Repentance That Works

Following up on a conversation Wayne and Kent Burgess had over the weekend about repentance, and how their view of it has shifted greatly from their old days of religion, they reconnected to record some of that for others. They used to see it as wallowing in guilt and shame and making well-intentioned, though impossible, promises to God about never repeating it again. After the cross has removed our shame, however, repentance is the lively conversation with God about the broken places in our thoughts and motivations that invite a work of healing and invites us more deeply into his process transformation. Loving the way God does it is so subversive, and where we give up our need to control the people we love, we can see how subversive it is in inviting others into transformation without needing to manipulate them at all.

Podcast Links:
Kent’s Blog Faithfully Dangerous
Great Joy in KenyaОткъде да купя икона

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54 Responses to “Repentance That Works”

  1. Nomad Dave says:

    Thank you brothers! Great topic! Hi Kent :)

  2. Dwight says:

    Wayne and ……Kent!!!!

    Thanks for a terrific conversation. I love your thoughts on repentance. Not a transaction but an ongoing part of the journey. Kent the poet. I like that both with words and in te garden. I like what you both said about the inner life and decoupling from systems I want to continue to thnk bou that. My question is that politics and economics are still part of our world. Some Enter into those walks to serve. Are you suggesting that as we free ourselves in Christ ther will be no mre participation in Poitics or economics or any system of the world? Kent has been avert voice in ongoing conversations on FB. Thanks to you both

  3. kent says:

    Dwight, I don’t know what it means for you in regards to those things. Participating in it as it has been set up for us to participate in it just wouldn’t work for me anymore. If I was going to take serious, love for the other, even those who wanted to do me harm, I knew my former way of thinking about and participating in the political and economic system would have to change. Both those systems with their ideologies set us against others and leaves us doing all kinds of acrobatics in order to convince ourselves that we are not violating others…or that it’s justified.

  4. Glen says:

    Hey Guys, Went to your website Kent. Awesome! So great to hear someone espousing the freedom JESUS has come to reconcile us to. HE alone has set us free to return to an intimate knowledge of who HE is and who HE created us to be before the “fall” ( the knowledge of good an d evil). HE came to reveal HIS faithfulness that we wouldn’t have to rely on our own. Just as HE is the great “I AM” we are who we are (the good, the bad, the ugly). I no longer call myself “christian” ( follower) but friend as we walk arm-in- arm conceived in HIS love. A love just as real as the peace of a babbling brook or the roar of a crashing wave upon a rocky shore. Please, don’t fret your path, embrace your passion as HE did HIS. Live free, live loved that is HIS purpose. Gman.

  5. Liz says:

    Hi Wayne & Kent,

    Thanks for the great conversation. I really enjoyed it all, but loved what was shared on the spiritual battle we are in and how the resistance operates, as opposed to how the world sees the battle between good and evil.

  6. Matt says:

    Hey Kent and Wayne,
    Greetings from the People’s Republic of China – Great discussion. I wholeheartedly agree with this concept of repentance. It’s been such a change of perspective over the last 5+ to live in the relationship with the Son and let His love change me instead of beating myself up over my inability to change. If only this reality could be communicated/understood by the broader Christian community.

    Matt

  7. Greg says:

    Hi Wayne,
    I think the Broadband and Dialup are the same file (120420h.mp3). We live in a place with a slow connection and it says it will take another 3 hours to download… :-(
    Chances are we won’t get it all before the connection is interrupted…
    Any chance you could upload the dialup version??
    Thanks

  8. kent says:

    Here’s a little fitting poetry and some related thoughts I wrote down a couple years ago.

    http://nthegarden.blogspot.com/search?q=a+man+born+to+farming

  9. nancy says:

    kent….went to your site and was amazed to find Wendell Barry there also lol….just another one of those full circle experiences with which i am being graced….God is good :)

  10. kent says:

    Nancy, Wendell is just one of those humans that helps pull us back into some sanity out of the insanity :-)

  11. Glen in MD says:

    I have to echo some of Dwight’s thoughts. This area of reconciling how the world operates and our place in that world is very puzzling for me. So far I have no insight from Papa about how this Journey with him sorts out with regard to elections and policies and a world that seems to need our involvement. The only way I’ve been able to see it so far is the analogy of an innocent person who is helpless against someone attacking her. I have the present ability to intervene and stop the attack but it may require the use of force in some form even if it is just physically restraining, assuming that the attacker does not respond to any verbal or emotional appeals. At some point, I have a responsibility to stop the violence. To do something. If this is true, then the application is one of degrees and circumstances where we can reasonably differ. Maybe this is just something that each of us needs to sort out with Papa.

