Learning to Follow the Shepherd
Throughout the world an unrelenting hunger to know the life of Jesus is inviting thousands of men and women beyond the structures of religious performance into a meaningful relationship with him that is transforming their lives. And even though they've been marginalized by false accusations, they are learning to follow the Shepherd instead of the voices of those who want to use fear to draw them back into dependency on religious structures or leaders. This podcast follows up on an earlier one from last December called, "When Curriculum Attacks" by responding to questions and comments about how we can help others learn to live in that same relationship by helping them become disciples of Jesus, not followers of our own programs or passions.
Our earlier podcast on this theme: When Curriculum Attacks
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Many years ago, when we were deep into religion, God did a work. Our pastor at the time asked my husband to lead an “Experiencing God” study. In the midst of this study, we came face to face with the fact that we had been “in church” for many years, but we really did not know where He was or what He was doing, even though we were considered church leadership. The bottom fell out. We ended up having to withdraw from many of our leadership positions because we realized that we were clueless! (Not the response our pastor hoped for.) I think God had been waiting a long time for us to get to that point! Thus, our journey to seek Him out and join Him in His work began. It has spanned several decades now and it has been rather nomadic. God has always had a purpose, though, even when we might have wondered. It is quite wonderful to look back and see how it came together, directed by Him! You have been part of that journey, Wayne, along with Brad and Mr. Jack. Thanks for sharing your heart with us! I have shared your podcasts with many who have expressed, “There has got to be more!”
Wasn’t sure where this podcast would go after the changes. You and Brad were so entertaining. The best compliment I can give is that it is still full of life. I don’t need this podcast but I sure do enjoy listening to it.
You know what I realise? When I try to be intentional about getting to know Him I get religios. I want to know Him and I don’t know how to do it outside reading the bible and having quiet time for Him at the end of the day. I did nothing for 2years, since I left the institutional church, now I’m worried it has being too long without any measurable result of being closer to Him and start wonder if I’m not just lazy, just fatalist in my aprouch to God. I start again read the bible, but is silent and empty, not much change if any compared to 2 years ago. Is it too soon? AmI falling back into religion? Being relaxed seems laziness to me, I’m confused.
When you realize He is in you and in every other person and in all that He created and in all situations and circumstances, and whatever and whoever comes your way, you respond from His love within you and respond to His love in others and in His creation, then you are abiiding in Him. This happens through His love, not through intention. Measurable result is a worldly concept. It is not about what you do, it is about who He is and what He is doing, and living within that, and trusting Him for the big picture. When you realize that God is so much more than churches’ doctrines and rituals, then you can stop trying to “know” Him as churches prescribe, and become aware of Him revealing Himself, which redefines everything. You may have left church but may still be lving within its definitions. He is in you, just talk with Him about it.
Thank you, Nancy, is so good to have a real conversation about what I’m going trough with somebody that share the journey! Since I left the institution is just me and my husband, all the others believers I know are stil in the sistem and think that we’re wrong and not interested in God anymore. I just don’t want to follow any other else than Jesus anymore and for religios people that seems to be a heresie.
Often God is speaking to us and working in us in ways that we won’t be able to see or ‘measure’ clearly until years later. Just trust that God is God and will continue to work in you regardless of what you can understand. I too have had a lot of difficulty reading the Bible until recently and I left the church over 4 years ago. It felt like laziness to begin with but I realised that I needed to trust the Holy Sprit within me too, not just the Bible (which is often held to greater esteem in the institutional church than the Holy Spirit). The bottom line is that your God’s child, he loves you and expectations of performance/growth need to be dropped. The very fact that you still want relationship with God suggests that you’re not lazy. Laziness is when you attend a church building, read your 2 Bible chapters a night and call it relationship. God is on your heart and on your mind…you get it more than you realise. Hang in there x
Two years ago my wife and I left our “church” too. I place church in quotes because the community of which we were involved was more illusion than reality. Don’t get me wrong, I think many of the participants attempted to love us (based on their perception of love) but were unwilling or incapable of demonstrating love like Father – especially during crisis or conflict. I believe this was true for myself, too.
