Step 1: We admit we are powerless over our addiction and that our lives have become unmanageable.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:22-25
I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.
You want to know another reason why it is so difficult for me to admit that I am powerless over my addiction to self-reliance and that my life has become unmanageable because of it? It is because I am an American Christian…in other words, I am the “rich young ruler” to whom Jesus says, “give it all up and just rely on me, then we can talk.”
We, the church in America, are SERIOUSLY wealthy, not only in material things but in human resources, giftedness, skills, abilities, ingenuity, innovation, strategic thinking, and in almost everything else one might imagine to be helpful in building any organization. Moreover, we have virtually all the freedom in the world to build our churches and to thrive, free from government interference or persecution. We have entire libraries full of books written by our pastors. We can flip to any of hundreds of …
Tuesday Re-mix – Anonymity Anonymous: Recovery from our Addiction to Self-reliance
Step 1: We admit we are powerless over our addiction and that our lives have become unmanageable.
There’s an old joke about two guys out on a camping trip. They are at their campsite and they spot a bear off in the distance. They are watching it when it spots them and starts coming toward their campsite and then starts running toward their campsite! One guy grabs his gun and starts loading it and grabbing extra ammunition. The other guy grabs his tennis shoes and starts furiously lacing them up. The first guy says, “Are you crazy!? You’ll never outrun the bear!” And the second guys says, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you!”
In my addiction to self-reliance, i.e., my fear of being too transparent with my friends, i.e., my secret disdain for the type of “community” and interdependence described in the Bible, there is a perspective that “enables” my addiction. It actually makes the addiction worse. It is the perspective that I don’t really have to be as perfect as God desires me to be…I just have to be better than the guys around me. It is an attitude that all but gives up on living the life God intends for me and stays content with living a life that looks pretty good when compared to lots of other people. It is the attitude that says, “I don’t have to outrun the bear…I just have to outrun the guy next to me.”
You see, no matter how badly I mess up, I can always find someone else who messed up “worse” in my opinion. And as long as I can feel like I’m doing better than most folks around me, I …
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:15-25 (selections)
“My name is Blake. And I am an anonymity addict.”
I am thinking further about the notion that the American culture has become addicted to anonymity and that the church must choose whether it will “enable” that addiction or be a place of healing from it. This healing, I believe, is an important objective for the church today.
The “addiction” manifests itself in me every time I find myself in trouble or in pain and the little voice inside me tells me to just keep it to myself, do not show anyone this weakness, do not trouble anyone with my problem, and definitely do not let anyone see my flaws or my brokenness. All those words and phrases like “be a man” and “buck up” and “don’t be a whiner” rattle through my thoughts. I take it to the Lord in prayer and I decide He and I can deal with it by ourselves. But my theology betrays me, because other words and phrases also haunt me: “We were created for community” and “there are no lone ranger Christians” and “confess your sins one to another” and “carry one another’s burdens”. And so this tension inside remains and, alas, I usually decide against …
I believe that loneliness is sweeping our culture in epidemic proportions. I also believe the church is uniquely positioned and empowered to cure loneliness. We just need to figure out what genuine friendships look like in the face of life’s most painful circumstances.
I have not yet met a pastor or a church leader who thinks their church actually has too much community or too much in the way of genuine relationships. The truth is, all of us are always looking for ways to develop a deeper sense of community among our members. We all understand that there simply is no richer, deeper, more fulfilling sense of God’s love and grace than to be fully known and fully loved, i.e., to have someone know our darkest secrets and struggles and flaws and still love us!
I have found that kind of community in our church’s support group ministry. It is the absolute best way I have ever seen to say to hurting people, “We understand you and we love you anyway!” I have come to believe that the more church members we can get involved in it, the deeper our sense of community becomes. Here is a great example from that ministry:
The underlying message behind support groups is the same message which is at the heart of all genuine community: you are not alone. My church’s support group ministry is built on two simple foundational pieces: (1) God’s Word, and (2) friends who share your pain. There seems to be no limit to how much healing can take place with those two elements working together in a person’s life.
Of course, there is much more to a good support group ministry than that. But that is the core of it. Anything about this message which …
“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:41-47
I have two leadership roles in my church, two different “small group” ministries for which I am partly responsible. I am pretty passionate about both of them, and I am always learning from each of them. The Gathering is my Sunday morning Bible study group, open to any and all comers, all ages, all walks of life and all levels of spiritual maturity. It is a slightly non-traditional offering as a part of my church’s “Sunday School”. We meet around tables, effectively creating “small groups” of 6 to 8 people every Sunday morning for Bible study. Heart 2 Heart is also a small group ministry, but for wounded people. Every Tuesday night, these dear friends meet in small groups built around specific issues and pains in their lives. Some of these groups …
This video testimony is a perfect example of why Debbie Williams and I wrote Trusting God’s People…Again. I’ve been using it as a support group curriculum for a few years now, with some remarkable success.
For more information on this ministry, see the Heart 2 Heart website. For those of you in the San Antonio area, groups begin August 24. For those of you outside our area, maybe your church should consider a support group like this. I promise you the need is there!
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I’m posting this under the category, “Books that Changed Me”. When I created that category, I didn’t intend it to be for books I had written. But I suppose it goes without saying, every book you write changes you. This one was certainly no different.
Depending on whose statistics you use, anywhere from 15% to 40% of Christians today would say they have been wounded deeply by other Christians. Think about that. That is an enormous percentage. If there are 100 million Americans today who claim to be Christian, that means that somewhere between 15 million and 40 million would say they have felt genuinely betrayed by their Christian brothers or sisters.
That betrayal coming at the hands of the church is among the deepest emotional and Spiritual pains imaginable. After all, the church is supposed to be a safe place for us, a place where we are genuinely loved and accepted even with all our flaws and shortcomings. When betrayal comes from there, it comes from the last bastion of Spiritual safety we know. It cuts deeply and it renders us Spiritually (if not emotionally) incapacitated for a season in our life. You may be one of these wounded saints. If not, the chances are high that you know one.
The question this raises: what is the church’s responsibility for responding to these dear friends?
The reality is that the pews (or chairs, or benches) in your worship center are often filled with people hurting from this very pain. They were hurt deeply in another church and left there and are now in your church. And they brought all that baggage with them. What they want most is to just sit in the back of the room and be invisible for a while. They’re fairly certain they will not …