  12. kent says:

    Glen, I understand that dilemma. I used to make the same arguments myself. But in the season of repentance I was referring to in this conversation, that argument and defense for a violence, an argument and an activity we have no indication in scripture of Jesus or those who were following him that we assume were learning to live free, ever using. So for myself when it came to that example from people who faced violence to a degree I (and I am assuming it to be true for you also) have never faced….the season of repentance invited me to lay down my former thinking so as to try to see it all in a fresh way. I really was stunned how entering into that questioning changed my former way of seeing these things.

    Does that mean I wouldn’t intervene? I can’t answer that. Out of that season I learned to not try to order my future life and activities on hypotheticals.

  13. Wayne says:

    Glen, I do think it is dangerous to try to sort out some all-encompassing principle here for everyone to follow. Even less so when we use hypothetical circumstances and extrapolate them to other circumstances. If we’ll learn to listen to the Spirit then in each circumstance and opportunity we will sense his nudge and have some idea what he’s asking of us. And knowing how much God loves diversity, I’m pretty sure God wouldn’t have two people in exactly the same circumstance respond in the same way. This is a journey where we learn to listen beyond the expectations and principles others seek to rely on and instead be blown by the Spirit however he desires. I don’t think we’re all called to live like Kent does or for that matter the way I do. How does God make himself available to us. I heard someone say something recently that I really loved. I’ll personalize it for me. “Today I want to be the best Wayne Jacobsen reflection of God in the world that my life in him allows.” Awesome!

  14. kent says:

    And that’s how I am learning to see this life also Wayne. We all would be well served to learn to allow the freedom and the unpredictability of life in the spirit in. It will more than likely even leave me responding in very different ways from one day to the next when it comes to my interaction in the world. And I know that more than likely sounds like a violation to many. And what I mean by that is, I know I grew up always hearing that consistency is the most important way for me to live. What I came to find out is that what religious, and even non religious people were meaning by that was, a consistency with how we applied the law and lived by the law. I just don’t see that as being the most important consistency anymore. What I want to be consistent with is freedom and love and grace. These things take on more expressions from moment to moment than we can even imagine.

  15. kent says:

    For some reason, and I think it has something to do with what I was trying to describe in that last response, Jesus seems to find it valuable to pull the rug (the formulas that so easily form in us) out from under us just as he did with Nicodemus. The spirit is really
    like the wind.

  16. Wayne says:

    Greg, the dial-up link was bad. The file was fine. Link has been fixed. Sorry for the mistake here. I hope you can download the dial-up version now. I wonder some times if it is still worth doing both versions of it since so many people are on broadband. Your comment reminds me that there are still those who find it valuable. Blessings.

  17. Mike M says:

    Brad/Kent,

    Love the timing of this conversation! Just this past week, D’Nesh D’Souza was speaking here in Nashville. One of the main topics that was talked about was how the government has become a security blanket for people, yet this wasn’t always the case. Freedoms are eroded when government is allowed to meet people’s “needs”, and as time goes on, more & more people depend upon a man-made government system.

    This of course, removes the need for relying on God. Turning one’s mind around to see this must come as a revelation from God to see the truth of the situation.

    Thank you for taking time to talk with Wayne on this podcast. To me, the entire podcast was you talking about your journey relying on God, no longer man-made institutions. This theme is reoccurring in many circles. God is working in His people, great to hear it from his people!

  18. Ron C. says:

    Enjoyed the podcast.

    There are many strictly secular words in scripture that have, over the centuries, been subverted into religious jargon and have hence lost there significance. Your example of “Repentance” is a grand one.

    To possibly add to this discussion it is interesting to note that just prior to the devastating Jewish revolt of 66AD, Josephus wrote to a revolutionary who desired to overthrow Rome. Josephus understood Rome’s military power and brutality: he had witnessed the carnage left by previous attempts at rebellion against the Empire. Therefore he instructed this insurgent to “repent and follow me” (Sounds kind of familiar). In other words this attempt would not only be futile but also destructive, so Josephus was pleading with him to turn 180 degrees (change position) and pursue his way of thought and being on this issue.

    It is somewhat interesting to note that the word “brigand” is used by Josephus to denote this revolutionary. This same word was used to describe the two men crucified alongside Jesus. Here lies another possible misrepresentation/mistranslation because they were most likely not thieves but insurgents. Rome predominately utilized this unthinkable form of brutality for Non-Roman rebels. In a sense the cross was Rome’s flag, displayed outside city walls (sometimes by the thousands), which screamed “DON’T MESS WITH ROME”. The prevailing view that they were thieves dilutes the political nature of the cross not only from Rome’s perspective, but also from the lens of the mightiest rebel who willingly took up His timber.

  19. kent says:

    I think in Western cultures, with participatory governments , especially those that have risen to super power status, most of the whole of the citizenry has ended up in the trap of colluding with the Powers because the Powers have promised to protect us and to protect the way of life we have become accustomed to. Of which they really can’t. Not really. And anyway, even beyond that, the lure of the promise draws the masses into the nation state power game that is set against all other peoples the Powers convince us are enemies. This is what for me was all tied up in my mention of how repentance touched the political thing in my life. It was something that goes well beyond the government giving goodies to meet people’s needs. It hit at the whole fabric of being in bed with government when government is all about the world’s power, something of which Jesus just refused to play with.

    The mention of the economic system for myself was much the same. It’s a game the Powers have set up and it hooks people into a dependency on and a looking to government to set the game up according to one of the great meta-narratives created by Karl Marx or Adam Smith. And that game too always sets us against some of our neighbors. It leaves us looking out for ourselves and what we want first according to what we think serves us best. And it’s usually at someone else’s expense.

    And then religion, take your pick from among all of them, become the legitimating voice for the political and economic games.

    These were just realities that came into view during that season and I could no longer ignore how they had shaped me to live in this world in way that just look anti-Christ.

    And within everyone of those big three, beginning to see the reach they had into my life was confounding. It all turned out to be a life built on an illusion….on sand…shifting ground. To remain there just didn’t seem wise. So repentance was the act of myself taking back the trust I had unwisely placed in something that will always see you and me and our neighbors as expendable.

  20. derrick says:

    wow, kent you are a kindered spirit! subversive love, trancendent love, a life of repentance and discovery of god. i was shouting with joy at all of these topics, this exactly where i am. i love it we can only enter into our inheritence in that kind of life. it is the only way to live, i love it!

  21. Janelle says:

    I loved hearing this. I have never heard anyone talk about repentance in this way. It’s like it’s a dirty word to a lot of folks. I feel like it’s something living loved frees us to be able to walk in, without fear. I love the scripture “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts…” There’s a song I love that words the remainder of the verse like this “Try me and see…every worthless affection hidden in me.”
    Repentance changed for me when it opened up about John the Baptist, and his message. Like you, Kent, I understood about it in hindsight of what was going on in my life. Love your words”…cracks in the facade that allows something new to rush in”! I like those “something new” things. They equal more rest, more of His peace.
    Here’s a link to how it settled into words for me, also a link to the song. :)
    http://abenjan.blogspot.com/2009/02/deep-questions.html

  22. kent says:

    Janelle, it really is a good thing isn’t it. My mention above about the encounter Nicodemus had with Jesus is another one of those encounters that religion has messed up. The whole ‘Born Again’ concept comes to mind. Born again to me is all tied up into repentance as Wayne and I were unpacking repentance. It awakening to how wrong we are about something (and remember, “there is no condemnation for those…..”) which leaves us living in a way that is destructive to ourselves and to others. It’s not like a one time event, kind of like when we turn 16 and get a drivers license, like the ‘Born Again’ stream of religion I grew up in had turned it into. It’s about remaining pliable and free of the rigid certainty that humans gravitate towards immediately once we stop picking up our freedom from one moment to the next.

