The Futility of Managed Spirituality (#563)

Why do we think we can manage the spirituality of others instead of helping them learn to follow the Spirit of Jesus he has placed in them? It never works. It leads to conflict between fellow believers and substitutes the breath of the Spirit for telling others what principles they should be following. A search through recent emails launch Brad and Wayne on this discussion as they talk about the judgment of others, the current conflict going on at Calvary Chapel, and the challenge from a worship leader telling people they need to leave their comfort zones to follow God.  Managed spirituality doesn't work because it is the attempt to be the voice of the Spirit to others. In addition they include a song from Daniel Madison's new album, Masquerade of Mercy, which was inspired by many themes of The God Journey and how it has affected his journey. You may get a copy if you like.

Podcast Notes:
Masquerade of Mercy on BandCamp or iTunes by Daniel Madison  (Email Daniel)
Conflict in Calvary Chapel
The Shack Trailer
There's still room to join Brad and Wayne on The God Journey Israel Tour, departing January 22 to Jordan, or January 25 to Israel
You can find our latest update on our work in Kenya here.
Add your voice to our question/comment line via Skype at "TheGodJourney"


  1. Yeah, the point is following Jesus as long as you follow their idea of following Jesus’ way. smh…..

  2. Hi Wayne, Paul Chastain from Missouri here. We have spoken before, when my wife was sick. I have a question. Why bother with the crap going on at Calvary Chapel et al., if you are teaching folks how to live for God out of church? Managed spirituality is something to be talked about in a church setting. I hear enough about this stuff as it is, but I would not have imagined hearing about it from you. I do have to say that the Laodicean church is alive and well here in America, and I would rather hear more about living life without church, and more of God.

    • Hi Paul. I hope your wife is doing well. Thanks for taking the time to write and give us your feedback. It is always helpful

      But, no I wouldn’t say we “are teaching folks how to live for God out of church.” We actually want people to embrace the Church as she really is in the world, not the institutions humanity has created, but the living family Jesus is creating throughout the world. Some of them are in institutions at the moment and some are finding more relational ways of living in his family. We’re hopefully “two real guys talking about life.” The Calvary Chapel mess was not the main focus but came up as a side comment to some other things that were discussing. That said, however, managed spirituality is something we all need to keep discussing. There are as many people trying to “manage” Christians outside the institutions as there are inside. Look at the websites with people trying to form networks, telling people how to follow Christ instead of equipping them to actually listen and follow Christ. The attempts to manage spirituality in others and “fix” them to fit their expectations is alive and well. It’s how people market dependence on them and their ministries.

      Also I had hoped we’d talk more in historical terms about that but got sidetracked. What is happening in Calvary Chapel has happened in every denomination. In fact our early brothers and sisters fought this battle in the second century. Can people follow God or do they have to follow a leader who is following God? The bishops fought for power “over” the church in the early second century and won. Then the bishops fought with each other to see who was the first bishop over other bishops. Because if people aren’t following Jesus you have to decide which other human they follow. That’s how we got the Pope, and how we have to fight off many would-be popes today who want to draw followers after themselves and their teachings rather than pointing people to Christ.

      At least that’s why we spent some time discussing it. We don’t expect that every podcast will resonate with every person, which is why our conversations are free-ranging. We’re talking about the things that interest us and others can decide if it interests them or not.

  3. About others’ spirituality, and how we are to respond, for me, it comes down to discernment. Knowing when to share, and when not to. I sometimes violate that principle, in fact, I believe I did that here last week. Something I learned in the 12-step groups when it comes to sharing, that may be helpful to others, is….

    1) Is it kind?
    2) Is it necessary?
    3) Does it serve a purpose?
    and in my opinion, most importantly…
    4) Is it any of my business?

    I seem to struggle with #4. As with the young lady who shared with Wayne, often I think what I have to share isn’t worth anything to others. So I try that much harder to get my point across, instead of just being quiet and listening. Resting in the Lord, perhaps. I think that’s been talked about here a time or two.

    About the ‘comfort zone’ thing, it could simply be a issue of the church needs more bodies and money for expansion. As in any other corporate environment, its ‘grow or go.’ Not enough volunteers for children’s ministry, not enough money in the coffers in terms of the goal. And every church I ever attended has a budget, and makes it known in the bulletin. I remember Brad mentioning what in part got him kicked out of the church, that he didn’t enforce giving. Wayne happened to be in the congregation and said in so many words Brad wasn’t long for this place. The reality is, the bottom line is the bottom line, whether the church makes it known to you, or not.

  4. Hi Wayne

    Wish I could have been on the Israel trip when the guy showed up with the guitar. I would have just yelled out “MORE COWBELL!!!” Which may be the reason I am an ex-pastor…..

    Love wins.


  5. Most of the time when I hear someone use the word “biblical” preceding their next utterances, it causes such a visceral reaction of disgust with my guard going up; because much of the time the giver of the “biblical” message is locked and loaded to share their brand of “truth in love.” I find their message is a dagger veiled with “truth from God”, piercing the soul of the receiver with slings of guilt, shame and condemnation… However, the one giving the biblical message is convicted they are helping the other person because they have extracted from the bible principles and steps, etc…, and they feel justified because they can prove their stance from bible texts.

