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2019

Silence is Golden

Steve Brown, pg. 2

Building Soul Spaces Jenni Young, pg. 4

What to Do When You Just Can't Do Church Anymore Kendra Fletcher, pg. 6

Weeds and Crap Sandwiches Matt Johnson, pg. 11

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Silence is Golden

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hristian truth is about as welcome in today’s culture as a wet shaggy dog shaking himself at the Miss America Pageant. Truth does not matter, but intolerance does. If the subject is salvation, Christian truth suggests that there are those who are saved and those who are not. If the truth is about sin, then some things are right and others are wrong. If it is about hell and heaven, it means that one place is hot and the other is not. If it is about forgiveness, then some are forgiven and others are not. Truth feels intolerant—and frankly, when I speak Christian truth, it sometimes feels that way to me. Truth, by its very nature, divides and offends. That is what Jesus meant when he made the startling statement that he had not come to bring peace but to set children against parents and to create enemies of one’s own household (Matthew 10:35–36).

Christians are called to speak truth and, much of the time, to speak it to people who do not want to hear it. And they are constrained to do so. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” Paul was saying that he could not keep quiet.

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Jeremiah the prophet had the same experience, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my

By Steve Brown bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9). That is the normal experience of every Christian who knows the truth. But with all of that being said, we Christians must be careful in what we say, how we say it, and even if we are to say it at all. Jesus cautioned that we should “not give dogs what is holy” nor “throw your pearls before pigs lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matthew 7:6). The truth we have is precious, dangerous, and explosively powerful in the way it can heal or hurt. There are times when silence really is golden. All Christians need to learn is that sometimes there is great value in silence—even in their witness to the world. Sometimes it is best to be silent and to let love, freedom, and joy do the talking. There are some things Christians cannot say without words, but there are other matters that are only confused by words. My wife, who is a musician, has often said to me that music is the universal language. Sometimes it is best to remain silent and hear the language of music. Just so, sometimes it is best to speak the language of silence. It is a cliché, but nevertheless there is some truth to believing that Christians are the only Bible unbelievers ever read. However, with due respect to that point of view, let me say that most of us sin


so much, betray our principles so often, and fail so obviously in our Christian walk that the message is mixed and muddled. But what if we remained silent by not defending ourselves? What if we remained silent when others are condemning those whose lifestyle, politics, or religious views are deemed unacceptable? What if we remained silent and refused to be the social, political, and religious critic of every opinion that wasn’t our own? What if we remained silent in the face of rejection? What if we refused to share the secrets

we’ve been told or tell the stories we’ve overheard? What if we remained silent and overlooked the foibles of others? What if we looked at the pain of our neighbor and just loved him or her, instead of trying to fix the unfixable? What if our response to confusion, fear, and guilt was simply, “I know”? There is a powerful witness in that kind of silence.

Taken from Talk the Walk by Steve Brown. Available now!

This attitude-altering book invites Christians to cultivate boldness and humility in communicating gospel truth. By uncovering self-righteousness and spiritual arrogance, Talk the Walk by pastor and author Steve Brown shatters stereotypes and helps believers consider how they share the good news without watering it down. The Christian faith is true, and while we may be right on issues of salvation and theology, we may miss the less articulated truths of humility, love, and forgiveness. We live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christians and their faith. Talk the Walk unpacks the call to “go out into the world” and share faith by being truthful and winsome. By helping men and women love others out of a deeper love in Christ—the one who first loved us—Talk the Walk helps Christians present the gospel clearly and with compassion.

Order Talk the Walk by Steve Brown at KeyLife.org/store

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Take a step back and look at others’ perceptions. Explore the tools necessary to accomplish an attitude change of confidence and humility, repentance and truth. Share the message of Christ without distorting it. Speak confidently without being cold. By operating out of humble gratitude for the gospel, begin to talk the walk of Christian faith, reflecting the love and truth of Jesus.


BUILDING

SOUL SPACES BY JENNI YOUNG

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here is a book I love (written by A.S. Peterson) called The Fiddler’s Gun.

In the book, there is an orphanage where a builder arrives to build a new chapel. There is no money for a bell for that chapel, but he builds a bell tower anyway. My mothersoul resonates deeply with the reason why:

“Mr. Hickory says when you build a

thing you build your purpose into it, and sometimes you have to let others finish it.” Building chapels and bell towers is not part of my skill set, but children and their souls? Well, that’s what I do! If I could write our children’s stories to the very end, they would be faithful, true, clever, kind, and courageous characters in hauntingly beautiful sagas. Every hard choice would lead to lasting beauty. Every mistake would lead to breathtaking redemption. They would fight for the right things, live strong and sure, and make the world better. Their lives would make music worthy of the most prestigious of bell towers.

