the church and change

the church and change cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“The Church and Change” by nakedpastor David Hayward

Some might argue that the church has gone through some pretty dramatic changes. I would agree: dramatic. In other words, all show. The significant change required is resisted to the death. The church would rather die than give you change.

We are experts in tweaking. Rearranging the furniture on a sinking ship. Renovating. Redesigning. Remodeling. We’ve become makeup artists. Experts in the facade.

The true transformation that beckons us is symbolized by our symbol, the cross. It means death to our fantasmic future. Death to our vision. Death to our agendas. Death to power and authority. Death to control. Death to success.

Real church happened on the cross. Genuine community. Thief: “Jesus, I hurt.” Jesus: “You’re with me. And I’m with you.”


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  • Pat

    Love it. So much truth here. So many people who fight change in the Church feel they are doing the honorable thing, but somewhere along the line, they went from protecting Christ’s church to protecting their own precious territory of music, traditions, doctrine, etc.

  • What if the reality is ‘religion’ – which unfortunately a large part of the church has become – died on the cross, and was re-birthed as the Bride in the resurrection: they just haven’t figured it out yet. The cross was the end or fulfillment of the self-righteousness of man and the beginning of a new creation in Christ. I don’t think the issue is that we haven’t learned to die, but rather, that we haven’t realized we’re alive.

  • Carol


    I do believe that most contemporary secular people are not asking if there is life after death, but if there is life before death.

    Life after death is an eschatological hope and can only be held by faith. However, we could prove that there can be life before death. Instead of arguing about our theological beliefs, we should be asking why we are not witnessing to that with our lives.

    Living a life worth living would solve so many of our social ills that legal prohibitions don’t begin to to cure.

    The lives of most Americans professing faith in Christ Jesus does not differ qualitatively from America’s secular citizens.

    “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. The materialism of affluent Christian countries appears to contradict the claims of Jesus Christ that says it’s not possible to worship both Mammon and God at the same time.” –Mahatma Gandhi

    “One cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole.” -Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)

    “Perhaps the most revolting character that the United States ever produced was the Christian businessman.” –H.L. Mencken

    “The life of the contemporary bourgeoisie is a wearying frenzy of work, work, spending, and work, with some time left over for civic duties, commodified leisure, sex, family, and—maybe—a spiritual life.” —Eugene McCarraher, “Theology at the barricades,” Commonweal, July 13, 2001

    There are thousands and thousands of people out there living lives of quiet, screaming desperation who work long, hard hours, at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. ~ Nigel Marsh

    “And take the War on Drugs — please!
    How many billions have they spent? My solution is cheaper and More effective : …..Improve Reality!” –Steve Bhaerman aka Swami Beyondananda

    I think the world today is upside down. Everybody seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches and so on. There is much suffering because there is so very little love in homes and in family life. We have no time for our children, we have no time for each other; there is no time to enjoy each other. In the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world. –Mother Teresa

    We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.–Mother Theresa

    “The greatest disease is the lack of love.”– Mother Teresa

    “America is a land that is starving for love.”–Mother Teresa

    “The point of the spiritual life is not our personal private holiness but rather opening our selves so that the life of God can pour out on the community. ~ Maggie Ross

    “Community is that place where the person you least want to live with always lives. And when that person moves away, someone else arises to take his or her place.” ~ Parker J. Palmer

  • Carol
    I was actually referring to living, not physical death. I believe that one of the greatest hindrances to Christianity to day, is that instead of preaching or sharing on the resurrected life, we’ve focused on the sinful nature (which was crucified with Christ, once for all). The first is what the early church preached and is a vehicle for the fruit produced by Holy Spirit and a Christ centered life. The later is self focused, and brings about Law, intolerance and hatred = religion. It’s quiet possible, if Christian would simply discover who they really are, and begin to live accordingly, we might actually begin to experience the change we preach, but seldom witness.

  • Carol

    That is largely the result of a soteriology that begins with Original Sin rather than Original Blessing [mankind created in the image of God with the potential for aquiring “godlikeness” over time through cooperation with Grace].