    I just love to know that they care so much for us and want to keep us awake to the circle of belonging we are caught up in and are meant for, that they will continue to break up the structures of thinking and acting that we can so easily move back into that work against our freedom.

  23. kent says:

    This poem just arrived from The Poetry Foundation & Poetry Magazine. As I listened all I could think of was the subversive nature of authentic love.

    http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/28400

  24. Cliff says:

    Wayne and Kent – thanks for spawning such a dynamic discussion! The concept of repentance is something I too have struggled to reconcile with living loved and with 2 Corinthians 5 where we are told that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and that Jesus literally became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God. I was taught that to repent was to bring my sins before God, confess those sins, and to plead the blood of Jesus so those sins could be washed away. This is in direct conflict with 2 Corinthians 5 (which I was never taught btw). So if Christ became sin on the cross and God poured out his wrath to destroy that sin “once for all”, what am I repenting for? The discussion here helped me to more clearly see repentance as an active awareness of the journey and acknowledging those areas of my life where I still need God to heal the brokeness that keeps me from being who He created me to be. Christ was truly subversive because he turned the world’s way of thinking on its head. I think this discussion and the comments it has generated speaks to the fact that He is still doing that! He is still the servant King, He continues to wash feet of His disciples, He continues to challenge the authority of Rome (or Washington, if you like) by daring to declare that He is King and that His kingdom has come, it just doesn’t look like we thought it would. The question is are you going to live like Christ is in charge or like Washington or your finances or your denomination are in charge?

    Now if I can change gears a little, I feel that Holy Spirit has helped me to see another truth that ties in to this discussion. What we are talking about is (to borough Wayne’s phrase) living loved. This whole concept of love usually alludes both the Church and the world. I recently went back to listen once more to Wayne’s Transitions series. The early part of the series talks about the the greatest commandment being said to be “To love the Lord your God with all your heart…” and how love is not something that can be commanded. Here Wayne, you go on to say that if love were an act it could be commanded but it is not an act, but that we are invited into this loving relationship with Father. When I heard that this occurred to me: Love and Relationship are one and the same. They are synonymous and inseparable. They are like the Trinity itself. We can have rather shallow relationships where love is minimized, or we can have intense and lasting relationship like marriage, where love in manifest in a greatness that results in two becoming one flesh! The same is true with our relationship with God. The bible tells us God is Love. This is true because God represents the perfect relationship – the Trinity. That relationship existed before the world was. God created the world to share that relationship, that love with His creation. This understanding is opening up to a new and greater freedom for me in Christ. Love is not what you do, love is not what God does for us, love is not what we do for others. Love may lead us to do certain things, but it is not those things. LOVE IS THE RELATIONSHIP ITSELF!

  25. Ron C. says:

    At the very least we need to rethink, if not totally re-imagine (repent!!!), what is meant by the Kingdom of God and how it relates to secular politics. The following is my best guess on this subject.

    For some time I’ve intentionally had my “ear to the ground” listening for a voice that would properly partition The Kingdom (Nation/politics) of God from the kingdoms (politics) of this world. I’ve heard countless Christians expound on politics, the economy and various social issues, but their rhetoric almost universally resembles the way of the world. What is even more disheartening is that little to no distinction is made between kingdoms.

    British theologian N.T. Wright states (paraphrased) that the central and core message of the four gospels is how God became King (political leader) and that this a forgotten story of the gospels. I wholeheartedly agree. The most astounding fact is that you don’t have to dig deep, or contort the narrative, to find it. It’s right there on the surface.

    Consider that the Gospel of Matthew starts with the lineage of Christ. We tend to view the word “Christ” as if it is Jesus’ last name and fail to comprehend that in the context of the 1st Century it denotes the Messiah who is the anointed one, the King. Every time the word “Christ” is used it is promoting a new King (president, a new political leader) of a new Kingdom (nation). This is “in your face” treasonous language towards the Roman Emperor and to Herod, the King of the Jews. This is essentially saying to both Caesar and Herod that Jesus is King and you are not. This type of language could get someone killed, and eventually it did.

