Revolution of the Mind

It isn’t how you do church. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what tradition you follow. Your church expression can be anything from none to house-church to the highest liturgical expression. The fact is, none of these matter. Well, in fact, they all do matter. None of them are the solution. None of them are the problem. This is what I mean by “none of these matter”. I do not think that rearranging the order is going to change the root problem… that is the human mind. I am convinced that it is only by working energetically on the mind and its transformation that the structure is transformed genuinely and authentically.

Revolutions come and revolutions go. One revolution overturns one regime only to set up another which only sponsors the next revolution. This never ceases and endlessly fascinates humanity. But it leads nowhere. I don’t believe, in this context, in progress. It is only dolling up the corpse. Of course, any changes which further liberates the human being must occur. But to think that the appearance of liberty is actual liberty is foolish.

This is why I like things to be kept as simple as possible. Gather. Sing. Give. Study. Pray. Disperse. Keep in touch. Something like that. I don’t for a minute think that our community is any more advanced than the next one, or that our community is any more New Testamentish than the next one. This doesn’t concern me anymore. What concerns me is the freedom, the real freedom, of each individual person in the context of community. I think this is what provokes the transformation of the world that we desire.

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  • “Gather. Sing. Give. Study. Pray.”

    Y’know, if you add a couple more elements, you could squeeze another “give” in there and no one would even notice.

    ; )

  • Atlanta

    You forgot the sacraments.

  • Richard Mullin

    One of the goals that my company talks about and includes in their interoffice corespondence is “creating enablers” — I think that is one of the outcomes of a healthy church community. A strong collective that encouraged the invididual to be whatever it is they are good at and want to be.

  • Steve

    “The root of the problem is the human mind.” I think that the human mind stems from the human heart, and therein lies the real problem.

    While technology advances at a rapid pace, the human heart is no further along than it was immediately after the fall (the uprising is more like it).

    So, we must be transformed from a force outside of ourselves. That force is the Gospel. Jesus can take a rotten, self centered heart, and make it into a tool for His purposes.

    This is why Atlanta rightly said, ” Don’t forget the sacraments” (or something like that)

    “This is my body. This is my blood.” If you don’t want to partake of eating my flesh, and oh yes, did I mention the drinking of my blood also…then you’ll have no part of me.”(or something like that.

    I think that’s why Christ instituted the sacraments….so we could have Himself, objectively, without turning it into a big ME project.

    Me, Me, Me, Me, You,You,You,Me,Me, Me,You, Me. Isn’t that what church is all about?

    Not when you take His sacraments seriously. Then it’s about Him, what He has done, is still doing, and will yet do.

  • Atlanta

    I said you forgot the sacraments. There is no church without the sacraments. I agree with you Steve, and David and I have our differences.

  • atlanta: can there be church without the sacraments? the salvation army believes so, don’t they?

  • Atlanta

    David, I don’t believe that the Salvation Army is a church. There is no church without the sacraments. I am sorry, I can not argue.

  • ttm

    What are “the sacraments”?
    The churches I’ve attended have never used that phrase.

  • Atlanta

    Welcome to Eastern Orthodoxy. The sacraments first and foremost are the Body and Blood of Christ, the holy mysteries, communion. Then there is confession, chrismation, baptism, unction, marriage, ordination, tonsure. May I ask what churches you have attended?

  • ttm

    Thank you for answering my question, Atlanta.

    I’ve attended: Assemblies of God (Pentecostal), Interdenominational, Methodist and
    Southern Baptist churches for extended periods of time. I’ve also visited Lutheran, Evangelical Free, and Charismatic churches and one service at a Jewish synagogue.

    I guess I am familiar with some of the sacraments. What are chrismation, unction, and tonsure? Being completely unfamiliar with the terms, and not meaning to offend, they sound painful!