    The 16th century Protestant radical opposition of nature to Grace also contributed to believing that the healing and transformation of our humanitiy was a transcendent eschatological hope rather than a hope for immanent/temporal transformative process. “Salvation” began to be taught as an extrinsic juridical transaction rather than an experiential internal transformation and Law rather than Grace [Unconditional kenotic Love] became the solution to coping with human evil in classical Protestantism.
    Even St. Augustine, the Saint whose writings had great influence on the Reformers did not oppose nature to Grace, but was a synergist in the Apostolic and Patristic Tradition:

    “God provides the wind, but man must raise the sails.” –St. Augustine

    A Fundamental error in Reformed Evangelicalism

    “In Orthodox theology, the two words ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ are not used interchangeably as they are for Roman Catholics and Protestants. For Orthodox Christians, ‘image’ denotes the powers and faculties with which every human being is endowed by God from the first moment of his existence. ‘Likeness’ is the assimilation, the growth process to God through virtue and grace. We call this growth process ‘theosis.’ For Western theology, man was created perfect in the absolute sense and therefore, when he fell, he fell completely away from God. For Orthodox theology, man was created perfect in the potential sense.” –Fr. George Nicozisin

    On Salvation as theosis;

  • Carol

    Opps! the link on theosis no longer works.

    Here is a link to a book review and an excerpt from the review that addresses theosis and the Latin/Western Churches’ loss of the teaching on theosis:

    We now live in an age where Western civilization lives and acts contrary to its Christian heritage, yet it still believes that it knows about Christ and His Church. The West fails to appreciate that over one thousand years separate it from this tradition. As a result, the West’s perception and understanding of Christ and His Church has become clouded. Although no longer perceived as such, Christ’s crowning achievement was also humanity’s crowning achievement, and this forms a watershed in human history. Christ’s message was so profound and revolutionary, that it can be said that humanity failed to grasp both its magnitude and its simplicity. As this book was originally intended for an Orthodox Greek-speaking audience, there was much common ground between the book and its audience. This translation has attempted to keep the simplicity present in the original, while continuing to convey the central message as faithfully as possible. Little explanation has been added to adapt it to Western thought, as this might misrepresent the true content of the book.
    In order to understand Christ’s central teaching, we will have to approach certain key words and concepts in a new way and not according to their current English usage. We will have to look at them with an open mind, as if seeing them for the first time. It will be necessary to go back to basics, and in this way see what Christ and the Way meant to the first Christians. Key biblical words such as “psyche,” “heart,” “repentance,” and “nous,” will have to be looked at as if we are seeing them for the first time. For this reason, it was decided to italicise key words and concepts when they first appear and to provide a glossary* to define them.
    Theosis is the Pearl of Great Price alluded to by Christ. [24] It can become a present reality for those who are willing to tread the path, and so it is not exclusively an after-death experience. With Theosis death is transcended. [25] St. Paul alludes to this when he says, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” [26] Again, while being stoned to death, St. Stephen the first martyr offered himself up to Christ and prayed to God for his persecutors to be forgiven. [27] The Easter chant, “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down Death by death, and bestowing life to those in the tombs” also bears witness to this.

    Four Walls Separating Us from the New Testament
    Four crises separate Western Christians on the one hand from the New Testament writers and Eastern Christians on the other. If we understand these crises and the effects they had, we can attempt to “roll them back” in our minds and understand the New Testament more clearly.
    The New Testament is in Greek, which has a large philosophical vocabulary that Latin lacks. Ecumenical councils used Greek as the working language; then they made an official translation into Latin for use in the West. Many of the most heated debates were about which Latin words best conveyed the meaning of the Greek resolution they had already agreed on. Because Greek philosophical concepts had to be translated into Latin legal concepts, theology in the West took on the character of codified law after the West lost Greek. To this day, Orthodox theologians reason like rabbis, while western theologians reason like lawyers.
    ~Fr. Ken Collins

  • ccws

    Swami Beyondananda FTW! 🙂

  • Carol

    I can’t help it, I love Jewish humor. Along with the Darwin Awards, the Swami’s State of the Universe Speech is a major highlight of my New Year.

    Swami’s State of the Universe 2012

    2012: One Small Step For the Mayan Calendar …

    A Quantum Leap Year For Humankind

    By Swami Beyondananda

    I just got back from hyperspace, so forgive me if I’m a bit hyper-spacey!