The painstaking reality is that I am helpless to finish their stories, and sometimes that makes parenting feel maddening…until I remember a story with a chapel builder


named Mr. Hickory who also had a vision bigger than his opportunity, and his wisdom gives me hope. “…you build your purpose into it…” So…we take them outside on clear, starry nights, and we sit quietly and look up. Then we whisper the story of Abraham’s sky and the stars and the promises. We memorize Scripture with them and stop the process sometimes to get emotional about the beauty of the words we are learning. We read them the old stories about Daniel and Noah and Moses, and we sing songs with them about the deep, deep love of Jesus—vast, unmeasured, boundless, free. We do these things to build space in their souls for faith. We plant gardens and include them in the process—the weeding, the seed burying, the watering and sprouting, the growing and maintaining, and finally the picking. We hang bird feeders and teach them the names of the birds that come, and then we leave the dishes (or the cell phone, depending on the day) to look with them every single repetitive time they squeal, “A cardinal!” We take them outside at dusk during summer, and we catch fireflies and let go and let them catch and let go. We do these things to build space in their souls for life and wonder.

we believe that there is a better Country. We cry at things worthy of tears, let them offer simple comforts when our parents die and our grief is wild, and we in turn hold them tightly when their pets die and their grief is wild. We do these things because we know that mourning is related to gratitude and beauty, and we want to build space in their souls for gratitude and beauty. We assign chores, cook dinner, memorize poetry, brush teeth, administer discipline, do puzzles, know friends, tickle feet, teach math, hear thoughts, and on and on…and as often as we are able, we remember that not one of these things is an end in itself but that we are building spaces—always building spaces—in their souls, spaces intended to be filled with nothing less than Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

We read with them. We visit places like Narnia and Middle Earth together. We join them in loving the characters that live in those places, and every once in a while we give in to their urges to read “just one more chapter” six times “…when you build a thing, you build before bed. We do these things to your purpose into it, and sometimes build space in their souls for cour- you have to let others finish it.” age, hope, and longing—because Yes and amen.

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And then we pray. Oh, do we pray! We pray because sometimes (often!) we forget our purpose, and when we do, our repentance matters. We pray because we know that the world is crazy and its voices are loud, and often God’s voice is still and small, but we do believe He will find them, and when He does, we want them to recognize Him. We pray because we long for the spaces we have clumsily built to be places He inhabits and because we never want to lose our wonder at being given such an awesome privilege in the first place.

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What To Do

When You Just Can’t

Do Church Anymore By Kendra Fletcher

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f you read the title of this post and immediately identified with its sentiment, you may not be surprised to know that there is a growing number of church people out there who just cannot bear the thought of involving themselves one more time in a church community.

We identify with that red-blooded hero of American independence, Tom Sawyer, who quipped, “I've been to the circus three or four times—lots of times. Church ain't a circumstance to a circus.” You’re also well aware, I’m sure, that we are in an era of Western Civilization that has largely rejected the truth of Christianity and exchanged it for all manner of postmodernism. I won’t be addressing those who have rebuked a faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ entirely in this post. This one is for those of us who still love and want to follow Christ, but who are just so very weary of the gathering of his followers.

So while I am not your Holy Spirit, I can stand here as a compassionate reminder that you can listen for him and seek God’s truth, and being one of the people who points you back to Jesus is my heart’s deep desire and the reason I write in the first place. I’m no substitute for God. That having been established, these are the truths I know about being in an emotional space where you just can’t do church anymore: 1. YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO CHURCH ANYMORE. For some of us, church attendance was a non-negotiable weekly imperative with many assumptions attached to it. Our attendance and involvement has been linked to our faithfulness, our commitment, and our spiritual depth. Church attendance should be none of those things.

I AM NOT THE HOLY SPIRIT.

It’s entirely okay to step out. Just do me a favor and read the rest of this post before you tell someone, “Well, Kendra said I don’t have to.” That’s not the whole story (and I shouldn’t have that kind of power in your life anyway).

Take everything I write with that big

2. YOU MAY HAVE BEEN DOING IT

I’m going to give you some things to think about and hopefully a way forward, but I want to preface it all with a statement I know to be 100% true:

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sentence ringing in your ears.

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quench your thirst.


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WRONG IN THE FIRST PLACE. And here’s why: What is the reason you were going to church all that time? Family obligation? Habit? Because you’d heard that we aren’t supposed to neglect meeting with one another?* Because it was an essential part of your religious behavior? Because you were performing for the eyes of others? Really think this one through, because although potentially shocking, it may reveal the deepest reason you may have for not wanting to be there anymore. Legalism and/or bad religion are like that. The thing we thought was going to bring us {joy, freedom, acknowledgement, fulfillment, friendships, satisfaction, __________ } never, never, never does, unless it’s Jesus himself. Church isn’t Jesus. Church can become just as big a prop and idol as drugs, alcohol, power, and sex.