Without getting into the details, I’m sure many of the followers of the God Journey are familiar with our story. My wife, Tina, and I hear the same story in you and many others…
Like you, at times we have felt isolated. Initially, I compared our experience to Old Testament David hiding in a cave, being pursued by Saul and suppressing the temptation to fight back or move ahead of God in transition. Father used the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards, as well as others to meet us at our point of need.
As the months progressed, we began to see that we are not alone in our “cave”. Father has brought individuals and groups into our life (even for just one day) that have similar stories, heartaches, and questions concerning church life. It’s like the Lord has handed us a torch and said, “Stop sitting in the darkness of that cave and look around…” We see many others standing with us, now.
There are questions we have too. Are we lazy because we don’t “do” church the same way we used too? Why hasn’t Father brought us face to face with a larger community of like-minded believers or even another couple or two? What about evangelism and discipleship?
I agree with Nancy’s statement that although we may have left a conformity based community, we still may be living within their definition of church life.
For us, there hasn’t been a need to rush Father’s unveiling of Himself. In His time, we will continue to progress us from faith to faith and glory to glory. I love the encouragement my wife gave me the other day, “Our journey isn’t a sprint; it is a marathon.” We’re doing our best to keep focused on father’s love despite those long stretches of desolate highway.
Hang in there Doina!
Father is simplifying our lives, and we are loving what He is doing inside of us.
In Christ’s Care,
Although this road is a solitary one, and often lonely, I will tell everyone what I’ve been told as God was gracious enough to bring someone to walk with me in what you are all describing– “keep going, you are headed in the right direction.” It does seem “lazy”. We are so used to striving, or worrying about how we are doing, that even though we have lost our desire and/or energy to “do”, our minds tell us we are wrong. This is part of the journey. It is a type of letting go, because we MUST find out that Jesus is the one who will lead and do all the initiation! Wayne speaks of it; the friend Jesus sent to me spoke of it. It is hard to wait, we are so used to doing. But keep going. You are headed in the right direction. You are going to be really surprised to find out you will never have to strive again. And it feels so relaxing, so natural. God has brought us all to this place to know we are not alone.
Anne thank you for your wonderful post. What you said about Jesus doing the leading and the initiating really spoke to me and goes along with what Wayne is saying in the recent podcasts that it is Jesus that does the building not us. How freeing, and very much the opposite of striving and thinking we have to or even could make anything happen. It really is up to Him and we can trust what He is up to. His purposes will prevail. And in His way and His time He will show us what His plans are. He certainly has begun to do that even in the midst of our only knowing or seeing or understanding incompletely. I think this will be a year of more and more being made clear to us as we keep looking to Him. And all along we can just enjoy being with Him and in His love letting Him unfold and cause what He wants in every area of our lives.
Hi there, have been listening for a while now and have to write something as I am busting to get this out, recovering Pharisee myself but am loving the change.
I hate dimensioning stuff but definitiions have been useful in the past so here goes; feel free to change or alter if you want to, I am not sure of my working out but am thinking it is close to first principles?
Disciple: One who knows God loves them and is growing in this knowledge, founded on Christs love for them, quickened by his Holy Spirit. (the major difference between a disciple and a religious person is the knowledge that I am loved by God).
Church: Disciples who value relationships (ANY) more than anything else on this earth. Jesus loves everyone, yet it is within this Church relationship that we experience His intimacy & affection as exclusively His bride on the earth.
When we value something over relationships or determine a specific outcome from a relationship we commit idolatory, with either ourselves, others and/or God.
What I was taught about the Fall
We enjoyed everything God had given us
We ate the Fruit
God’s eyes were opened
He saw we were naked
We covered ourselves because God was ashamed of us
We went to find God
When we have sufficently covered ourselves God will come out of hiding
God will give us stuff again for us to enjoy
What I understand now!
We enjoyed relationship with God above all other things given to us
We ate the fruit
our eyes were opened
We clothed ourselves from shame
We hid from God, our most precious relationship
God came looking for us
He asked us questions so we could understand He knows what’s happened, but do we?
He clothes us (ultimately with Christ)
He has completed everything necessary for us to enjoy relationship with Him forever again
About 4 years ago I read “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore” and thus began what has felt like a different journey for me, but I had a recent revelation that my heart has been on a similar path since Jr. High. I have just given the journey a different name.