    Continuing at the beginning of Matthew, what was Herod’s response too the wise men’s announcement (basically a rumor) that there is a new king in town? He goes ballistic and slaughters the innocent!!! This power struggle between kingdoms (nations), along with re-imagining the Kingdom (Nation) of God, is maintained throughout the gospels and ends with a placard on a timber that reads “King of the Jews”. This is beyond doubt an upside down Kingdom that redefines true rulership; for an ALL POWERFUL King freely gave up his life for both his subjects and his adversaries.

    We, the ekklesia, make up the citizenry of this radical new Kingdom (nation) which encompasses the entire globe. According to Bruxy Cavey, from The Meeting House, (paraphrased from an audio message) “all artificial boundary lines established by worldly kingdoms have been removed by this new form of government. We are scattered within the kingdoms of this world but our earthly citizenship has been completely transcended in Christ. There is no nationalistic identity that should take priority over our identity in Christ. Imagine a world where Jews and Arabs are called into the same family (kingdom). Picture how the 20th century, with its two world wars predominantly fought by “Christian” nations, would have played out if Christians understood this concept.”

    This is not a spiritual “pie in the sky” kingdom that we will experience in our afterlife. It is here and now “as it is in heaven”. What we need is a new revelation on how to start living it. He is now our authentic King (President) who rules over an established physical Kingdom on earth and we are His political assembly (ekklesia). This subversive Kingdom eradicates all racial, social and political divisions: there is no longer slave or free, male or female, nor Greek or Jew. This upside/down Kingdom even extends love to its enemies. It’s an extremely revolutionary form of government!

    I leave you with this final thought to ponder. There is no such thing as “Christian” nations; however there is a Christian Nation.

  26. kent says:

    Cliff, love and justice are all parts of…..HONORABLE RELATIONS. It’s about how we relate to others in healthy relationship.

  27. kent says:

    Ron, NT Wright is one of those voices that came into my life during the season referred to in the podcast and has been a voice that has helped me along in a lot of this. I love how he describes life in Christ in the world.

  28. Ron C. says:

    Kent,

    N.T. Wright along with Bruxy Cavey, Greg Boyd, John Howard Yoder, Alan Storey, Len Hjarmarson and the radical reformers of 16th Century (to name a few) figuratively rocked my world as it relates to earthly empires.

    There was a time in my life when I considered Christ to be apolitical. I now view him as the most politically radical and subversive person who has ever walked on this planet. It is commonly understood that He confronted the religious leaders, but very few comprehend the seditious language in scripture aimed directly at the empires of this world.

    I sometimes use a game to illustrate this point. I’ll give various titles and attributes of a person and I will ask them to guess who I have in mind. So let’s play. This person lived 2,000 years ago and held these titles; Son of God, God, Savior, Lord, Lord of Lords, King, King of Kings, High Priest, First Born, and Redeemer. He also brought the Gospel (good news), He was considered the Image of God, Lord of the whole world, and He ushered in a new Kingdom and was King of the whole world. He brought peace to the world, He was worshipped and orders of priests were formed to serve and worship Him and His followers regularly sang hymns in His honor. His birthday was celebrated as both a holyday as well as a holiday, He also brought justice to the world, and finally the way we keep track of time (the calendar) was altered to honor Him.

    Most people don’t have a clue that I could possibly be considering someone other than Christ. All of these assertions were being made about Caesar Augustus a few years before Christ started his ministry. These statements were commonly engraved on Roman architecture, works of art, coinage and inscribed in their parchment. For instance, proclamations of good news (gospel) were sent throughout the Roman Empire whenever Caesar defeated another nation in battle and every year his birthday was publicly proclaimed as good news. If you were to ask a typical Roman citizen who brought the good news, or who was their king, lord or savior, or even who was the son of god, they would assuredly say Caesar.

    This is important because it illustrates the subversive nature of the New Testament texts. The writers are boldly saying that Jesus is Lord and therefore Caesar is not, that the true Gospel is proclaimed by Christ not Caesar, that there is a new King in town and it’s not Caesar, etc.

    These were all treasonous statements! Just consider how many died proclaiming the Good News of Christ, His Kingship and His newly established Kingdom. This perspective has personally opened a wide window into scriptures that has added greatly to there depth and meaning.

