarrels in Hypogeon. From us 20 who met there regularly
only 8 were left. Exactly those who couldn’t go elsewhere ’cause we
lived there. I remember that I walked around somewhat, sitting down at
that little sea we called the “mirror lake”. Tried to pray somewhat as
the air was all-too-empty. Asked the Lord what’d be a good idea to do
now. No answer, as usual. “You cannot leave me that alone, Lord. I jus’
dunno how to deal with that stuff … at this thing I used to call
home.” No answer. Perhaps I need none.

Perhaps I need none, I thought. Mmh. Perhaps the Lord thinks I
what to do. Perhaps he teached me in times past. Ummh … ok, then,
give it a try. The usual thing to ask is, what’d Jesus do. Well,
perhaps he’d go the undermost way. He humbled himself … I read that
so often. I remember sitting there, knowing the true thing to do, and
knowing that I was goint to not do it. I’d lurk about here, get me some
food lateron, lurk “home”, in my bed, and go to work tomorrow as early
as possible. No solution, I knew it. I suddenly thought of Daryl and
the crazy way we made it up with each other after that story with
Kacie. This flirtation thing got our little community always into hot
water … that time, we were both courting for Kacie. Daryl had joined
the Hypogeon recently, so I expected him to respect the friendships
already there. He did not. We did not talk a word ’cause of that. It
contaminated the whole atmosphere, so that Kacie did not show up for
the meals any more, to not complicate stuff further. Some of the other
girls joined her. Haig advised me to accept Kacie’s decision whatever
that might be, but I did not want to lose her. Not at all.

Then some Monday eve’ after Daryl came from a walk with Kacie, he
was sorta thoughtful, coming straight up to me, saying we should
probably talk. Jus’ ignored him. He waited for me next morning, knowing
I’d breakfast and leave the house for work earlier than all the others.
He told me that he had changed his mind, realizing that there were more
possible wifes for him than Kacie, in a world of 6 billion people. He’d
quit courting for Kacie, even proposed to fully withdraw from
interfering by promising to never partnership with her. I’d need some
days to realize his noble-mindedness was real … and it took me a good
deal of courage and some hard prayer time to finally make my peace with
Daryl. We then would sit in the book pool room, praying together about
the whole thing, confessing our pride to each other and asking for
forgiveness, praising Jesus for making such reconciliation possible by
his Spirit, and I even was able to pray that he’d find another good
wife. Daryl and me had been best friends the last few months.

Something generated the question in me: why should my “home”
dissolve about the present quarrels when it was possible to get over
this much harder issue with Daryl and me? Our present issue was with
the common purse … we had taken in Reko, an ex-junkie, Cheyanne, a
deeply depressed girl who was mistreated at home and an unemployed
couple from Brazil (Damian and Natalee), and at the same time three of
us had lost their job. From then on, we had “lively discussions”: some
wanted to kick out the newly arrived members, some wanted to get Reko
and Cheyanne to search a job (without success), some wanted to make
everybody return to an own purse, some wanted to dissolve the whole
community thing due to our regular “financial disasters”.

Thinking back about all the character-curing acceptance I had
experiences in the Hypogeon I got motivated to stay, whatever that
might mean financially. That was a big step, as I was one of those who
wanted to get rid of Reko and Cheyanne. Which meant I had something to
sort out with brother Reko and sister Cheyanne … no easy job, as it
is never easy to confess that you’ve been such an ass. Back in Hypogeon
I met them in the living room and got that job done … praises, Lord.
That kinda relaxedness that creeped in now was awesome: we prayed for
each other, them guys forgiving me in the name of Jesus, and Cheyanne
would thank God for a brother like me who’d have such a courage. Then
Reko swooped for a guitar and we’d improvise some songs … mostly
about the beauty of forgiving, and of course, being so totally forgiven
by Jesus. I got this impression of being loved through and through by
my Lord … an impression I had lost (or, given up) in our financial
worries. It’s a feeling of being accepted in a way you cannot get rid
of, by a person who is for you absolutely, honestly, unfeigned and
forever. And exactly this feeling was fleshed out in the Hypogeon as I
got to know it when I joined. That kinda love has had a deep impact on
me, and now was probably the time to show what I’ve learned. The time
to accept those four new troubled persons the way I was accepted. I
knew that the ice of this whole conflict had been broken by the
reconciliation of Reko, Cheyanne and me, and felt this community
atmosphere of “brutally honest authenticity” arise again, this
flow-state like area where it was everyone’s enjoyed business to
actively stake our reputation daily by letting our fellow members see
our weaknesses and letting them know our failures, and at the same time
earning the relaxedness and intimacy of such really authentic

Explain this: weak strength and strong weakness

In physics, forces are discerned by their results. The same in
church: a “strong” force must be present where lives change to be more
like Christ’s. What comes to our find first are “strong” human
qualities: being assertive enough to get one’s way, or cunning enough
to win arguments, or numb enough to fight through heated quarrels, or
adapted enough to survive in a hostile world. These change actions,
projects, customs, organizations, even societies, every aspect of the
outer world. But not characters, not the inner worlds, not even one’s
own. So they all do not qualify to be the strength in a church. So
human strength let a church remain weak.