Here is what I mean and the question I have because of it.
In Jr. High & High School kids would ask if I went to church and was religious. (The Catholic church was strong in our area and that is what they meant by religious) I was always uncomfortable with the title of religious and would explain to people that my “church” was different in that we emphasized a relationship with God and Jesus. I would try to explain this “relationship” to my friends and always felt powerless to explain what I meant by having a friend and talking to God.
In my early twenties I attended a charismatic church where interaction with the Holy Spirit was emphasized. This was a wonderful time of growth for me and the Holy Spirit as I learned to recognize the nudges and promptings. I found myself with this urge to try to help others enter into this new interaction I was having with the Lord. But I would again feel powerless to bring others closer to what I knew was life with the living God.
Since “Jake’s Journey” I have felt another level of closeness with the Lord and have this deep desire to help others trust him as their shepherd instead of trusting the institution, religious activity, a pastor, or even their Bible. I am finding that even my wife and closest friends (who have known God for many years and even felt promptings from time to time) look at me with a blank stare when I share about a “conversation” I had with God that lasted over several weeks. Or when I share about interacting with him even as we have a conversation.
I am coming to the same feeling of powerlessness when it comes to helping people draw into the Love and guidance I feel in my walk with him.
All that to ask this. (sorry so long)
I realize it has to be God revealing himself to them, but I don’t think he is holding back, so are there some things I can do to position myself to help others along on their journey?
This may be what you are trying to do Wayne with the new video series, but I thought I would put it out there to see what others may have to say.
I don’t know the in’s and out’s of your situation so please don’t be offended by anything I write in response to your comment. I too have been in your situation. For almost 10 years I was completely alone (or felt that way) regarding the intimacy of my faith. I tried to share with people and even persuade others to take a deeper look at spiritual things but alas, I was met with blank stares and dismissal. It seems that the more ‘intentional’ we are, the more people resist. In short, I have generally learned that people absolutely cannot take in what they aren’t open to already. Until a person is open and willing to have certain conversations, our actions will speak louder than words.
Lately, things have changed. I am still ‘intentional’ about my faith however, my intentionality is more about living the life I know that God put inside of me to live. ..this has attracted others who are willing to share in God’s love as I presently do. It’s a slower path to reaching others but I have gained one or two secular friends who want to learn more (in fits and spurts) and another person came to Christ through our relationship over several years. That may not sound like good progress for a ten year journey out of mainstream Christianity (4 years since finally leaving the Institutional Church) however, the relationships are much deeper, more organic and the fellowship is real.
It is hard to find a sense of balance when living our faith intentionality because on the one hand we don’t want to be lazy or under-utilised but on the other hand, as soon as it becomes our ‘intention’ to get others to believe what we do, the relationship has an agenda that will only push people further from us because they suspect an agenda. It’s like people from churches who used to get all friendly with me so that I’d go to their church (given that I had clearly backslidden because I wasn’t attending mainstream church). These people were only available and friendly when they thought they could ‘convert’ me. As soon as I made it clear that church wasn’t for me, they suddenly had no time for the friendship. It’s an extreme example but I have personally learned that becoming intentional (even with good motives/goals in mind) seems to ruin it for me. People who aren’t looking for more of Christ or those feeling very comfortable with things don’t seem to respond. Family are especially hard because they already have a set idea of who they think we are/should be.
My best advice (although probably not what you want to hear) is to pray for them, live intentionally and pray also for opportunities to arise organically so you can speak your heart to them. Be patient though, it’s better for hearts to change over time than for words to be spoken rashly without an understanding of the extended meanings behind those words. Eg: Better for someone to start thinking like a follower or Christ before verbally confessing him rather than saying the ‘sinner’s prayer’ in church without any change in lifestyle/psyche.
Be encouraged, God is working in others in ways you may not realise yet.
I too focused on encouraging my family and seeing them move towards God when I left the I.C. They weren’t interested. While my focus was entirely on them, my husband came along and I had absolutely zero interest in being ‘intentional’ with him and he’s the one I led to Christ! He had a fascination with my brand of Christianity (and me, of course) and couldn’t understand where I fit in. It was my freedom that he was attracted to long before he knew my theology. So, in short, you never know who you may be encouraging/helping shift direction just by being you.