    I would implore every Christian to spend some time looking into the history of Rome that Christ was born into. It’s a fascinating read and greatly adds to the narrative of scripture. If you start with the last decade of Julius Caesar’s life (he was assassinated in 44 BC) to the birth of Christ, is just over 50 years of Roman history.

    Peace

    • kent says:

      I’ve spent time with all of these guys…..N.T. Wright, Bruxy Cavey, Greg Boyd, John Howard Yoder. Jacques Ellul has probably been the most influential when it comes to how the world works and nation states function.

  29. kent says:

    And as to the 8 months of repentance…..coming face to face with a lot of these things and much much more (the web is so vast) left me with a decision. Continue to see the world as it had been sold to me with a domesticated Jesus added to it and act in accordance with that….or step out of the familiar boat and into the unknown. I found something more real in the move.

  30. Ron C. says:

    Kent,

    One way that we have domesticated Jesus is by imprisoning him in our voting booths.

  31. Sharon says:

    What do you mean that we have imprisoned Jesus in our voting booths? I am Australian. Is this a comment on American politics?

  32. kent says:

    Here’s a poem that expresses the transition from a former way of being and what happens when one begins to walk into the life changing reality of repentance.

    “With great difficulty, advancing by millimeters each year, I carve a road out of the rock. For millenniums my teeth have wasted and my nails broken to get there, to the other side, to the light and the open air. And now that my hands bleed and my teeth tremble, unsure, in a cavity cracked by thirst and dust, I pause and contemplate my work: I have spent the second part of my life breaking the stones, drilling the walls, smashing the doors, removing the obstacles I placed between the light and myself in the first part of my life.” —Octavio Paz, Eagle or Sun

  33. Hannah from SK. Canada says:

    I really enjoyed the podcast, so many words get so distorted because of religion and when you hear those words it feels so yucky.
    After listening to it, I thought of the parable of the man who built his house on the rock, and that when our foundation is Papa’s Love, we can withstand the storms of life, but when we build it on the sand (getting our need of security and significance met in things of this world), then when the storms hit it collapses.

  34. Ron C. says:

    Sharon,

    One of the ways that we have imprisoned God in our voting booths is that many Christians believe that true and lasting change occurs at the center, the center of power. The center, in this case the nation/state, mainly uses coercive force to transform society. The nation/state uses laws, tons of them, and military force to enact change. Christians on the other hand only require two laws and neither are forced upon us. Love God and love others as He has loved us, everything else is mere commentary.

    • sharon says:

      Thanks Ron. I get it. I think here in Australia, many are born subversive – our convict heritage perhaps. Religion is not big here, and I don’t think we as a nation hold a candle to Americans in terms of our level of enthusiasm for politics. I don’t think I have ever looked to politicians to do anything. I often look at footage of American elections, and people’s engagement in the whole process with awe and guilt because I cannot manage the same enthusiasm.

  35. Robyn Tunget says:

    What a wonderful conversation and topic! I always I love the conversations that Kent’s in. Always inspiring, challenging to my heart and soul, but also like a cup of cold water!

  36. kent says:

    Thanks for the kind words Robyn :-)

  37. Alan Gray says:

    Glen,

    A friend called me once and said her husband was threatening to cut their daughter’s finger off because she put a valuable ring on it and couldn’t get it off. All I did was go over and stand there, right there. His daughter looked at me with tears in her eyes and said her daddy was going to cut off her finger. I calmly smiled back and said “no… he isn’t”. The presence of Christ – in the form of one of his disciples, changes things. I certainly would have stopped the father if it came to it but it rarely does.

    You will know what to do if you ever get in the situation – just make sure you get there.

  38. Alan Gray says:

    Wayne & Kent,

    The lead in to my joining Christianity was “You are unacceptable but Jesus will make you acceptable”. It’s not true. The truth is “You, and your sin are not only acceptable but God deeply loves you and them and is desperately pursuing you and your sin”. I think God sees sin as a mother sees a scratch on a child’s face. She knows it will heal if she is allowed to care for it properly. If left unattended, it will get worse, leave a scar and ultimately it will define their child.

