Perspective Change or Just a Bad Day?

Since my parents moved interstate I don’t see them much. I was afraid that with the move into a small country town they would somehow just give up on following Jesus.

But it seems the reverse has happened.

So when Dad asked me to take him to a large Christian Bookstore during his recent visit, I put my aversion to seeing aisles and aisles of “Seven Sacred Steps to Financial Fabulosity” to the back of my mind and crossed over to the other side.

I told myself a trip to this Christian store may be good for me in my endeavours to finish writing my own book. However, after hearing Erwin McManus speak the other week I decided to change the book into something which is far less ‘Christian’.

And I’m glad I have.

As the uber-silent glass doors swished open and I entered the softly lit, musically ambient, perfectly cooled unnamed Christian bookstore, I saw book after book talking about emerging church… books about how the church has changed… My thoughts were, ‘The only people who really care about the emerging church are Christians, and the fact of the matter is that most of the people who care are so far removed from the world it won’t make a single bit of difference anyway!’

The second thought I had was, ‘Why bother talking about how the church has changed, because as far as I can see mainstream church has only at best begun to talk the talk of the revolution which I have seen occur within a small group of people. The church has not miraculously been transformed, so to say it has, is doing nothing but make the average pew warmer feel a little better!’

But then it happened.

My nervous meandering brought me into a giant forest of books under the title ‘Christian living’. I felt physically sick.

Christian Living? Come on – I thought we were called to live! In my mind it was the perfect example of how this ‘revolution’ some have claimed we have gone through is nothing but a load of hot headed empty words!

The isolation from the world still exists. “We” still separate ‘Christian living’ from ‘living’. Them and us. The good guys and the bad guys. The righteous and the unrighteous.

Some of you will be thinking I must be in a bad mood or that I’m just nit-picking or that I’m a heretic for blurring the line.

But please let me say this; I am more consumed by the primacy of the Gospel and the priority of evangelism then ever before!

I was at a ‘professional development plan day’ recently – it’s a new denominational thing where registered and ordained Ministers have to create, seek approval and follow through on a ‘professional development plan’ (PDP) in order to stay registered/ordained.

I have nothing against a PDP, in fact I strain myself in that area of my life. It’s a natural part of life if you chase after God!

But it can be challenging if those governing the system don’t have the same values as me. For example, it was suggested that young guys would need to seek the mentoring of ministers who have been around for a very long period of time in order for the mentoring to be approved.

The theory sounds right – young guys being mentored by older guys who have been around for awhile.

But as I looked around the room at some of these old guys, I knew they had not been too successful in leading people to Christ or leading churches in a journey which would take them out into the community to influence culture. Maybe some of them had missed the point of life all together…

I recall one of these guys actually telling a pastoral search committee when I first finished theological college that I was ‘too evangelistic’ to be considered for the position.

Now how is that possible? How is it possible to be too evangelistic?

In my mind some of these guys needed a young guy who didn’t mind crossing boundaries to mentor them. (In my mind some of these guys needed mentors just to reengage with society).

So despite my thoughts of the past couple of days… despite me thinking that we are still missing the point I am encouraged and more excited than ever to continue.

Why? Firstly Jesus is worth it! And second I have seen the transformed lives of those who’ve also been consumed by the primacy of the Gospel and the priority of evangelism.

I’ve seen people in my church plant dream more, risk more and dare to do more than what I have done recently, and it excites me to do it all over again!

These people are living contagious lives, they may not be successful in the way most people would measure them, but people who love Jesus and those who don’t yet love Jesus are following them, because they are truly living! Christian life… life… they are living a life into which all people are invited.


Alright it’s been 10 hours since I last wrote this article. I’m revisiting it before it’s published in the hope that I could rewrite in a fashion that was less confronting and friendlier. However, despite the passing of time, I can’t…

I can’t get over the mass producing of poor managers within the church as opposed to custom made people seeking after God… I can’t get over the constant desire of established religion to separate between ‘Christian life’ and ‘secular life’… I can’t get over the voices of many Christian leaders telling me that the ‘church’ has become more culturally relevant when those who are outside the church and looking in at the church and are saying ‘the answers sure aren’t there’…

And here is the thing I can’t get over the most… here is the thing that depresses me the most and make me so angry that I want to kick the cat (sorry Tiana (ie the cat))!

Why do I find myself getting sucked back into established religion?

Why do I find myself worrying about what other Christians might think?

Why do I even get upset when I try to explain myself to another minister only to be misunderstood and labeled as someone who should be ignored? For example, when I am with pastors I am labeled an ‘evangelist’ or when I am with evangelists I am labeled a ‘pastor’. The labeling somehow helps people to decide weather or not the information brought from that person is of any worth.

Why aren’t the primacy of the Gospel and the priority of evangelism the primal thing in all my life all the time? Why isn’t the priority of evangelism the thought in my mind in every action and word and deed I do?

I have a theory that one of the reasons why I fail in that area is because of my perspective. I need to change my perspective.

I need to read the scriptures and mediate on the things of God from a different mindset. Perhaps I need to approach theology from the mindset of someone who doesn’t feel forgiven by God in order to best present the Gospel to someone who also feels God is against them.

I think I am suggesting a new hermeneutic – one in which my established and unquestioned beliefs are challenged before hand. Hermeneutical spiral is something most of us who went to college would know and understand. To apply hermeneutical spiral to exegeting scripture, would be to first look at the Bible as a whole, then to observe which testament the passage is in. From here we would look at all the books written by this particular author, then to the specific book. After this look for divisions within the book. Now this may correlate to chapter division, but most probably will not. From here, we could look to paragraph divisions, then to sentences and finally to studying specific words.

I suggest where the most change is needed is in first step of examining the ‘Bible as a whole’. I am not suggesting we change our view on the Bible as the inspired word. But I am suggesting we examine the way in which we approach the Bible.

I’m not really sure I am able to explain this very well, so here’s an example. When you read the David and Goliath story, who do you tend to associate yourself with, David or Goliath? Most Christians I have met will naturally find themselves interpreting the passage through the eyes of David. But if we examine the passage through the eyes of Goliath we can find an entirely new perspective about the passage. A perspective which may be the perspective of many in our community who don’t yet follow Jesus.

I was one who naturally read that passage through the eyes of Goliath. I always felt like the giant who was shaking his fist at God. The challenge I feel for many of us is even just to become aware of our natural perceptions. Many of those natural perceptions have just been passed onto us and assumed to be all there is.

Let’s have a look a little further at one perspective which I suspect is one of the major contributors to the size of the ‘Christian living’ section at the unnamed Christian bookstore, that is, reading the scriptures from the perspective of ‘cause and effect’.

In the cause and effect model of thinking and interpretation of scriptures, if we employ a certain action then a certain consequence can be achieved. If we always read the Bible from this perspective it becomes very easy to imagine God as a rule maker. In fact, it may be why many of us have focused on the elimination of sin but at the cost of unleashing a new radical life. Elimination of sin equals life, right? Well, sort off. There is also the taking on board of new things as well isn’t there?

Nevertheless God is not some vending machine in which we put something in and expect a return. Do these seven things and your financial prosperity is assured….

The cause and effect approach to reading scripture is very limiting.

In reality God has no obligation to humanity. He is the cause and the effect!

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