I’m sorry that your wife doesn’t entirely share your perspective. That’s hard but I’m sure she is mulling things over in her own way…God knows where you’re at with her…keep handing your concerns to him and don’t be anxious.
Finally, ‘powerlessness’ is what makes you effective in relationship…when you no longer have an evangelistic handbook, you are free to embrace the person. We’re commanded to ‘love one another’ not direct one another. I think you may be holding onto some churchianity…false doctrines that preach that Christ can’t return until everyone has been evangelised. Not true. Jesus saves, we’re just the tool for that.
Hope this helps and like I said, I don’t know you so some of this may apply to you, other things may not. Just relaying my journey and providing you with a little food for thought.
When I was a young man of 19 years old, (I will be 62 this year), I used to walk up the hill by my house to a street light about a half mile away. This was my time to talk to God each night. I would pretend that the light was God’s Kingdom. I was striving to become a minister of a church where you had to be suspected of being one of the “called” and “chosen” to even be invited to the church service. After the first interview it was becoming clear to me that I wasn’t “qualified” to to attend the ministerial college. I began to doubt that I was loved and chosen to be part of God’s Kingdom. I went out for my walk latter and the fog was so thick and it was so dark you could not see your finger touching the end of your nose. I said to God this must be a sign that I am not one that you love enough to be called to You. I turned my back to where the light that I couldn’t see was and decided that I wasn’t good enough to be under the Grace of God and that I would cease all this striving to be approved. Well, about that time a very strong gusty of wind came down between the trees that lined the road and blew all the fog away. I ran up the hill that night because I knew that the Father Loved me for sure. I mistakenly thought He was approving of my efforts and my righteousness in attaining His Loving Grace. I never became a minister or held any title other than a teacher of young children in the church. It took me nearly a lifetime to realize that it was my ‘powerlessness’ to find the way on my own that allowed God to speak to me and show me the Light and Truth of his Son and His Amazing Grace. My journey has had many ups and downs since then and much unlearning, but I know now that He loves me and always has loved me. Can the weak or “powerless” confound the powerful and mighty? Seems like I read something about that somewhere.
I really appreciate the conversations that are happening here. I can relate to the feeling of laziness and feeling as if I’m doing nothing to further God’s kingdom. I’ve really been struggling with that lately as I left “church” for good last August. In the church setting we are so trained that we ALWAYS must be doing something for God. I think God is letting me sit in this space of quiet inactivity in order to strip me of that constant frenetic striving. I ran across a quote that gets to the heart of it I think: “Grace cannot prevail…until our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed.” ~Robert Farrar Capon
Maybe those of us who are feeling uncomfortable in our inactivity and without the distraction of a congregation are being invited into a space of being loved for the sake of love and nothing else. As I was lamenting to a friend my feelings of uselessness and powerlessness (just what Stacey spoke about) she said something to me that exploded my notions. She said to me, “You have no idea, do you?” And I said, “What are you talking about?” She went on to say that my willingness to be vulnerable, and share my brokenness, and my deep hunger for God spoke volumes. That without doing anything “intentional” or trying to be of service to God my life had impacted people and pointed to a loving Father in ways I had no idea. So, I would say that to you as well, to those of you struggling to be of use to God. You already are, just by being you and having an open heart, and being willing to follow those nudges and directions Father speaks into your heart.
There are a couple of questions that seem to keep popping up in the conversation:
(1) “Now that I’m convinced that this is the right way, how do I convince others to do it this way?”
(2) “If I can’t convince them to do it this way, how do I at least get them to accept that this way is okay?”
Wiser ones than me have pointed out that we can’t change people, we can only determine our own attitudes and actions. We are all on the same God journey, although at different places. Some are not aware of God at all. Some are aware of Him as a personal presence. Some are aware of Him only in the context of a certain belief system. Some are aware of Him only when they are in “His house”. Some are aware of Him as “Her”. Or both “Him” and “Her”. Or even “It”.
