May 06, 2010

The journey


ometimes encouragement flows from unexpected fountains. And sometimes God puts just the right person in the right place at the right time ... with the right book.

God has led me (with my family in tow) through many strange waters. I guess those waters should be called the Evangelical River, because the strange waters I’m speaking of are a steady stream of different churches that my family has attended as God has moved us around from location to location. My adventures in rafting the turbulent white-capped waters of the Evangelical River have shown me two very important truths: 1) You can always trust God; and 2) You cannot always trust the church.

It’s the Climb

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

After a recent particularly disastrous church relationship while we were living in Lynchburg, God has led us to a very small, but seemingly very good church. The pastor cares about the people in the church. The people care about each other and their pastor. They live in community in a way that produces active evidence of love for one another. It is refreshing. And yet I struggle with the abuse and active evil perpetrated on the people of churches we have previously attended. Eight months later I still struggle with trying to understand how Christians can act the way so many church leaders act.

God seems to be working on answering my questions about these things.

I have earned the reputation over the years of not being the brightest bulb in the lamp—or at least not the quickest. I often notice that God has been attempting to communicate things to me for quite some time before I realize that that communication has been ongoing for some time. I have often said that God has to smack me upside the head with a two-by-four to get my attention. I’m not proud of that; it is a simple statement of fact.

But I’m beginning to recognize that God is communicating to me regarding this issue of severe problems in local churches. One of these forms of communication happened just yesterday when a coworker handed me a book by Philip Yancey and said, “I want you to keep this book. I just finished reading it and I thought of you on practically every page of the book. This is yours.”

I’ll get to the book, but first I have to mention the other recent communication from God. I was listening to a series of lectures on church history from Denton Bible Church. When Pastor Tom Nelson got to the lecture that covered the 18th century in America he mentioned a sermon titled, “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry,” by Rev. Gilbert Tennent. I looked it up and read it. And what an outstanding read it was! Without a doubt it helped me figure out a possible answer to the questions I had from our last church experience. If you’re interested in reading this outstanding sermon from the 1700s you may read it here.

Then this coworker unexpectedly gave me the Philip Yancey book, Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church—an interesting title, to be sure. I began reading this book on my bus ride into work this morning. The preface is well-written and outstanding. I’m expecting that this will be a very interesting and refreshing book to read. But when I got to the first chapter of the book and read the first paragraph I realized that I would be posting this paragraph to this blog.

Sometimes in a waiting room or on an airplane I strike up conversations with strangers, during the course of which they learn that I write books on spiritual themes. Eyebrows arch, barriers spring up, and often I hear yet another horror story about church. My seatmates must expect me to defend the church, because they always act surprised when I respond, “Oh, it’s even worse than that. Let me tell you my story.” I have spent most of my life in recovery from the church.

This may prove to be a very interesting read. I promise to update you when I have finished the book. And now, on to the reading...



  1. Thanks for the sermon link, Rich.

    I read this Yancy book when going through some deep stuff. It helped me focus on what matters.

  2. I'm sorry to hear that you've been through these issues too, Decadent. I have heard of so very many of my friends who have discontinued church attendance altogether due to the aberrant and blatantly sinful behavior of church leadership. It is truly a shame.

    I'm glad you're reading that sermon. You can tell as you read it that it was written in a very different time period from ours. But he absolutely nails it with regard to the type of church leaders who display characteristics more in tune with Satan's crowd than with God's.

    I formatted the sermon to make it easier and more pleasant to read. If you'd like a copy, let me know and I'll email it to you. Just send me a request at

    And anyone else who would like a copy may contact me in the same way. I'll be glad to send it to you.


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