Going to Church or Being the Church?

When you “go to church” these days, it seems that staged teachings and “worship” performances by the “anointed” few during Sunday “services” have become substitutes for the diverse gifts and “one another” imperatives of the New Testament.

When you truly “are the church”, however, shared teachings, songs and diverse gifts arise among us – each and every one – by encouraging and strengthening “one another” in the Lord as functional communities which gather together.

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The Power of the Gospel

I went to the jail yesterday with another brother to be with one of the churches we helped establish there.

When we arrived, that other brother, John, felt the Lord’s prompting to ask if anyone was struggling with anything and wanted some one-on-one help. A young man raised his hand and I met with him alone while John remained with the larger group of about twenty inmates.

God and ManAs we talked, that young man was able to openly confess and release to the Lord years of hurts and regrets that he had suffered. The pain he carried from the wrongs he experienced as a boy contributed to addictions and emotional enslavement, which had been destroying his life. As he began to expose and gave them to the Lord, Jesus met him in a very personal way.

Then, without prompting, he started talking about all the stupid sins he had committed in reaction to the wrongs he had suffered at the hands of others. He began crying and asked how he could be free from the guilt and weight of his own wrongs.

I find that’s often the case: When we forgive others for their wrongs, we often clearly see for the first time the significance of our own sins and then are brought to a place of genuine conviction.

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Sound Doctrine and Snake Oil Theology

My prayer for the Church in this age of itchy ears and false teachers …

Lord, raise up true elders – “grown ups” among us who serve your people in their local communities – to teach sound doctrine and confront those who redefine:

Snake Oil SalesmenFaith as doubt;

Grace as excuse;

Love as license;

True as relative;

Real as subjective;

Moral as optional;

Community as conformity;

Church as unassembly;

Diverse gifts as distractions; and

Mission as introspection.

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Robert R. Wright (1933 – 2015)

Last month, on January 6, 2015, my dad died peacefully in his sleep after a seven year struggle with dementia. His was a life well lived, in service to the King of Kings and His Kingdom.

This is a blog I first wrote a couple of years ago about my parents. I am re-posting it as my tribute to him and the legacy he leaves behind.

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Roots

The last several years have been a wonderful journey of seeing folks come to the Lord and fellowships emerge in highly improbable places. In my own life, the roots for this go back to my dad and mom, Bob and Mary Jane Wright.

tree_rootsIn the 1970s and 80’s, the Lord used them as pioneers in what we’d now call simple “organic” church – before that term became popular (even though today, unfortunately, it can mean nearly anything).

Forty years ago, they helped birth a regional network of open, participatory fellowships in Maryland, where people could find and express the vibrant life of Christ in dynamic gatherings as everyone ministered one to another – rather than having directed, scripted meetings.

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Local Church Leadership

Last evening some elders from among our fellowships took time to share a meal at a local pizza joint and talk – just talk, with no agenda.

body-of-christOur conversation turned to how the traditional model for church leadership is to inspire folks to “come” and be part of our own gift, calling or motivation – but that we don’t see this in Apostle Paul’s life.

Rather, Paul’s main approach was to unleash Christ within existing communities where God sent him. As Paul would “go”, he was secure enough to then let Christ be expressed through the wonderful diversity of the many unique gifts, callings and motivations He chose to bestow among His people in each church.

Thus, it was never about Paul inspiring people to come gather around his own gift, calling or motivation. Likewise, there is no example in the entire New Testament of any single “pastor”, one-man ministry or other person serving as a primary focal point “over” any local church.

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The Miraculous

Every once in a while we get to touch the hand of God. When we hold a loved one’s hand there is a connection that transcends more than the mere physical touch. Holding hands unites the emotions with the physical. Touching the hand of God unites creation with the Creator.

hand of godThis morning God reached His hand down to the Sunday fellowship group that meets in our home. After a short time of sharing we began to pray for each other. Some of the shared needs will require the totally miraculous to happen.

I believe that God is in the business of the miraculous. When we prayed this morning the supernatural presence of God filled the room. Almost everyone had a word, Scripture or a picture from the Lord to share with the person who was receiving the prayer. The sense that the Lord was standing right there in the midst of us was overwhelming.

