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October 21, 2010



Hey Rob, "The closer we get to Jesus the more dangerous he is to our middle class sensibilities." Our middle 'classness' begs for safety, security and acceptance. None of these were values of the early church. You pretty much kissed these goodbye when you began your journey in "The Way." If Jesus gets more dangerous the closer we get, that explains why we stay at arms length. Still able to worship, as Alan said, but resistant to Lordship and the ensuing call. As for idols in church? Two words: Christian Nation. This is meaty stuff. Thanks. I'll be back when I get a chance to think some of the other questions...

Rob Wegner

Edgar, well said. Neil Cole describes the "worshipping but Lordless" church as the "zombie bride" of Christ. I think that says it all - not truly alive or growing but still walking the earth.


Gonna try not to write another blog post as a comment. :)
*-- cultural idols - Comfort. We sacrifice for our own comfort. We pursue ease. Even pay for it. Maybe there isn't anything evil in convenience, but you simply can't continue to be comfortable with Jesus as Lord and live with a consumerist worldview. The world doesn't exist for me to consume it. There simply aren't enough natural resources on the planet for each of its inhabitants to live as we do. If I sacrifice my comfort, casting it off for the idol it is, suddenly I have more resources than I realized.
*-- church idols - tradition and familiarity. ANY movement can become a tradition. Traditions speak to the need of persons to belong to something bigger than themselves, but traditions (from liturgical to programmatic) can never give life. We have a tendency to be pragmatic: if it works (or worked), then it must be right so we should keep on doing it ad infinitum.
*-- middle class sensibilities- I am slowly being changed from someone who looks from middle class to upper class for his goals, to someone who looks from middle class to JESUS for his goals. And I confess it is not easy. It is counter-cultural. We have turned the american dream into "the right not to be offended" and so marginalize anything that offends. Even Jesus as our Lord. Truth is there is no such right, not when I am submitting to the Lordship of another. We use our freedom to pursue our goals, our success, our recovery. But Paul said to use our freedom to serve one another. (Gal 5.13)


Rob... This is dangerous thinking that changes EVERYTHING if we should live out the "Jesus is Lord" worldview. Our positions, agendas, and gods will (even those in the name of Christianity) will be threatened. Yet, this worldview would have its greatest impact our lives when there is no one looking. I believe the biggest idol we erect and worship is the god of "ME," in our culture as well as our churches. As a result of the "ME" god we serve, we craft and mode the Lordship of Jesus into something that serves "ME." Therefore, as Alan so boldly suggests, we "domesticate" Jesus (Wow!). By the way, the comments I've just made is not so much about others as it is about "ME" reflecting about "ME" and how "I" am living out "Jesus is Lord."



Why does getting close to Jesus threaten our stability, security and acceptance? You're right, it does, but why? What KIND of security do we seek in our middle class sensibilities? It's monetary and social isn't it?
Securing a comfortable life for my family is a good thing, but I have made it an ultimate thing because the process of doing so demands more attention and time then I give to God.

How can I justify taking time and attention away from my wife and 3 y\o son to give it to someone I don't even know in the name of doing God's will?

I use time with my family as an excuse to not get involved, or plugged in to God. But when can spending time relating to those I'm close to become an ultimate thing over a good thing? God is love and has designed us to be relational. Where is the balance when it comes to God and family? We have many reasons to examine the imbalance between God and everything else, but the line here is thin.


Amen, amen, AMEN. This video is SO true and yet SO damning to me. Of course I resonate with all that Alan says and everything he challenges on: idols, safety, the Kingship of Christ, our struggle with relevancy and simplicity.

Rob, this takes me back to Brennan Manning so long ago at TU, speaking and crying out for us as men to embrace our Abba, our Father, and to let his love infect, infuse, and destroy everything within us so we can change all that is around us. On a personal level, that is awesome.

Where the breakdown occurs, I feel, is within the church collectively. I can have a personal revival, but to extend that on a bigger level is where the rub comes. To let the gospel destroy us on a collective side is much harder. This is where change within the culture of the church is hard, where embracing the mission and applying the mission within the church to the community is even harder.

I can live the Gospel within my home, but to extend it further with other people "on mission" can get even messier.

I'm currently wrestling with this issue on a church level and seeing fruit from change but also sensing other barriers on a greater application level and ministry level. To be "on mission", we need to remove some things or change some things, not to be radical but to be true to the phrase "Jesus is Lord".

Con-victing! I can't be in a movement if I'm not letting the movement affect me day in and day out. I'm not done, as Alan stated, but I need to let the fire burn within me, mold my character, and pull me to live as I was made to be to those all around me.



What are our idols? As a church community, and as members of the western world, where do our loyalties lie? Why do we do what we do? Where are we going? What is it that fires us up? What will make us angry, if challenged?

I believe that if we remove the scales from our eyes and really take an honest look at ourselves and at the society we've built that the answers became blatantly obvious. We idolize comfort. Security. A safe harbor and unrockable boat. And not only actual security and comfort but even the image of security and comfort. We want our neighbors, next door and across the ocean, to see how comfortable and secure we are. When that image or lifestyle is challenged, it is like a hornets nest being stirred up. We will give anything, including our lives, in the pursuit of the image of comfort.

It is easy to see if we just look. Middle class Americans drowning in debt, urban youth killing each other, radical surgery to get that perfect body, billions spent every year on the trendiest and newest things. I could go on and on, all in an attempt to be comfortable or at least give off the perception that we are comfortable.

Pain and suffering are universal. Gather a group of people from any city or neighborhood in America, and you'll find abuse, divorce, neglect. It's everywhere, and yet for the most part all we see are smiling faces. In fact, on the rare occasion that we might see someone in tears, or hear of abuse within our sphere of interaction, we are shocked! “What? I never imagined that could have happened here”, we say, as if our comfortable little island of security was immune from such a thing. It is a lie we have built up around us to shield ourselves from the reality that life is painful and difficult, not secure and comfortable. As for the middle class, when that reality becomes too obvious, when all is not well outside our windows (idols are threatened), we run. We head for the safety and whitewashed lifestyle of suburbia, where all the ugliness is neatly hid behind manicured lawns and white picket fences. It's not gone, far from it, just hidden away neatly enough that our image (idol) is secure.

Jesus challenged us to be real. He challenged our “whitewashed tombs” and “dirty cups”. He challenged us, knowing full well the world of sin and destruction that we live in, to follow him. His ministry is a constant challenge to us all. How do we interact with others, where and on what do we spend our money, what truly motivates us? He questions our reality in search of our true selves, our very core. He is not easy. He is not safe. He knows our inclinations, he wants to bash them to bits and replace them with his. He craves relationship for that very reason, to get inside and wreck us. The closer we get to him, the more visible our idols become. And in turn, the more dangerous Jesus becomes to them.

When Jesus ascended into heaven he left us here to continue his ministry. He left his church here as his hands and feet. To carry on his challenges, to move closer to his people in relationship, to be dangerous to our idols. He left us equipped with the Holy Spirit, equipped for the same battle that he continuously fought.

Is this what we are doing? Or have we neutered ourselves at the throne of our idols?

We are afraid to challenge the status quo. We like all the smiling faces. We fear confrontation. We do not want to get dirty. We bow at the feet of our idols of safety, comfort, and their images. We rebel against the one true God, afraid to give up what we have worked so hard for (our idols), in exchange for what he gives for free.

Is our church dangerous? Is your church challenging? Is the church just another “safe” and “comfortable” place.


The more I work this over, the more I realize that the closer I get to Jesus, the more quesitons I have.

I think a cultural idol is having more answers than questions.

Getting close to God often means having more questions than answers. This leads to consideration of the cultural connection we maintain between masculinity and having answers.


