Simplifying Our Faith

I’d like to share some thoughts about simplifying our walk in the Lord through simplifying our faith.

In any journey of faith there are things a person notices that the Lord uses to get our attention. Then once our attention is fixed, we naturally ask “Why?” Those events become benchmarks around which our transition pivots, so in the first part of these thoughts I’m going to share some of my own benchmarks and their “why’s” before I get to a solution. I say this because I don’t want the reader to get the impression I am coming down on segments of the faith because I’m not, but these observations were my own benchmarks and I merely share them here.

In general, I began observing how much of traditional church was self-centered and complicated; and was founded upon formulas and efforts to somehow get God’s attention for the purpose of moving on behalf of a person.

At one time I advised and consulted with many churches and Bible schools around North America and beyond, and observed this first hand. In broad generalities I found intern type programs, the type attracting late teens and twenty somethings to be very much centered on work, heartfelt crying out to God in prayer, and often round the clock busy-ness.

I made the prediction at one school that most of the graduating class would fall away from the Lord within a year of graduation because the program was so “me” oriented, so earth-pulls-down-heaven geared, that the students didn’t know how to actually walk through life with the Lord in the real world. Unfortunately, in a follow up check a year later the leadership acknowledged what I had predicted came to pass. I saw this happen in program after program.

Other streams in the body of Christ offer formulas of praying a certain number of days or praying a certain prayer for x number of days, or something similar.

I wondered if something was wrong with me if I didn’t bear witness or get excited over the year of the sword or the year of increase or the year of breaking bondage’s or the year of multiplication or the year of reclamation or other generalized prophecies from prophets that were not in fact prophetic words at all, but something I could find chapter and verse and didn’t need someone to proclaim.

I wondered about all the idolatry in the body of Christ; people setting ‘prophets’ and ‘apostles’ or TV teachers or healers on pedestals, thinking that “if they prayed for me or spoke over me I’d get that breakthrough” – or just want to touch them – idolatry plain and simple. Not to mention the high life many of them live at the expense of their ministry supporters.

Still other formulas involve going to this or that meeting to receive personal prophecies, as if by them one may solve all life’s ills, or discover what great thing God will do in the future in the seeker’s life.

Other streams emphasized giving money to God and trying to unify the congregation on tithing and making everyone rich.

I wondered whatever happened to just giving because you love God and love people and see a need where you can help out, without any thought or ulterior motive concerning a reward, either in this life or the next?

I watched worship services in many churches in which the congregation sang mightily until the music stopped, and then their “worship” immediately stopped accordingly, though some worship leaders tried to get them to continue on singing in the spirit – but it would stop except for a small core or true worshippers. That told me volumes, and I observed the same thing over and over again – the other people weren’t worshippers, they just sang along with the music.

True worship comes from the heart and needs no accompaniment and could easily flow on it’s own in accordance with the worship leader’s desire – So I wondered why not just sing to and worship God because you love him and are thankful for what he’s done, and oh yeah, because he’s God.

Our churches are filled with people who think they are worshipping, but in fact are just singing along.

Similarly, after talking with many who dance and spin down front during worship I found that many are as caught up in a formula as much as the person who gives $100 expecting God to give them $1000 in return. One lady told me she needed rent money and wanted her volunteer application to be accepted in the church, so she was dancing for all she was worth. Another told me this was her way of releasing stress. What about just dancing in response to God’s love?

The question became: Where had loving and serving God just because he saved you from hell, gone? What about serving and loving him just because you love him?

As I traveled I saw all these and so much more, and I began realizing that I was suffering a serious case of disconnect from traditional church. I felt like a fish out of water yet surrounded by other fish who thought nothing was wrong.

For me, I had a sudden revelation that what I was looking for in church could not be found in the traditional model. Happy for those for whom it did fit, yet suffering deep hunger for more of God within myself.

I didn’t want formula Christianity. I didn’t want worship services that resembled rock concerts. I rejected Hollywood Jesus and the on-the-cutting-edge multimedia presentations. Where was the simplicity of the faith that rocked the Roman world?

It seemed (to me at least) that all the formulas and man-based efforts were hiding the true issues in people’s lives that they needed to deal with – but chose formulas to hide behind in the hope the formulas held the solutions to those issues.

But without the formulas to hide behind I spoke with several people who wouldn’t be pinned down other than to reluctantly agree there were issues – then change the subject to how their particular ‘stream’ (formula) was going to cause the breakthrough to solve that issue.

They didn’t want to deal with the real issues because it hurt, it was uncomfortable, or the revealing of those issues meant they would have to apply the Word sans formula and actually walk out their salvation. Shock! They would have to become a doer of the Word instead of a hearer only.

I dug into the Word to see what the early church had that we didn’t. Why did so much of traditional church replace anointing with emotion; tickling the flesh instead of stirring the spirit; entertainment as spectators instead of active participation?

Simple faith; just loving God because he saved me from hell and made me one of his own, was what I was looking for in church: It finally dawned on me that I was grasping for exactly that. I had been so caught up in the business of, and busy-ness of the industry of church, that I my spirit man was actually starving for genuine fellowship, genuine relationships, genuine simplicity.

