Skinny Church – the wrong fast for a hungry world

If nutrition is a hobby of yours, then you know that something as simple and straightforward as eating food has dozens of conflicting schools of thought. Macrobiotic people swear by rice and seaweed. Paleolithic people think rice, and most agriculture for that matter, is from the devil himself. Vegetarians think meat eaters are cruelly killing animals, and, by eating meat, their own bodies. Vegetarian Myth (a favorite book of mine) takes pretty much the opposite approach. Back in the day, low fat was all the rage.
Now it’s not low-fat, but good fat that matters. Milk will kill you. Milk is the perfect and pure food—you could live on it and nothing else!

Here’s what’s funny to me.  In spite of all the differing theories, everybody, and I mean EVERY. BODY. EATS! What’s more, they all agree that real food is best.  Nobody’s fasting until the “right answer” is established as fact, because there’s a sort of intuitive belief that we don’t “know this” perfectly.  So we live into it—but all the while agreeing, even among the differing schools of thought, that real food is better than twinkies and chips, and that you should eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full.  This is the basic stuff all foodies buy into, though there are chasms of disagreement under this surface.

The church ought to take a lesson.

“Good bye, Rob Bell,” says John Piper after Bell’s book comes out?  The following quote is in the context of bashing both Eugene Peterson and Bell on this website: “Those who have eyes to see ARE seeing…we’re seeing the great falling away from the Truth and the lure of the ‘emerging church’ which is nothing short of satanic with its attempts to mesh Christianity with Eastern religions and man’s vain philosophies.”  We’re arguing about the age of the earth.  We’re arguing about whether “inspiration,” “authority,” or “inerrancy” accurately describe the Bible.  We love to argue over words, even though the very Bible we argue about tells us expressly not to do that.  We’re prone to follow human leaders blindly, even though the Bible tells us not to divide over following human leaders.

Unlike the diet debates, however, for many these distractions and dissections seem to divert us from the main thing, and so we’re not feeding our spirits.  After all, no matter your food philosophy, you still eventually eat.  But for many, the endless arguments about nuanced doctrines and theological grenade tossing that’s going on is consuming so much of our time and energy that we’re not eating at all.  I understand that these “in-house” discussions about the best forms of nutrition have value, but in the meantime—we need to eat.

Jesus said, “My food is to to the will of Him who sent me,” and that will is, like eating real food, glaringly obvious, because it’s God’s direct answer to people’s question:  God, what do you want us to do?

Do justice. Advocate for people on the margins, people who are suffering.  Take steps in the world to bless and serve people in need.  Open your eyes and see oppression and injustice, and then take steps, big or small, to do something about it.

Love mercy. Live a life that is free of bitterness by telling truth, confession, forgiving, confronting.  Don’t sweep your hurt under the rug and pretend it’s not there.  Neither should you respond in rage, lashing out with either hurtful words or actions.  Work at moving towards forgiveness – and make sure you look here if this is a big issue for you.  There’s a boatload of pain in our world, but we’ll never become really free ’til we find ways of letting it go.  In Christ  - there are ways!

Walk humbly with God. I’m sleeping, alone, at the foot of a glacier on Mt. Baker last summer, and I wake in the night my sense alive with lightening flashes and thunder, and then the sound of a glacier melt running on rocks next to my tent.  It’s a powerful moment of perceiving Presence—the reality of God, not as an idea or doctrine, but as a companion.  Learning to cultivate this sense of presence is a lifelong art—and it’s this companionship that will shape us to be the best version of ourselves we can possibly be.

This is the “real food” of the faith.  But if this is the real food, then it looks like a lot of us are fasting because justice, mercy, and intimacy are in real short supply frankly.  I have news:  the world driving by your church doesn’t care about our internal debates over the state of Rob Bell’s soul, or whether we’re “totally depraved” or just depraved.  They are, however, hungry, and the food of justice, mercy, and intimacy is, when prepared well, very tasty, inviting.  Why then, in God’s name, aren’t we known as people “for” justice, mercy, and intimacy?  It’s because we’ve, in many cases, stopped eating.  So here’s Christ’s body:  emaciated and hungry for justice, mercy, and love—and what’s the body doing?  Cutting itself with slashing words of condemnation.  Amputating it’s own limbs needlessly with it’s confident proclamations of judgement, all the while sounding more like the people Jesus condemned, than they sound like Jesus.

I’m hungry… and so are others.  Let’s get on with it.

NOTE: Every copy of The Colors of Hope purchased on Amazon between June 7 and 12 will add $2 to the Spilling Hope project.  Buy a book for a grad or dad… and invest in providing clean water sources and empowering churches in Uganda and Rwanda. Spread the hope! Thanks.

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • http://www.timthurmansblog.blogspot.com Tim Thurman

    AMEN!!!! I think “doctrine” is important (e.g. Harold Camping’s ridiculous prediction of May 21st), but not as important as the meat and potatoes of justice, mercy, and love. What is the saying? People don’t care what you know until the know that you care. Loving people comes first.


