How to Start a Revolution: A Church Shaken, Part 1


on being exiled

It’s hard to start this series of posts, because it feels like fire on my insides. I can’t hold it in, and I’m not exactly sure how it’s going to come out.

It began in Haiti over a month ago on our very last day. A few of us had decided to stay that extra day, and it landed me across the lunch table from a man named St. Cyr (sounds like Sincere). I had just walked with him and his son through a new church building and school. While we were in that beautiful building, he told me that money is nothing. Money is a small thing for God. The building was new and built there where the church started, right where the tent city was after the earthquake. St. Cyr worshipped Jesus every night in the center of that tent city. As he and his friends worshipped, the hope swelled, and the church grew. The church grew among a people who were literally starving, people who had lost everything.

We sat down in a restaurant that was much like a Haitian Hooters. The girls wore similar clothes. It was a clean, nice place. The men had a restroom inside and the women had to go out. The difference between the brokenness in that nation compared to the healing in the church of that nation was so blazingly obvious that it made me laugh like seeing the ocean for the first time. St. Cyr and his son weren’t afraid of the world whatsoever. There was no fear. We sat in Hooters, and I caught a glimpse of the kingdom of God. Glints of light flash out from what has to be “on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Across from St. Cyr, I asked him three questions, and then he preached to me in a booming voice for a solid 45 minutes without letting up. My first question was “How did you come to be such a leader?” Then he went the long way about telling me that he is not a leader. No one but Jesus leads. He is only a servant. He loves to care for the caregivers, and he serves care to caregivers until they become better caregivers. In other words, this is how he makes leaders.

Because he had chosen to leave a life with access to everything he wanted in the States, my second question was “Do you feel like you chose to be poor?” I’ll tell you his answer later, but let me go ahead and say that my asking that question was very revealing of my lack of understanding about the kingdom of God. It was the wrong question.

Then my third question was this: “Did you know that people are leaving the American church in droves?” His answer is what I need you to know. It has changed me, and I believe it can change us as a people, as a nation, and as a church.

St. Cyr offered me this, and I’ll say it to you in my own words. It is American culture that we will never be satisfied. When you want something, you go after it and get it, and as soon as you do, you want for something else, maybe a thousand more things. American culture will never have enough. It stands to reason that the church would follow suit. As long as people make a god of relevancy and of gain, they will never be satisfied with church. The leaders and church structures will never be able to offer what it is people feel like they need. If Jesus can’t be packaged and sold to the liking of the people, then people will leave.

It was as if he had taken my idea of Kingdom and put it in one of those shakers behind the bar. He shook me and my ideas, and oh how shakable was my idea of church. If you can shake it, you can leave it, but we are of an unshakable kingdom. So where is the discrepancy?

I was not on the island of Patmos, but I was on an island. I left consumed with joy, but how can it be that I feel utter joy and also WOE down to these fiery bones?  I saw the American church and it was a marketplace, and it was in the slavery of debt, creating more product to keep itself afloat. I saw the church, and it had syncretized Jesus with consumerism. I saw us and we were all self-proclaimed and congratulated leaders on a platform. We were not exiles like beautiful Daniel. We were fat and unsatisfied like kingdom-building Babylon. And when we were thrown in with lions, we watched ourselves be eaten alive until we saw ourselves as exiles again.

So in the next few days, as I write these posts, I would like for you to consider revolution with me. Consider what it means to be in exile, to be a servant embodied by God in a shakable and unsatisfied land. Consider that the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of complete healing, for the individual, the church, the field, the forrest, nations, and the whole earth. Consider that captives will be set free. The hungry will eat. Is that what you say you believe?

We homeless ones will find our home. If you are in exile, let’s call ourselves the church, unshakable. Let us reassemble.

I have no idea how many parts this will have, but part 2 is tomorrow. Come on back when you get the chance and share your thoughts with me, even if there are just three of us having this conversation.

Hear the Wanting, Part 2

amberhaines
About me

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39 Comments

Sarah Mae
Reply May 15, 2014

listening...

Mike Rusch
Reply May 15, 2014

...putting on my boots and walking towards the place where we are reassembling.

Brian
Reply May 15, 2014

I think my family has felt this way for a while. So we stopped buying, in a sense. I know I've felt exactly this way about the missions industry.

Seth
Reply May 15, 2014

Yup... I'm with Mike. These boots were made for walking.

    Amber
    Reply May 15, 2014

    But the thing is that we are not walking out of church. It's the opposite.

Logan Wolfram
Reply May 15, 2014

I'm setting the table for this feast... and pulling up chairs around it for those who want to sit in this place of quiet community together. Yes.... just yes friend.

Alia Joy
Reply May 15, 2014

I want to stomp my feet and shout amen with you! I was one of the droves. Ready to be done. Thinking I had a choice in the matter of taking church or leaving it. Never once really thinking about how God calls us to love her. I was dissatisfied with the American church because it was so packaged and sanitary and utterly impotent to display the reckless messiness and abandon the gospel requires. We want it neat and consumable but find ourselves completely dissatisfied with the church machine and the god we build for our own consumption. We are famished on this gospel. I'm seeing that loving the church doesn't mean cynicism or despair, it means reconciliation and revolution. It means unshakable faith in God at work. I'm with you and I love where this conversation is going.

Cassi
Reply May 15, 2014

Perfect timing as God always is. As my family is straining to hear God's call for if we are to change churches are not.

Katie
Reply May 15, 2014

I don't have any witty comment-section quips that make me sound thoughtful and deserving of being a part of this conversation. Been sitting with this post for a few minutes, looking up out the window, and the treetops are swaying in the wind, trees spoken by Holy God, breeze breathed by Holy God, and I just want you to know that I'm paying attention to what you're saying, Amber. I know that you are obeying a call. And that something Kingdom-wise is certainly afoot; Aslan is on the move. And that when we talk about church, or Church, I don't know, what I'm sensing is that we're missing mystery. Holy dadgum mystery. The "what is it?" manna. Even when we're eating it, we delude ourselves into thinking we understand it. And the beauty of God is that we cannot. It's the paradox of mystery that truly nourishes us. But who wants to chew on that of a Sunday morning?

    Seth
    Reply May 15, 2014

    "what I’m sensing is that we’re missing mystery. Holy dadgum mystery. The “what is it?” manna. Even when we’re eating it, we delude ourselves into thinking we understand it. And the beauty of God is that we cannot. It’s the paradox of mystery that truly nourishes us."

    Wow.

becca
Reply May 15, 2014

Love this, Amber. Will be back to continue reading as you pour it out. We are struggling so much at our house with this very thing. So we talk ourselves in circles and get nowhere except exhausted. It just seems all so theoretical, which was fun at first. But now, we're just exhausted. And so what does this look like practically-speaking? That's where we are. As believers, as a husband and wife, mom and dad, pastor and wife… what does it look like?

So, I'm listening and thinking with you. Looking forward to what else comes flowing out from you and the community.

Doreen Grace
Reply May 15, 2014

Beautiful thoughts Amber. What impresses me most about St. Cyr is his humility, and his undivided attention on what he stands for, instead of inadvertently magnifying what he opposes by paying it undue attention. The Kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy, and the Kingdom is within you. Selah. The more I stop and ponder that the more it unfolds and I begin to I get it. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Amber
    Reply May 15, 2014

    Doreen, yes, I think this is the whole thing. I feel like a kid just learning how to walk in it, though. It's rough-looking right now.

Amanda
Reply May 15, 2014

I love where this is going and can't wait to read what is to come.

Chris Marlow
Reply May 15, 2014

Love this Amber.

Of course, I was in the middle of the convo and I had to take a bottle of advil when it was over.:-)

But, it was worth it.

St Cyr, is a true hero, serving his community not from a platform, but from his ability to fully engage in his community and the various domains in which he can influence and shape!

Laura
Reply May 15, 2014

Amber...Thank you. I am a mama of five boys. I am home with them all day. Since last summer, I have been pregnant with anticipation. I feel it...the building up of something coming. I keep saying "God, what is it? What do you want us to do? We are able bodied people here!" I agree with St. Cyr. The American church wants to consume. Then comes the boredom. I read your post a couple of times. It got me thinking about Nehemiah. He was born in captivity and had never seen Jerusalem, but God put love in Nehemiah's heart for that city. He was such a great leader too! I need to go and read it again. Looking forward to your next post.