WOW! This was a video and conversation that took 2 times to process everything that was communicated. I think that one of the biggest take aways from the post was the idea or thought that was posed where Jesus was on the outside of His church wanting back in. As I picture this passage in Revelation with a new framework I was struck to the core. Then the question was raised "What is the most prevalent idol in the church?"

I think our greatest idol in the church could actually be the church itself. When I say that I am not talking about the people of the church but the construct of the church. We have moved in church world from being people driven to building and bill driven and in doing so we have driven the Kingdom of God out of the church. I make this statement as our church is right in the middle of renovating our first permanent facility. So maybe this is just the world that I am living in right now. But this idea hit me because yesterday as I was walking an alley toward our new facility I passed a homeless man that I have passed several times, except this time I felt the presence of God tell me to stop and talk to him. Sounds like a God moment is about to happen right, Well not exactly, because I spoke back to that prompting reminding my LORD that I was too busy building HIS church to actually be HIS church at that moment. Last night I had to confess to my LORD that I had allowed the construct of HIS church to effect HIS vision for HIS church. I think when we as the body of Christ allow Jesus to become Lord of our lives we will move beyond the construct of the church and move into our communities and live as the church. This is what Jesus modeled for us in

John 1:14 (Message) 14The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

I wonder what the church would look like if we once again took our cues from our LORD?
I wonder how may of our churches embody these principles?
I wonder if I embody these principles?

Just some thoughts from a fellow struggler. I am praying this for me right now. Thanks for the reminder of who should be LORD of my life. Alan and Rob.


Idols in our culture? The thing that concerns me is that I don't think they are much different than in the church. Although the thing that concerns me most is that the church (ME) has idols in the first place. I see the barriers of consumerism, safety, comfort, "success", self / individualism, and gaining our identity by what we do and accomplish. (To name a few.)

What are the "middle class sensibilities" that need to be threatened by Jesus? This is difficult because I hear from people in our church recognizing the need to engage with the people Jesus engaged with, but fearing for how it will impact them and their kids. Is the ultimate goal as a father to provide a comfortable and sanitary environment for my kids? What if that was God's attitude? Yikes. As a father of four I feel the tension, but the middle class sensibility of control, and comfort, and a nice anti-bacterial soaked life doesn't seem to match up with "deny self - take up your cross - and follow."

I do think, as Hirsch has stated elsewhere, that the family unit as we've defined it has also become an idol. I truly believe this, because it irks me so much. :)

What will it take for the church in America to find it’s First Love again? I hate to say persecution, because that is the gift I do not want, but that seems to refocus the movement of Jesus. I think it has to begin with me - being faithful to follow Jesus right where I live and inviting others to join. Like a mustard seed that grows...

Great video and discussion - thanks.


Agreed...it's that our attention becomes fixated and focused on the nonessential. Our hearts become detoured by these distractions and our devotion wanes toward Him and wanders toward others (idols, whatever they may be and more than likely, they are constantly in flux if we're honest). I just did a couple sermons on Haggai - and the people back then, faced that drift - like we do today. In a land of distractions, the loudest voice gets the focus often. Divided focus of the heart is simply not possible. True Devotion demands exclusivity. Isn't that why Jesus says to his followers what he says in the end of Matthew 6. Your attention will want to drift, but stay exclusively focused on what matters most. On WHO matters most.


