Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Brian Mashburn Essay

The following essay was posted by Brian Mashburn on his blog. The title of the essay is "My Secret Life of Discipleship". I am not sure I know anybody that is more passionate about discipleship than Brian. I love his heart. Below is the complete essay without any editing on my part.

My Secret Life of Discipleship

I'd like to introduce you to a whole bunch of us who are members of the Church of Christ who live secret lives of discipleship totally separate and apart from our church practices.

We span the ranks of our churches...we are ministers and elders, deacons and "lay members", students and college professors, teenagers and senior citizens.

We live and move and act within Churches of Christ, and hold dear the idea of becoming more like Christ together, to become a church that is, in actuality, 'of Christ'.

We are not interested in change. We are interested in Christ, and whatever we must change in order love Him more truly, we are glad and anxious to do so.

We are immovably committed to the Bible. But only inasmuch as it teaches us about and moves us closer to Christ...and we believe it to be the perfect tool for doing so, a gift from God, the written Word that was preserved to lead us to the Living Word. We suffer from a growing intolerance for people who use the Bible merely to defend and maintain strict adherence to certain sets of worship practices, beliefs, or political positions. And most of us are long past satisfying our spiritual zeal by fighting with other attempting Bible-followers about who is right.

We are trying to find out how to pray, and our longing for prayer is intensifying. We are not motivated by duty, nor merely to "lay our requests before God". We pray because we long for actual God-contact. And in this area, in most of our churches, we feel impossibly alone and mentorless, and oftentimes even looked at as crazy or overly-emotional. We are looking to ancient monastics and mystics and their practices, and also to other denominations, to satisfy our need to be taught...we are not creative, we are desperate.

We are bright and honest and dedicated, but only some of us are educated. And those of us who are rarely point it out, and more often hide from talking about it. That's because we put very little stock in the educated merely because they are educated. We have met people who are much more devoted to the Divine Master than some who have a Masters of Divinity, and have found them more useful in our own becoming more like Christ. We are not anti-intellectual, mind you. We love smart people. But we have the innate ability to spot unspiritual smart people, and we would define them as those who run after smarts rather than Christ, and mistakenly confuse the two. We want and need smart, educated people. But educated people who expose a lack of self-awareness and humility by expecting deference from others because they know so much, we just leave them to their ivory kingdoms and sorrowfully attempt to pursue Christ's without them.

We are indignant sometimes, and defensive and rude on occasion, and every now and then, we are angry. For the younger among us, it's because we feel like we're being bargained with...asked to 'please stay in a movement that doesn't work' in exchange for job security, or hero status, or at the very least, tons and tons of gratitude and affirmation...and we sense that the strings attached are too costly. For those of us who are old enough, it stems from feeling duped in our younger years, agreeing with things that sapped us, our friends, our parents, our children, and those we tried to evangelize of the very life we said submission to our system offered. Some of us are the ones that faithfully did everything our churches asked of us, and if it asked for more we would've done that, but we ended up not looking like Jesus. Maybe it is too much to ask, but we must: Forgive us our inappropriate, un-Christlike reactions to our wounds...we don't mean to claim perfection of any sort, we only abhor those who seem to claim it themselves. And we are scared to death of becoming like that...and are angry at ourselves for ever being like that.

If you watch us closely, you'll see that we have stopped complaining about the Church of Christ that we see (for the most part), and have turned our energies to becoming the Church of Christ that we dream of. When we are at our best, we are ushering in a new world, not just yelling at the old one. We are envisioning a new society in the wake of the old, not one that puts a period on the end of the sentence and starts a brand new unrelated one, but puts a "dot, dot, dot", pausing long enough to look around at all of us, and wake up that it is already new, if we would just engage each other and the world we live in with true spiritual friendship.

That term, 'true spiritual friendship' really means something to us. It involves confession, transparency, and vulnerability. It involves mutual introspection for the purpose of personal and each others transformation. The word 'and' really means something to us, too. We distrust those who only want to transform us or others who lack the capacity to show that they too are in need of continued transformation. And mere intellectual agreement with the idea that "we all sin and fall short of the glory of God" doesn't show us anymore. We need to hear confession.

We give extravagantly to and through the Churches of Christ we attend, hoping desperately to play a role in redeeming them and ourselves. We figure that if the mission of Christ is to people, then bringing Christ to the Church of Christ people is as good a target as any. We constantly flirt with taking a few like-minded people and planting new churches, but keep faithful to our Churches of Christ either out of fear of new things, family love and loyalty, or a deep sense of calling, or all three.

We give much of our money to our Churches and to others in our life in attempts to not be bound by it, but by Christ alone. But when we get to give sacrificially, it acts almost as a drug, giving us a temporary high, proving to ourselves that are motives go beyond our own comfort. We hear Christ telling us that we can't be his disciples unless we give up all that we have, and we believe him, and want to do it, and respect anyone who does. We are tired of being richer than everyone else in the world, but are scared to do anything about it, because we think our churches will look at us as unrealistic, unwise, and bad stewards.