    It seems these folks – which I have been guilty of myself, UGH!!! – are color commentators, hanging out in the audience, judging the players on the field with what they should be doing different; and feeling convicted of their stance because of the biblical principles they know. I find that I and many others are simply looking for someone to be present in love (patience, listening, long-suffering, kind, protecting the vulnerable and broken-hearted with empathy and validation…).

    Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote in, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life, “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

    • Jim, I have also been convicted of using the Bible for giving advice, which I thought was well-meaning but instead was purely ego-driven. I do think the Bible is a valuable resource, but should contain the warning ‘use as directed’, mainly by its author, God. I need to discern whether what I say is solicited, and when and where a dialogue can take place. Of course, relationship and fellowship supercedes biblical knowledge, except where that knowledge leads to relationship and fellowship. For example, the story of Mary and Martha, in which Jesus values rest over work when it calls for it.

      • Ron: Just a minor quibble–When you use the word “convicted” do you really mean “convinced?”

        • I guess guilty may have been a better word. Convinced, to me at least, indicates there was influence from an outside source. Unless you say it was God, I can’t say I was convinced by anyone else, to the best of my knowledge. Hope that makes sense.

          • I guess I’ve only looked at the primary definition of “conviction” and it has connotation of “guilt,” especially used in criminal records, (sigh!) and I took “convinced” without looking for a source for the convincing!

            Aren’t human words wonderful–so glad that Jesus, the Life-giving Word, is not limited to our human words!

  6. I loved the discussion about the comfort zone. It’s been a theme God has been teaching me. That if He is my comfort zone, I don’t ever need to leave my comfort zone! I also know the “try harder, do more gospel”. About a year ago, I read 2 Corinthians 1 and it blew me away. He is the God of all comfort! What!? I also grew up understanding we should always be leaving our comfort zones because it seemed God hated comfort from what I could tell. We needed to be radical! Radical meant completely uncomfortable! When I read this passage it blew my mind and left me loving and thanking God. He knows we want and need comfort and He provides it better than we’ve ever known from any of our previous ways of trying to attain it. He’s so good.

    I wrote about this very topic recently and thought I’d share it here too:

    God Bless!

  7. I love you guys, but I’m not bringing a guitar to Israel. All I can think of is that classic scene from Animal House where John Belushi smashes the guy’s guitar against the wall, then says, “Sorry.” 🙂

    When you shared the story about the worship leader using the phrase ‘get out of your comfort zone’, I had to chuckle. Yes, as a former ‘worship leader’ (an interesting title in itself), I remember using that tactic, among many others, to try and coax the group into going a specific direction usually predetermined by this thing we called “The Order of Service”. At the point I left the institution, we were already beginning to use ‘click tracks’ in our in-ear monitors during worship (a very common practice nowadays). These are in-ear metronomes that keep the band all in time, pump in pre-recorded tracks to make the band sound bigger (string parts, backup vocals, etc), and even announces in your ear when the next ‘big chorus’ is coming. What, as if putting a musician on an elevated stage in front of a crowd with lights and fog machines isn’t enough to make him the Pied Piper? 🙂

    But I remember the morning it ‘clicked’ for real. There was a build-up of experiences that lead to it, but I remember it well. Straining my eyes to look out past the stage lights, I could see the familiar faces of those I would see most every week. Some genuinely connecting with Father through music, but most looking back bewildered, trying to figure out how attending this weekly concert was supposed to be helpful in their daily lives. It was as if the collective voice in attendance that morning said to me, “I don’t need this, Dan. I just want someone to hang out with… to talk to… to do life with. Would you turn off those goofy lights, put down your guitar, and just come hang out?” I could finally see the proverbial light, and it didn’t involve par cans, blue gels, or minor chords played softly to create ’emotional context’. Wow, is that for real? Sadly, yes.

    I’m sure many who have walked this journey before know… it hurts to leave. There are misunderstandings, awkward conversations, lost friendships, and probably a good, long season of solitude. That last part was scary at first, but soon became the healing place where I learned to lean in to Papa, finally discovering that he loves me. Slowly, new friendships with others on similar journeys began to form. I began to discover what it is to be vulnerable with a friend (and not in an ‘accountability’ manner). Most of all, I stopped performing, not only for others, but for Father. The best part about stepping off that goofy stage? I actually have the time and energy to listen to and be with others on this journey… without agenda.

    Blessing to you two,

  8. Ron, “use as directed” sounds like a warranted warning label. I find the problem, however, is that I and others have been convinced that we were being directed at the time they/I used the bible as a reference. Sadly, we either hurt and cut down others or are hurt and cut down before we may start to realize we are injuring and/or are being injured. By that time, the damage has been done, and one feels more confusion, isolation and hurt.

