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Compassion Instead of Criticism

“One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting everyone else to give it up. That is not the Christian way.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Spinning Plates

I used to try and maintain a perfect Christian existence. Have you ever attempted this impossible labyrinth of legalism? It appears as holiness but is rooted in your strength instead of God’s.

A perfect Christian existence requires spinning the plates of holiness at all times. Every delicate dish of relationship and acceptance of others exists on top of thin, tall sticks of religious performance. 

It is no wonder that approach leads to comparison, criticism, and burnout. You have to always spin, spin, spin, to keep the system going. Neither you nor anyone else is allowed to make mistakes. Wobble, spin, spin.

This balancing act led me to be overly critical of myself and others. Maybe you can see the same attributes in your life. Wobble, wobble, spin.

My help came across as judgment instead of love. Spin, spin, spin. Those close to me interacted with me as if they were stepping on thin ice that cracked with every step. Wobble, wobble, spin. They were afraid to make mistakes around me. Spin, wobble, CRASH! 

I thought to permit myself and others to make mistakes would be licensing compromise. In actuality, it would just be allowing people to be human. Let’s take the plates off of the fragile poles of human effort and place them back on the table of God’s loving-kindness. Spinning plates are impressive, but we can’t eat off of the inevitable shattered pieces. 

A Distorted Lens

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.”

– Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

When you have an impossible standard for yourself, you tend to hold others to the same requirements. It is like Judah Smith said in Jesus Is, “No sooner do I conquer a bad habit than I become the biggest critic of anyone who still does what I just stopped doing.” 

Wearing this distorted lens of Christianity causes you to judge others by their actions and yourself by your intentions. You need to take these wonky glasses off if you are going to get out of your spiritual rut. It is not an authentic way to live. It is just a survival mechanism of a graceless Christianity. 

The fruit from this kind of root leads to gossip and gaining false justification from your own religious activities. We can do better than this. 

Here is how you can take the first step.

Start with It 

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Until you can give yourself grace, you will not have compassion for anyone else. Expecting perfection causes you to see the cup of everyone else’s life as half empty.

Do not make people have to earn your kindness. Start with it. If not, you end up complaining more than encouraging. Making a change in this area will cause what was once an inconvenience to be an opportunity to reflect the love of God. Being a dispenser of grace fills your life with the kind of fruit that brings God glory and you meaning. When you start with grace, you become too busy enjoying your faith to get sidetracked by the things that pollute it.

Do not make people have to earn your kindness. Start with it. If not, you end up complaining more than encouraging. Making a change in this area will cause what was once an inconvenience to be an opportunity to reflect the love of God. Being a dispenser of grace fills your life with the kind of fruit that brings God glory and you meaning. When you start with grace, you become too busy enjoying your faith to get sidetracked by the things that pollute it.

This blog is an excerpt from my new mini-book, Surviving Religious Burnout, is out now. You can order it at Amazon, Kindle, Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble.

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Audiobook Teaser

Surviving Religious Burnout Audio Version Available Soon

I recently asked, “What is your favorite way to read books?” on Facebook.

I was surprised to find out so many of you enjoy Audible and audiobooks. Although I enjoy paper books the most, I read more books on Audible then any other medium. It is just so easy! 

So I wanted to offer Surviving Religious Burnout in an audio format. I have been working on this ever since that post. I am excited to let you know it will be out on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes soon. You can listen to a teaser of what it will sound like at the video above.

 

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Serve Instead of Compete

My new mini-book, Surviving Religious Burnout, is out now. You can order it at Amazon, Kindle, Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 2. You can read Chapter 1 Here.

Surviving Religious Burnout Part 3

“The temptation of the age is to look good without being good.”

Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

The Grateful Ones

Your faith is not a race against other Christians to the top. If you feel the need to do better than others, then you may be stuck in a pattern that leads to religious burnout. 

A burnout mindset tries to maintain different statuses of Christians. This class system is silly. The distance between you and anyone else is so minor compared to the gulf separating all of us from God without Christ. Your good works are not enough to attain or maintain the gift of righteousness. 

In his famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Jonathan Edwards said, “What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?” There is only one class of Christian, the grateful ones.

The Way Out of Judging

“Love is a one-way street. It always moves away from self in the direction of the other. Love is the ultimate gift of ourselves to others. When we stop giving, we stop loving. When we stop loving, we stop growing, and unless we grow, we will never attain personal fulfillment; we will never open out to receive the life of God. It is through love we encounter God.”

Mother Teresa, Where There Is Love, There Is God

How do you unwind the knot of Christian elitism? It starts with serving. Helping others breaks the need to compete. It makes sure God gets the glory instead of you. Serving brings us back to loving, and loving is the way out of judging.

Avoiding Tragedy

One of the greatest tragedies of Christian leadership is to get to the top of your ladder and realize it is leaning against the wrong building. Jesus leaned his ladder on serving. He gave us the story of the Good Samaritan as our example for effective leadership (Luke 10:25-37). 

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.  Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.

V31-34

While two others were worried about their position, the Good Samaritan worried about people. The religious people who walked on the other side of the road avoided a tragedy but became one instead. The Samaritan was willing to get behind, so someone else could get ahead. He served and became a conduit of love that is still flowing today.

Leave a Review

Would you consider leaving a review for Surviving Religious Burnout on Amazon? If you have purchased the book on Amazon than this is doubly effective. If not, you can still leave a review after reading this blog since it is part of the book. This is one of the best things you can do to help support this book!

 

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Are You a Pharisee? Surviving Religious Burnout Part 2

How to Get Off The Spiritual Treadmill

My new mini-book, Surviving Religious Burnout, Launches Tuesday, August 4. You can pre-order it now on Amazon, Kindle, Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble. I wanted to give you a preview so here is an excerpt from Chapter 1.

Video Version

For the next few weeks I will be posting a video version of my blogs. Going to try this format out to see how you like it. So below is basically this same blog in video form. Let me know what you think. Should I keep doing this?

Have You Eve Met a Pharisee?

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire

The Religious Rut

Have you ever met someone who is proud to be a modern-day Pharisee? Probably not. Most well-meaning believers are unaware they have slipped into a religious rut that resembles legalism. Their good works look like a thriving faith, but the roots are different. Without making a change, those stuck in this Christian performance trap will see their excitement replaced with exhaustion.

The Spiritual Treadmill

You can only run on this spiritual treadmill for so long before you realize you are going nowhere. The frustration of always moving but never arriving is enough to cause anyone to become discouraged and give up. 

Ask any of the millions of joggers in the world, and they will tell you running is not just meant to be work. Running should refresh you as you experience unexplored placed and familiar ones in a new way.

It is the same with your faith. Christianity is not an exercise in discipline. It should be an enjoyable, meaningful experience. 

It Is Not About Good Works

The Christian life should produce good works. It is not about good works. It is about knowing God and making Him known. Your good deeds are only sustainable when they come from an overflow of your love relationship with Jesus. When your position in Christ comes before your performance for Christ you are on your way to a refreshing life as a believer.

That is the point of this book. I want to help you get out of your spiritual rut and into an enjoyable, meaningful Christianity. To do this, we will have to dig up the roots of burnout. After that, we will plant seeds of truth that will lead to a flourishing faith.

What is Religious Burnout?

Religious burnout is a cycle of gaining your worth and security as a believer from what you do for God, instead of who you are in Christ. Some people may call it legalism. Others refer to it as being a Pharisee. I see it as a pit any of us can fall into on the path of good intentions.

A Christian performance trap will wear you out. It will ask more from you than God does. In return, it causes you to become judgmental and never feel content as a believer. True holiness is rooted in your connection to God, not your commitment to rules or your religious performance. Following rules may change your appearance, but only a love relationship with Jesus can transform your heart.

We all want to get the most out of our relationship with God. That is why you need to escape the Christian performance trap and take part in true high-performance Christianity. 

So what do you think? I would love to hear from you about this topic as well as if you think I should keep doing youtube videos on my posts.

I would love it if you cheked out my new mini-book on Amazon, Kindle, Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble. It helps tremendously if you leave a review. After reading this post you definitely qualify as a reviewer!

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The Test of Faith During a Pandemic

How to Respond to a Spiritually Dry Season

Has your spiritual life suffered during the pandemic? Recent studies (1, 2) show there has been a significant drop in the number of believers who read the Bible daily during the COVID-19 Outbreak. On the other hand, non-believers are searching for God more than ever (3). I believe this shows both the promise and the problems of walking through a wilderness season in your faith.

Have you ever been in a spiritually dry season? You know, those times when your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling instead of making their way to heaven. You do not need a pandemic to experience this. It is something many of us go through at one time or another. Maybe you are in a similar situation now. If so, you are not alone.

Does God Lead Us To The Desert?

God lead the nation of Israel into the wilderness immediately after delivering them from Egypt. The desert was used to transform them from captives to conquerors.

The Spirit also led Jesus into the wilderness immediately after his baptism before his public ministry began. 

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

Matthew 4:1 ESV

Then there is this verse in Hosea.

“But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.”

– Hosea 2:14 NLT

Here we see God not only leads into the wilderness, but there is also the reward of Intimacy with Him there.

We should be careful not to ask God to take us out of somewhere He has led us into for His purposes. The wilderness seasons of life can cause us to feel alone and overlooked. These are not times when God had forgotten us but are when He has isolated from other things so we can focus on him.

The wilderness can be painful. We just want the desert to end. Here are three things I have learned to pray while in a spiritually dry season.

3 Prayers for the Desert

Ask God to show you what He would like you to learn

…instead of praying for Him to get you out of your circumstances.

I used to pray, “God, get me out!” When things got tough. Now, I know when I want to do this, it is always an alert God is up to something. Sometimes, the lesson is finding peace in waiting or redefining what success looks like. Other times God puts new tools in my hands I didn’t know I needed. It takes time to learn them before I can begin to see the benefits they can bring. 

Ask God to draw you closer to Him and make you more like Him

…instead of praying for things to God back to the way they were.

It can appear there is not much good we can take from some seasons of life. Thank God those are so few. But even in the darkest times, we can take away some good. That is because, in everything, God is always bringing us closer to Him and making us more like Him. We need to be open to the process. 

Ask God to prepare you for what he wants to give

…instead of asking why He has taken so much away.

Before God can provide us with what He wants us to have, we must be willing to make room by letting go of what we already have. The wilderness is the perfect place for this to happen.

The discomfort of the wilderness is mostly from detoxing even though we may feel like it is from a lack of something want. The desert causes us to lean on God in areas we have we have substituted with other things. The side effects of not having those things meet our needs on a surface level will soon be replaced by the satisfaction of allowing God to do a deeper work in us.

An Oasis in Every Desert

When life gets rough, we can still have some of the most tender moments with God. The intimacy that results from the wilderness is one of the main reasons we can always leave those seasons with gratitude.

There are other results from God leading us into the wilderness that can be found in Hosea as well.

“I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.”

Hosea 2:15 NLT

The wilderness is not about God sending harm our way to purify us or make us better. He is not the author of bad news but He can turn our bad news into good news when we put our trust in Him. The wilderness is a season where God intentionally allows our lives to be stripped down in a way that may make us uncomfortable at the moment, but if we press through with our eyes on Him, He will bring us through a transformation we can be thankful for as a result. 

What are some lessons you have learned from the wilderness? What tips would you give a friend is you knew they were about to enter a desert season?

*Sources:

  1. https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2020/07/22/pandemic-has-people/
  2. https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/july/state-of-bible-reading-coronavirus-barna-abs.html
  3. https://www.lightworkers.com/pandemic-has-led-to-reading-the-bible/

This content is an excerpt from my mini-book, The Case for Following Your Heart, and originally appeared on my blog June 2019.

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Surviving Religious Burnout Part 1

Are You Being A Christian or Doing Christianity?

My newest mini-book, Surviving Religious Burnout, launches Tuesday, August 4. You can pre-order now on Amazon, Kindle, Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble Nook.

Why I Wrote This Book

I realized over the years a certain theme developed in my writing. Out of that, a mission emerged. I want to help people discover an enjoyable, meaningful Christianity through sharing God’s truth in a refreshing vulnerable way. This book is an expression of that idea.

Working on Being

There is a difference between doing Christianity and being a Christian. Let me explain.

I became a follower of Christ at a young age. I loved going to church, reading the bible, and sharing my faith. As I grew older, so did my boldness and excitement about Jesus. 

My “doer mentality” motivated me to accomplish many good things. It also made it hard to find security in being a Christian without working towards a spiritual goal. Resting, relaxing, and enjoying being a child of God were foreign to me. 

Repeated Burnout

This approach to Christianity caused me to burnout repeatedly. I was always happy to do more than others up to the point I was no longer able to do anything at all. 

Burnout is not typically a symptom of a half-hearted Christian. It takes a committed follower of Christ to perform good works to the point of exhaustion. This is who I want to help with this book.

I hope Surviving Religious Burnout helps you find a more enjoyable, meaningful Christianity.

Reflection:

What do you think causes religious burnout?

Is burnout a sign you do not love God enough or are there other contributing factors?

How do you avoid burnout?

What do you do to get out of burnout once you realized your feeling exhausted in the are of your spiritual life?

I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or give your answer to these questions on social media when you share this post!

Check out this preview on Amazon:

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No Longer Silent

When Doing Everything Right Is Not Enough to be Treated Equally

By: Bryant Turner

*Bryant is a friend of mine. After the death of George Floyd he shared parts of his story with me I had never heard before. I broke down in tears. Before talking to him I thought things like being pulled over by the police is something we all have to deal with. I was wrong. This is much different. Other things he shared with me were ugly parts of our culture that I know exist but did not want to face. The kind of man that Bryant is, the best of the best, forced me to realize these painful realities are hurting good people. I could no longer ignore the problem because I was not directly part of it. He originally shared what is posted below on his Facebook page. It has been shared and liked thousands of times. I thought it was a very important post so I asked for his permission to also share it on my blog. I know you will enjoy his story.

Still Not Enough

Have you ever had the exhausting feeling of doing all you can to make someone happy, but they still are not satisfied? Maybe you work with someone, that no matter what you do, they already have their mind made up about you. There is nothing you can do to change it.

What if that feeling didn’t come from one person or one situation, but was something you had to live with all of the time? What if you were black and did everything right, but continued to run into the wall of your best not being good enough simply because of your skin color?

This is not something I usually do. I typically do not speak up about my daily reality. However, when it comes to the issues of police brutality and systematic racism, I can no longer be silent. If you allow me to show you a little bit of what it is like in my world maybe you can understand why I have to say something now.

The Color of my World

My world is white. For the most part, this world has been good to me. I have always lived in the suburbs. All of my schools have been predominately white. I currently work at an office where less than 10% of the over 250 employees are black. My current community and church are predominately white. My wife is white. 

I have done everything I can to live up to the expectation of being a black man in a white world. It is a weight I carry every day. I have never done drugs or been arrested. I stay silent on controversial issues. I do not speak up on politics. I smile and nod even when what you are saying is ignorant and hurts my feelings.  

But what am I supposed to do when that is not good enough? How am I supposed to respond when I have done everything you want me to do, but it is still not enough to be treated equally?

Enough to Be Suspicious

Police have stopped me and searched my car just for driving down the street. This has happened more than once. That is what happens when being black is also enough to be suspicious. 

Recently, I was pulled over five minutes from where I live. I was only a couple of songs on the radio from the home where my two beautiful daughters and wife live with me. You may be wondering what I did to get pulled over. I’ll tell you – I waved. 

A police officer saw me drive by his house. I waved when I drove by. After that, I turned around to head home. Then, from my rearview mirror, I saw him get in the police car parked in his driveway and follow me. I tried to wave. You know, be friendly when I first saw him. That was not good enough, and we all know why. 

Eventually, he stopped me. He asked for my license. He read my address out loud. Then he questioned what I was doing in his neighborhood. Really? I live in the same small town as you. Actually, I was doing my job as a real estate agent. I was showing a home. So now I can be stopped from even doing my job – the thing that feeds my family because the face God gave me is suspicious to some.

Not There Yet

How am I supposed to tell my little girls they are safe in this world when I have tried to do everything I can to live by your rules, and it is not enough? How can you expect me to continue to experience this horrific pain from simply being black, and not at some point get angry?  

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr dreamed of a world where people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. If that is the standard of equality, I can tell you by experience, we are not there yet.

I have experienced the pain of hate by people who should love me, but do not, simply because of the color of my skin. Who I am was never given a chance. My skin color said all they needed to know before I was given a chance to speak for myself. How would you feel if this was your daily reality in America? Would you still say racism doesn’t exist?