We give much of our time and energy, too. But we don't always give it to the church programs, because we see that as tending to the aquarium, which we agree needs to take place, but we long for our efforts to make a God-honest, actual, life-giving impact on those outside the church walls with no strings attached. We are honestly clueless as to how to do this, but we have our ideas and are trying and wish our churches would give us a legitimate seat at the table as we learn as a whole group...and even if our churches are clueless too, we wish we were all being clueless together out in the open, determined to keep trying stuff until it works.

We're taking full and total responsibility for our children, completely done with expecting from or blaming the church institution for their spiritual outcomes. We welcome anything it does to help, but we are picking and choosing and investing in relationships with the people that we want influencing our kids, and outright asking them to do so, thinking of anything positive that comes out of our churches children's and youth programs as only being supplemental, and hopefully useful. We are watching closely, however, for any residual teaching that resembles anything legalistic whatsoever and are preparing to help our kids unlearn it, explaining our love for the church that taught it, showing openly where that teaching comes from, but correcting them as to what discipleship really looks like. If a Church of Christ wants to run us off quickly, which it may want to do because our convictions can be hard to deal with, or hard to argue against, then all it must do is start teaching our kids to be legalistic rule followers instead of passionate Christ followers. We'll leave. We are already worried enough about what we are doing to them by trying to teach them discipleship at home while their church is trying to teach them why we don't have instruments in worship.

Our commitment to Churches of Christ remains as long as we can be totally honest (as opposed to being totally right) among them.

Indeed, we have much in common with the Churches we exist within, and yet co-exist with dramatic differences. We are both committed to the Bible, but our approaches to finding its riches stand at odds. We are both committed to the truth, but our definition of truth stands at odds. We are both in love with the church, but our view of who make it up and what it exists for are at odds. We both want to live in the Kingdom of Heaven, but our views of what that means and when that is to take place are at odds. We both want to see ourselves as primarily spiritual, but our comfort with embracing mystery are at odds. We both want to worship God, but our convictions on what the non-negotiables are, are at odds. We wonder if we can really co-exist. We wonder if we are going to have to wait for some funerals to expose ourselves and our thoughts openly in the Church of Christ. We wonder, sometimes, if we can really co-exist at all, feeling sometimes like we are tolerated by our churches only because we walk on eggshells concerning how we talk about what is going on inside of us.

But we sense there is one means of hope that exalts what we have in common, and minimizes where we are different. A focus that allows us both, different as we are, to continue becoming Christians in a way that does not condemn our historical Church of Christ roots, nor restrain or condemn those of us who want to grow beyond it's limiting beliefs. The means of hope is for all of us to focus seriously on following Jesus.

The Bible's overarching call is to follow God. Jesus' overarching call is to discipleship. Our hope is in our mutual agreement to pursue the Restoration of Discipleship. Once again, and all over again, and in a brand new way...following Jesus can be our salvation.

What is our secret life made up of? The pursuit of becoming more and more like Christ in our hearts. We are striving to be prayerfully dependent, like him. We are striving to live lives of uncompromising integrity, like him. We are striving to define our lives by loving relationships, like him. We are trying to live daily lives of true and spiritual worship, like him. We are trying to become sacrificial stewards of everything we have and are, like him. We are trying to become what Scripture says we are, like him. And we are wanting to share this life-giving pursuit with every human being on the planet who doesn't know about Jesus, like him.

We will baptize our children with water, fully immersing them in it as one of the many Biblical steps of coming into the life of Christ, but we will not have an obsessive, myopic focus on it ever again. We will no longer claim to believe in the "priesthood of all believers" when we actually mean the "priesthood of all male believers". We will not ever again treat other Bible believing, Jesus following fellowships as lost people...and not because we don't disagree with them on certain significant points...but because we have been humbled by our own disagreement with our past selves, and we hope people who died thinking like we used to were saved by grace, too. We will not write whole books explaining away the Greek word "psallos" to convince everyone instrumental music in unscriptural, we will not write articles and preach sermons focused on the churches down the street and what they are doing wrong, we will not draw lines of fellowship based on whether we should have Bible classes, kitchens, basketball goals, or multiple communion cups. The mere mention of such feuds embarrasses the fool out of us, and we swallow hard and remember our love when we have to be associated with those related to us who have or are.

We wonder if we'll get to stay in the Church of Christ. Our intolerance for our own personal past and our churches intolerance of us may foil what we feel inclined and called to do, but day by day we pursue Christ sincerely, with all of our hearts. The good news is that it doesn't take much to encourage us. Any step towards Jesus by any person at all fuels us to take our next one and we are anxious to use both as evidence that we are in the right place.

