Manifold Wisdom--Manifold Church

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,  according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Ephesians 3:10-11 My life has been about the church. I have lived all of my life within the church. My folks starting taking me to church at six weeks of age and I have not stopped going since.But here’s the truth. I have not always liked the church. I’ve seen beautiful people marred by the church and within the work of the church, I have seen people shoot the wounded, not help them. They have hemorrhaged and bled and been wounded only to find people within the church still kick, abuse and kill them in God’s holy halls.  But the paradox is this, I have also loved the church--loved and been lost in the work of the church--loved the positive, good and noble purposes of the healthy church led by healthy leaders.I have been on a journey in my recent years of understanding the church. I watched my own four adult children join me on this journey—because they, like me were raised in the church as well. I call myself a “recovering Baptist.” I’m recovering in most areas of my life where I messed up.  Recently, more light has been shed into my path regarding the nature of the church and the  nature of its leaders.In working with thousands of leaders who work in the church, I’ve grown weary, tired and disillusioned to be honest. I’ve witnessed so much abuse by men who wear robes and leaders who wear authority that I’ve grown suspicious. Yes, suspicious is a good word to describe my taking a step back and evaluating the relevance, the need, the look and feel of the church in the 21st century.To say that I stumbled upon a verse in the Bible is not the correct way of telling you what shifted my entire paradigm about the church today. This verse had been there all along—throughout the entire birth of the church until this very day. It’s just that I missed it. I overlooked it on my way to find what I felt might be even more verses to help me and to help others.Ephesians 3:10-11 leaped out at me and has nearly knocked me unconscious. “The manifold wisdom of God.” I have sat with that word—“manifold”—trying my best to figure out precisely what Paul intended by choosing such a word.The word “manifold” means: “having many different forms, features, or elements: manifold breeds of dog.”   The manifold wisdom of God regarding the wisdom within and about the church is just this: The church too has many different forms, features and elements just as the breeds of the species we call dogs.Because of my work—the work with leaders who feel called to live their life; do their life and give their life because of the church, I’ve seen passionate leaders feel like their church is the right church; the only church; the best church; the hippest church; the most multi-sited church, the largest; the fastest growing and then it morphs into something darker. Every church should be like my church. Since I am with the right church, then everyone else is experiencing something less; something outside of God’s intent. It goes on, as you know.Pride, authority and a seminary education can create the perfect storm for leaders of the church to suffer a malady that infects their own soul and the ministry to which they feel called.Some leaders might feel like their church, call it a blue church, is the way to do church. You have to think blue. You have to be blue. You have to hang with blue people to really be in the blue movement.Then in another state; perhaps another city or even across the street are the orange folk who think and feel exactly the same way that the blue folks do in the blue church. Then there is the red church. The green church and yes, even a pink church.But now, let’s use this word “manifold” here…. And see if we can ease our tension a bit by embracing that from God’s perspective, it is not about the right color. And what is this is true because from God’s perspective there is no right color. There are just a manifold of colors—all seeking to do the same thing but in different ways. Who can say that blue is right and red is wrong?  The colors just are. The church just is--and is in every form we find it.As some of you will know, no person on the face of the earth, living or dead has impacted my life more than that of Dallas Willard. It was Dallas who told me years ago when I went to a Catholic (Is Catholic a color?) Monastery with him for a month to recover from my toxicity and my addiction of being a pastor, “Steve, Jesus only spoke the word, “church” two times in his entire life that we know of. Why have you made “church” your God?” That question undone me and I have never, ever recovered from his question. I don’t think I will ever recover either. Perhaps now, 20 years later, I am just now beginning to understand the depth’s of Dallas Willard’s question to me in that Prayer cell were monks fled to do their own version of church.Now, there is more wisdom…. And it is this, if you are in a blue church and I am in a red one, can we surrender our efforts to compete against, degrade and throw rocks at the people who do their life in a yellow church?Perhaps from God’s perspective, it takes all the reds and hues of red; all the blues and hues of blue; all the yellow and hues of yellow to express what God has intended. Perhaps this is so because no human system has dibs on the truth. Not the Lutherans, not the Presbyterians, not the Charismatics, not the Bible-believing-fundamentalist, not even my church or your church. We lay down our efforts to defend our color church and we surrender our dogmas to the fact that in history and through history—no creed has survived in all colors but Jesus. No book has been lifted higher than our Bible. No god has been worshipped but our God—the God who created the manifold ways in which we try every six days to “gather to gather to ask the Lord’s blessings. We hasten and chasten his truths to make known.”Stephen W. SmithCopyright 2014All Rights Reserved.   

Combating Busyness!

[youtube][/youtube]I'm convinced of this one thing:  the pace of life that we are presently living is not sustainable. The wheels are going to come off the bus of our lives--and in many lives--this has already happened. Lives that once resembled someone who was truly alive now looks like carnage!Constant availability is going to "do" us in. When we're always on, always wired and always available, we never have the opportunity to refuel our souls. We live our lives on empty and through the barrenness and emptiness of our lives--we have the audacity to call our lives--the abundant life.Living in a perpetual state of busyness is not the abundant life. Jesus had something MORE in mind when he alone promised a life could be enjoyed that was "rich and satisfying."Here are five things you can begin to do now to help you get off the hamster wheel and foster the abundant life:1. Take short breaks during each work day to move away from your desk and take a brisk walk.2. Pull away from social media for extended blocks of time. Rather than constantly checking email, Facebook and Twitter, use 15 minutes blocks to check in and interact.3. Practicing sabbath--one day of total rest and pleasure is the kingpin of all life sustaining spiritual rhythms. Be a sabbath keeper this week! What day will work?4. Plan on a life-giving meal with 2-3 of your most life giving friends. Linger together over a meal and enjoy the conversation!5. Spend 15 minutes a day in silence--without silence it is virtually impossible to live the spiritual life. When we're still--we hear from God! It does take time to de-clutter all the voices of the inner heart to begin to listen but this is why it's called a spiritual discipline. ------------------------------------------“Steve Smith cuts through the religious paraphernalia and daily clutter that obstructs our path to lives of purpose and power, and he clearly explains the simplicity of The Jesus Life in the Kingdom of God. He has deep insights into how we have come to live the way we do, in church and out. With refreshing realism and wide-ranging knowledge, he helps us identify dear illusions that bog us down and introduces us to simple steps and arrangements that enable eternal living. The directions he gives are self-validating. We have only to ‘just do it.’ The Jesus Life would be ideal for real spiritual progress in small groups in church and in community. Serious individual engagement with it will bring assurance that the life praised in our songs and scriptures can be ours.”

Dallas Willard, author of The Divine Conspiracy

  For more on this subject, please refer to Chapter 2-3 of The Jesus Life! Pre-Order here: