Monday, December 04, 2006

Back to BCC: Gutcheck Time

This is one of those posts that may make some folks angry, and I'm okay with that, because this is one of those "hills worth dying on" things for me. And if we're going to do this thing called Christian community, I'm of the conviction that we ought to do it correctly (which is to say, biblically).

Point blank: If you all you want out of a church is a spiritual pep talk every week, it's not a church that you want. I'm not sure what it is, but it's not a church.

The campus was packed this past weekend, which was a good thing. It was difficult to find a parking spot, which is a good thing. This influx and overflow of attendees obviously had something to do with the lead pastor candidate's visit. And that's a good thing too, I think.
But, look, let's be honest. If you've been withholding yourself from BCC until a "new guy" shows up, let me suggest, as respectfully as I can, that you need a spiritual gutcheck. While you've been absent, biding your time till we have a speaker for you to audition, the rest of us have been actually doing church. We've been rebuilding our spirits and the life of our church. We've been sharing our hearts and lives, and we've been growing together and toward God. We've been learning and growing under Bill West's shepherding and teaching. We've been sharing coffee and laughs. We've been caring for each other's children. We've been dining in each other's homes. We've been studying the Bible together and praying with and for each other. We've been showing up to help at the Nashville Rescue Mission. We've been showing up to help widows and divorcees with the burdens of real life. We've been comforting the suffering and the grieving.

And we've been able to do all that because we've stuck around. We've invested in our church and in each other. And while none of us deny the value of a quality voice on our weekend stage, we've decided church is not about speaking to a gathering but growing in a community.
We realize that it's not a great speaker that makes a church -- it's the community itself. And so the "voice" we are looking for is one that comes not just from a good preacher but a great pastor. "Pastor" means "shepherd." And looking for a shepherd presupposes a care and concern for a flock.

For those who have been holding back, waiting to see whether the show will go on, let me assure you that it will . . . and it won't. BCC will always value dynamic, engaging speaking and incredible, energetic music. But it now also values biblical, pastoral teaching and authentic, God-honoring worship. And we are growing from a collection of individuals who attend into a Body that grows. We desperately want you to be a part of this way God is redeeming us. But it might require relinquishing your self. (Just as Jesus said that to follow Him, one must "deny himself.")

BCC is a great church and a great many of us are enjoying it very much. I can't count how many people I've heard say that this is the happiest they've ever been at BCC. These are real people, by the way, people who grieved over the mess we went through, not people with axes to grind or bones to pick. What has surprised many of us is how close this thing has made us, how comforting the healing process has been, and what an incredible blessing it's been to refocus on what it really means to be a church. And how we've been able to do this under the assumption that we've been "going without."
But the truth is, we haven't been going without. We've had what every good church needs -- loving people and a faithful leadership. A new speaker would just be gravy. :-)



At 10:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'nuff said , and AMEN.
thanks Jared,

I'm proud to know you, and your family.


At 10:46 AM, Blogger Jared said...

Rhonda, thanks so much!

At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Adam said...

Jared, I've followed your blog since the blowup at BCC. I've yet to comment, but I now feel it is time.

I think you've got it all wrong bud. (How's that for a start :^)...I'm not trying to pick a fight with you, but I just feel you are mistaken.

In this latest BCC gut-check post, you've basically labled anyone who has not been at bcc since Foster got canned as being someone who was only there because of him, and if they came back this weekend to check out David Perez, then they are basically at church or bcc for the wrong reasons. According to you, they are only there for a spritual peptalk.

Maybe, just maybe, there are bigger reasons then that. Maybe people haven't been back to BCC because the whole thing makes them sick. Maybe they are grieving. Maybe they felt like their church was stolen from them. Maybe they've felt like they had been lied to by Foster and by 8 men. Maybe, they feel like they no longer wanted to be a part of place like BCC or Foster's Gathering because it meant you were taking sides and they didnt like how that felt.
I know a lot of people who have put their hearts and soul into BCC over the last years who are just heart broken over what foster has become and what he did to their church and that going back there made them sad. Part of their life was ripped away from them and even stepping foot back at hopepark made them feel sick or angry and they didn't want to feel that way.

Youve been growing and are more happy at BCC then ever before and that's great for you. You and your friends have been doing all of the things that "church people do" because you stayed at BCC. Well good for you. But, Senor Jared, you aren't the only ones. BCC was big church at one point and as you so many times like to point out, the church is the people. Those same people that have chosen to step back from bcc and grieve, have also been taking care of their friends' children, loving each other, giving, serving at the Nashville Rescue Mission and loving people more than ever.

Maybe a new lead pastor at BCC represents to people a fresh start. A new era. Maybe they feel like they can finally return because its something different. Maybe they can start over at a place that had become the very thing it swore it never would become because it has the chance to become something great again. Not because of a new pastor but because of a reborn spirit. They are ready to try again. They dont need to prove to people that they were the true members, the true congregation, because they came those 5 months when others chose not to.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger Jared said...

Adam, thanks for commenting.

I tried my darndest to say what I wanted to say as forcefully as I felt it needed to be said without painting across the board.

Notice I wrote things like: If you all you want out of a church is a spiritual pep talk every week, it's not a church that you want and If you've been withholding yourself from BCC until a "new guy" shows up.

Those are "if" statements. "If" this is your thinking, then here is my response to that.

Obviously that has not been your thinking. I trust you are being honest about that, and I'm thankful for your openness to the Lord in the healing process.

I could quibble with your thing about being lied to by 8 men or whatever, but I won't.
I will just reiterate three things: a) if this post doesn't apply to you, great; b) it certainly applies to some, and I believe it was a necessary statement to make, for the sake of our church's values; and c) those who have stuck it out within the place of brokenness, especially staff members and elders who've been through a lot and didn't really have the option of "taking a break," deserve being commended for doing the community work in and with the community.

I think a lot of this has to do with perspective, and obviously we have different perspectives as to what went down. I saw the decision made, as tumultuous and unfortunate as it was, as one of church discipline toward an unrepentant offender and an act of grace and mercy toward some very hurting folks. It actually made me proud of the church, that it would risk so much simply to be faithful to God and His Word.

Again, thanks for commenting. Sorry the first post to elicit your response had to be such an irritating one. :-)


At 12:55 PM, Blogger Jared said...

it has the chance to become something great again

Oh, I did want to quibble with this a bit.
BCC is actually something great right now.

At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Adam said...

Thanks for responding back. I appreciate your time and effort to do so.

I'm not trying to open the can of worms again, but since you and I've never talked about it, why not now, on this fine monday aft?.....

For the record, I actually agree with the decision to can Foster. He needed to go. And in the spirit of openess and honesty, I've checked out the gathering and after the last article in the paper which foster only losely commented to on his blog, i agree even more with the decision.
I'm not trying to start something by making statement about elders or foster or anything. I am just pointing out that there are basically 4 groups out there.
1. People who stuck with bcc despite.
2. People who left and went to the gathering.
3. People who just plain left.
4. People who feel so betrayed and bewildered and dont feel that all things were answered in a 4 hour cottage meeting, rally at a park, emails, blogs whatever.

I'm not saying that i believe anyone lied. I'm just saying that is the way i see people responding.

I am glad that for you BCC is great. That's awesome. My opinion is that if you are a part of something and believe in it, it better be great! Otherwise, what are you doing there?

In your perspective, BCC is great. It appears from your blogging and books you choose to read, that the WCCC way of church is the style of church you are into. Perez's church in CO btw, is a great example of a WCA church. He's done an excellent job there. I know some people personally that were at his church when it was northpoint and are still there after it has changed its name to colorado ridge. Its an amazing place and he's done a great job of building a WCCC style church. For a lot people, that type of church is what they want. BCC wasnt ever quite there because they couldnt really pull off the midweek or believer service very well. So, "seekers" came and kept going on the weekend, but never "went deeper" as people like to say. So now when the elders come out and say part of our new vision is a church of small groups, going deeper into the word,it sounds like they are saying lets become an amazing contemporary WCCC/WCA church. So if that's what you want, you're gonna be happy.