I’ve been reading Forgotten Ways the Holy Spirit used it to light a fire in me, can’t wait for the AND Conference!
Some of the idols in our culture (and church) are instant gratification, political correctness, consumerism, materialism, careers, self-help and security. Political correctness has created a culture that has helped create people afraid to say or do anything that may upset or question another person in anyway. People go through their lives trying to please everybody with little or no thought of living a life that gives glory to God. The “everybody gets a trophy” mentality has led to whole generations in which truth has become subjective, not absolute. People are no longer willing to wait for anything. We all carry around cell phones that are basically little computers. We are choosing these devices over personal relationships. The gratification is instant when you google it on your cell, instead of hashing it our over lunches for a week with a close friend. Just watch an hour of TV and we can see that consumerism and materialism have become our gods. I even saw a commercial that said a person’s coffee buying experience at a gas station was “almost spiritual.” I wish I were joking. Careers, achievement and success have dominated our thinking and focus. We work so hard to get noticed and receive rewards (raise or accolades) for ourselves that we forget that the life we are living was purchased at a very high cost and that our abilities are a gift. We value security to the point that that we avoid getting “taken advantage of” more than we avoid seeing lost people remain lost. In our culture, if it requires being vulnerable the cost is simply too high. We forget how vulnerable Jesus became on our behalf. The self-help crowd has convinced us that if we work hard enough or smart enough (7 habits, 12 steps etc.) we can find true fulfillment and happiness without ever thinking about Jesus Christ.
What will it take to find our First Love? To truly engage this conversation, some feelings are going to get hurt; people are not going to be happy and people are going to feel uncomfortable. We need to move people from here (polytheistic culture and churches) to there (Christ centered, white-hot-for-Jesus communities), but first people need to take a long, hard look in the mirror to see that we can’t stay here, and that is a difficult thing to do. Dying to self is not easy. Our culture, and sadly we, the Church, have tried to sell the world on what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” Following Jesus is not easy, comfortable or popular and we need not shy away from that in the Church. We need to be real about the cost of following our King. Personally, it may mean losing friends, family or influence. As a Church it may mean losing members. Are we, as followers of Jesus, willing to risk this? I think the Church is ready, I think the people are ready.


I've started typing countless times and keep erasing. Don't know how to start.

I've been wrestling with these questions over the past week like no other time in my life. I'm okay with Alan pressing the church. However, I'm not asking questions about the corporate body. I'm asking it about me and my family, knowing that as we change as individuals and families, so will the body.

The phrase that I've been using mostly is that I'm frustrated, sick and tired of my complacency and acceptance of mediocrity in my middle class comforts, lifting the garage door, closing it behind and not coming out until I go to work the next day. So what I was hearing was only further confirming my convictions and conversations.

There have been many tears at my house, as we've looked at each other and said, "What do we need to leave behind? How do we make disciples, not the church, but you and me, the Johnson family? Are we 'considering another person's needs as greater than our own? If we have two coats and another has none, are we giving it? If we have three bedrooms and two sit empty, who needs to fill them? Where can we make a cut to remove ourselves from the slavery of school loans in order to be free to do kingdom work? Why don't we know our neighbors and what their needs are? Does that crown molding really need to go up? Why do we not cook more dinners and eat with people, fostering community as opposed to calling sitting in the same room staring at the TV good, calling that quality time with one another? Why are we calling 10% of our income, sponsoring a child in Africa and being part of community group that is afraid to split up, good? If he's sitting here asking how we are doing with that whole disciple making thing, are we okay with our answer? In light of eternity, how will we live...let's not be vague and romanticize this phrase...genuinely, in light of eternity and "thy will be done on earth as in heaven"...how will we make disciples?"

The list goes on...a lot further.

I am broken, sad and discouraged that I find myself here. Looking forward to more tears as we fight through making him Lord of All and being consumed by the joy of losing it all to find him.


My ministry grew up out of the inner city of Richmond Va with the vision of engaging the institutional church in missional experiences and I have been asking these questions for six years as church after church gives me excuses for why they don't have time, money, or desire to care for the most vulnerable in our city.

Cultural Idols - I resonate with Brad's comment that our idol of "security" is tied up in our warped sense of material need and family obligations. I think we have gone way too far in this pursuit and I think in many cases our homes/families are the idol. For example: Last week a woman says she wants to serve more but her kids have soccer, ballet, horseback riding, girl scouts, and the list went on and on. We can say NO to our children. Some how we see over indulgence as being a good parent and it is distracting us from missional engagement.