I began openly questioning: Why do we cut off worship to do announcements? Why do we push people for money? Why are babies who cry out in a service immediately condemned (or their parents) and ushered out of the meeting? Why the format of “gitty-up” songs, then more worshipful ones, then announcements, then offering, then sermon? Are any of these actually necessary to experience God?

I had to cut out all the clutter. Like a spiritual spring cleaning I started at one end of my spiritual house and went to the other, tossing everything that wasn’t actually in the word’s description of the way church should be. Any add-on’s in the last 2000 years went out the door. I distanced myself from formulas and those involved in them, yet maintained the relationships where possible.

Call it a spiritual mid-life crisis or whatever, but there came a time I had to focus on me and God and filter out anything that got in the way between us.

What was the core value of the simple faith found in the Word? It was the people. The relationships. Their faith was based on love for God, and finding Him in people. What I’ve called for years now, relationship based Christianity. (As opposed to church program based or formula based Christianity)

So simple: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself. I was cutting down to that bare essential truth, and searching on how to apply Jesus’ command by observing church in the New Testament.

Once stripped away, the rebuilding had to come. I no longer needed to be entertained. I wasn’t looking for the spectacular, I wanted supernatural.

I found it in New Testament style faith and church. In relationships, informal, living room style, worship from CD or guitar or keyboard or no accompaniment – for me it was house church, and what I’m doing now. Maybe not for you, for this isn’t an advertisement for house church, merely trying to share some thoughts on how to get back to basics, to simple faith, no matter how the Father may lead you.

No matter how the Lord leads you, we can never lose sight of the cross, and just loving God in “spirit and in truth”, and your neighbor as yourself.

I’d like to close by sharing what for some may be a familiar story. It involves a man by the name of Wil who is a deaf-mute. One Sunday night service years ago there was an altar call, and Wil came down front. He didn’t need to be there, for the call was for those struggling with drug addictions, but down front he came. He came down front though for nearly altar call, he just loved God and that’s one thing he did.

The 3 men on either side of him had their heads bowed, hands folded in front. Then there was Wil. Arms straight up, face up with a huge smile stretching ear to ear, he twisted left and right from his waist in stark contrast to his fellow responders who stood motionless.

As I watched him I saw a shaft of light come down from the top of the arena where the service was held. The light was just wide enough to swallow up Wil’s head entirely. He was in ecstasy, but I thought it ironic that as a deaf-mute he couldn’t share what he was feeling.

Suddenly I saw sentences coming down the shaft of light pouring into Wil, and as they came I heard the Father speak each one – “My son, I am very pleased with you. My son, I appreciate your hard work. In the ages to come I have given you a throne and great authority and made you a teacher of many. Many will come and sit at your feet and learn of you.” And many other such things along those lines.

In utter astonishment I asked the Father immediately: Why him? Why bless him so? He responded, “Because of the purity and simplicity of his love for me.”

Now I saw it. Wil served God because he loved God – no ulterior motives, no thought of doing things as a means of pressuring God to answer a laundry list of requests. Just loving God for love’s sake.

I asked the Father to heal him, because Wil (I was sure) was missing out on all life had to offer. The Father bristled in his response: “He finds his fulfillment in Me.” I responded that Wil though was surely missing out on the larger things of life – family, travel, recreation, education – to which the Father retorted: .””I see to it that all his needs are met.”

I switched tactics; But Father, how wonderful it would be if you healed a deaf-mute man. There must be 1200 to 1800 people here tonight, think of the witness and testimony of a deaf mute made whole!

He responded gently but firmly: “They have the scripture that tells them what true religion is, yet none of them greets him when they come in, nor says goodbye to him when they leave. Therefore I have set him in their midst as an example to them, and a testimony against them on the last day. Therefore they will come and sit at his feet and learn of him.”

I asked one last time for the Father to heal him, and this is what he said: “He has done more with the little he’s been given in life than most all those around you tonight that you call whole. Therefore they will come and sit at his feet and learn of him.”

2 months later I went to a Taco Bueno here in town – similar to a Taco Bell – and there was Wil, cleaning up the eating area. I had no idea he worked there or anywhere for that matter. He recognized me and tried to communicate something, but it was lost on me. About 2/3 of the way through my lunch his supervisor came out, and I took the opportunity to introduce myself, and ask if she might tell me what it was Wil was trying to tell me. She said; “He said we got a shipment in of many boxes, and he stacked them all neatly out back and cleaned the back area, and he wanted you to see what a good job he did.”

I remembered that night 2 months earlier: “My son, I appreciate all your hard work.”

Wil has simple faith. He loves God and worships him with “purity and simplicity”. And “finds his fulfillment in Me.” He lives a clutter free faith.

Sounds like the faith of a little child. For me, I had to cut away complicated faith, and rediscover simple faith. I hope wherever you are in your walk, you never lose site of simple faith. I look forward to the day I can sit at Wil’s feet and he can teach me what his life was like, and how he maintained simple and pure faith.

Some thoughts for today,
John Fenn

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