But what about those people out there who appreciated foster's non-conformist approach. Or his artistry. I dont even want to start counting to you the number of musicians in this town who USED to call bcc home but dont anymore. Not because Foster isnt there, but because the thought of another big contemporary church doing church really well, makes them sick.

They want to connect to God without the coroporate overtones. They want to know God without the constraints of modern Western Christianity. They want the non-religous approach to God without knowing that they are considered the lost and the hope of the world is the local church. They gathered at bcc because they were challenged to create and be inspired to greatness. They gave of their time because they believed in a dream called hope park and giving hope to people who needed. it Not just challened to go to small group where one or two people who are slightly more educated in theology can monopolize the time...

So what is it that I am trying to say....

I'm trying to say that BCC has the capability of being great if it can reach out to all people and give them a place to belong. Not just seekers. Not just evangellical christians. Not just white middle class people in bellevue.

At 2:19 PM, Blogger Jared said...

My perception is that BCC has become less "corporate."

I am not a fan of consumer-driven "seeker churchianity." I am a fan of teaching and being Jesus to hurting, seeking, broken, sinning people. I think that covers everybody, but I know full well that there will always be people unhappy that a church (any church) isn't just for them.

I am a creative writer myself, so inspiring and cultivating creativity really resonates with me, as well. I don't see that the creative culture at BCC is any different than before. The music is still top-notch, we still have artists attending and contributing.

It is hard to disagree with vague phrases like "wanting to belong" and "inspiring greatness." But I'm not sure what those things really mean. Taken on the surface, I don't see where the Bible teaches that the Church is supposed to make everyone comfortable and inspire general greatness. It shouldn't be unnecessarily uncomfortable, of course, and it should inspire. I don't know who would argue with that.

I think the best thing any church can do is glorify God by staying faithful to what the Bible says a church should do -- preach the Gospel, worship Jesus, and foster a loving, growing community.

I don't know if I really follow what it is you're saying a church should do and who it should be for, but if you just mean it should welcome all people, I agree with you and I don't think anybody at BCC would disagree. At least, I don't know anybody that does.

(Btw, I'm not sure if you meant it as a slight, but your comment about the small group is way off and not appreciated. The two small groups I've been a part of over the last several months have not been about one or two amateur theologians monopolizing the time, but groups of people who have been through some serious junk in their lives -- hurts, addictions, abuses, deaths, divorces, betrayals, sins, etc. -- sharing with each other and loving each other and getting involved in each other's lives. Suggesting otherwise is an insult.)

At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Nathan said...

I keep reading the phrase "non-religious" bantered about. It annoys me. I don't think the former Pastor came up with this phrase, like so much of the other jargon he speaks with... it's another synthesis of so much reading and hearing.

To call oneself "non-religious" is to paint others as being religious in a negative way. While in reality, any human attempt to know God is religion. Truth is, we all slip in and out of "habit" or going through ritual.

The real problem with these kinds of references are the divisiveness they smack of. If I tell you my Church offers a "non-religious path to God" feel free to look at me like I'm a hypocrite. Because I will in so many words be castigating churches and church leaders everywhere. Driving wedges into the Body of Christ.

At 3:07 PM, Blogger Jared said...

Nathan, right. I am always struck by the irony in including in one's call for tolerance the intolerance of "religious" people or whatever. Or old people. Or traditional people. Or smart people. Or whatever.

Smacks a bit of reverse pharisaism. "I than you, God, I'm not like that religious hypocrite over there . . ."

If the church really is for all of us, it ought to be for the uncool too.

At 7:08 PM, Anonymous Adam said...

Sorry I wasn't able to respond earlier. It was time to get Christmas decorations and then fix dinner.