Such manipulative forces cannot change characters because there’s a
stronghold around each character: nobody can maipulate my thoughts, my
will, my opinions. I myself am in total control here. So the only way
to change my characters is when I open up the stronghold, when I agree
to be changed. That’s to lose my pride, to acknowledge my poor
character quality, to admit that I’m not in control of my life, to see
there is need to change, to admit all this to others, to accept
encouragement and correction. Let’s summarize: these are the attributes
of  weakness (the human term). Exactly those weak people make up a
strong church, that is, a church where lives change. So human weakness
makes a church strong.

In the Bible, such human weakness is termed humbleness. When people
admit that Jesus is right and they are wrong, they become humble before
God. Then, Jesus’ truth can change their lives because they will allow
it. Sadly, we can lose this precious humbleness: betrayed confidence in
humany and misunderstanding God’s actions make us return to our
character’s stronghold, rendering it unchangeable again. Then, let’s
remember what holy church we desire to be a part of, let’s desire that
holy character that makes us part of it, and desire again these changes
that make us this character. Changing is risky, inconvenient and
renders us vulberable, but it’s surely worth the effort!!

Humbleness is what empowers God’s truth in our lives and in our
church. So a humble person and a humble church are highly dynamic: they
from glory to glory. But a proud person and a proud church are highly
static: they don’t change at all. Instead, they think they’re healthy
and refuse the doctor. Just as Jesus said: “Healthy people don’t need a
physician, but sick people do.”
[Jesus in Mt 9:12 ISV]. Humble people, those who acknowledge their
sickness, change without miracles: a humble person accepts
plain truth because it is true, and heals. Such truth can be read in
the Bible
since millenia … no need for Jesus to repeat this to us personally
… and audibly. This means transformation is a natural phenomenon, as
argued for in the previous blog post “Natural
transformation in the church
“. Also, this post gave some hints how
to live out the dynamics of the humble church – Sunday services are far
from enough here. You will realize that this needs much courage, much
breaking of social taboos. But, simply do this, it’s the way Jesus
intended his church to be! Be strong here 🙂

Humbleness, illustrated

If you have some breath left for reading, here’s a nice illustration
of humbleness as the essential part of sanctification and even revival.
It is from Roy Hession who was inspired by the east-African revival

Add the quotation about “Jesus the door” from Roy

Before I end this post, I need to get rid of a bunch of cute names
that I researched for the fictional texts. It would be awfully sad if
they get lost, so here they go, use them as it seems fit to you: Hannah
(f), Yakira (f), Yana (f),
Yonina (f), Kanya (f), Kaylyn (f), Danya (f), Qiana (f),
Raciela (f), Rebeca (f), Rhett (m), Cécile (f), Celina (f), Tam (m),
Abelone (f), Abegail (f), Agrona (f). 🙂

Start date: 2007-09-23
Version date: 2007-09-24 (for last meaningful change)

The Bible talks about the marriage relationship in Gen 1-2
somewhere, saying that a couple will become “one flesh”. This inspired
me to think about what this involves … and I must admit that I’m
deeply fascinated by the idea of “merging personalities” while I am
unable to grasp it due to my all-too-natural, all-too-human, egoistic
attributes. Sad situation. So, before going to sleep today, let me
marvel at a merge of two personalities into one, impossible for humans
yet, possible only in some defect part of the whole, but marvellous
alltogether. As marriage is the best “experimenting area” for
personality merges, the following lines are written from the view of a
(totally fictitious) couple:

Loosing those wishes
that covered my face
and they fly away like in fear
joining with yours to create something complicated in a different place.

What remains is just
a deep desire to remove the between
and to never know what will happen to us

My plans for us lost
their meaning
since there is no us any more
leaving something one
that is neither me nor you
and has its own way of life that is nor my nor thine
its own flavour that is neither mine nor yours
its own habits clothing friends food faith and whatsoever
everything new.

And I wondered where
this will bring me
when I realized that there was no “me” any more
and I stopped wondering.
The we is not wondering
but it knows not where it goes either
but it’s brave and curious
so it just moves with the flow.

Flowing with the flow
as if in gravitation from an unknown source
no need to care for our relationship
because there is none
there is just one
we am us.

Start date: 2007-09-16

Version date: 2007-09-16 (for last meaningful change)

Religious view on transformation in the Sunday service church

How do people get transformed in character? Here is a ridiculously simple answer: by hearing the “Word of God”. There’s also a bible verse for it: “[F]aith comes from listening, and listening comes through the word of Christ.” [Rom 10:17 ISV]. So the idea is that the “Word of God” is something special that transforms people supernaturally, probably because the Holy Spirit produces the “fruit of the spirit” [Gal 5:22 ISV]. If this notion is correct, then we’d be correct to offer a Sunday service, preach to them, and that’s it.

This view on transformation bears at least the following problematic implications:

  • Character transformation is supernatural. It is effected by God, cannot be done by men, and cannot be reproduced by natural means. Therefore, followers of other religions are suspected to be essentially untransformed people. Which is not appropriate to many non-Christians unfeigned kindliness and happiness.
  • Sunday services include a supernatural encounter with God. Where people think that God speaks through a sermon and transforms people supernaturally they start to think that a Sunday service means meeting God. Practical expressions include: the idea that one can be “close to God” when worshipping; the idea that our positive emotions when worshipping are something God creates in us; the idea that very prayer is a talk with God as close as interpersonal dialogue; the idea that God “speaks” to persons by purely subjective inner immpressions, feelings and thoughts, on a regular basis, and about quite meaningless details of practical living. These ideas are simply problematic because one finds testimonies to such phenomena also in religions with totally different content, i.e. where Christians would expect that God is not present (e.g. the LDS movement). Of course I admit that God does (sometimes) speak immediately through a sermon to people, e.g. be hidden prophetic elements. But it is a big difference to view this as the basic principle of transformation, or as rare occasions where people have special needs. And besides, transformation is not supernatural on these occasions either: God speaks, and that’s natural interfacing with people because people can speak also.
  • Didactics have to be avoided in the church. Where God is believed to transform people supernaturally through the sermon, human contributions are seen as inappropriate, even impediments. Therefore, didactically skillful teaching is avoided in church, resorting to ex-cathedra lessons. People might quote to support this:

    “(17) For Christ did […] send me […] to preach the gospel, not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (18) For the message about the cross is nonsense to those who are being destroyed, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved. […] (20) Where is the wise person? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? God has turned the wisdom of the world into nonsense, hasn’t he? (21) For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know God, God decided through the nonsense of our preaching to save those who believe. (22) Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, (23) but we preach Christ crucified. He is a stumbling block to Jews and nonsense to Gentiles,” [1 Cor 1:17-18,20-23 ISV]

    Note however that these verses speak about how the central, saving
    message of the Gospel is communicated, not about how people should be teached in the less central matters once they accepted Jesus as their

  • Naturally inviting conditions are inappropriate in the church. Again: where God is believed to transform people supernaturally, comfortable housing for a church is believed to be annoying accessory, and unspiritual. One of the best examples that I know of are served by some unpleasant church meeting rooms of closed brethren in Germany.

Natural transformation by truth …

As shown above, one might view transformation as solely the supernatural work of God, but experience indicates otherwise. In addition to the problematic implications shown above, here are confirmations that transformation happens in natural ways:

  • The truth will set you free. Some words from Jesus:

    “(31) So Jesus said to those Jews who had believed in him, “If you
    continue in my word, you are really my disciples. (32) And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (33) They replied to him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves to anybody. So how can you say, ‘You will be set free’?” (34) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly I tell you that everyone who commits in is a slave of sin. (35) The slave does not remain in the household forever, but the son does remain forever. (36) So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”” [John 8:31-36 ISV]

    Disciples (“learners”) of Jesus continue in his word, that is, continue to hear what he says [John 8:31 ISV]. In the course of doing so, they get to know the truth to the full, because Jesus will tell them the truth [John 8:31]. And this truth sets them free, esp. from the slavery of sin [John 8:34 ISV]. So Jesus presents sanctification as a result of learning the truth from him. And not of a supernatural immediate re-programming of the believer.

  • Accepting authority empowers education. Repentance is, basically, accepting God as authority. This is a proper foundation for successful education, as such people are willing to obey. There seems to be no need to demand other differences between Christians and non-Christians than this, which fully and naturally explains the differenteffect of Christian teaching on both groups. Repentence resp. accepting God as authority might also be verbalized as “being humble in spirit” (admitting to be wrong, where applicable, and turning one’s way) or to “convert”. Conversion experiences are also found in other religions, so they are natural and cannot prove the Christian faith to be true, as supernatural conversions (i.e. miracles) could. But this shouldn’t bother, as the Christian faith gets its proof from God’s supernatural signs (see below). It’s not the form that makes the Christian faith unique (there are other religions as well, where religion means pursuit of something supernatural), so there’s nothing to bother about when seeing analogies in form. But it’s its substance, its true content, that makes the Christian faith unique.
  • Christian education produces nice non-Christians. The character of people who where brought up in a Christian context but are not (yet) Christians themselves indicates that education builds character and that no supernatural work is implied therein.
  • Truth produces nice non-Christians. There are other religions which emphasize love and friendly behavior, and these religions produce authentically friendly people (at least to some degree). It is truth that love and friendly behavior are good things, so becoming loving and friendly people is here an educational effect of this truth.
  • Everything human is spiritually relevant. Psychological defects like being overly shy due to some traumatic experiences of rejection are of spiritual relevance because they are impediments to spiritual life (here, to encouraging andreproaching people). Character transformation here needs to cope with “psycho-mechanical” issues, and it does, my “psycho-mechanical” means (education). The idea that human attributes like temperament are “unspiritual” is itself unspiritual: we are the collection of our human attributes. God does not want to free us from our human attributes until we are some abstract spiritual being, but to cleanse and then perfect all of our human attributes.
  • Being a disciple. Jesus termed his followers “disciples”, i.e. learners; see e.g. [Luke 6:40 ISV]. Learning is a way how human beings get  deliberately “re-programmed” by experiences and teaching. To add some rather speculative thoughts: the human “spirit” might describe a  complex infomation system, not an atomic unit; see also my crazy article Wesen der Personhaftigkeit, Wesen des Geist-Seins. The human spirit might include the information system implemented in our brains, and some other information system which is independent of material substrate. So learning might be seen as changes to this “spirit program”. The “fruit of the Spirit” indicates something growing, so probably something that the Holy Spirits sows by teaching people the truth, and what then changed their “spirit program”, i.e., “grows up in them”.
  • The permanence of the flesh. Christians know something they call “sinful nature”, “flesh nature”, “flesh” and the like. It can be described as a program directed to do evil. Everybody has it, and the fact that Christians never get fully rid of it (though it gets weaker) proves that Christians remain “normal” people by substance, i.e. their character transformation is effected by education, not by substantial changes.
  • Natural effects of the Bible. Here’s a passage where Paul admonishes his young co-worker Timothy:

    “(14) But as for you, continue in what you have learned and found to be true, because you know from whom you learned it. (15) From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures that are able to give you the wisdom you need for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.(16) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (17) so that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [2 Tim 3:14-17 ISV]

    Note here that he attributes the source of the “Holy Scriptures” to
    God, but lists only natural effects: one learns them, may find them to
    be true, may have trust in those who taught them, may gain wisdom
    through them, may get teached, reproofed, corrected and trained in
    righteousness by them or by people who apply them. Together, these
    effects amount to a full transformation of character [2 Tim 3:17 ISV].
    So the Bible works by transporting truth and educating in the truth,
    just as every other book that contains truth. The Bible has no special,
    supernatural way of changing people. That God is the source of this
    book should not make us expect a quasi-magical mode of operation.

  • Challenging Bible passages. The natural, educational
    mode of operation in Christian teaching can be shown from various
    examples of Bible texts, which are Christian teaching and serve as the
    basis for further teaching. For example:

    “(11) Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and exiles to
    keep on abstaining from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. (12) Continue to live such upright lives among the Gentiles that, when they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good works and glorify God when he visits them in judgment.” [1 Pet 2:11-12 ISV]

  • God’s grace educates us.

    “(11) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing
    salvation to all people. (12) It trains us to renounce ungodly living
    and worldly passions so that we might live sensible, honest, and godly
    lives in the present world” [Tit 2:11-12 ISV]

    Paul uses here the word “παιδευοω” (Strong 3811), transliterated
    “paideuo”. It means to educate, parent, bring sb. up. Nothing about
    supernatural, quasi-magical experiences.

  • Educators in the church.

    “(11) And it is he who gifted some to be apostles,
    others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, and still others to be
    pastors and teachers, (12) to perfect the saints, to do the work of
    ministry, and to build up the body of Christ (13) until all of us are
    united in the faith and in the full knowledge of God’s Son, and until
    we attain mature adulthood and the full standard of development in
    Christ.” [Eph 4:11-13 ISV]

  • Recognizing God’s children. The fact that Christians
    should be recognizable needs not to imply a supernatural
    transformation. As with every children, it will be apparent who brought
    them up and educated them.
  • Where God’s word does not transform.

    “(6) For some of these men go into homes and deceive
    foolish women who are burdened with sins and swayed by all kinds of
    desires. (7) These women are always studying but are never able to
    arrive at a full knowledge of the truth.” [2 Tim 3:6-7 ISV]

    These are people who do study the
    Word of God
    but do not get transformed because they don’t want to
    accept truth in exchange for their lustful life. So not the Word of God
    transforms (in some supernatural way), but it communicates truth, which
    would transform people
    upon accepting this truth.

  • The Spirit as the implantation of God’s law. The
    following promise of God for the New Covenant seems like a confirmation
    for the view that God supernaturally transforms people by directly
    re-programming them, changing their substance or implanting something
    in them:


    “I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new
    spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your
    flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” [Ezechiel 36:26 WEB]

    But read on:

    I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk
    in my statutes, and you shall keep my ordinances, and do them.
    [Ezechiel 36:27 WEB]

    Viewing this as an explanation of the preceding verse, the “new spirit”
    and “new heart” is identical to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
    Which is a person, communicating with the persons she dwells in. By
    teaching the truth ever and ever “from the inside”, the Holy
    Spirit is God’s law “in our hearts”. So the difference to OT
    is not a supernatural change in our substance but having the Holy
    Spirit as a companion who will never leave as he did back then. Thus,
    we will never be without the truth any more, never lost in a situation
    where transformation stops because nobody tells us the truth.