Stop and Listen

The issue is real. George Floyd was just the latest tragedy. We are currently seeing an explosion of pain bottled up from as far back as Emmett Till

I am not looking for an apology. You do not owe me anything because you are white and I am black. Please do not feel bad for being born white.

Here is something I would like you to do after hearing this from me. Please stop and listen to what people are saying. Let your guard down for one second. Acknowledgment is key. I personally believe the ultimate goal is to bring awareness. This is where the church needs to step in. I pray all these actions start real conversations that create real change. This is not a legislative thing. John Gray said it best “you can’t pass a law to change someone’s heart.”

Love and Hate

I am filled with both love and hate right now. I HATE what is going on in our nation. However, my phone has been blowing up from my white friends and family with real deal conversations. That part, I LOVE. I am hearing how people really do care. They want to know if they have missed the mark or have a blind spot. I have faith that God is working in our country like never before. If you have made it this far, I want you to know I am still the same Bryant you know and love. Please feel free to contact me anytime if you would like to discuss any issues. I love each and every one of you!

Bryant and Morgan Turner with their two daughters.

Bryant Turner Jr. is a former Canadian football defensive lineman. He made his professional debut with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2011. He played college football at UAB. You can follow him on social Instagram @blitz_turner.

Here is a great book by Benjamin Watson. It offers a Christ-centered perspective on the racial divide we are facing in our country.

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The New Way to Do Church

21 Online Church Innovations

I visited as many churches online as I could this Sunday. During my church channel surfing, I learned a lot about the adjustments churches are making to bring their worship experience online. For many churches, live streaming has already been available. Now that online is the only way churches can gather for Sunday Services, some are mixing things up to create a new type of online worship experience. 

The 21 things I saw churches doing seem to fall in one of the following categories: Presentation (of the message), Worship (the music), Connection, Information, and Access.

Presentation

Join people in their homes by creating an intimate environment to share your message instead of preaching from a platform. For example, teach from your living room as if you were in a small group gathering.

Have a one-on-one conversation with people.

Give your church something consistent in a time when everything else seems to be changing by teaching from the stage as usual.

Worship

Creating a studio worship experience that offers some variety from what people may be expecting.

Use pre-recorded worship to simplify your production while still delivering a quality worship experience.

Take worship to the living room with a small group acoustic set.

Have the worship team on stage for a familiar setup for worship.

Connection

Use social media to take people behind the scenes.

Take communion virtually. Bring liturgy into the living and connect tangibly with those in your church.

It’s time to chat during church. Man the conversation feed for a personal touch.

Pradeepan and Amreitha Jeeva at their Macs and ready to chat!

Encourage online community by sharing a hashtag and asking those watching to post a pic.

Daniel E. Groves demonstrates how to take a selfie before the Hope City broadcast.
Jeremy Foster, Hope City Church

Connect before you communicate. Take some time to get real before jumping into your message. Talk about the reality of how people are having to join church this morning, and what life looks like right now.

Scott and Kelly Niemeier, HighPoint Church

Information

Speak to your church directly with a video on your homepage explaining what they can expect from you and your church during this time.

Brad and Jessica Hampton, SOCO Church

Have a pre-show that informs and encourages your church. Give them tips for worshiping online and sharing the broadcast on their social media.

https://www.soco.church

Before you kick of your live stream let your church know what you have available for kids and students.

Andy and Christy Cass, Echo Church

Make it is easy to give and get COVID-19 updates. Put vital information in your Facebook Live Stream.

Pradeepan and Amreitha Jeeva, Kalos Church

Have your broadcast schedule available if you are not currently broadcasting.

Jimn Kyles, Anchor Bend

Access

Offer people multiple platforms to join your live stream on a landing page and on your home page.

Shaun Nepstad, Fellowship Church, Antioch, CA

Make your replay immediately available for those who may be viewing your church online for the first time and do not know your service times.

Terrence and Johanne Wilson, Cool Church

Take your worship guide online with a worship experience landing page that tells people how to connect and where to take next steps.

Rich Wilkerson Jr., Vous Church

Create a Facebook event for your weekend service with live streaming information that people can share.

Terrence and Johanne Wilson, Cool Church

This Sunday showed me there are many great online church experiences. I really enjoyed tuning in and hearing from people I normally wouldn’t be able to get a message from.

What are some other things you see churches doing that seems to be working well in this new church online landscape? Leave a comment and let me know!