Skinny Church – the wrong fast for a hungry world

If nutrition is a hobby of yours, then you know that something as simple and straightforward as eating food has dozens of conflicting schools of thought. Macrobiotic people swear by rice and seaweed. Paleolithic people think rice, and most agriculture for that matter, is from the devil himself. Vegetarians think meat eaters are cruelly killing animals, and, by eating meat, their own bodies. Vegetarian Myth (a favorite book of mine) takes pretty much the opposite approach. Back in the day, low fat was all the rage.
Now it’s not low-fat, but good fat that matters. Milk will kill you. Milk is the perfect and pure food—you could live on it and nothing else!

Here’s what’s funny to me.  In spite of all the differing theories, everybody, and I mean EVERY. BODY. EATS! What’s more, they all agree that real food is best.  Nobody’s fasting until the “right answer” is established as fact, because there’s a sort of intuitive belief that we don’t “know this” perfectly.  So we live into it—but all the while agreeing, even among the differing schools of thought, that real food is better than twinkies and chips, and that you should eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full.  This is the basic stuff all foodies buy into, though there are chasms of disagreement under this surface.

The church ought to take a lesson.

“Good bye, Rob Bell,” says John Piper after Bell’s book comes out?  The following quote is in the context of bashing both Eugene Peterson and Bell on this website: “Those who have eyes to see ARE seeing…we’re seeing the great falling away from the Truth and the lure of the ‘emerging church’ which is nothing short of satanic with its attempts to mesh Christianity with Eastern religions and man’s vain philosophies.”  We’re arguing about the age of the earth.  We’re arguing about whether “inspiration,” “authority,” or “inerrancy” accurately describe the Bible.  We love to argue over words, even though the very Bible we argue about tells us expressly not to do that.  We’re prone to follow human leaders blindly, even though the Bible tells us not to divide over following human leaders.

Unlike the diet debates, however, for many these distractions and dissections seem to divert us from the main thing, and so we’re not feeding our spirits.  After all, no matter your food philosophy, you still eventually eat.  But for many, the endless arguments about nuanced doctrines and theological grenade tossing that’s going on is consuming so much of our time and energy that we’re not eating at all.  I understand that these “in-house” discussions about the best forms of nutrition have value, but in the meantime—we need to eat.

Jesus said, “My food is to to the will of Him who sent me,” and that will is, like eating real food, glaringly obvious, because it’s God’s direct answer to people’s question:  God, what do you want us to do?

Do justice. Advocate for people on the margins, people who are suffering.  Take steps in the world to bless and serve people in need.  Open your eyes and see oppression and injustice, and then take steps, big or small, to do something about it.

Love mercy. Live a life that is free of bitterness by telling truth, confession, forgiving, confronting.  Don’t sweep your hurt under the rug and pretend it’s not there.  Neither should you respond in rage, lashing out with either hurtful words or actions.  Work at moving towards forgiveness – and make sure you look here if this is a big issue for you.  There’s a boatload of pain in our world, but we’ll never become really free ’til we find ways of letting it go.  In Christ  - there are ways!

Walk humbly with God. I’m sleeping, alone, at the foot of a glacier on Mt. Baker last summer, and I wake in the night my sense alive with lightening flashes and thunder, and then the sound of a glacier melt running on rocks next to my tent.  It’s a powerful moment of perceiving Presence—the reality of God, not as an idea or doctrine, but as a companion.  Learning to cultivate this sense of presence is a lifelong art—and it’s this companionship that will shape us to be the best version of ourselves we can possibly be.

This is the “real food” of the faith.  But if this is the real food, then it looks like a lot of us are fasting because justice, mercy, and intimacy are in real short supply frankly.  I have news:  the world driving by your church doesn’t care about our internal debates over the state of Rob Bell’s soul, or whether we’re “totally depraved” or just depraved.  They are, however, hungry, and the food of justice, mercy, and intimacy is, when prepared well, very tasty, inviting.  Why then, in God’s name, aren’t we known as people “for” justice, mercy, and intimacy?  It’s because we’ve, in many cases, stopped eating.  So here’s Christ’s body:  emaciated and hungry for justice, mercy, and love—and what’s the body doing?  Cutting itself with slashing words of condemnation.  Amputating it’s own limbs needlessly with it’s confident proclamations of judgement, all the while sounding more like the people Jesus condemned, than they sound like Jesus.

I’m hungry… and so are others.  Let’s get on with it.

NOTE: Every copy of The Colors of Hope purchased on Amazon between June 7 and 12 will add $2 to the Spilling Hope project.  Buy a book for a grad or dad… and invest in providing clean water sources and empowering churches in Uganda and Rwanda. Spread the hope! Thanks.

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • http://www.timthurmansblog.blogspot.com Tim Thurman

    AMEN!!!! I think “doctrine” is important (e.g. Harold Camping’s ridiculous prediction of May 21st), but not as important as the meat and potatoes of justice, mercy, and love. What is the saying? People don’t care what you know until the know that you care. Loving people comes first.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X