I woke up this morning with something on my heart that I must confess. Before you decide whether or not you want to join, follow, pray for, or support the Reverence Movement, I feel that you should know one of my darkest secrets. Let me explain.
You see, when you become a Pastor in the Christian church, here in America, people from both sides automatically assume you’re a legalistic conservative. Before I continue, let's make clear what that means.
Legalism means excessive adherence to law or formula.
Conservative means to hold traditional attitudes and values and to be cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.
If, as a Pastor, you choose to subscribe to those views, you are generally safe in the traditional Christian community around you, but at odds with a majority of the un-churched. However, if you don’t feel that way, you may find yourself alone and with limited support from either side. Many times you end up hiding your feelings out of fear of backlash and condemnation. Probably, the closest I’ll ever get to an understanding of what if feels like to be gay, a Samaritan, a Muslim in America, poor or...Jesus.
Before I go any further and get labeled as a flaming liberal, let me say this; I don’t take sides, I reject that system altogether. The political system in America is as corrupt as it was in the Bible. I'm not an Anarchist, it's just that my faith is not in a president, a congress or legislation from either side. God told Samuel what earthly kings would do (read 1 Samuel 8). His word held true throughout history and is still true today, yet we still we put our faith in earthy kings and presidents. Don’t you see? We are Israel, repeating the cycle that is undeniable throughout God’s word.
I'm not saying "don't vote". Go ahead, educate yourself and vote for the most well rounded candidate, not a party. Then, Christians, pray for whomever takes office, because that job is not easy. What I am saying is, just like in the days of Jesus, religion and politics have joined forces again and the ones that really matter to God have been lost in the mix. We have forgotten that we serve a God whose kingdom cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28). He does not need us to defend Him and He certainly doesn’t need earthly kings and presidents to get His work done. He is God. He's simply inviting us to be His hands and feet.
When you are an American Pastor or a disciple of Jesus, it seems, for reasons beyond my understanding, that you are expected to play by the rules and be careful not to tamper with church tradition or political leaning. The only problem is, our church traditions look little like Jesus. In fact, they dangerously resemble the traditions of the religious elite and teachers of the law that killed our Messiah and many of the Apostles. Don’t misunderstand me, all churches are not this way. I am speaking to the overall climate of today’s American Church. Because we were once the defendant and now pardoned, our role as Christ followers now is to defend sinners, not judge them. Also to invite people to follow the real Jesus and not leverage our faith for political office. It's worth examining our intentions.
Since we decided to launch the Reverence Movement in Boulder, CO and invite people back to becoming students of the real Jesus, God is stretching my faith like never before. Even as I am writing this, a homeless man interrupts me and asks for help. I drop everything and spend the next hour walking and talking with him, finding out his needs and praying over how to best serve him. God is making it clear to me that The Reverence Movement is going to be about the interruptions. When it seems I can't get anything done, He's finally able to.
God is filling my day with the poor, the drug addicted and the skeptics. What they need, initially, is not to be told what they are doing wrong, but just hope. A sprinkle of hope will bring them back for more. Condemnation will assure you never see them again. I'm spent emotionally at the end of the day, but I'm learning more in my short time on the streets of Boulder, CO than I did in ten years inside a church building. God never lets me forget the clear command of Jesus to love God and love others (Mat 22:34-40). If we can get that right, God will do the rest. If we can’t, our faith is built on sinking sand and our seed will always fall among thorns.
Right in the beginning of His ministry, Jesus stands in the Synagogue in front of the religious elite and teachers of the law and states what He’s on earth to do. In Luke chapter 4, He proclaims:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
That’s exactly how I feel. Honestly, I’m not trying to be a rebel. It’s just that I would rather stab myself repeatedly in the foot with a rusty fork than hear another Christian debate on the state of our country and who’s fault it is. The kingdom we represent is not in any danger. I will not spend another second bantering over gay rights and abortion with people who have no gay friends or aren’t currently serving young women. I won’t argue about the measure of anyone else’s sin according to religious law, only attest to the power of Christ at the cross to fulfill the law and the mercy of God to give all of us another chance.
I’m trying to get the American church to understand that we, not the country, have strayed away from God again. In many cases we have become arrogant and self-righteous like the religious of Jesus’ day. We’ve become the church of laws again, laws that Jesus already fulfilled. There's no need for the cross again. That work is finished. Let's get on with the work of proclaiming the 'Good News!'
As I meet the people of Boulder, CO I see an instant wall go up the minute they ask me what I do, and I answer them, “I’m a Pastor”. I’m in a city that, for the most part, rejects the church in America because at some point they have felt condemned or abandoned. After talking with many of them about why we are here in Boulder, they tell me things like:
“Every time I’ve encountered a Christian, the message is the same; God thinks I suck”
or "If I open a Bible, I will burst into flames"
or "If I open a Bible, I will burst into flames"
When asking them what the church is? They respond with things like,
“A place where people go to be convicted”
I have to spend hours with people gently taking the bricks out of their wall, just to get them to hear the simple message of the real Jesus. I want the oppressed to know that Jesus is not against them, in fact, He is actually for them and that God is love before anything else. As a team, we are trying to bridge an ever-widening chasm between the American church and the rest of America, the healthy and the sick, the skeptic and the believer, the wealthy and the poor. Personally, it is the most difficult mission I’ve ever embarked on and has required everything I have, but God's favor is upon me.
So every morning before I leave my house, I repeat the words of Jesus that day in the synagogue.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
This is the year of the Lord’s favor. Not because of who will or will not be elected this November, but because the spirit of the Lord is upon us, and that means Good News for all who hear.
All are welcome to become students of the real Jesus again. His message is full of grace. The Spirit of God has the power to cleanse and fulfill our every need. His kingdom is unshakable and the doors are open to the humble. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. I hope you will join me on The Reverence Movement’s mission to reveal the artistry and love of God again in Boulder, CO and across the earth. I'm learning to become less 'Dan' and more like my namesake.
Humbled in my Father's service,