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As a Quaker, I’ve often been told that I’m supposed to be in the world, but not of it. I always thought I knew what that meant. But lately I’m not so sure.

My life has been getting a lot more worldly lately. There’s a career that demands attention, a house that requires maintenance, and a 4-month-old baby who doesn’t seem to understand my need for peace and quiet!

The work that I fill my days with is wonderful, but it’s very different from the dedicated, full-time gospel ministry I envisioned for myself even a few years ago. I’m finding dynamic collaboration with an incredible diversity of people that I simply wasn’t encountering before, back when I lived almost entirely within the Quaker bubble. I’m expanding my horizons and building new relationships.

I still have a lot to learn about how to lead this new lifestyle faithfully. The values of the Quaker/Christian community are different from those of the wider culture. Some of these differences are really excellent. For example, I’m learning how to speak plainly about my values and experience, without resorting to Quaker jargon!

Still, it’s easy for me to get caught up in a whole new set of assumptions, the popular wisdom that’s all around me. The wider culture has its own ideas about what and who is valuable, what integrity consists of, and how the game is played. It’s easy to unquestioningly conform to these assumptions. I can get so scared of not fitting in that I forget who I am as a friend of Jesus.

Taken as a whole, though, I think that my ministry is benefiting from my full engagement with the surrounding culture. I’m grateful for the opportunity to escape the Quaker bubble and get a new vantage point. I’m seeing how many of the assumptions of the Quaker community were trapping me before. The church can be its own special kind of echo chamber.

Now more than ever, I want to recommit myself to non-conformity to any human set of assumptions, whether religious or secular. I want to choose life – the unbounded, abundant life that refuses to conform to anything but the character of Jesus Christ. I want to be fully human, not a cookie cutter replica of a good Quaker, a good communications professional, or any other box that I’m tempted to put myself into.

I’m not sure what this means yet. It seems really hard to stay unconformed, to be in the world but not of it. I think it’s going to involve approaching each day and situation with a commitment to faithfulness. I will commute, change diapers, prepare sermons, work my job, and celebrate with my friends in the way of Jesus.

Somehow, in the midst of all this confusion, I’m hearing an invitation to be fully human. How about you?


God lives in every individual and is accessible, without intermediary, to whoever is open to a relationship with the Divine one. This faith in the immediate presence of the Light of Christ in the soul and its power to turn us into children and daughters of the Divine one, is the center of our Faith.

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It’s the End of Church (As We Know It)

It's the End of Church (As We Know It)

So we’re in this situation:

For hundreds of years, the Christian community has gathered together on Sunday mornings. Bright and early, we come together for service at a designated building. We hear a sermon. We sing songs. We show up to be seen, to connect.

These days, though, fewer and fewer of us are showing up.

I’ll spare you the statistics. You’ve heard them before. More importantly,  you’ve witnessed the change yourself. In the last fifty years, most of our congregations have hollowed out.

Maybe you’ve become a statistic yourself. At a certain point, coming to a building on Sunday morning no longer felt like an authentic, sustaining ritual for you. The draw of the community was overwhelmed by the demands of the week – of family and friends and work. Choosing between another weekend activity and a chance to rest, you chose sanity.

Or perhaps it was worse than that. Rather than withdrawing out of exhaustion, maybe you felt pushed out. Church politics and infighting added nothing to your life, just bitterness. The church’s rejection of gays, its embrace of nationalism and war, the suppression of women, and our apparent concern for individual prosperity over care for the poor. Stuff like that adds up.

There have been so many reasons to check out. So many reasons to find something better to do on Sunday mornings, even if it’s just to rest up for another work week.

Maybe you’re one of those who have been left sitting in the pews. So many others have dropped out, one by one, but you’ve hung in there. Sure, the church has its problems, but you still believe. You’re still committed to this group of people. You hold out hope that the Holy Spirit can still do something incredible with us, as short-sighted as we can be.

Broken as we are, all things are possible with God.

Still. Something has to change. The church as we’ve known it for the last several hundred years is less relevant every day. The Sunday morning show is dying. A new generation is emerging that demands something deeper. We long for a faith that can speak to the struggles and pain, joy and hope that we find in our everyday lives. We’re waiting, hungry for a Christianity that speaks to the mystery we find in the streets and the schools, the office and the coffee shop.

There is so much yearning in our culture for exactly the life and power that the gospel offers. There is an openness to a movement of the Holy Spirit, the real abundant life that we find in community around the dinner table with Jesus. We can emerge together with power, like those first Christians we read about in the book of Acts.

Or, we can choose to believe that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. 

Many of us are still so identified with the dying forms of the 20th century church that we are convinced that the church is moribund. We fail to see the reality that is right in front of our faces: The harvest is plentiful! We are ready for a re-imagined community, to become friends of Jesus in our post-modern world!

Which story will we choose to live in?

As long as we measure ourselves by 20th-century standards of how the church is supposed to look and behave, our story will be one of defensiveness and decline. We’ll just keep building our walls higher, digger our trenches deeper, wondering why no one wants to come join our Sunday-morning club. This is a sad, disheartening path, and I’ve walked it far too long. I’m ready for a more life-giving vision of what we could be as followers of Jesus.

It’s risky, of course, to push away from the shores of the known, out into the open waters of possibility. Who knows? Maybe we’ll sail over the edge of the world!

But from where I’m sitting, the risk of discovery seems like a better bet than the sad certainty of decline by attrition. It certainly sounds like more fun!

The call to discipleship is more beautiful than the story of church growth that has so captivated us in recent decades. What is it that really inspires us? Is it growing church membership? Planning the Sunday morning show? Bigger buildings, larger parking lots? Does the 20th-century model of church growth set your heart on fire?

For me and my partners in the Friends of Jesus Fellowship, Jesus’ invitation is to something far more meaningful than promoting the Sunday club and building it bigger. What would it look like to respond like the apostles did? What would it be like to truly make disciples in the way of Jesus? How will our lives need to change in order to respond to the radical demands of the in-breaking reign of God?

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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