Wherever we are in our God-awareness, we’re okay as long as we’re moving forward. It’s really all the same path. Maybe we can all relax and simply encourage each other on the One Big Journey. Perhaps it’s not a game of “Red Rover” where we are trying to get people to “come over”, coaxing them further down the road than they are ready to be. Moving down the road is between God and each person. God knows best how to guide that. But as a person is ready to move forward, God may ask us to help.
So the real question is, “How do we help with what God is already doing in someone’s life?”
Maybe we just love them where they are – weep with those who weep, rejoice with those who rejoice and be confused with those who are confused. Because the truth is, we all need each other’s help. We’re all looking for the next step. The best I can do for someone else on the path is to encourage them to take the step that’s right for them.
And that may not necessarily be the one I just took. 🙂
Thanks for your response and also thanks to Dan, Jacqeline, & Kent for continuing the conversation.
I think in my heart, I am no longer looking to convert anyone to my way of thinking. I am a teacher at heart and so I do have the tendency to want others to understand things I don’t feel they understand. God (through the frustration of my small group) helped drive that further from me. I still slip back into it from time to time.
I do seem to be involved with conversations, however, where I am asked how my relationship with God is different from theirs. How do i recognize a prompting or a nudge? How do I decide whether or not to volunteer to do this or that? How do I decipher where God is working in my life. How do I interpret God’s love in this or that?
I used to think we all talked to God in the same way and that my conversations with God were commonplace among Christians claiming to have a relationship with God. I am finding God’s interaction and relationship with people is about as unique as finger prints.
My heart is to walk along side people and help them explore that interaction and relationship and maybe help them see God where they had not seen him before.
I have felt that religiousness can impede the ability to distinguish a nudge from a fleeting thought or a compassionate thought from a guilt ridden sermon. People have come to trust more in being prompted by their pastor, a principle (help the poor), or the Bible says… than trusting the Living Christ inside them.
I think at my core, I am really looking for ways, intentional or not, to help people tap into what is real. That is the word that keeps coming to me. REAL! What is the REAL living God doing doing in my heart and theirs. How can I help cut through the religious layers to what God is really “saying”.
Not sure if that makes any sense, but it helped me to flesh it out a bit.
I had an experience just yesterday which I think helps with this. My wife and I were walking through a shopping centre on our way back to the carpark when a woman with dementia dropped her milkshake right in front of us. Her daughter was with her and very stressed out. The interesting thing there, at least for us, was that we knew what was right and needed and were helping her before our brains could process what we were doing. My memory of the moment is even a little hazy as though I wasn’t fully conscious of it all. So, then I was holding the woman with dementia – her name is Thelma – hand and comforting her while my wife bought them another milkshake. Staff working for the shopping centre cleaned up the mess.
While in this position, I didn’t know what to do but I knew that I could offer prayer. So I asked if she would like some and she quickly started divulging personal information about her ceaseless prayer for her mother and how this weekend will be the first break she has had in four years. Thelma had settled down when I sat with her and was eating a doughnut. So, then I was able to have a brief, completely-impossible to script conversation where I explained how I don’t go to Church, our interest in simply loving God and how we could prayer for Thelma and herself. All those things came out of me poorly explained and rather plain – so I didn’t have eloquence. Then midway through this I heard God say that sitting with them and not trying to do anything was the best thing.
I still offered a prayer for Thelma to get better, but what I really think helped was that this stressed out woman had two people right there when she needed it to offer comfort and support. To represent God’s love, I suppose. She talked a bit more, but was really happy to have someone to carry part of the burden for a little while.
So, with that, I guess what I’m getting at, is you kinda have to be long-suffering with people who don’t understand who you are or God for that matter. But that God will place you right where you’re needed exactly on time for the people who are interested and ready and need God. I have no doubt that that woman walked away certain that God was real and that he loved her and was listening to her prayers because she was so happy after we helped her. And this only lasted probably ten minutes at the most.
Finally, in my opinion, you can’t bring out anything in people, that’s God’s job, but you can be there when they start crying or feel helpless and offer them the special type of consolation that God has you capable of giving.