  • ttm

    Sorry…that should have been “Charismatic Catholic churches”

  • Atlanta

    Chrismation: when you are anointed with chrism and made a member of the church.
    Unction: anointing with oil for healing.
    Tonsure: becoming a monastic.
    You can find official documents on such things at

  • ttm

    Thank you for the information and link, Atlanta. I’ll check it out.

    Is it your opinion that churches that do these things, and label them as such, are the only true church?

  • Atlanta

    ttm,I don’t like to use that kind of language. As much as I try and pretend, I am not a traditionalist. That is a loaded phrase in my church, “true church”. I am a former excommunicate so I am probably not the best one to ask these questions. There is a Q&A at if you want to get some official answers.

  • ttm

    Thanks, Atlanta. I have already read some of the questions and answers there. It’s very interesting.

    Sorry for the use of the “loaded phrase.” I was just trying to understand where you were coming from in light of David’s comments on the church.

    I appreciate you taking time to answer my questions. And I’ll continue to peruse the oca website.

  • Atlanta

    ttm, its ok, you wouldn’t know. If you want to look at what a traditionalist is, there is the yahoo group paradosis, or, orthodox-tradition. There is also another web based forum, The Euphrosynos Cafe. The OCA is not thought of as a “traditionalist” Orthodox church by some.
    I think I disagree with David,but that’s ok, this is his blog,and I am a guest here.

  • Steve

    Actually, anybody can call themselves a church, with or without sacraments.

    Joel Osteen calls himself (what they do) a church…he hardly mentions Jesus!

    The Mormons call themselves a church and they believe God used to be a man, before he worked his way up to Godhood. They don’t believe in the Trinity, either. (I know that has nothing to do with sacraments)

    Most Baptists and non-denominational churches have baptism and communion, but don’t believe anything actually happens in them (from God). They are merely symbols of our faithfulness.

    I pretty much think anyone can call themselves a church.

    The word sacrament is taken from the Roman army. Soldiers were sworn in with an oath of fidelity. They promised to remain faithful to their commander. They gave their sacramentum.

    Christ gives us His oath of faithfulness, in baptism and holy communion. Luther (I am a Lutheran) cut down the number of sacraments to two, because those were the only two instances in scripture(that he could find, and he knew the bible pretty well…almost memorized the whole thing!) where Christ commanded us to do something (with respect to our life in the church). And He never commanded us to do something, where He wouldn’t be present Himself.

    Hence, this is why Lutherans (at least some) retain the sacraments as part of their worship.

    Are you a Christian if you don’t believe in, or practice the sacraments? Yes. Might you be missing out on the comfort that the Lord would have for you in the sacraments? Yes, you might.

    Christ will sort all of this out later. He knows who is Church is. Many members of churches will be in His Church. And many good church people will not be included in His Church. ” Lord, Lord, we have done such and such in your name”…and He says “depart from me I never knew you.” I believe that’s in Mark.

    While here, I prefer to do those things that the Lord has asked (commanded) me to do, as much as this sinful believer is able.

    The sacraments are actually easy for us, because Christ does all the work. I just trust that this is so.(not so easy in a world that seems to demand evidence)

  • I think Steve has touched on a vital issue here. Some years ago, I attended a lecture given by the late Dr Colin Gunton on Creational theology and through a question raised at the end of it (part of which I answered), and a conversation with Colin after the lecture, I began to realize that an entire theology of the early church concerning the Lord’s Supper had either been obscured or virtually lost from around the 2nd century onwards. Lutheran theology, as far as I can gather, is the only sizeable Christan denomination in the modern world that has sought to recognize and connect to that theology (and I say this as someone who does not attend a Lutheran church). It’s pretty clear that Paul is talking about something profound in 1 Corinthians 10 regarding both the context and the ramifications of our table fellowship, and it’s pretty clear that the deep significance of this has become dulled by the way in which we commonly use, place and define communion in most church services. Perhaps that is why we so often miss out on the ‘treatment’ that can be mediated to our souls – if word and sacrament are both mis-applied and mis-understood.

