Let me add a word about the psychological dynamics that occur when a person hears a message that challenges long-held beliefs and assumptions.
There are essentially three responses. One is to reject it out of hand (which often entails attacking the messenger). Another is to embrace it by making the needed adjustments for which it calls. But the third is more subtle. It’s to embrace it in word, but reject it in deed. Let me illustrate with an actual event.
There was once a pastor named Jed who began reading some “subversive literature” on church renewal and restoration. Pastor Jed had preached the Bible from A to Izzard. But the material in these books was entirely new to him.
They called into question virtually everything he believed and practiced about the church. They argued against a clergy system. They argued that the entire congregation . . . all of God’s people . . . should minister, should function as priests in God’s House, and should be responsible for carrying the burden of church ministry.
Pastor Jed’s reaction was three-fold. He was shocked, alarmed, and excited. The excitement won out. So he began sharing these books with his fellow pastor friends in town. They too began devouring them and reacted the same way that Jed did.
Six months later, Pastor Jed mounted his pulpit one Sunday morning and made the following announcement: “I have some exciting news to share with all of you. For the past six months, I have been reading a number of books that have shaken me to my core. They have shown me that Jesus Christ wants to be Head of His church. They’ve shown me that the Body of Christ . . . you . . . are called by God to carry out the ministry of this church.
The day has come for clergyman like myself to step back and liberate the laity into ministry. In fact, there is no such thing as a clergy or a laity in God’s eyes. I have passed these books on to some of my fellow pastors in town. And they too have been ignited by reading them.
We feel that God is speaking to us all, and there needs to be some major changes made. So two months from now, we’re going to be holding a very special conference to discuss liberating the laity and giving the church back to Jesus Christ, its rightful Head.”
When the service ended, a young couple immediately walked over to the pastor and said, “Pastor Jed, you don’t know how long we’ve been praying for this. We think we know the books you’ve been reading; we’re so excited that this conference is going to happen. We don’t want to miss it. Can you give us the exact dates so we can mark them down in our calendar?”
Pastor Jed smiled at the couple and quietly said, “I’m really sorry, but you can’t come. It’s a clergy only conference.”
What happened? Pastor Jed had processed everything he read according to the grid that was firmly planted in his brain—a grid that was shaped by his own experiences and assumptions. And he was filtering everything he was reading through that grid. He only took away those things that “fit” that grid and was blinded to everything else. The same was true for the other pastors.
Amazingly, you and I can hear or read something provocative, and in our spirit know that it’s true, yet our brains can work overtime to subtly filter out what we don’t wish to apply. I’ve watched this happen for many years. It’s one of the most incredible phenomena I’ve ever witnessed.
That said, the book you hold in your hands was written to be more than an engaging discussion about an alternative way of being church. Consequently, if you are someone who is part of a traditional church, and you’ve been challenged to discover the church on the other side, I would like to recommend a number of other books for you to read. Know that there is another way of being and doing church, and it’s picking up momentum in this hour.
On the other hand, if you are meeting in a non-traditional church, the lessons contained in this book are designed to be translated into a guidepost for group reflection and discussion. And more importantly, application.