  • God’s educational dealings with peple. From the Holy
    Spirit it is said that he is the Spirit of Truth [John 14:17 ISV] and
    that he teaches and reminds Christians of all that Jesus teached and
    said [John 14:26 ISV]. So it appears that even where God (through his
    spirit) interferes immediately with individual people, he does not
    change them supernaturally but educates them, using natural means such
    as interpersonal education.

… and supernatural confirmation of truth

Christians believe in the supernatural reality of God and his son
Jesus Christ, whom the believe to be their savior. In the above
discussion of practical Christian living we found a natural mechanism
only: transformation by education. Natural mechanisms could work
without God, or if God would cease to be. In fact, education (to the
good) is at work in other religions, which Christians believe
to be “without God”. So natural mechanisms cannot
prove believed supernatural content: the Christian day-to-day
experience serves no justification to believe in God.

This is a problem. Therefore, God shows up and proves the believed
supernatural content by supernatural acts:

“(3) It was the Lord who first told people how to be saved.
Then those who heard him told us the true way. (4) God also proved that
it was the true way. He gave signs. He did things that surprised
people. He did many things by his power. He gave the gifts of the Holy
Spirit to people just as he wanted to.” [Heb 2:3-4 BWE]

“(17) “These are the signs that will accompany those who
believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new
tongues; (18) they will pick up snakes in their hands; even if they
drink any deadly poison it will not hurt them; and they will place
their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” […] (20) The
disciples went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord kept working
with them and confirming the message by the signs that accompanied it.”
[Mark 16:17-19,20 ISV]

“(7) They made them stand in front of them and began
asking, “By what power
or by what name did you do this?” (8) Peter, filled with the Holy
Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people! (9) If we are
being questioned today for a good deed to someone who was sick or to
learn how this man was healed, (10) you and all the people of Israel
must understand that this man
stands healthy before you because of the name of Jesus from Nazareth,
whom you crucified but God raised from the dead. […]”” [Acts 4:7-10

Of course, Mark 16:20 does not imply that the Lord does nothing else
on earth that performing these signs (think of answerig prayers, e.g.).
But this verse shows that signs are there to prove believers to be
right. And not to help the believers in their everyday life. Healing is
not to help people
but to show God’s power and character, so it’s not unjust that some
people don’t get healed.

God also justifies the content applied in transformational education
by these supernatural acts. And by contemporary supernatural acts he
shows that all this content is still true. With such an
enormous confirmation for our faith, there’s no problem with
transformation by natural means: as there’s no need any more to search
for confirmation in a supposedly supernatural transformation process.

Here’s a short explanation why God’s supernatural acts indeed prove
Christian’s believed supernatural content. Truth means that the
difference between reality and a piece of information about reality is
zero. In post-modern times people realized that their ability to
perceive reality is quite limited, so they argued that we can never get
to know the absolute truth. This neglects, however, that truth might be
revealed to us by a being that knows better than we, namely, by an
omniscient God. God shew his omniscience and character of integrity
throughout history to let people experience that he can be trusted.
That is, trusted in what he says about Jesus today. One problem
remains: as God is invisible, we know about him by information, which
is a coded representation of reality, referring with names like “Jesus
Christ” to entities of reality. But how can we be safe from
misinformation, perhaps coming from evil sources to deceive us? How can
we be sure what information about God is true? The answer is simple:
“God” is per definition the mightiest being, so he can hinder other
beings from misusing certain names. He proves that Jesus is his son and
the Messiah by laying power to the name of Jesus: outstanding miracles
happen “in the name of Jesus”, which are impossible in any other name,
showing that there is a connection between Jesus and the Almighty.
Jesus told of several such signs [Mark 16:17-18 ISV], and gramatically,
the term “in my name” refers to each of them, is the centerpiece of all
these signs. This, by the way, explains why non-Christians are able to
do miracles “in the name of Jesus” [Mt 7:21-23 ISV]: God lets them
happen as he wants to give evidence that Jesus is the Christ, not that
the miracle-workers are godly people.

Summing up: natural transformation by truth makes up a natural,
non-religious day-to-day life; and supernatural confirmation of truth
makes up a sure,
justifiable faith in God. The separation between the natural, normal
and the
supernatural, exceptional element in Christian living is probably
sharp, that is, everything belongs either fully to one or fully to the
other category. At least, the difference is much sharper than most
Christians believe; wherefore it could be described as a “dichotomy”.

20 ideas to freak out of Sunday service church culture

It made me feel quite relaxed and free when I realized that
transformation is effected by education, and that it’s religious to
believe that all transformation is supernatural. Which is my
expericence for today that the truth sets us free [John 8:32 ISV]. I’m
free from the burden of eliciting or imagining ongoing supernatural
events in a “naturally supernatural
Christian life”. This new freedom grants some fascinating new thought
about congregation!! Originally, I wanted to name this article “I don’t
believe in church anymore”, and to whine about congregations being
without a sweeping effect on people. I wanted to give up hope for this
to ever change, as I never saw anything different and had no idea what
was wrong. Missing any rewarding or motivating effect, I wanted to
resign active service for the congregation thing, focusing on
intentional community as an alternative for personal sanctification.
Now, things have changed. If transformation happens by education in the
truth, we are welcome and even obliged to apply truth in our
congregations in ways that change people radically, intensely,
absolutely crazed, and even more radically, to more and more personal
Christ-likeness. Here are 20 ideas, and you might have some more:

  1. Encouraging lowering the privacy barrier. One of the
    biggest impediments to an educational church is our reluctance to
    approach one another, be it for correction or encouragement. At least
    in Germany. Because privacy is a taboo, and we fear uncomfortable
    experiences when ignoring it. There are some things we can do to lower
    our sense of privacy, especially growing mutual trust: being together
    until as a group until it feels “normal”, common undertakings and the
    like, see also below. But the biggest part is to get the courage to
    ignore the privacy taboo, even risk the relationship to somebody to
    help him or her. Interfere with people, get in their way. Pray for
    this. And, again, a practical tip, origninally from Dale Carnegie:
    practise what you fear and you’ll lose your fears.
  2. Communal setting. The kind of rooms can hinder or foster
    the educational purpose of a congregation, because education is
    implemented in natural means. Rooms that invite to hang around,
    socialize and spend time with people, in groups and in one-to-one
    settings, foster mutual education through the application of individual
  3. Supporting the family. Families are the basic units of
    education, and children experience a 24/7 education therein, which is
    close to ideal if the education’s quality is close to ideal.
  4. Pooling books. When the members of a church pool their
    books, cheap access to pre-selected quality lecture is possible for all
    without problems. This is by far better than to sell books in church,
    which is often practised today.
  5. Experiencing extraordinary situations together. Risky
    undertakings, dangerous situations (even moderately dangerous ones) and
    other extraordinary stuff binds people together as it produces “social
    ecstasy”, tipping over many taboos. Volunteering as a team to help in
    catastrophy relief and humanitarian missions is a practical idea here.
  6. Travelling together. These times will turn out to be
    filled with intensive community, mutual openness and mutual dependence,
    also in practical issues. Remember Jesus and his disciples on these
    dusty roads. Also, you’ll undergo lots of extraordinary situations
    together, binding you together.
  7. Doing sports together. Can have some of the effects of
    travelling together. Also, physical efforts makes people come out of
    their shell.
  8. Making music together. Avoid the typical presentation
    setting where one worship group plays the music and others sing along.
    Instead, create an open setting for several hours where people are
    encouraged to take part in prominent and experimental ways, like
    improvising another part when singing, playing percussion and so on.
    Things are fine when the groups happens to play in flow state, as then
    all reluctance to interfere with each other, to take a prominent
    position and to make errors is gone, and this will lower interpersonal
  9. Temporary community living. Weeks oder months long
    phases of being together 24/7 could turn out to be times of intensive
    character changes. Because one has to bear all those nice people 24/7.
    After such phases, a recreation phase might be advisable, i.e. a
    temporary return to Sunday service congregationalism. Practically,
    community living might take place in somebody’s home, but people must
    not be reluctant to experience the proximity.
  10. Intentional community integration. At least one part of
    the congregation might be an intentional community, inviting especially
    broken people as a community setting provides a better opportunity to
    help those who need more care.
  11. Intensive discipleship. Practise much mutual
    encouragement and correction.
  12. Training in interpersonal communiction. Thinks like not
    interrupting people, developing trust, detecting and describing one’s
    own emotions, detecting and understanding other people’s emotions,
    special hints for cross-gender communication.
    Women practise sometimes a special variant: they take an audio-visual
    lecture (they view a soap-style feature movie), then discuss the
    character’s emotions, decisions etc..
  13. Training in convincing people. Where transformation is
    natural and conversion is no miracle, mission is the attempt to
    convince people of the truth. God’s Spirit will do the same when on
    mission: using sommunication to convince people.
  14. Training to rebuke people. Peope are reluctant to say no
    and to criticize people because they don’t know how. So train this, by
    enacting ficticious situations, videotaping and then discussing them in
    the group. This idea can be extended to enacting complex social
    situations, perhaps even creating a feature film from this, thus
    training social competency. Then, more realistic situations can be
    created by performing real talk show discussions with non-Christians,
    perhaps to be sent over an community channel / open channel.
  15. Coaching in approaching people. Getting to know new
    people and approaching people naturally is no wide-spread
    qualification, at least not in some western industrial countries like
    Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland. Wherefore sharing this
    qualification in practical midtown hands-on exercises is a good idea.
  16. Training in pastoring and counselling. Modern management
    sometimes likes agile systems, e.g. training everybody in everything.
    Why not train everybody in church in pastoring?
  17. Being enthusiastic about good. “[Jesus] gave himself for
    us to
    set us free from every wrong and to cleanse us so that we could be his
    special people who are enthusiastic about good works.” [Tit 2:14 ISV].
    Enthusiasm is a typically human attribute, something natural. And as
    such it has its place in church.
  18. Non-religious emotionality. Because supernatural
    encounters with God are the rare case, we should not expect this to
    happen every Sunday morning. Which means for our emotions, to view them
    as natural phenomena. If we do so, we can use them in non-religious
    ways: being exceedingly emotional in a Sunday service is fully
    appropriate for every guy and gal, if its a reaction to what we know
    about Jesus, not to what we think Jesus says to us right now.
    That is, if it does not bear the idea of being effected immediately by
    Jesus (or
    the communion with him) in this very moment.
  19. Non-religious use of religious language. Religious
    is outrageously suggestive of immediate encounters with God, things
    that God said to individual people and stuff. However, a prosaic view
    on the Christian day-to-day life as being essentially natural needs not
    result in prosaic language. To express the greatness of God and our hope
    to see it, we might use religious and lyrical imagery language, if we
    know what we’re getting into: if used with non-religious intention,
    images are just images and must not be understood word-for-word.
  20. Using diverse didactic means. Seeing the huge
    educational aspect of church, I wonder why we think it fit to use
    lecture-style teaching only (in the sermon). Didactics offers so much
    more possibilities, and for most cases at least one better one
    (audio-visual education, computer-aided instruction, hands-on
    experiences, discussion groups etc. etc.). People who are gifted from
    God to be teachers should discover the didactic implied in their task.
    Today, church is perhaps the only place where out-dated ex-cathedra
    teaching is the predominant form of education, and is even widely
    believed to be the ideal!