  • You were excommunicated Atlanta? Wow. Can people gather in the name of Jesus, without sacraments? And if they can, can they fairly call that “church”?

  • Fat Radical

    I suppose this is the risk you take when you write a blog, you have absolutely no control over who will respond and what they will read into what you have written. And no matter how good your work is there is always someone who will pick a hole in it.

    As for my tuppence worth, I have this recurring notion that because we have have a constant inner need to be spiritually renewed, we often accept a substitute of any sort of outward renewal, especially if it is a new way forward in church.

    But ultimately does it really satisfy the soul in a way that Jesus talked about the refreshing water that he would give us and we would never thirst again. Where do we get that water? Or how do we simply encounter Jesus in a way that transforms us to be like him in mind soul and spirit?

    I think that is what you have hit upon, David, when you describe the simple way you try to do things and what the nit pickers have missed this time around.

    Bless you


  • Steve

    What a great post from David to illicit such thoughtful response. Thanks ttm, Atlanta, Howard, Fat Radical, np !

    I think the questions that Fat Radical raises about where we get the refreshing, life giving water that Jesus offers, and how do we encounter Jesus in a way that transforms us, are great questions.

    I think being open to ideas, and observations, especially those from scripture, regarding these great questions are key to being able to finally answer these questions in a meaningful way.

    After all, as Christians, we want to somehow ‘get it right’, as much as possible.

    As I look around, I see a lot of what I think of as ‘getting it wrong’. And much of that emminates from my own church.

    Well, just who am I to say what’s right and what’s wrong? Nobody, that’s who. It is Christ Himself who has given us a clear idea of what He’s after.

    I believe He wants us to get out of ourselves and get into Him (more appropo, He wants to get into us). As a sinnful man, that is the last thing that I want. I don’t want Him running my life and being my Master, my Lord. I want to take charge. If someone could follow me around with a video recorder and thought recorder, they would see that this is so.

    Jesus knows how we really are. But He forgives us, nonetheless, and relentlessly pursues us. And one way, that I believe He has chosen to grab a hold of us is in His sacraments. “You have set a table before me in the sight of my enemies.” (23rd Psalm)

    This table (I believe) is His altar. His supper (His love and forgiveness, His very life) is served there, to His enemies. People like me…and you (if you can be really honest about it).

    But what do we do? We rip out the altar, the pulpit, the lecturn, and replace them with band instruments. Turn it all around again, and make ourselves the center once again so we’ll be comfortable.

    Keeping Christ central ain’t easy. So He does it Himself, for our sakes, that none might be lost.

    Anyway, this is what I believe.

    Thanks for the chance to spout off, David!

  • Steve wrote:
    “Jesus knows how we really are. But He forgives us, nonetheless, and relentlessly pursues us. And one way, that I believe He has chosen to grab a hold of us is in His sacraments. “You have set a table before me in the sight of my enemies.” (23rd Psalm)

    This table (I believe) is His altar. His supper (His love and forgiveness, His very life) is served there, to His enemies. People like me…and you (if you can be really honest about it)”.

    C S Lewis (in Letters to Malcolm, I think) wrote about how the best church meetings were those most like a hospital, where we first recognized our needs, gained that which brought remedy and then worshiped our God and Saviour as a result. It may seem “formula – orientated”, but human life is inherently linked to the work (Creative and Redemptive) work of our Father, and living water derives from our union there.

  • fishon

    Howard said: “This table (I believe) is His altar. His supper (His love and forgiveness, His very life) is served there, to His enemies. People like me…and you (if you can be really honest about it)”.
    —–Can you explain that just a little more for my dull mind does not quite understand what you say here?

  • Steve

    Thanks Howard for you keen insight of the sufficiency and totality of God’s work.

    I really like that picture that C.S. Lewis has drawn of church.

    Certain formulas are tried and true.

    Thanks very much!