Church Idols - I agree with PaulWirth that the church has become an idol. We have gotten really good at "churchianity" and have lost our zeal for "Christianity." Churchianity makes us feel good. We get to build nice comfy buildings, with the latest in programing and all our friends who look think and act like us. While Christianity requires we hang out in the margins where our security is threatened and where we might just encounter Christ in the least.

Middle Class Sensibilities - I work in the inner city with addicts, homeless men and women, people who are mentally off, who don't smell so good, who are not rational, who sometimes make me crazy but I know that many of my urban friends truly love me. I live in a plastic sterile middle class suburban community where I honestly don't know who truly cares. People say to me "How do you do that?" and I think "How do you stay out here with all these plastic people?" While we have lots of reasons for clinging to comfort, the reward far exceeds the cost. I wish more Christians would give it a try.

tony sheng

love this rob. i think one big church idol is power. especially generationally speaking, sitting between the emerging leaders and the established leaders. the idol of power stops risk, doesn't let jesus be lord and flattens movement and enthusiasm.


In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, one of the children ask Mr. Beaver if Aslan is safe. "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

Bruno DeJesus

Rob, after reading your post, thinking about it, then watching the video last evening it was messing me up. key question that I asked myself- Am I really up to this?

As someone posted here already, I must first see if these changes are possible in my home, before I can see if it can be done in my church... These are paradigm shifts where the OLD ( 1st Cent church) becomes the NEW. However, I don't think that they way our society is currently, that any of this can be done with out understanding of true community( communitas). I'm a native of Brazil and community came natural and it was part of our every day lives ( whether with our neighbors, friends or families). But here is the US is has to be so programmed because schedules( mine included) don't allow for community. We have to schedule time to have dinner, versus just going over to a friend's house, showing up and eating... Even best friends may only see each other once a month. I for sure don't have any of this figured out, but for the past 6 months, it's been making my head and my wife's spin and rethink the way we "do" life, and what we are teaching our children what living a "missional" intentional life is. I think that using collaboration to see what 100 % missional lifestyle may look like in the US/western world is crucial, because none of us have it figured out. But even if I don't figure this thing out, I'm going to die trying, living an intentional life so that Jesus can permeate my all my actions...


Great discussion! Not too much more to add, other than I think Jesus really "reframes" our middle-class sensibilities (see Mike Frost's book "Jesus the Fool"--powerful stuff!). We'v also been studying 2 Tim in my small group and are seeing how over and over Paul talks about the Christ-follower's life involving suffering, challenges, etc. I'm wondering if we don't paint a clear enough picture of that to new Christ-followers. I know I'm tired of watching new Christ-followers start out excited and then hit "the sophomore slump" where they realize life is still hard and Jesus didn't instantly fix everything. So I think we need to reframe what "Jesus is Lord" looks like in our lives....


I to like Brian have wanted to say something and as I begin to write it seems to come out wrong. So all I can do is speak about myself. Why must I fight the Lordship of Christ? Why do I sometimes try and think that I must carve out me time, family time, church time, serving time, witness time, neighbor time, community time, Jesus time? I need to realize that it is all His and it is a process. I know he can be trusted but is not safe, that should excite and challenge me. Does it? Am I all in or am I bluffing?

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  • I'm Rob Wegner. My official title is Pastor of Life Mission at Granger Community Church. My role is to help people get out of their seat and get into God's story, especially outside the four walls of the church building. I spend my time teaching, building teams and creating opportunties to mobilize people so that "up there" comes "down here." I love forging partnerships in our community and around the world to get that done. We're dreaming huge dreams about slaying the giants of our time - things like spiritual lostness, poverty, sickness, injustice, illiteracy...you get the idea. I get to do what I'm passionate about.

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