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Stories of Redemption

Yesterday, after a seven month hiatus to care for my dad and deal with some of my own health issues, another local elder and I visited the jail to check on a church I previously had been helping.

taking-up-your-crossThe first thing I noticed was around twenty new men were now in that fellowship, with only two of the original brothers still around (the others, as is normal in a jail environment, had been released or transferred).

The church, I was thrilled to see, had not only survived but thrived during my absence – with them showing a wonderful continuity of life from when I last saw them.

As I then listened to them openly share their hopes and struggles in the Lord with each other, and watched them encourage one another to love and good works (Heb. 10), I cried silent tears of joy.

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I Love Church!

Participatory church? I do that.

I sit and stand when the worship leader tells me to and sometimes even sing along, do the happy clap or raise my arms with my eyes closed when prompted;

pew

Yup, I love church!

I shake hands with the guy in the pew ahead of me when the associate pastor says to greet one another;

On occasion I say “amen” when the senior pastor asks us to say “amen” during his sermon;

I put money in the plate when its passed down my row by the ushers; and

I even bow my head when told to do so during the invitation for folks to raise their hands and receive Jesus.

So yes, I participate when I go to church, thank you very much!

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House2House: RIP

snake-oil-salesmanIt looks like House2House Ministries and Magazine have closed shop once again.

What an unfortunate, checkered history of organic/simple church failure after failure.

How many times will it take before Felicity Dale and gang finally figure out that you can’t start and sustain healthy local churches – simple, organic or otherwise – by promoting phony self-appointed “apostles”:

– Who ain’t livin’ what their sellin’, with private lives that don’t match up with their finely-honed public persona;

– Who have no consistent history of successfully forming, maintaining or being part of sustainable local churches that look anything like what they promote in their books, blogs and conferences;

– Who deny that the Great Commission has general relevance today;

– Who proclaim that scripture is not the written word of God and that those who affirm scripture are committing “treason against Christ”;

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The Gift

Gifts are special. Gifts can sit on a shelf awaiting the appropriate time to be given, or they can be spontaneous. Gifts can come in small or large boxes. Sometimes the gift in the smallest box is far superior to the one in the larger container.

giftThe Lord knows how to give good gifts. If a son asks for bread, he will not give him a stone.

When the Lord selects our gift, He handcrafts it so it is exactly what we need. His gift is sometimes not what we would have picked, but He knows our true needs.

Sometimes the gift is an unexpected answer to prayers that may be decades old or it could just be a little reminder that the Lord is good and He loves us with an infallible love.

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My Stunning Prophetic Predictions for 2015

Man of GodMy stunning predictions for 2014 proved to be the ONLY 100% accurate prophecies by anyone anywhere last year.

So, not wanting to let all the prophets of fame, name and gain dominate yet another year with their headline-chasing rubbish, I’ve decided to once again put myself on the line by publishing my stunning new prophetic predictions for 2015.

This way, the world can see once more who is the true prophet among us!

So (drum roll…) here is what’s gonna happen in 2015, raw and unvarnished:
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Organic and Simple Church Snares

More and more people are legitimately desiring to move towards organic/simple church and away from the institutional church.

A Snare for the Unwary

A Snare for the Unwary

Unfortunately, there are major snares for those on that journey. Too often, they fall prey to books and blogs on organic/simple church by those who either reject the plenary authority of scripture or outright deny that the Bible is the written word of God.

Although such authors talk a good talk, they typically have no consistent history of actually finding, creating or sustaining in their own lives the kind of local “organic” or “simple” church they are selling to others.

Increasingly, it seems that those who live it seldom sell it, while those who sell it seldom live it.

This makes it very hard to move forward, because there’s a lot of crazy being peddled to the unwary out there in organic land.

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Folly and Ruin

Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill

Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill

Mars Hill, a network of churches in Seattle, is shutting down as more and more accounts keep surfacing of behind-the-scenes abusive behavior by their otherwise publicly charming and inspiring founder, author and senior pastor, Mark Driscoll.

I’ve seen this happen many times over the years as churches and Christian movements of all stripes rise and fall.