    I am clear about one thing, though, and that’s the state of the Universe. The Universe – God bless it – is in tip-top shape, especially considering its age. We should all look this good when we’re 13 billion going on 14 billion.

    Once again, the Universe remains ever-changing, same as always, purring in perfection. You’d think that at that age, the Universe would be slowing down, but no – it’s still expanding. I predict it won’t be long before they have to let the photon belt out another notch.

    Meanwhile, back here on earth, the human comedy has been renewed for yet another season. Maybe 2012 will be the year a critical mass of the heretofore-uncritical masses wake up and hear the laugh track.

    That’s right, the laugh track. In these serious times when there’s definitely something funny going on, laughter is key. You laugh, and I say, “Fabulous. You’re off to a good start. ”

    Last year’s laugh track should have you on track for even more laughs this year, because 2011 was a funny year – although maybe not ha-ha funny.

    For one thing, the Rapture didn’t happen last May as predicted, thank God. Sure, those who hoped to live happily ever rapture were a little disappointed, but hey – it’s not the end of the world, right?

    Then another funny thing happened. We found the bank bailout cost us $7.7 trillion, but as an optimystic, I have found an upside to the downside. Good thing the dollar isn’t worth much these days, otherwise that would have REALLY been a disaster.

    In other economic news in 2011, for the fourth straight year the Moody’s Investor Report indicated that investors are moody and getting moodier. Fortunately, we’ve been gearing up for an election year, a great opportunity for folks to vent their frustration. Maybe after enough out-venting, we’ll have the clarity to invent for a change, but meanwhile …

    In the wake of the first slew of Republican debates filled with detestimonials and insinuendoes, one blogger compared the spectacle to professional wrestling. Boy, you should have seen all the angry letters he got. Guess he didn’t realize how many pro wrestling fans are out there. Then there was the Republican debate in South Carolina, where the audience actually booed the Golden Rule. If anyone doubts the Republicans’ Southern strategy has paid off, here is irrefutable proof that the party of Lincoln has gone south.

    And to those who say there’s no difference between the two parties, I must differ. The Republicans bend over backwards to service the banksters and special interests. The Democrats are exactly the opposite. They bend over forward.

    Yes, America has been divided into two rival tribes, the red tribe Republicans and the blue tribe Democrats, who spend way too much energy arguing about whether it’s worse to kill the born, or the unborn – instead of working together to improve the world the yet-to-be-born are born into.

    I know, I know. I am proposing a sane world. I must be crazy, right?

    Which is why we the people must build our own sane asylum, and commit ourselves to living there. How?

    I knew I was going to ask that question.

    We must gather red tribe and blue tribe together in sacred circles, to talk until they are purple in the face – so we the people can gather around the heart-core values we have in common. If we stand together as One Purple People, we the peeps will overcome the perps, and the sociopathogens plaguing the body politic will be rendered harmless.

    And peeps, the perps have another purpose. They remind us that all peeps have a little perp inside them, and when peeps get a peep at their own true purpose, there is no need to perp.

    So, how do we turn the funk into function, and leave the junk at the junction? Read on.

    Occupy the Heart and Create Heartland Security

    A bright spot appeared on the horizon in 2011, thanks to the Occupy Wall Street movement, which reminded us that Wall Street has been occupying Main Street for generations. While middle-class Americans were preoccupied with family values, gold collar criminals with Soprano Family values like Bernie Madoff made off with large chunks of the commonwealth. No wonder there’s disheartenment in the heartland! The Occupy movement broke this issue through the soundless barrier, and Americans from across the political spectrum have been waking up left and right. In 2011, leaders from both awakening wings – Sen. Bernie Sanders on the left, Rep. Ron Paul on the right – called for auditing the Fed. Others in the Occupy movement have gone even further, suggested auditing the overfed, but that”s another story.

    One thing is for sure. As the upwising picks up esteem in 2012, there will be plenty of residoodoo to metabolize. Which is why, as things come to a head it becomes more important than ever that they come to a heart as well.