One word of caution: we’ve seen that it is fully o.k. and “spiritual”
to desire a better
educating church, one that changes, not just teaches people.
But one must keep the focus on deep education that changes character,
not just drills behavior. Though Christian living comes by education,
there is a big difference
between quick and dirty drill of behavior and real transformation of
character. Especially the performance goals of strategic church
planting tend to seduce our focus from transformation to drill, e.g.
when we’re contented with appropriate visitor numbers in the church
services — wherefore it might be advisable to dismiss all goals and
just be the church, everybody with his and her gift; see also my
article [Be
your congregation
]. Then we’ll hopefully be surprised one day by an
“unplanned” deep transformation process in our church.

Answering objections

Here is some possible criticism, and some answers to that. This section is in draft state yet.

  • When character transformation is a natural process, why are
    people obviously unable to transform themselves?
    Perhaps, the
    (religious or humanistic) self-education of people towards truth fails
    because our quality is below a certain threshold. See for example the
    French Revolution, which succeeded and preceded tyranny with
    brotherhood. So we need Jesus to educate us personally, where no man is in place to do it. And because we were not even able to recognize the truth ourselves [citation needed], we needed Jesus to come down from heaven and tell us (that which is now traduced in the Bible). Note however, that education by people is the normal case, and immediate education by Jesus or the Holy Spirit the exceptional case.
  • How to deal with the fact that God educated Israel all the time and they did not get changed in character? There are some possible answers:
    • some individuals only did change in character, which is just
      the same as in Christianity today
      there is one supernatural element implied today: that God gave us his Holy Spirit which wants” to do God’s will in us though another part of us does not; but a basic directedness towards God is there, the basis for effective education
    • they did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit as a continuous educator
  • We need here a good exegesis of Jesus’ words “Nobody can come unto me it be then that the Father draws him.”
  • When being filled with the Holy Spirit, people’s character changed spontaneously, didn’t it? It seems that being “filled with the Spirit” is about short-term empowerment. Peter’s courage at Pentecost towards heathen and in dangerous situations and his lack of courage towards those of James lateron illustrates this. Being “filled” is no change of character: it’s ability that is not our own. While God’s education indeed changed our very character (see Hebrews on that: where is a father who does not discipline his child).

Here is the “third way” style of growing congregations, which I believe to be nearest to New Testament practice. Lets look at the two ways first, then at the third way.

Way 1: build your congregation

There are fellow Christians who believe that the best one can do to God’s kingdom is to employ the modern strategies of business management and controlling. There’s much talk about strategy and doing this and that, but little about being a holy character and the natural expression of this. To give feeling of this way of church planting, here’s what service is made of in phase 2 of 4 in one such program:

  1. Work as director’s assistent in two ministry teams.
  2. Member and director’s assistent in a cell group.
  3. Preach once in each quarter year.
  4. Moderate Sunday services.
  5. Attend director team meetings, pastoral team meetings, elder’s team meetings, deacon group meetings, LITE assemblies (leader in training and encouragement).
  6. Organize and lead a discoverer group series twice a year.
  7. Networking: 12 hours a week, ca. 9 contacts.
  8. Pastoral care: at least two people a week.
  9. Hospitality: at least once a week.