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And here’s why you don’t need to do church for the time being: If you were doing it for all the wrong reasons, you need time to examine all of that, parse it, root it out, and discover the real reason the church is supposed to be gathering. That statement in Hebrews 10 about not neglecting to gather together is not about adherence to a behavior. It was said because the author was a human, too, and as a human, he knew our profound privation in regards to encouragement, relationships, and community. Each are essential elements to emotional and mental health, and as Christians living in a time and place that showed only animosity toward their beliefs and practices, the writer was letting the Hebrew believers know that being

together was crucial to their survival. Us, too. *Hebrews 10:25, 26 3. GOD WILL MEET YOU RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE. Literally. In your apartment, in your car, lost in the crowd of a megachurch, in the doctor’s office, face down on your bed. He’s not bound by space and time. Existentially. In your pain, in your fear, in your abject weariness, in your loneliness. He’s not judging you for pulling out of church for a time. He’s not mad at you for taking a break and breathing some pure oxygen. He might just show you himself in a fresh, powerful way. 4. THE TIMING TO EXIT A CHURCH OR RETURN TO A CHURCH MAY NOT BE YOUR TIMING. Go (or return) when you know you need to. When you begin to understand that you need to go or stay, then go or stay. There isn’t a right or wrong. God is just that kind. Friends or family might voice their concern if you haven’t plugged into a church community yet, but you only need to listen to the Holy Spirit. Going back because guilt or obligation have been the impetus may do you more damage in the long term than good. 5. CHURCH CAN BE ALL ABOUT ONE THING FOR THE TIME BEING. Church is all about one thing: worship. Yes, of course we gain and give many peripheral benefits by our ...CONTINUED ON PAGE 10


Will You Join Us? Thank you for continuing to preach freedom! I’m trying to get it after some heavy doses of legalism. Your ministry is helping!

God certainly doesn’t need us, but for some reason he has seen to it that Key Life is still here and we’re still preaching grace (and having a blast doing it). But we can’t do it alone. We need your help and so do countless Christians who are suffering under the burden of “do more, try harder” religion.

I have been extraordinarily tough on myself for the mistakes I made in my past and your message of radical grace has helped me remember that God is not disappointed in me and thinks I am good enough thanks to Christ. Your openness about not being perfect and accepting the grace offered by Jesus is so needed right now in my generation; you have helped me lean into that message.

We are committed to Growing up I was raised that I was going never being hard sell to hell if I broke the law, even though I or manipulative. So believed in Jesus Christ. Your message of please don’t feel presgrace has transformed my life. sured or obligated. We just want to let you know what Key Life is about and the difference it makes. Thank you for not making me feel guilty and Why not join us? for reminding me of God’s You can give at KeyLife.org/give grace and love! or call 1-800-KEY-LIFE.


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attendance and involvement, but the bottom line is, we gather to worship God together. We do not go to focus first on people, being social, or doing stuff. Going to the service to focus on worshipping and connecting with God and then heading quietly out through the back door is absolutely acceptable, and maybe even necessary. Answering a concerned or critical question about why you aren’t involved/serving/plugged in/part of a community group can be answered with a simple, gracious, “I’m working through some stuff and just need some time, thanks.” Then walk out the back door. 6. THERE IS A COMMUNITY SOMEWHERE FOR YOU. You might not even find it for a long, long time. You might need to create it. You might need to spend a year or two or more praying that God will show you exactly where he wants you to be and when. In the meantime, use the same response as above: “I’m working through some stuff but I know God will direct me when the time comes. Thanks for asking. How are the kids?” I threw that last line in there because some people are tenacious and it’s a great idea to change the subject and move on. You’ll find your community. And if you never do, God’s working in that, too. In my loneliest seasons, I find myself wanting more of Christ. It’s such a great place to be.

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It seems there’s plenty to do when you can’t do church anymore, but our faith is at its essence about being, not doing. Out of our being, out of what Christ has done, we are compelled to do. He makes that happen. He enables us. It’s his work, not ours. In the meantime, know how loved you are by God. Understanding his love for us changes everything.

Kendra Fletcher was a home-schooling mother of eight who took pride in having it all together—the right schooling, the right theology, the right church, and the right meal-planning, home-managing, keep-it-all-together parenting. Then it all fell apart. Three of Kendra’s children were taken to the brink of death in a period of eighteen months. As wave after wave of crisis hit her family, she learned that doing life and religion “right” was a poor substitute for a living relationship with a loving God. More than a memoir, Lost & Found will help you find your value, worth, significance, hope, and identity in Christ alone. Experience the freeing grace that only Jesus can give!