  39. Ron C. says:

    Sharon,
    It sounds like you’re farther along on this journey than I am. Christianity in U.S. is fixated and enmeshed in secular politics. In a very real sense we have neutralized the gospel by assimilating it into the political arena of this world. This not only occurs at in the seat of power in Washington D.C.; it also filters down to our local school boards and even into our households. This mounting obsession only serves to empower temporal politics while sabotaging the teaching and life of Christ and His Kingdom.

    Christ did not lead from the center of power but from the margins. He was born into a marginalized part of society and lived His life out within that framework. Here are some snippets from an article by Len Hjalmarson entitled “Leading from the Margins” that carries this theme.

    Leading From The Margins
    The legacy of Constantine and of the Enlightenment gave us a church of the center, a church allied with the dominant forms of economic, intellectual, cultural and social life. This dominant text was marked by compromise. The church made claims to certainty, but also had to accept responsibility for certitudes in support of the empire. We ended with compromise, and rationalization of the Gospel that was “worldly wisdom,” devoid of life and power…

    In this postmodern transition we are increasingly suspicious of the scripting of reality that has been transmitted to us by a church immersed in culture. We are becoming aware that the most faithful expressions of kingdom life are not at the center, but at the margins of society, and that power subverts faithfulness. We shouldn’t be surprised; it has always been so…

    Many Christians (over the past centuries) have found ways to dissent from the coercive measures necessary to ensure social order in the name of Christ. What we are saying is that in the twilight of that world, we have an opportunity to discover what has and always is the case – that the church, as those called out by God, embodies a social alternative that the world cannot on its own can not know…

    As ministry decentralizes.. moves to homes, malls, pubs.. the internet.. fractal networks and reduced structure… and as we move away from positions and roles and titles to functional leadership, we are learning to lead from the margins.
    Greater numbers of people are providing leadership today because they are leading from unusual places. They often lack resources and formal training, but are willing to risk responding to the call of God in their lives. They often lack the legitimation of established structures and well-funded organizations, but they have the approval of God.

    While this movement to the margins is outwardly a shift in position, it is also a shift in the locus of authority. The choice to abandon worldly status is clearly articulated by Mark Strom in “Reframing Paul,” as a call to a new social reality: “Academic, congregational and denominational life functions along clear lines of rank, status and
    honour. We preach that the gospel has ended elitism, but we rarely allow the implications to go
    beyond ideas. Paul, however, actually stepped down in the world. Paul urged leaders to imitate his personal example of how the message of Jesus inverted status…” He refused to show favoritism towards individuals or ekkl?siai. The gospel offered him rights, but he refused them. Christ was not a means to a career. Yet the agendas and processes of maintaining and reforming evangelical life and thought remain the domain of professional scholars and clergy. Their ministry is their career. Dying and rising with Christ meant status reversal. In Paul’s case, he deliberately stepped down in the world. We must not romanticize this choice. He felt the shame of it amongst his peers and potential patrons, yet held it as the mark of his sincerity.

    Where once leadership was seen to come from the front, from appointed persons in defined roles, from paid professionals, and from the few to the many, now leadership often comes from the one walking beside us. Instead of the Wizard, it is Dorothy who has wisdom. Instead of Aragorn or Gandalf, it is Frodo whose obedience may be the fulcrum for change. The implication is a relocation of authority and the disentanglement of leadership from authority. We won’t attempt a definition of leadership; rather I invite you to come along on a partnership in discovery. We are searching for wisdom from the margins.
    “Fresh expressions of the church will come from the margins of society, where they
    will radically reshape both our understanding of the church and the gospel”
    As we live out new ways of leading faithful communities,
    •?Instead of leading from over, we lead from among.
    •?Instead of leading from certainty, we lead by exploration, cooperation and faith.
    • Instead of leading from power, we lead in emptiness depending on Jesus
    • Instead of leading from a plan, we lead with attention
    •?Instead of leading as managers, we lead as mystics and poets, “speaking poetry in a prose flattened world” and articulating a common future
    •?Instead of leading compulsively, we lead with inner freedom
    •?Instead of leading from the center, we lead from the margins.

  40. Sharon says:

    I did not really “get” this podcast. I struggled to understand the concepts. This commentary has made it understandable so thanks to everyone who contributed.

    Cliffs comments:

    “Repentance is an active awareness of the journey, and acknowledging the areas of my life where I still need God to heal the brokenness.” Not effort, but surrender. How beautiful and freeing.