    Amber
    Reply May 15, 2014

    I'm going to read it tonight, Laura. Thank you for this.

Lorretta
Reply May 15, 2014

Amen.

amandaconquers
Reply May 15, 2014

I have been feeling this... unable to put into words. I doubt I even could in this comment. Just shaken, heavy-hearted and desperate for God to move in me and the American church. I want to be apart of this conversation (even if I just listen ;))

Rachel Quednau
Reply May 16, 2014

I am utterly intrigued by what you've started here. Can't wait to read your further thoughts. How should we change our ways in light of this?

Eileen
Reply May 16, 2014

"As long as people make a god of relevancy and of gain, they will never be satisfied with church" I love that. A timely post for me to read. The idea of excess has been on my heart lately. I crave "less" and we live in a world that is a cheerleader for more and more. Yet, it's never enough and will always leave us feeling empty.

Pam
Reply May 16, 2014

I can not wait to read Part 2. You go, girl.

Cheryl
Reply May 16, 2014

"Consider what it means to be an exile, to be a servant embodied by God in an unshakable & unsatisfied land." That speaks exactly the turbulence in my spirit for which I've had no words. Say on, Sister. Say on.

Cynthia
Reply May 16, 2014

I will be here as long as it takes to listen till the end. I left a congregation I knew I did not belong in, 8 months ago. Since then, we have visited others, and attend one most services, but I have not placed membership. As if I am making a statement by not placing membership. I know I need to do something different. I just don't know what that is yet.

John Ray
Reply May 16, 2014

The voice that calls us to "reassemble" (or "re-member") ourselves is never going to speak the language of the market. It may indeed call in it, but it will not be of it. So how do we recognize that voice? How do we find the motivation to walk away from all that we know and are conditioned to and comforted by? Where do we find the wisdom and courage to live as exiles among our own people? I am sure you are going to answer these and many more questions... :)

    Amber
    Reply May 16, 2014

    John, I feel like even knowing the questions to ask is news to me!

    I certainly do not have the answers, but I am praying.

Jess
Reply May 16, 2014

Thank you for writing this piece. It was beautifully written! Two of my favorite lines: "We sat in Hooters, and I caught a glimpse of the kingdom of God." And "As long as people make a god of relevancy and of gain, they will never be satisfied with church." It was like everything I couldn't quite put into the right words in a piece I wrote the other day on my blog :http://jessicaharkins.blogspot.com/2014/05/anything-could-happen.html

Again, thank you so much for sharing!

B. C.
Reply May 16, 2014

This post. These comments. It all has me in tears. I know the heartache of feeling lost in the wilderness of the American Church. Oh all these children of God who are hungry for His manna! But Americans keep trying to "re-do". Maybe, just maybe we need to stop trying to fix by making the American Church and struggling to figure it all out and what it is supposed to figure it out. It's EXHAUSTING! It's heartwrenching. What if, just what if Christ left us a visible, palpable Church, full of manna! Full of healing! Full of sinners all on exile onto the Promised Land? What if all of these frustrations and brokenness and tears and shear giving up mess is because we are trying to create what was already created by Christ on the day of Pentecost? What if the call is not to the Future and new but to antiquity? You know where heart and evangelical passions are..... And I don't believe it's just "good for my family" because I believe it is Christ Himself - Body. Blood. Soul. And Divinity.

    B. C.
    Reply May 16, 2014

    I really should've edited that... You know where my passions are and I am not speaking of relativism. I believe whole heartedly that Christ is calling his beloved Children Home. TO be unified as One Body again. Oh my heart is burdened for it. It drives me to my knees, and sometimes face down really feels more appropriate.

Julie
Reply May 16, 2014

This post grabbed me and hurled me right back into the bloody mess of church and church people and how they hurt and fail us. In 26 years we have been to seven churches, leaving one for a other because of moral failure of the pastor except for two. And those two had nothing for our kids and were unwilling to allow that to be a priority. Being a worship pastor has also colored my view and not in a pretty way. I'm so tired of church. I mean bone tired. Weary. Exhausted. But we are going and taking our last daughter at home. But honestly I am just playing the game. Going through the motions. Smiling the fake smile and being the fake friendly. I don't want to serve anymore at church. Or in church. I am sick of the gossip and politics and cliques. The whose who in the pews. I haven't glimpsed Jesus is the church in so long. Or perhaps my eyes have such scales on them I could t even recognize him if I saw him. Then I read this post. And though it makes me hurt and sick all over again I have one shred of tiny hope that maybe there are others out there who might understand how I feel. And with that maybe the answer and healin for me and my family will come.

Peggy
Reply May 16, 2014

Amber, thank you for putting into words what I have been feeling for awhile......dissatisfaction, a feeling that our churches are just like the rest of society, men doing man-made works instead of watching God do things that only God can do which knocks us to our knees in holy worship. I look forward to your other posts.

Laura
Reply May 17, 2014

My husband and I just recently left church and are making our way into the wilderness, doing church and liturgy at a beautiful garden every Sunday after our church decided to put 12 million dollars into church renovations and wanted everyone to be "all in" and then called it a miracle. Sigh. The church we went to before that just dropped a program for migrant workers because it wasn't "bringing people into the church" (congregational numbers). The state of the American churches is in bad shape. I am glad to hear of an underground uprising for those of us who just can't do it any more, but who have a heart for God.

Sandra Heska King
Reply May 17, 2014

"As long as people make a god of relevancy and of gain, they will never be satisfied with church. The leaders and church structures will never be able to offer what it is people feel like they need. If Jesus can’t be packaged and sold to the liking of the people, then people will leave."

Listening here, too....

Heidi Roesli
Reply May 17, 2014

Thank you Amber. Your words brought both relief, recognition and tears to me. My husband and I are on a spiritual journey right now. We both recognize that God has led us from our church, but not sure where we are headed. Your words put my feelings in print. Thank you for being used by God to touch us. Still on the journey, but your words have given us affirmation that we are not alone in this experience with God right now.

Amy
Reply May 18, 2014

I have been feeling this for several years, in the beginning unable to name this shift, this cry of the heart for deeper community and building together. I meditate on Isaiah 58, 61 and Luke 4 for this reason... this is the heart of who we the church should be. America in her affluence is lost in spiritual poverty and those under oppression, living in poverty and in exile find the Truth. I think that as children of God, it has always been so, the searching, the scrambling to fill the void that seeps into our souls when we try to fill it with anything or anyone other than God. Thank you for your words, your wisdom and for sharing your heart. I will continue to listen. Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

"For we who long for something more, for strength and hope and wisdom beyond ourselves, discover to our joy that as the Comforter reveals Christ to us, in Him we have our hearts desire." Catherine Marshall

KELLIE
Reply May 23, 2014

how have i missed this? i read part 4 this morning from a FB link... and tracked back to this... i'll be reading the next in a few minutes. but wait. this. just this morning i had that "won the lottery" feeling, but it's not money... i don't even know WHAT it is, but God is good and I feel it bubbling out of my very pores. {and a side note... my "word" this year is REVELATION} jumping for joy for the revolution.

Marika
Reply July 24, 2015

The thing I liked best about Jasmine's message was 1) She asked Crosby if he had atnnhiyg to add and 2) That she said, The world is a better place than it used to be. Jasmine used to drive me crazy (always picking a fight and being a bit selfish). She is getting much better.It is definitely not OK to kiss Hank. I mean, she kissed her ex-husband while she was with Mark last season too and never said atnnhiyg to him about it! I think it is Mark's mustache that bugs me. What I loved about Bob Little and Amber is that they were an unlikely couple and he liked her for her talents and personality. I guess they did mention that he lost the election.As for Adam/Kristina my one thought as to why they aren't telling people was to avoid a million opinions on what type of treatment to seek. I can understand waiting for that reason. I think it would just be hard to act as if everything is okay.

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