[Dr. Stephen Beck: “CITY Mentoring Programm“, accessed 2007-09-01; original in German]

Before making up your opinion about this, you might want to read related material. Beck mentions in his “CITY Mentoring Programm” the “Church Planter’s Manual”, which is: Timothy J. Keller, J. Allen Thompson: Church Planter Manual (sadly not for download). This book is published by the Redeemer Church Planting Center, a ministry of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. So perhaps take a look at their pages … .

Now, when looking at the New Testament records, it appears that the early church had no such to-do lists as the above one. No step by step plan how to spread over the whole earth. One cannot find an explicit or implicit testimonial to this in the NT texts. Disprove me if I’m wrong. If spreading the Gospel and missionary activity would be this kind of strategic work, who could argue successfully that Christianity is more than any other religion which relies on this? Like, say, the missionary activity in the LDS Church, which is actually a really good example.

Way 2: wait for God to build your congregation

There are other fellow Christians who believe that it’s basically not the task of humans to build a local congregation, but instead God’s task. They expect God to initiate the fundamental changes and steps in each single local congregation. That is, they expect God’s concrete agency in dealing with each congregation.

A problem with this way is, when looking at the New Testament records, it appears that the early church had few concrete experiences with God’s agency in a local congregation, e.g. founding and building them. One cannot find an explicit or implicit testimonial to this in the NT texts. Disprove me if I’m wrong. For example, look at Paul’s travelling plans: the only example when God interfered concretely with Paul’s plans was when he sent him to Macedonia [Acts 16:6-10 ISV]. So there is no meaning in forbidding God to prescribe concrete stuff when on mission, as God would probably not care. But most decisions will not concretely depend on God’s agency. Which leads to the third way.

Way 3: be your congregation

And be it with all your life.

“(11) And it is he who gifted some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, and still others to be pastors and teachers, (12) to perfect the saints, to do the work of ministry, and to build up the body of Christ (13) until all of us are united in the faith and in the full knowledge of God’s Son, and until we attain mature adulthood and the full standard of development in Christ. (14) Then we will no longer be little children, tossed like waves and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, or by clever strategies that would lead us astray. (15) Instead, by speaking the truth in love, we will grow up completely into the one who is the head, that is, into Christ, (16) in whom the whole body is united and held together by every ligament with which it is supplied. As each individual part does its job, the body’s growth is promoted so that it builds itself up in love.” [Ephesians 4:11-16 ISV]

This indicates that, for growth and perfection, the “Body of Christ” needs the service of people gifted by God, but not God’s concrete, immediate deeds. In the average case, the “Body of Christ” builds up itself, that is, it has already all the necessary resources to do so. In practice, a local congregation is a so-called “complex system”, that is, it feeds back its own results as new input. This happens for example when on member can help another one by his gifts, and the other one in turn gets thus able to complement and help the first in another area.

Now let’s look at another passage:

“(31) So Jesus said to those Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are really my disciples. (32) And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (33) They replied to him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves to anybody. So how can you say, ‘You will be set free’?” (34) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly I tell you that everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. (35) The slave does not remain in the household forever, but the son does remain forever. (36) So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”” [John 8:31-36 ISV]

That “the truth will make you free” is in parallel to Ephesians 4:15 from above: “by speaking the truth in love, we will grow up completely” [Ephesians 4:15 ISV]. So we need “just” truth and love, which is apparently not God’s personal agency. Perhaps we can say, God does not “build” churches concretely, but he looks at the growing churches. They grow on the truth of the Gospel, without need for further concrete action on God’s side.

It is the truth that sets us free. This serves an interesting observation: Christian living is not “naturally supernatural”, instead, most of its positive effects are “natural” effects of the truth once a person came to know it. For example: I remember to have heard a story from a tribe of native south-Americans where 90% of all people dies from homicide committed by people of their own tribe (I think these were the Waorani people, but I’m unsure). Then after Christian missionaries told them that homicide is something bad and that God disguises it, this habit ended. So they got to be free from this slavery of fear, hurts and hate by the natural effect of learning the truth!

Now, of course, this is not all that has to be said here. God did not leave us “saved and alone”. Though not necessary for the growth of congregations or for holy Christian living, God’s concrete agency is important for our personal motivation, well-being and ever-new continued affirmation that what we believe is true.

Closing, I will summarize the third way in some sort of definition: a congregation grows as a complex system in an organic way; it does not need a global human-generated plan or the concrete agency of God; instead, it grows if every member serves with his resp. her gifts, that is, if the congregation lives out being a congregation, instead of planning to be one or waiting for God to make it one.

I imagine that this kind of being congregation could be really, really intense and transformational … changing peoples lives inside out and upside down. It just depends on being what we are: everybody at his and her place, being consequently what we have become so far, through the initial grace of God in Jesus which affected our lives so gracefully through the Body of Jesus Christ.

Here is one passage, however, which I was unable to integrate into this view. Perhaps you can help me do so, or disprove me from this passage:

(6) I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God kept everything growing. (7) So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is significant, but God, who keeps everything growing, is the one who matters. [I Corinthians 3:6-7 ISV]

Start date: 2007-09-01

Version date: 2007-09-09 (for last meaningful change)