We want the Church of Christ to be a church that is actually "of Christ".

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Michael Richards, Holidays, and Terry Rush

Good comedy is always funny, and sometimes full of wisdom. Jay Leno was commenting on the Michael Richards fiasco the other night on his show, and mentioned that Richards was going to have the obligatory visit with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Then he asked a funny but penetrating question............"who do folks go visit after they insult white people?" He suggested maybe Ronnie Howard, seeing as to how white he is and how good a guy he is. You and I both know the truth is that it's politically ok to insult white folks.


Thanksgiving was wonderful, mostly because it meant time with family. All of my family, except one, got together in Florence, Alabama. My nephew, Andy Dorfmuller, is in Iraq. We were sad he was not able to be with us, but the rest of us sure had a good time eating and visiting. My dad seems to be holding his own these days, which we are thankful for. Yesterday, the Lawyer clan got together at the Cone lake house. Jimmy and Andee are gracious host, and we had a great afternoon and evening together. Grand-daddy Virgil is recovering from his surgery very nicely. Patrick and Lauren were even there from California! YIPPEE!! Wasn't the weather this whole weekend just amazing? Liz, we missed having you with us yesterday! Juliana, welcome to the crazy world of extended families! Can Christmas REALLY be less than a month away?


Terry Rush has a very wise letter he received several years ago posted on his blog. Go read it when you get a chance. You probably will want to bookmark Terry's blog. I know I have.


The LSU vs Arkansas game sure was an exciting one, wasn't it? Goodness. I thought I was watching a track meet. This is just one guy's opinion (no offense Gator fans) but I believe THAT was the SEC Championship game. LSU needs to get a BCS bowl bid for sure.
Right Mickey? :) We are all excited around here tonight, in that Tank dresses out for his first real NFL game with the Eagles! I am going to be glued to my TV set. Watch for #50! Now if we can just get Jeb well again!

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Iron Bowl and other Ramblings

Matt and I are SO there! Yep, that's right.................he got us passes for the Iron Bowl. Bama vs Auburn 2006. That is probably not exciting to you folks outside of the state of Alabama, but for us folks from within, it's HUGE! Mike Shula can earn a LOT of redemption by winning this game. If he loses, it might be the last straw. I hope they give him a little more time, considering the condition the program was in when he arrived. It was pretty much rock bottom, and in his third season the team won 10 games. They could still win 8 this year.
Anyway, needless to say, I am PUMPED!!! Seeing the game is just the icing on the cake........being with Matt is the cake. I wish Luke was getting to go with us also, but he is having to work. Plus, he came out of the closet this season and declared himself a Razorback fan. What is a daddy to do? :) I still hold out hope that he will see the light one day and come back. He's young and distracted by love...........he'll come to his senses soon enough! :) ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!


Those of you who know my father-in-law, Virgil Lawyer, will be glad to know he came thru surgery fine and dandy this week. He needed a clogged artery to be unclogged, and the procedure went without a hitch. He'll be as good as new in a week or so, but he is already back home. Grandmamma' cooking is good for what ale's a body!


We have a Community Wide Thanksgiving Service this Sunday night at 5:00 at the Methodist Church in downtown Searcy. I am really excited about being together with everybody again. We have had several of these gatherings over the years. Each time I have been blessed to the max by worshiping with these brothers and sisters in the Lord. I hope all you Searcy folks will plan on attending. I wonder if the word is out amongst our congregations? I know Downtown has announced it. How about your church?


The situation in the Darfur region of Sudan continues to decline. This is going to be another Rwanda unless the world wakes up and demands for it to stop. I know it is not politically correct to say anything anti-Arab.........but somebody needs to stop them from targeting and killing innocent civilians. Rwanda was tribal genocide........... in the Sudan, it is religious AND tribal genocide. Maybe the new leadership in the Senate and House can get it on the front burner.


If I don't blog next week, HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of you! I hope you have a wonderful time with your families next week. Thanksgiving is just about my favorite holiday. God bless you all!

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Remember the player you always hated to join your pick-up basketball games? You remember him, don't you? He was the one that would wait to see if his shot went in, and then if it didn't, you could count on him hollering "FOUL"! Never failed. If the shot went in, not a peep. And most of the time he was the same guy that NEVER fouled anybody........EVER. Right? It just took the fun out of the game, and everybody hoped the game would finish quick and maybe he would wonder off to another court in the gym. What brings that up, you may ask. Well, it's been almost a week, and I haven't even heard a faint WHISPER about voter irregularities........people being unable to the disenfranchised were treated different than everybody else......voter fraud........machine tampering..........on and on. Not a peep. Hmmm, how does that work? That's ALL we heard for several weeks after the last two elections. Where are all the outcries from Al, Jesse, and Ted? I guess none of those bad things happened this time. Funny how that works, isn't it? Maybe people are victims in SOME elections, and not in others. Or maybe it's hard to play the victim when you are on the winning side. Too bad they won't move to another court after this game is over. This particular game never ends.