    – Steve

  • Atlanta

    nakedpastor, yes, I was excommunicated for a little over 4 months. People had to gather with out the sacraments in communist times, but that’s different. Not every service has the sacraments, but every church needs to have the liturgy to be a church, to my understanding. I am not an authority, expert, nor official. I also refer you to to learn the official statements on these issues.

  • Steve


    I believe the 23rd Psalm paints a picture of our sinful reality. That we don’t really want God and His rules. The old Adam which still lives in us wants to kill God off (the cross).

    He loves us still (“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”) and would have us dine with Him at His table (represented by the altar in a sanctuary).

    He gives to us at Holy Communion what He commands of us (the 1st Commandment). That He is our only God and that He is our only life. The nourishment that we need is indeed, Himself. So He comes to us in bread and wine, ordinary elements that He has deemed to be His Body and Blood. Himself, given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.

    The supper is an ongoing renewal of a relationship that He has established in your baptism. A tangible, real time event, where He comes to us, again and again, and again, as we continue to stray. The life giving water that Trevor and Howard mentioned.

    That’s my take on it. I’m open to other interpretations.

    – Steve

  • That is where it is at. God changes belief structures. We ALL live according to our beliefs of right and wrong. For example, some people believe it is the right thing to do at the time, when they are killing their spouse. They believe it is the right thing to do when stealing from another person. Yes they may know that society thinks it is wrong, but to them, it is not.

    So to allow God to work in the lives of others, we must allow those people the freedom to explore God, and allow God the freedom to change their belief structures. If we implant our own structures, it is like the thief that knows what society says, because “they” say it, but it is not his. But if he comes to the realization that stealing is wrong and he then belives it. Then it is “HIS” belief not someone else’s. That has value to him, whereas a belief given to him, has little or none.

  • Steve

    I like that, Nate! “God changes belief structures.”

    I think you’ve hit on something there! His Word will make it’s own way!

    If we’ll get His Word out there, then it can go to work, where and when It wills.

    If people are caught in religion (man’s striving to reach God on their own, apart from the work of Jesus) they may not be encountered by the living Word, which is Jesus Himself.

    St.Paul said “faith comes by hearing. And how can they hear if they don’t have a preacher?” “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto everyone who believes.” (St.Paul-Romans)

    Jesus told us to go to all nations, baptising (there it is again) and teaching them about all that I have commanded.” Matthew 28

    If God were to just change peoples beliefs willy-nilly I don’t think He would have been so specific about telling his disciples to go, baptise and teach.

    He instead might have said something like, ” Don’t worry about going and telling people about Me, I’ll handle everything.”
    “You guys do your thing and let everyone else do their thing and everything will work out just fine.” He didn’t say anything of the sort.

    I don’t think letting people just float around searching for the answers on their own is really the loving thing to do.

    I think we ought tell them of the great things that Jesus has done for them. if the Spirit grabs hold of the them…great! If not, we don’t beat them over the head, but rather just move on and trust that the Lord will, as you say, change belief structures…or not!

    Nice comments Nate!

    – Steve

  • Wow lots of comments, too many for me to read them all at this late hour in the UK. Just to say: Did David say that they DON’T atually have sacraments of any sort? Just a thought. Surely you baptise? Have dinner or supper of some sort together? (To my understanding :)) Actually I think that having dinner with your friends, especially with other Christians, Christ is present there. I mean, what was the Last Supper like? Why would only the way Lutherans have communion be the only Holy Communion? I don’t think Jesus set it up that way. At the same time, I don’t mean to say that it isn’t a sacrament or that God couldn’t work thru it. But I guess, I’ve just come to understand along the years, the significance of for example having dinner together and true fellowship. I just feel it is more Jesus-like, than when I go to the altar for communion.

    Grew up in one of the most Lutheran countries in the world (=Finland). And was one myself!By birth. So I know a few things by first-hand experience 😉

    Sorry I really did not read yet all the comments so it might seem out of the context of the other latest comments.