    For 15+ years I used to read the Bible with such passion and vigor, trying to know God and what he wants for me, others and life. I do not anymore; I have barely read it for a few years. I still remember many, many verses that come to me spontaneously. I am Okay not reading it right now, and even wonder if God wants me to learn to know Him beyond the written word. Maybe I’ll be drawn back to it again at some point, or maybe I won’t. I just don’t know. But at this point in my life, I would rather see if the the Living Word is really real than just rely on the written word. Also, I do not think there are Bibles in Heaven – at least I hope not – so I might as well see if I can learn to live in a more real, life-giving experience, than hope in a cerebrally-imagined God that I conjure up with my intellect.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Ron.

    • I realize for many of you the Bible has been mistakenly used as a weapon to cause guilt and pain and why some of you need to take a break from it for awhile. When it becomes the substitute for knowing him, it can be an awfully disappointing read, as it is when it is used to manipulate people to do what so-called leaders want them to do. But that’s more a commentary on the misuse of Scripture not what it intrinsically is. I see no conflict between the knowing of Jesus and reading the words he left us, any more than I see conflict between the Sara I know, and the Sara who writes me emails or signs cards for birthdays and holidays. Both are an important part of our relationship and allow our love and knowledge of each other to grow.

      Jim, I’m sorry that your history seems to put the written words at odds with the Living Word. Since we only know and see him in part, there are so many things I would have missed about him if the Scriptures hadn’t nudged me to mine other areas of his character than I had seen in my own through-the-darkened-mirror that our finite perspective allows us to grasp in this world. And I yearn for the day when we can all celebrate the reality of his person as he makes himself known, and the power of his words that help us see him more clearly and be shaped by his life.

      I realize that isn’t easy in an day when “academic” teachers of Scripture spout their misunderstandings of him based on Scriptures that are interpreted to sustain the program, rather than to spread the kingdom, but I still hope, and pray, and invite people to discover the wonder and vitality of the words that brothers and sisters who went before us on this journey penned as our example and our instruction to truly knowing him.

  9. There is a distinction made between the Bible, the ‘words’ of God, and Jesus, who is the ‘word’ of God, in First John. And there is a difference between reading the words of God and having the word of God in you. I do believe it is vital when teachers/pastors encourage a relationship with Jesus.

    For me, the definitive moment of the power of Scripture is Jesus’ encounter with Satan, in which Jesus embodies three Bible verses to counter three false claims of Satan. The intersection of the ‘words’ and the ‘Word’.

    Jim, like you, I haven’t read the Bible in earnest in some time. Yet I still believe in the Bible, but I don’t worship the Bible. I worship Jesus.

  10. Maybe this whole “reality” of God with us comes down to these three questions: “do I trust God? is God good? Is God good to me?” I use to think “yes” to all three questions; but I don’t know anymore. And I am allowing myself to be at this place so I can hopefully find a genuine “yes” that isn’t based on someone else’s story…urging…pressure, or what I am told to believe, or even what I’ve told myself to believe…

    I like your analogy, Wayne, of “I see no conflict between the knowing of Jesus and reading the words he left us, any more than I see conflict between the Sara I know, and the Sara who writes me emails or signs cards for birthdays and holidays.” But I find it difficult to trust in the love of someone I have not had the chance to meet and share the ups and downs of life with; which would likely lay the foundation for me to draw upon to trust in their love written to me in letters. Maybe I am missing something, but it just seems like wonderful sentiment until the day I get to experience the person behind the words… I also yearn for the day where we can ‘see’ Him more clearly and know Him with a more personal and tangible expression.

  11. In my view, it was never meant to be the words without the person. Even in the Old Testament God wanted his people to follow him, not follow his rules. Somehow Christianity got that twisted. It is a tragic misuse of Scripture to have them replace the person of Christ. But alongside the person of Christ they are a rich, rich heritage of life and faith!

  12. I thought I knew that it “wasn’t the words without the person”; and I guess I did from some perspective. But now since my world has crashed, and my foundations shaken (which I suppose can ultimately be purifying and cleansing), I am finding out all the deep places of my soul that I could not see before… So now I feel like I’m going through my childhood again. but hopefully this time better foundations can be laid.

  13. This is the disillusioning part. When you learn to live and grow on a better foundation, you’ll look back on these days and be “gratefully disillusioned.” Religion functions a lot on illusion. What we all want is reality. Knowing God as he really is, and ourselves as we really are in him! Praying for you, Brother!

  14. Thanks for your life-giving words of encouragement! I am grateful to have a safe and authentic place with people to work out our journeys together with out condemnation, and not approached as a project to be fixed!

  15. I became a believer at a very young age and had a close personal relationship with the Lord. When I went off to college, I atteneded a small church, met my husband there, gotmarried and had children. I am almost 60 now. Ilook back and realize the leadership of the church did not really want me to have my own relationship with the Lord. They would not respect the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life or of my husbands. It lead to much conflict and confusion in my life. My husband is a strong believer, but has no use for the organized church. I miss fellowship in many ways, but don’t want to subject myself to that type of “spiritual management” again. I do see God moving in our lives and in my children away from the organized church. My old friends would consider that close to heresy. But as the Scripture teaches us ” there is no mediator between God and man but Jesus Christ the righteous. ” Thanks again for your podcast.

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