Everyone’s posts have been so helpful. Am feeling very powerless lately and God Is saying that is actually good and to not be afraid of it. It’s up to Him to provide what I need inside and not me getting it or anything together. He is showing me He is leading me to rest on His strength and He will cause any doing He has for me to do to come out from rest and to get away from depending on me.
Just wanted to say a quick note of appreciation to everyone for the conversation here. Right now I also am experiencing moments of deep pressure and then other moments where Jesus lays out situations w/ no effort from my part. Then He gently says, “See? All the worry and effort wasn’t necessary.” Learning to live in that place of rest and what to do with the intensity of that hunger to know Him more intimately seem to be threads running through the “e” conversation. Appreciate that I’m more aware of how I am so not alone…even when I feel like there’s nobody understanding what I’m thinking or feeling.
When speaking of “church,” I often ask others, have you gone to family today? Usually I get blank stares. We ARE family, we also ARE the church if we are born again through the blood of Jesus Christ. We can not rightly do what we are, yet we try due the the doctrines and traditions of man.
God Almighty our Father is so BIG, and sadly, churchianity makes Him out to be so small. It is the exaltation of man that is the real goal. Man’s religion is idolatry, the putting forth of the lusts of men – the lust of the flesh to be seen as more spiritual than others, the lust of the eyes to have you see what I am doing, the pride of life in the form of “do you know who I am?” It is no wonder Jesus said that the harlots and politicians were closer to the kingdom of heaven than the religious leaders. It is in my heart to “be somebody,” but thankfully I don’t have people crowing my praises. The lusts of the world are so powerful and deceitful. Thank you Father for speaking to us to stay away from them.
God’s presence is soooo much better than man’s processions. Father, You are marvelous.
Wonderful perspective as usual.
Thanks for the story. I love when the Church (Jesus’ body) operates that way. Seems like that is the Church Jesus is really the head of. You were open and listening and responded out of the compassion that comes from hanging with Jesus. (At least that’s what I heard through reading your post.)
Now when the Church “gathers”, in person or on line, we can celebrate what God is doing in you and those being touched by you. I just got to know my God a bit better through you sharing your walk.
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks to the rest of you for keeping the conversation going. Sounds like I am not the only one with the desire to have others share in what I am experiencing, but realizing that this is a “God Journey” I am on. It really brings Life when I walk in step with Him instead of to the beat of my own drum. (even a well intentioned drum)
I have been following the blog and podcasts for several years now but just started to responded to the conversations. I think I am finally not frozen or stuck. I still feel like a fish out of water at times and then I read and listen to these posts and I am encouraged and inspired to realize I am not the only fish. Thank you all for this conversation, I have been blessed.
Have a Beautiful Day
I woke up this morning with Martin Luther on my mind. That’s kinda weird and extremely unusual for me. but this is the point, in question form.
Do you think Father is beginning another Reformation of sorts? For my wife and me, “Living Loved” got some traction in the “Experiencing God” stuff, was strengthened with the “Freedom in Christ” program, our heart softened in “Jesus Calling” devotional and these days brother Wayne and friends are helping to tune our souls to confidently respond to The Good Shepherd.
The faithfilled courage of Martin Luther and the many that followed is proof that Jesus’ Church will prevail. Wayne is not “out there”, in fact I think he/we are smack in the middle of an un-stoppable movement. Historians call the first biggy, “Reformation”. It loosed many Christians from the grips of religon and turned that organized religion on its ear. This movment seems to have a similar affect. It might even cost us much more than good sunday morning music. Jesus people felt lonely at times and even thought maybe the old way of bondage (Egypt) better than change. The rest is repetitive history. As a recovering arm chair Pharisee, I too suffer the pangs of personal reformation. Thank you Jesus!
And this from a man discipled by a man I still love, admire and miss very much. Dr. Walter Martin the origninal Bible Answer Man. Ooohh I dont think He’d like this posting very much. Thank you Father for loving us so dynamically in real time and through your imperect faith-filled courages sons and daughters.
Hang in there people, we have only … re-begun.
I just found this webside, and truely it is a blessing. I have been out of the church system for almost 8 years now, learning day by day to walk and know Him, in a way I never thought possible. He is so beautiful. May the Lord bless you all.