First let me say that I am sorry if I offended you Jared with small group comments. I meant no ill-will towards you or your current experience in your small groups. I was making my comment out of my experience of small groups. There tends to be a formula in churches where they say to their people: "To get involved, get in a group. Here are your options based on age and zip code. This is the book they will use." Those groups are many times filled with people who have nothing in common and are suddenly supposed to do life together. Usually there are one or two people who like to wax theological and claim authority because they went to Bible School or Seminary or have read Wayne Grudem and listen to the Bible Answer Man. The rest of the small group sits back and pretends to listen and like each other.
The church leaders pat themselves on the back and say look how deep our members are going in the word!
Yes, that is an extremely cynical look at it and is an extreme example. I'm sure there are many people who have been or are in small groups that are having great experiences in them. This is what it sounds like your current experience is and that is great.

I agree with you that BCC does accept all people. The issue is not about the people that BCC accepts. The issue is the people that are suddenly coming out of the woodwork changing what BCC is. They decide that BCC isnt doing a good job and needs to go "deeper." That is pure judgement on others and is what Foster was so against. I know many people who wouldve never served at church, and wouldnt have even gone to church if it hadnt been for Foster being so against that. Whether they were in the middle of a divorce, living with their boyfriend, an alchoholic or whatever, they could still come and be accepted where they were at. They could be apart of something amazing while they worked on getting their life in order. Not the other way around. Jesus didnt say, hey, go clean up your life, get deeper in the word, join a small group, then come follow me. He said Come Follow Me!!

For all of his faults, Foster did strive to free people. He wanted people to know what a life could look like outside of rules and yes, religion. I've read your posts before on that and what our friend Nathan has just said. Here's the thing: Religion is a bad thing. It's control. It's a system put over you by HUMANS to get you to do what they want you to do. Jesus came to set people free from this system. He came to tell people there is a better way to live and to seek God and it is by choosing love and peace and following his example. (I challenge you to read the Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McLaren for more on this.) Spiritual disciplines were taught by Jesus and help on the journey and are revlevant and vital. Religon, however is not. You show me in the last 3000 years where religon has done anything but control people and decide who people should hate and kill. Jesus came to destroy religon. I believe that people get religon and spritual disciplines/practices confused and they are not the same thing. Sorry for the sidetrack, but Nathan brought it up and I felt I should respond.

At 8:24 PM, Blogger C. Evan Leonard said...

I guess it would be silly for me to really comment as passionately as I could here based on the response(s) to your post, Jared.

I can only say that sometimes some people just have to say what needs saying.... and some people will either like it or not or agree or not. I agree and I LIKE IT!

You, once again, crystalized so much of what has/had been at the heart of the problem at BCC.

There was simply a biblical vs. non-biblical chasm between the total attender base at BCC. And, in my opinion, God spoke clearly and loudly... and although He spoke through 8 (or however many men... if you count me and so many others who actually experienced living and breathing BCC) who all are surely imperfect and fraught with fallibility... but God spoke through them/us nonetheless.

There is still a chasm, perhaps not as wide, from my perspective.... but now there is a massive attempt to fill it and/or lessen the distance of the divide... by many of the same people who at one point or another actually fell in, were pushed or came close enough to the edge to recognize that it was a problem. And, their purpose is to hopefully see it eliminated completely, whatever method necessary, by allowing God to do the big job it will take to do just that.

And, how anyone can take the word religion out of context and out of the reconciliation with God... is hard for me to understand.

I could copy/paste the contemporary definition of religion from most any dictionary and I would only prove my point even more.

The truth is... many people simply are not knowledgeable enough of and in the Word of God... and the use of the word "religion" in the Bible to make competent statements about it, by using their seemingly limited understanding of the word religion.

I marvel at the "God needs to be made relevant" position people take and how they condescend via castigating others for using the word religion in it's truest sense. Making it the issue is ludicrous. Humans are bad... not religion. It's the cart before the horse syndrome. God created everything including religion.... and people. He also gave us free agency to use what He created to and for His Glory. Some people do and some people don't. To place the blame on religion, the word religion... and the use of the word in it's God-created meaning... is horse manure.