My Tide played with a lot of heart, but got beat by a better team Sat. Night. The LSU Tigers are good.........really good. By far the best team we have played this year. The only thing that made the day easier was seeing the Vols AND the Tigers from Auburn go down. Congrats to the Hogs and Bulldogs. Matt and I may go to the Iron Bowl this weekend! That would be really cool. Even more cool if Bama could end the season with a win.


Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, is coming out with his first CD since the 70's. I think they will be in stores on Tuesday. Go to Amazon and check it out. The title of the CD is "An Other Cup".
I will be playing it by this weekend. And no, he is not an Islamic Terrorist. Quite the opposite, thank you! Are there any other Cat fans out there?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Jan's Birthday and Hitting the Road

Today is my bride's birthday. I won't tell you how many for fear of her burning me at the stake!
But she looks like she is around 32 or so, and I think she would be pleased if you thought that was her current age. Speaking of 32..............32 years ago today I took her to Pizza Hut on Race Street for her b-day. There weren't all that many places to choose from back then. Time flies when you are having fun.


I hit the road tomorrow, headed to Central and South-Central Oklahoma. Seems like most of the time I head over there, bad weather follows me. Is it too early to snow? :) I am looking forward to seeing all the special folks I get to spend time with. There is something special about folks from Oklahoma! :)


This bloggin community is very unpredictable. Some of the posts that I think are pretty lame get a lot of comments, and sometimes the ones I think will stir up some reaction and comments don't hardly get a word. I really thought the "I AM God" post would generate more comments, but I was evidently wrong. Many of you may have never seen that movie. Or maybe my analogy wasn't all that good. Anyway, I will keep trying!


The SEC is crazy, huh? Congrats to Sly Croom and Miss. State for their big win at Tuscaloosa yesterday. I hate for the Tide to lose, but if they ARE going to lose to somebody, I wish it could be Coach Croom every time. I love the guy, and I hope the folks in Starkville will give him some more time. As for Shula...........he better produce next year or he will be gone. Alabama fans are not as patient as some other schools, and one season of mediocrity is all they will abide. Kentucky beats Georgia. Florida barely beats Vandy. LSU goes INTO Knoxville and comes away with a big win. The Hogs keep escaping defeat. It's gonna be an exciting finish, isn't it?!?!?! I predict Florida and Auburn playing in the SEC championship game. Boy, going out on limb there huh..............seeing as to how Florida is already there! :)


The famous Greg Kendall-Ball was here in Searcy this weekend. It was good to worship with him this morning at Downtown. Come back more often GKB, especially if it means getting to see Sara again!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

"I AM God!"

Yeah, you remember that line from the 1993 movie "Malice". Alec Baldwin played a crooked doctor wanting to get rich quick. He and his co-hort, played by Nicole Kidman, were going to swindle an insurance company out of millions of dollars. In a pre-trial hearing, an attorney for the insurance company asked him if he had a "God complex". Dr. Jed Hill, played by Baldwin, replied with all the arrogance a human can muster:

"You ask me if I have a God complex? Let me tell you something, I am God!"

Do you know anybody with a God complex? We'll come back to that in a minute.

I had read "The Christian Chronicle" article on-line about the "unity" discussion that went on at Freed-Hardeman, and yesterday my hard copy of the Chronicle came in the mail and I read it again. One of the things that jumped out at me this time was when Ralph Gilmore from Freed described David Faust from the Christian church as his brother in Christ but then added:

"we are not in fellowship because of one big, obvious thing."

I would agree with him that there is one big thing that IS obvious, but probably not the thing he was referring to.

Here is the part that caught my attention.........did you notice that Gilmore recognized that Faust was "in Christ" and "a brother"? let me get this straight. Christ accepts and fellowships Faust, but Gilmore won't. God accepts Faust as His son, but Gilmore won't fellowship with him. Maybe Gilmore knows something God doesn't? How does one NOT fellowship someone God does fellowship? Maybe we need to ask Gilmore the same question the attorney asked Dr. Jed Hill. With their actions, many answer that question the SAME way Dr. Hill did! When pride, arrogance, and love for a tradition get in the way of fellowshipping a brother that is in fellowship with God, something is terribly terribly wrong. It reminds me of Jesus's words in the sermon on the mount: "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Jim Shelton has just come from 15 years at Freed to teach at Harding. He had an interesting take on this whole discussion on his blog. I am going to link it to you here, but you will have to scroll back to Wednesday Oct. 25th to read his insightful perspective. Here is the link:

In closing, I ask can we have higher standards for fellowship than GOD? Is that not scary to you?

May God forgive us.