When I realized that I had an aptitude for music I started playing in the church's worship band, which led me to joining the band that I was a part of for 8 years. While on the road playing shows and making albums, I realized that being in a band was something that I wanted to do with my life. Not because we were recording or touring, but because I had something with those people that I couldn't get in church. I was experiencing the entire spectrum of emotion with a group of friends. This was the closest I had ever felt to other people, and that feeling was beyond anything that I experienced in church.
Needless to say, when the band split up, I was heartbroken. I thought that I would never find a group of people that would want to experience life with me the way these people did, and I knew that I had something better than what the church offered. So, when I moved back in with my parents, they extended an opportunity for me to go to a "jam night" at Willow Creek Community Church. "No way!" I said. "All of the musicians are going to suck," but, I was at a point where I really didn't have many options, so I decided it wouldn't hurt to try.
To my surprise I met some amazing musicians...in fact, some of the best musicians I have ever played with to this day. It was a breath of fresh air. I continued to play on the worship team for almost two years.
While on the team, I searched for those individuals that would want to live "the spectrum" with me. I never found them. But my dearest and closest friend, nathaniel, told me about a group of people that lived music. WHAT!? How do you live music? He told me "jonathan, you are an instrument, and I am an instrument. If you know what your instrument is, and other people know what their instrument is, you can play music together. Your instrument is who you ARE". Revelation. The space between two unique individuals, operating in who they are and sharing is MUSIC!
Also, I had such a strong need to understand the Bible. I had spent most of my life in church. I knew what would help grow my faith, but I didn't know how to do it. Church sermons were stirring and encouraging, but the feeling would fade. I would read my Bible diligently, but what I read never penetrated the way that I viewed the world around me. I loved what the Bible said, but I didn't know how to apply it to my life. I wanted to know about how Jesus lived his life, but I wanted to know how God wanted me to live MY life. Jesus and I are very different people. How do I take what is said in the Bible, and use it to help me with the struggles I face everyday!? That is the question!
I expressed my desires for growth and "music," and he directed me to check to out the small home church in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Once I arrived I explained my need to them. I wanted to understand my Bible in depth. I wanted to be a part of a community of people that live life together, and I wanted to heal the wounds that I had carried for so long....I want to grow! They told me the results I was looking for are called "effects". They said that they would help me get the "causes" in place, and I asked them to teach me.
They taught me causes and they helped me weave the Bible into my everyday life. They pushed my beliefs and the tradition I had built up throughout my years in church, and the study of the Bible was deeper than anything I had experienced before. This was what I was looking for.
I had a need, they showed me the causes. I asked them to teach me. I did the causes. My need was filled. It was so simple, but difficult because it required me to go harder after TRUTH than I had in the past. It was uncomfortable, difficult, and life changing.
In 2004 Willow Creek did a study called "Reveal", and to date they have interviewed 157,000 people in over 500 churches. Here is an excerpt from "Follow Me" the follow up to "Reveal":
"REVEAL identifies a spiritual continuum comprised of four segments of people at different stages of spiritual development: Exploring Christ, Growing in Christ, Close to Christ and Christ Centered. REVEAL's deeper value, however is found in its insights about what creates movement along the journey: for example which church activities, beliefs, spiritual practices or activities (evangelism, serving, etc.) are most influential to spiritual growth at different points across the spiritual continuum." (p. 143)
Per the request of a leader at Willow Creek I decided to pick up a copy of "Follow Me" and take John Ortberg's advice on page 4:
"So here is round two, Follow Me. Read it though. Learn from it. Use it to inform your ministry. Pick it apart. Argue with it. Critique it. Try to find better ways to measure spiritual growth. Try to figure out why/how/if it can be measured at all."
Will do, John! When I started to pick it apart I realized that people are looking for the same effects as I was, and there is a gap between "importance" and their "satisfaction" in terms of "what people say they need from church" Follow Me on page 39 states:
"The biggest gaps show up in "help me understand the Bible in depth," "help me in my time of emotional need," and "help me to develop relationships that encourage accountability." Importantly, these gaps exist across all three movements. This makes sense, since a need that is unmet early in the spiritual journey would likely persist from one state to the next."
These are the effect that I was looking for! This was what I was not finding in the church! So, what does Follow Me say about the causes? In a section on page 95 Follow Me talks about the gaps between "Importance" and "Satisfaction" of weekend services:
"Over 80 percent of the dissatisfied group rated the following three elements as "critically" or "very important" to their weekend service experience: "Relevant Bible teaching to help me with everyday life," "Is challenging or thought provoking," "Incorporate frequent use of Scripture". These factors ranked much higher than the others, so it would appear that they set the tone for the dissatisfied group's expectations. Importantly, everyone-regardless if satisfaction level-ranked these same three elements of weekend services as most important. This means that these three elements are most critical to shaping the expectations for everyone, not just the dissatisfied group."
Wow! They nailed it again! These are the causes that the people in Appleton helped me get!
I stepped down from playing at Willow Creek because I wanted to help people get REVEAL's effects by doing REVEAL's causes.
I brought up my desire to help people to that same leader at Willow Creek and he offered to give me two leaders to teach. Their feedback from the class was incredible. I watched these individuals dive into their Bibles, I watched them incorporate what we learned from the Bible to help them in their everyday life. And because their feedback was so positive I wanted to make this information available to the people at Willow Creek first.
I met with all different types of church leaders in Willow, and in one of my most recent meetings a leader told me that I ought to make this information available to every one, not just the people at Willow Creek. He advised me, that in order to make this information more valuable I would need more feedback from more people. It was awesome advice, and thats why this blog has been created.
This blog is about defining the words we build our "faith" on. What is "FAITH" you say? Great question! That's what this blog is for! To answer those questions. I taught a 6 week class, and this blog is going to break that class down into bits that everyone can internalize.
Once you know what a word means you can use it INTENTIONALLY. You can use the word "on purpose". Once you know what a word means it becomes a brush, a tool, a note, a chord, so that you can "create" with your words...So that God's WORD can create in YOU!
This blog is for artists. If you don't want to create with your words...find another blog. If you don't see the value in understanding the words you use, please stop using words. You can "interpretive dance" your conversations.