Get out your shovels people.... I think I see and smell another pile.

I guess I may have gotten a little passionate.

Kind regards,

C. Evan Leonard

At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Nathan said...


I understand that there is "religion" in the bad sense and I've known the controling "establishment" you refer to. However, to say that people came out of the woodwork to change BCC after Foster left is just wrong. In truth, there were always people there that wanted more emphasis on Biblical teaching and dicipleship.

Adam. Biblical teaching is not religion. And, speaking of control, David kept people who wanted teaching to be emphasised at a constant stiff-arm. To the point that most of them simply left. That's not control ?

This is where there is an uncomfortable disconnect. What is inspiring this view that maturing in Christ is the "R-word ?" What is inspiring this notion that Foster got it right and nobody else gets it ? Try to imagine going into McDonald's and seeing all the adults ordering happy meals, complete with orange kool-aid... and hence the kool-aid mustaches.

This whole idea of skimming the surface and reducing Faith to "feel good" is really all about fashioning God into our own image. True religion indeed. A lot of people have surrogate spiritual father in a Pastor and they have reduced nall thier growth potential to one questionable source.

At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Adam Oman said...

First of all I'd like to give kudos to both Nathan and Jared for being able to have a good open discussion and dissagreements with me without becoming arrogant and presumptious and just plain rude. Thanks guys! To Mr Leonard: You don't know me. You have no idea what I've studied and what I've learned and where I am at. To attack my knowldege of the Bible is rude.

I'll throw this out there:
I'd love to keep discussing this with eveyone, and I will respond to your post Nathan and we can keep this going if you all want to. I've been having a good time, and I appreciate what Jared and Nathan are saying and I enjoy the openess But, if we feel we arent going anywhere, let's stop because the crap that Mr Leonard threw into the mix isn't beneficial or worthwhile for anyone of us.

I do think it would be worthwhile to continues so I vote yes. Nathan? Jared?


At 9:08 AM, Blogger Jared said...

I'm open to that. And Adam, despite disagreeing with you quite strongly in places, I've appreciated your tone, as well. To follow up on the small group thing that irked me: I see that you are referring to "past" small group experience, and my past experience at BCC with small groups has been underwhelming as well. That was sort of my point about this transition period. The last 5 months have been extraordinary. And so, having just received one member of our current small group back last weekend after she was out of town burying her mother, and after being in sessions (both in our Sunday morning small group and in the Monday evening Studio 215 Bible study) where deep hurts and dark secrets have been shared, the very notion that small groups at BCC have just been business as usual really bothered me.

But I'm open to continuing the convo as long as it proves halfway profitable. And I join you in calling for a ceasefire on the character potshots.

Can't promise immediate availability at all times, but will do my best . . .

At 6:42 PM, Blogger C. Evan Leonard said...


Had I directed my comments specifically at anyone here... I guess I might should be considered rude. But, I simply made a "statement" like you made, Adam... and look how you got offended. And practically invented some sense of personal dislike of you... on my part.

I heartily apologize if you misunderstood or misinterpreted what I posted and felt I was somehow attacking you. But, if you read my post again... you will see that I attacked a notion that I believe many people have... that I disagree with. Calling RELIGION bad or evil... misses the point, in my opinion. You can't have bad religion without first having bad people profess to being religious and acting badly in it's name. No matter how you slice or dice it. But, religion unto itself is not human invention. It is of God and we humans abuse it... like many of His other creations... like other humans, for instance.

I don't really need to know what you know or where you learned what you know about religion... don't you think you said all I needed to hear with your comment about religion to form an opinion? And, I quote you...

"Spiritual disciplines were taught by Jesus and help on the journey and are relevant and vital. Religion, however is not. You show me in the last 3000 years where religon has done anything but control people and decide who people should hate and kill. Jesus came to destroy religon."

That's beating up Religion pretty badly... I'd say. And, how does religion control people? At best, it's the Enemy that sways people and their hearts. Not religion. At least not true religion.