Order Lost & Found by Kendra Fletcher at KeyLife.org/store


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nemployment sucks. I’ve had this unfortunate crap sandwich land on my plate a couple times in the last few years.

In one situation, I had to leave a toxic church-staff job out of fear of going crazy if I stayed another day. In another scenario I got the gutpunch of an ego bruising layoff. I’ve avoided writing about this publicly until now because I’ve needed to work though the personal impact of underemployment without needing any sort of response in return. Plus, I’ve already written about it in my book already and that’s public so…

As anyone who has gone without work for any significant amount of time without a nice fat nest egg or trust fund to back them up can tell you, unemployment doesn’t do your self-esteem any favors. True to my personality type, I enjoy mastering information on particular subjects and during times of underemployment I often lay awake at night with the realization that I’m not mastering a single thing. It’s demoralizing. Some days I find myself wandering around the house in my bathrobe forgetting the last time I showered and shaved. Embracing slovenliness is not the sort of mastery I’ve had in mind. The one thing I’ve aimed to mas-

Weeds & Crap Sandwiches by Matt johnson

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Religious folk often call these sorts of life events a “severe mercy.” My name for it involves a few more expletives. Of course these “severe mercies” take many forms, not just lack of work. Maybe your severe mercy involves difficult people, sickness or a tanking financial portfolio. In my own life God’s program for life hasn’t seemed to involve me gaining more control, but prying my hands of it. I’m starting to

get the feeling that maybe like Jacob, God’s engaging me in a bit of a wrestling match. Though I often prefer control, I’m begrudgingly learning that life on the wrestling mat—though painful—just might be better. Maybe. But Jacob walked away with a blessing, right? Well, yeah. A blessing and a limp.

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ter though is weed pulling. I don’t mean spraying toxic chemicals onto the lawn, I’m talking about getting down on my hands and knees, plunging a hand shovel into the ground under the root just so and pulling that sucker all the way out. I’m not sure why I get so much satisfaction out of this. Maybe it’s because I can see the results. One moment, there’s an ugly weed terrorizing my lawn. The next, it’s not. I fixed it. It’s a small feat amidst the uncertainties of life. But even this task is seemingly un-masterable. Have you pulled weeds recently? You have to get the entire root. If even a half-inch tip of foot long root breaks off, the weed grows back within four days. It’s an exercise in futility. Yet I go back out there rain or shine to dig out those godforsaken weeds. I recently told this story to my counselor and she asked me to consider the simplicity and profundity of this menial task. As I crouch down to the ground and let that soil up under my cracked fingernails to try one more time, I’m reminded this is life. Those damned weeds are always going to be there. I’m going to have to sweat to keep them at bay. I’d like to think that

maybe, just maybe this is God’s sense of humor and a lesson that once again, I can’t rely on my own self-told, controlled life story. If you’re looking for a spiritual step-by-step of how much you can glorify God in your unemployment, there’re lots of other places online to go so you can wring your hands in spiritual guilt. I’ve got nothing for you. But I will say, the ego bruising excrement sandwiches of life—like when you don’t make the cut in a layoff, and the daily life lessons of things like weed pulling can produce something good. For me, God is getting my attention in ways that a life of “control” simply can’t. Most days I’m happy to have a stocked pantry, an agenda for the day, a full tank of gas and chalk it up to being “#BLESSED.” These days though, I’m getting a little more accustomed to the idea that the less than stellar menu options of life and the green thumb disasters may be God calling me to spar with Him a little. In doing so, He’s inviting me to more than mere “control” over my life, He’s inviting me into His presence and there’s no better place to be. But man, that limp sure does smart.

In Getting Jesus Wrong: Giving Up Spiritual Vitamins and Checklist Christianity, pastor and Key Life author Matt Johnson is genuinely funny and transparent as he shares his personal encounters with a string of false saviors and shows us what it looks like to get Jesus right. The message of the Bible is about Jesus coming to exhausted and disillusioned disciples as we are and offering a whole new way of thinking (the way up is down) and a whole new way of life (a rich exploration of the depths of gospel love).

Order Getting Jesus Wrong by Matt Johnson at KeyLife.org/store

Profile for Key Life Network

Key Life - Summer Magazine 2019  

Read some of our most popular articles from the KeyLife.org website, including a snippet of Steve Brown's new book, Talk the Walk, entitled...

Key Life - Summer Magazine 2019  

Read some of our most popular articles from the KeyLife.org website, including a snippet of Steve Brown's new book, Talk the Walk, entitled...