    Because when it comes to healing our lives – or the world – the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. The heartless minds that value money over all else have tried to convince us that their inhuman nature is our human nature. I say if we want the Golden Rule to overrule the rule of gold, we have to embody the heart core values of truth, beauty and goodness.

    Instead of buying into the fear-based Homeland Security, we must invest in Heartland Security – because our true security is in the land of the heart. In the head, we have beliefs that separate us, and what people believe – believe me – is unbelievable. That’s why we must leave the static of the head for the ecstatic of the heart. The more we expand our hearts, the less we will need to shrink our heads.

    It’s great that the Occupy movement has begun to re-hearten a disheartened heartland. But before we become preoccupied with the usual head-trips, we must occupy our own hearts. And the best way to do this – seriously – is with heart-opening laughter.

    Swami’s Four-Fold Path to Cosmic Comic Consciousness

    As we begin this quantum leap year, I know many of you reading this would love to uplift humanity. That would be a quantum leap indeed, so let me recommend the first small step to uplifting humankind. Ready? Begin by uplifting your own face. Allow the levitational pull to uplift the corners of your mouth in a smile, and you will trick yourself into believing you are happy. This is called Cosmic Comic Consciousness, and yes – it is contagious.

    Instead of buying into the notion that happiness is something we need to pursue out there, let’s laugh at the cosmic joke: Happiness has been right here all along, patiently waiting for us. Ha-ha-ha.

    Now of course, simply being happy is far too simple, isn’t it? So for those who still feel the need to “do” something to be happy, I have devised a simple four-step program – that should, simply by simple arithmetic – work three times faster than those 12-step programs. Ready? Here it is:

    Step One. Wake Up Laughing. As we wise up to the gravity, we must rise up with the levity. Not only does levity help us rise above whatever has been bringing us down, it shows us a higher perspective. When we wake up laughing, there is an awakening. In the wake of the ha-ha, there’s an “aha.” And after the aha, there’s an “aaaahhhhhh …” and just like that, hearty laughter lifts us out of our head, and puts us squarely in the heart.

    Step Two. Wise Up Loving. As the Wisest Guys have been telling us for millennia, we are all one with the same One, and the purpose of life is thrival for all. Love is the currency in the new eco-logical economy because the more we spend, the more we have! And having it is simple. All we have to do is open our blinds, and let it in.

    Here is the inescapable truth: Love has us surrounded. We might as well surrender.

    That’s right – give up the fight, and surrender to Love. Listen, if Love is good enough for Jesus, Buddha and Beatles, it’s good enough for me!

    Step Three. Grow Up Giving. If we want to overgrow the current dysfunction at the junction, WE – each of us, and all of us – must grow upward, evolving from children of God to adults of Good. Now while few of us have actually seen God, we have all seen Good. Goodness gracious, goodness is good! For millennia, children of God have been waiting for a messiah to fix this fixer-upper of a world. And now adults of Good have realized the messiah is a do-it-yourself job, and the party of life is strictly BYOB … Be Your Own Buddha.

    Step Four. Show Up Living. As the gospel of FUNdamentalism (accent on FUN) teaches, we are not here to earn God’s love – we’re here to spend it! And how you spend it depends on what you love to do. Make a “bucket list” of all the undertakings you wish to undertake before being overtaken by the undertaker. Then start doing them. They say an unexamined life is not worth living, but it’s even truer that an unlived life is not worth examining. So … turn off your TV and tell a vision instead. The evolution will not be televised. It’s happening out here, and it’s even more real than reality TV … it’s called REALITY!

    Finally, as I bring this address to a close, I call on you to improve the state of your corner of the Universe and take a vow of levity. I am serious. We humans will never find our center of gravity until we find our center of levity. So, all those who wish to take a vow of levity – PLEASE RISE.

    Repeat after me. “All for fun … and fun for all!”

    And may we laugh, laugh, laugh till the sacred cows come home.

    © Copyright 2012 by Steve Bhaerman. All rights reserved.

    Swami Beyondananda is the cosmic comic alter ego of writer Steve Bhaerman, and can be found online at Interested in booking Swami for a personal appearance? Contact his office at (707) 888-7260.

    Watch Video Highlights of The State of the Universe 2012 here.