It would be fair to say that you also made a few other statements that are pretty absolute... like your statement about religion. So, I question why you are making any statement or comment here is you aren't expecting responses... pro or con to your way of thinking?

But, again, I don't think I actually directed my statement(s) or comment(s) directly at you. While you, on the other hand, called what I had to say... crap. Directly.

I guess you can do that and not be rude?

You risk falling into the "do as I say, not as I do" crowd.. regarding your specific and direct attack against what I had to say.

No big deal, Adam. Really. But, at least allow me equitable standing with you and the others here at BCC Is Broken... because you don't know what I've studied and what I've learned and where I'm at, either.

And, does that make you able to decide and subtly ask Jared and Nathan to exclude me from any discussion or conversation here? That's not very open or kind. In fact, that is.... well.... rude, too!

I made no attempt to suggest to them to exclude you... nor would I ever.

Kind regards,

C. Evan Leonard

At 6:10 AM, Anonymous Adam said...

Good morning everyone.

I'll start by saying I wasn't trying to exclude you Mr. C E Leonard. It appeared to me from your post that you wanted to start something with me. If I read into it, then I apologize. I quote you:
"The truth is... many people simply are not knowledgeable enough of and in the Word of God... and the use of the word "religion" in the Bible to make competent statements about it, by using their seemingly limited understanding of the word religion."
That statement written after what I said and in the context of the rest of your post seemed to be saying that I was not knowledgeable in the Bible and the word religion in the Bible. If you didn't mean that, well then my bad and I apoligize. As far as calling your comments crap, well, you said: "Get out your shovels people.... I think I see and smell another pile." I was responding to that, and you are right, it was direct.
If I have offended you, I apologize.


At 3:52 PM, Blogger C. Evan Leonard said...

Hey, you got to love blogs....! :- )

I'm for open discussions and sometimes all of us can and do read into things... it's only.... human.

My usage of the words "many people" must have felt like I was including you in "many"... and I can't make that assessment as an absolute. I just find it hard to swallow when religion is made to be something bad... when in and of itself... it isn't... in my opinion... based on how I truly believe God intended it to be. People are the ones that seem to muck up much of what He has created... including how they handle being religious or using religion to do bad things... not applying it in a godly way. So, that's my point...really... and looking back at my post I guess I probably could have made my point better.

The reference to the shovel was meant for the "notion" of the idea that religion is bad; a notion that many people seem to have. I'm not sure you completely share that notion... but you brought the subject up and I responded to your statement(s).

In the context of the post we are currently dealing with... I felt that Jared really brought home the truth that BCC may no longer really be the place for those who want less than what God intended church to be biblically... which, from my perspective, may make BCC more religious ( i.e. religion) than some folks may like or understand because of their knowledge and understanding of religion... as a creation piece of the big picture God paints for Christians.

Maybe there's some middle ground in all of this/that where there can be a both/and... but I don't know where that middle ground is or where it begins and ends. Spiritual discipline (in the singular or plural) is part and parcel to true religion... or at least that's my take on things.

I don't know that I can also agree that Jesus came to destroy religion. That seems to be saying that He created something wrong or bad or imperfect as a way to have relationship with Him and His children... when it's the human element that taints religion... not religion, itself. Maybe that's straining gnats for some... I can only share my perspective on the subject.

Somehow the thought of taking words like religion or (fill in the blank) and making them bad is something I just find skirting the real issue. Which is People. And, really, for me there are only two kinds of people. Those who know God/Christ and have been reconciled and those who don't and haven't. Both often claim they are religious and/or follow a religion. But, it's how they apply those things inwardly and outwardly.... that proves to be good or bad.

I've been compelled by this small conflict between you and I to revisit some scripture and scholars to see if I'M really full of..... crap. I don't feel that I am... but, I'm open enough to investigate my belief and thoughts even more on that particular aspect of what has been shared here.

Thanks for accepting my apology... I kindly accept yours.

In His Spirit,

C. Evan Leonard


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