When a church or movement organizes around a gifted man and his individual vision or mission, it will grow rapidly at first but then stumble as it eventually hits up against his limits.

This is not how it should be.

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Being The Church

This morning, I’m not going to some high-cost building to find a parking space, be greeted by ushers I barely know, sit in a pew, be psyched up by a loud worship band, or inspired by some finely honed monologue sermon from a front podium.

Rather, my wife and I are opening our home to those who want to come and share breakfast at our table as we talk, sing, teach, disciple and encourage one another in the Lord. Our time together is not scripted or directed – except by the Holy Spirit.

Joining us will be folks with graduate degrees and fancy houses, along with folks living in the woods, and just about everything in between. We are very diverse yet know and honor one another – while welcoming others with open hospitality – as we learn to be co-heirs and co-participants together in Christ.

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House2House Ministries and “Apostolic” Networks?

House2House Ministries: Because there's always room for one more book, blog or conference telling us how to, by those who don't do.

It’s time for the organic and simple church community to move beyond unbiblical mutual promotion networks by self-appointed “apostolic workers” and “church planters” who write enticing books and blogs, but generally have no consistent history of being in any functional local fellowship themselves or actually creating sustainable, healthy fellowships among others. Rather than buying into their books, blogs and conferences at House2House Ministries, maybe we need to learn some things instead from Paul’s own life and ministry: http://www.crossroadjunction.com/2012/03/17/modern-day-pauls/

The Seasons of Life

I recently posted this update on Facebook.

Deciding to step down from jail ministry was hard, but I was deeply touched by the comments that followed on Facebook – especially from those who have first hand knowledge of my involvement in men’s lives at the jail over many years.

In the meantime, pray for Marianne, my mom and me as we bring grace and dignity to my dad as he closes out a lifetime of service to the King.

~ Jim Wright

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The “Missional” Trap

diverse_parts

“Missional” seems to have become yet another buzz word used by gifted leaders to rally God’s people around their own callings and motivations.

It all sounds so good, but it becomes a trap when the Great Commission is reduced to one man’s vision and mission – especially if all the other gifts, callings and Kingdom imperatives in the New Testament then get pushed aside or made to play second fiddle.

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Truth, Justice and Church Sex Abuse

Finally, the truth comes out and justice prevails.

Over the last several years, Marianne and I have ministered through Nathan’s Voice to five families devastated by abusive church leaders at Sovereign Grace Ministries and it’s network of churches – including Covenant Grace.

Now one of the abusers has received a 40 years sentence, after years of denial, cover up and shunning of his victims by the leadership structure at SGM. See Child Sex Abuser from Gaithersburg -area Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison.

House2House Ministries and Magazine

Lies, Cover Up and Abuse

Let this be a warning to all who respond to leadership abuse in the Body of Christ with the same kind insular mentality that “circles the wagon” through denials, cover up and attacks to preserve their own power, influence and ministries.

Just like what we saw over the years with SGM, the so-called “apostolic workers” and their “Beyond Cult” over at House2House Ministries (including Felicity Dale, Jon Zens, Milt Rodriquez and Keith Giles) have done the same thing.

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Mission, Discipleship and Fellowship: Life Reproducing Life

Last Friday was a holiday here in the United States, and Marianne and I opened our home, yard and pool for a day of family, friends and fellowship.

plantingFortunately, following my heart operation and extended hospital stay two weeks ago, several brothers in a couple of fellowships we relate to stepped forward and organized things – including a great cookout.

Afterwards, Marianne and I both said that this was one of the nicest days we’ve had in years – not because the past few years have been bad (they’ve been challenging due to some of my health issues, but not “bad”!), but because we’re seeing solid maturity arise among those we’ve been pouring our lives into.

Although we’ve always loved them deeply, now it’s actually fun to spend time with them!

In addition, we now have the profound pleasure of watching them reproduce their life in Christ among others.

As they step forward and do the work of mission, discipleship and strengthening our various fellowships, it seems more and more that God’s role for Marianne and me is to step back and serve through simple hospitality, unassuming encouragement and quiet mentoring.

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