  • Mimo,
    ‘Table fellowship’ of the kind you mention is most certainly good (you must have come across Luther’s ‘Table Talk’ in your time in Lutheranism), but the issues regarding Creational and embodiment theology that inspired the use of the sacraments in the early church entail quite a bit more. Anyone who wants to unpack this in more depth is more than welcome to have a look at my own study on the subject on my website:
    (This link may well change in the next few weeks, as my sight is soon to undergo a face -lift!).

    Happy to discuss this further if desired.

  • Steve


    “I just feel it is more Jesus-like, than when I go to the altar for communion.”

    I believe that is one of the reasons that Jesus wanted us to “go to the altar”, His table, so that we might have this meal, on Him (He’s buying, so to speak), on His terms.

    That are our feelings might be taken out of the equation, because He is the One that is providing all that is necessary. We bring nothing to this dinner party other than our need, our hunger, our thirst.

    Feelings can certainly be a good thing, God gave us emotions. But I believe that they can also put us back at the center when we believe our feelings are a guage of what is right, true, or necessary when it comes to matters of faith. That is why the sacraments put God’s action in primacy over ours. He comes to us, from the outside. The external Word, spoken(baptism, preaching, bible, communion), to bring the dead to life.

    The Lord’s supper is just one more way, I believe, where Jesus says to us, just relax and let me handle this, I have done everything that is needful, for you.

    Are Lutherans the only ones that know the truth on this score? Heavens no! We do believe (Confessional Lutherans in the classical sense ) that we do know the truth, but there are many others that know it as well. We confess (speak) what we believe to be true, as given to us in scripture.

    The last thing (as a Lutheran) that I’d ever want anyone to believe is that Lutherans are the only ones getting this thing right. If you look at the American Lutheran landscape you could easily come up with quite a different conclusion.


    – Steve

  • Steve


    Your study (see url a couple of comments back) of the early church and the practices and beliefs pertaining to commumion was very well done an opened my eyes to some things I had not thought of previously.

    I will re-read it and get back to you with some specific questons and comments.

    Excellent work! Thanks!

    – Steve

  • Howard, Thank you I will have a look at it! Actually have not come across Luther’s Table talk, or if I have , don’t remember.

    Steve, I guess I could have also used the word “believe” or “think” instead of “feel”. =) It’s just a personal opinion, a thought, a wondering I’ve come to in the last few years, when I look at how Jesus set the table.


  • Steve


    Sure. I know what you mean. I used to feel (think) pretty much along those lines myself until recent years.

    I have been really fortunate (blessed) to have a pastor that is really grounded in the theology of the cross. He’s taugt me the external quality of the sacraments. He’s also pointed out to me how much of what we do, think, or feel, can often de-rail the benefits that Christ wants to give us in His sacraments.

    It’s almost as if Christ knows that whenever we get involved with something it will become tainted with that sin-nature that remains with us, even as we are believers.

    As Luther said (this drove the Roman Catholics nuts!) “we are at the same time totally sinful, and totally justified.” Simul ustes et pecator”

    So Luther modified the theology in communion, changed the direction of the action (just the understanding of the event) from us to God (the Roman view), to… God to us (the Lutheran view). Subtle as it may seem, it is hugely important in your theology.

    I think I’m starting to ramble.

    I hope I haven’t started to mix you up on this stuff!

    Take care and God bless, Mimo!

    – Steve

  • I was part of the evangelical movement and there’s lots of rituals and religion there, although they are usually not described as such.

    But I enjoy being part of two (weird, I know 🙂 ) housechurches that aren’t traditional. The one is on wednesday evenings where we only eat, talk and read from the Bible when we feel we need to look up something and pray. And we run a living room project in the red light district where we hang out and eat with people there.

    The other group is more of a biblestudy group for people who are mosty artistic and most of whom haven’t found a church where they can belong (although some have found one now since it first started).
    In this group we eat, have coffee, have biblestudy/a theme, discuss, pray for eachother’s needs, have a beer.

    I agree that the problem lies with ourselves. It’s so easy to blame an ‘it’ for all the trouble. Just look at the back of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and you’ll see what I mean. It’s all about the ‘it’ called religion and terrible troubles ‘it’s’ caused.

    But the problem is always people. That’s why personal growth, maturing, learning and praying, and having the truth set you free are good, because they change us for the better.

    If you add a good meal, wine, chatting, a good discussion movie, some rituals or whatever else to that, that’s not the point is it? There’s no speacial magic in such rituals (thank God!)

    We are free in Christ.

  • thebutler wrote:
    There’s no magic in such rituals.

    Whilst I’m certainly not advocating magic or rituals, I wonder how it felt for the elders of Israel to ‘eat in drink’ in God’s presence, or what is was like for the disciples to join Jesus for that resurrection breakfast on the sea of Galilee? What I am saying is that fellowship is about a drawing close – to God and each other – and the Lord’s Supper can be a very direct and striking manner of doing so when we begin to unpack it’s proper place in our faith.

  • Steve

    “But the problem is always people.”

    You hit the nail on the head, thebutler. Also, another dead hit was your confession, “We are free in Christ.”

    We are free. We, as Christians can do whatever we want. That, coupled with “the problem is always people”, can lead to a wandering from from the One who makes us free, to the enslavement brought about by our own self-centeredness and desire to be comfortable, … have things our way.

    This is why I appreciate structure in worship. I am a fan of liturgy, not because I like liturgy, but because it keeps me grounded in Christ and what He has done, is doing and will yet do.

    Ritual for ritual’s sake is a form of self-worship. But symbols can speak to us if we know what the symbolism means. Baptism and Holy Communion can be religious ritual for those that do not believe God is actually present. That is completey understandable. Luther said about the Anabaptists (those who didn’t believe in baptising infants) that “they view baptism the way a cow looks at a new gate.” They can only imagine that which is seen and is directly in front of their nose.

    God is active in Holy Communion and Baptism because He commanded us to do it. He never commanded us to do something where He would not be present. It is not my job to defend it, but merely to proclaim it.

    Many Christians do rely on a sort of ‘Christian magic’. Sending e-mails to so many people in order to get a special blessing. Treating baptism as some sort of special pass into heaven, where no faith is needed. Equating their own faithfulness and material blessings, as if there is any correlation. This is ‘Christian magic’.

    But, there is power in God’s Word and in His sacraments. We can’t often see or feel anything. It’s better that we don’t, because we can’t really trust what we see or feel. We walk by faith and not by sight. Trust is what God is after. He wants it so much from us that He actually gives it to us. Faith is a gift from God.

    I hope you will continued to be blessed in your house church, and that some of the things I’ve said have given you another insight into formal liturigal service and the value that can be derived from that form.

    Both styles of worship have pros and cons and both can be of tremendous benefit. It all boils down to the focus of the worship and the ability to keep the self at a safe distance.

    – Steve

  • sarah


    SO true mate.

    All the best,

    Sas x

  • @ Howard Nowlan
    Ah! I am reminded of a Galactic Cowboys song which mentions ‘the magic of the Creator’s hand’ and C S Lewis’s mention of deeper magic in The Narnia Chronicles (am I remembering right?).

    We seek this in lots of things but only really find it in Him.

    @ Steve
    Great points there, Steve! I appreciate it.
    I still love the beauty of ritual, especially because I have been deprived of such beauty, being part of the evangelical movement… 🙂

    But God has not limited himself to these expressions, He is everywhere and speaking to us through many symbols and through very ordinary things as well.

    Ta, Sarah!

  • Steve

    God bless you, thebutler!

    Thanks for your kind words. You are a very honest and thoughtful person…smart too, and I appreciate your insights!

    – Steve

  • Bill B

    May I say that I agree with your post, BUT(did you see that coming? *smile) I disagree about the ‘transformation of the human mind’. I think what we need to see is the transformation of the human heart.