    “Love is not what you do
    Love is not what God does for us
    Love is not what we do for others
    Love may lead us to do certain things, but it is not those things
    Love is the relationship itself”

    To me this rings true, but it is not something I ever heard in any sermon or Sunday School. Truly loving acts and words are like the by-product of relationship, not the end-product.

    I feel like I have had a real education this podcast. You folks have made me think a lot harder than I am used to. I like to learn, so I appreciate that. Thanks Ron for your thoughts. I had never considered many of the issues you raised. My husband and I have enjoyed mentally “chewing” these words.

  41. kent says:

    Sharon, I get it when you say that you didn’t “get” this podcast.

    My life during that season began to feel like my mind was being ran through a meat grinder. The repentance that didn’t register at all as repentance to me was very much like a wrestling match that resulted in something that really felt like a renewing of my mind. It wasn’t so much a wrestling with God (even though some of that was going on too) but it was a wrestling with myself and with the fear and law based scripts and thinking that had been up to that time in complete control of my life. The liberating message really turned into a liberating message.

    This liberation was the unraveling of all the narratives I had inherited in regards to life. Narratives that were all the product of fear and ran on the sustaining power that fear kept in place. And just to be clear…I would have never thought of myself as a fear-filled person. I wasn’t running around afraid. But it turned out that everything I was doing, I was doing because I was afraid of what would happen to me and my family, my life, if I was to stop doing it all.

    Religion (my approach to God and God’s approach to me) and how it permeated and controlled all my thinking.
    Politics (my approach to the humans I shared this planet with) and how it permeated and controlled all my thinking.
    Economics (the ways of money/production/work in regards to the system I had been born into… a Capitalist Consumerist society) and how it permeated and controlled all my thinking.
    ….and what all these things meant to me in a social sense.

    And as to my mind these days after all of that over turning of things. It’s never felt more at peace and day by day continues to feel more like still water. It no longer feels like a ball ricocheting around in my head. And since that change….it feels engaged in with people and the world I live in, in ways that are much more healthy.

  42. Nomad Dave says:

    Thanks again Kent for turning me on to OTR. Only God Can Save Us Now:

  43. kent says:

    Dave, OTR’s lyrics are full of the kind of repentance we were talking about in the podcast. Their latest CD’s title ….THE LONG SURRENDER….is a direct nodding of the head towards, an acceptance of, the reality of freedom/life being all tied up with an attitude of changing one’s mind….letting go….and learning to live in the free flow and wild freedom of the spirit.

    Here’s them describing it.

    “The Long Surrender is about giving up, letting go, and starting over. The album’s title “speaks to our ongoing desire to let go of certain expectations — and much of what we are convinced we know for sure — in favor of remaining open and curious,” Bergquist explains. “It seems like so many of our friends are currently wrestling with various forms of ‘letting go,’ so hopefully the ideas conjured by the title feel somewhat universal. And I think the title speaks to the arc of a lifetime commitment to writing and performing regardless of recognition. Learning when to work and when to let go. Learning to leave room for grace to billow our sails occasionally. Learning not to white-knuckle everything.”

  44. nancy says:

    This gets a little interesting now….after finding Wendell Berry on Kent’s site and then having him turn up again in a totally different place in the same week….those full circle wheels were really turning….now, here is OTR….my niece has travelled with them as photographer on their train concert trips the past two years…..having a sense for the “connections” in life….this is kinda blowing me away….feeling i know Who it’s coming from :) not sure where it is going……. Kent, your reply to Sharon yesterday really describes what i am coming to realize more and more….and it’s like i knew these things way back when and God is bringing me back to them.

  45. Nomad Dave says:

    Very cool Kent and Nancy. :) All My Favorite People. . .

  46. kent says:

    That’s a great song Dave.

    And Nancy, I myself have been wanting to do the CONVERSATIONS ON A MUSICAL TRAIN with Over The Rhine. If they could get Wendell to go along with them and have him reading some poetry along the way….I would be there :-)

  47. nancy says:

    Yes, thanks for the video, Dave :) Kent, you referred to your fb page on the podcast…..how would that be found?

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