Questioning the “why” of the “what” you have been taught your whole life can be very scary and intimidating. Perhaps the greatest realization that has dawned on me since beginning this journey is the realization that I am not alone. I’m not talking about being alone spiritually. It was the awakening to the knowledge that every moment I live and with every breath I take I am in the loving presence of the Father that allowed this journey to begin. I’m referring to the discovery of finding others that are walking this path of living daily knowing you are loved unconditionally regardless of anything you may have done, are doing, or may do. (For more on that, see I’m One of Them.) The entire purpose of this post is to point to some of those that have helped me along the way through the sharing of their own journey.
Possibly the most utilized source of encouragement I have found has been the world of podcasts. Here are my favorites to listen to:
Hosted by Mike and Susan Adams, this podcast is the first gospel based podcast I stumbled on after performing a Google search for podcasts on grace. At the time, it was known as The Chief Sinner Podcast. Per the description on their webpage, “Christian, God isn’t disappointed in you. He knows you fully and loves you perfectly. He’s given us a Substitute, not a goal. We’re Mike & Susan, a former pastor and pastor’s wife who’ve left behind the empty obligations of performance-based Christianity so prevalent in the institutional church to discover a more authentic reality outside its walls and the freedom and joy of living life in the reality of “it is finished.” We’re glad you’re here and we invite you to pull up a chair and your favorite beverage and join our conversations.” (**Updated 7/22/2018 to reflect the renaming renaming of their podcast that occurred in October 2017.)
Also hosted by Mike Adams, this podcast is still fairly new but was birthed out of Mike’s desire to ask “honest questions about the institutional church and religious/church tradition.” After discovering The Known & Loved Podcast, I began a friendship with Mike and Susan via twitter. In episode 7 of The Ekklesia Podcast, Mike gave me an opportunity to speak and share my story.
The Simple Gospel Podcast is a “conversation about the gospel + pop culture & entertainment from the 80’s & 90’s.” Hosted by Chris Stapleton, Josh Scott, and Dan Hampton, this podcast is packed full of nostalgia of the best parts of growing up and reiterates that the only thing that matters is Jesus. Based in Chattanooga, Shannon and I have taken advantage of the short drive from Knoxville to meet these guys and spend a Sunday afternoon together.
Per Google, The God Journey is “an ever expanding conversation for those living beyond religious performance.” Wayne Jacobsen & Brad Cummings are the hosts and are both contributing authors of The Shack (see below).
The discovery of this podcast, and the book upon which it is based, is perhaps what finally allowed us to “snip the scissors” and cut the thin final thread that kept us holding onto our former traditional and religious ways. Richard Jacobson, author of Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity, and his good friend, Gunnar Falk, discuss real life experiences in genuine spiritual community, outside the box.
I discovered this podcast based on their interview of Richard Jacobson. Alex Reiman and Jason Duncan describe with the following statement from their site: “We interview former and current pastors or individuals with incredible faith stories in hopes of pushing the boundaries of the pulpit, opening minds, and helping each other better understand God. Our guests are not your pastors, but they are worth following.” One of my favorite parts of this podcast is the weekly Not Your Pastor’s Pulpit Series that features short sermons from listeners submitted to be shared by Alex and Jason. In setting forth the following guidelines for sermon submission, I believe they have truly captured the heart of the gospel. Once again, from their site, here are the guidelines for sermon submission:
1 – Keep it short – Shoot for 5-10 minutes (max)
2 – Keep it Jesus – Please don’t push a personal agenda, this isn’t the spot for “the Roman’s Road” or proof texting a theology. Listeners will be able to learn more about you and your cause(s) in a short bio included with your sermon.
3 – Love others – Jesus accepted everyone, please keep that in mind or your sermon will be rejected.
Other than podcasts, I have read more books in the last two to three years than in all other years of my life combined. Here is a short list of what I have consumed along with a short description of each (courtesy of Amazon!):
Many believers feel stunted in their Christian growth. We beat ourselves up over our failures and, in the process, pull away from God because we subconsciously believe He tallies our defects and hangs His head in disappointment. In this newly repackaged edition—now with full appendix, study questions, and the author’s own epilogue, “Ragamuffin Fifteen Years Later,” Brennan Manning reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth. The Father beckons us to Himself with a “furious love” that burns brightly and constantly. Only when we truly embrace God’s grace can we bask in the joy of a gospel that enfolds the most needy of His flock—the “ragamuffins.”
Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.
In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!
So many Christians believe God’s love is fickle: when they sin, He turns away in disgust and anger. They vacillate between “He loves me” and “He loves me not” because of their behavior. That reasoning, writes Wayne Jacobsen, is as flawed as pulling petals from a daisy. Rather God’s love is sturdy, enduring, and undisturbed by people’s failings because God loves humankind not for what they do–but who they are. They are God’s beloved creation.
Startlingly honest and empathetically written, HE LOVES ME! reveals the facts of God’s relentless grace. Readers will learn how to live consciously, confidently in this love all the time. Questions for personal reflection and group discussion help make these truths practical and life-changing. Insecure Christians ready for a revolutionary relationship with God will find out just how accessible that is.
Jake Colsen, an overworked and disillusioned pastor, happens into a stranger who bears an uncanny resemblance (in manner) to the apostle John. A number of encounters with John as well as a family crisis lead Jake to a new understanding of what his life should be like: one filled with faith bolstered by a steady, close relationship with the God of the universe. Facing his own disappointment with Christianity, Jake must forsake the habits that have made his faith rote and rediscover the love that captured his heart when he first believed.
Compelling and intensely personal, SO YOU DON’T WANT TO GO TO CHURCH ANYMORE relates a man’s rebirth from performance-based Christianity to a loving friendship with Christ that affects all he does, thinks, and says. As John tells Jake, “There is nothing the Father desires for you more than that you fall squarely in the lap of his love and never move from that place for the rest of your life.”
Millions of believers are currently leaving the organized church, without giving up their faith. Sadly, many are only defining themselves by what they don’t do, as Christians who simply “don’t go to church.” It’s time for these believers to catch a vision for genuine spiritual community, outside the walls of organized Christianity, a way of being the church without going to church.
Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity will challenge everything you thought you knew about church. Unchurching boldly examines whether organized churches are even biblical. It thoroughly deconstructs the idea of special church buildings, paid pastors, weekly sermons, mandatory tithes and offerings, gender inequality in church leadership, and much more.
Unchurching is intended to empower believers who are done with organized church but aren’t ready to abandon their faith. It will give non-churchgoing Christians a vision for genuine spiritual community that simply functions like an extended spiritual family. And it will equip them with the language to finally articulate that vision to others.
- Other books by Brennan Manning
My favorite author during this journey is undoubtedly the late Brennan Manning. Brennan has a way of putting love and affection of the Father in simple language for “Ragamuffins” to understand. In addition to the The Ragamuffin Gospel mentioned above, I’ve read the following books written by Brennan: Abba’s Child, Ruthless Trust, A Glimpse of Jesus, The Signature of Jesus, The Wisdom of Tenderness, The Furious Longing of God, The Importance of Being Foolish, The Prodigal and, most recently, The Rabbi’s Heartbeat.
If you have found yourself on a path that seems unusual and is unknown to you, let this post remind you . . . you are not alone. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?” We are all on this journey to know the love of our Father. I encourage you to take time to listen, allow yourself time to read, and reach out to myself or any of the others above. I believe this closing quote from D. T. Niles is a perfect synopsis of what we are all here to do:
“Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”