Thursday, August 23, 2007



Back in the 80’s I had the privilege of being the pastor of a growing church. The passion that empowered my heart was all about reaching two kinds of people—those who have been turned off and those who have never been turned on to what it means to know Jesus. I spent countless hours thinking and praying about how to touch the target audiences God had placed on my heart.

Now you know that praying is not just talking to God, but also listening. I know this is true, but tend to forget it from time to time and do all of the talking without waiting for any answers. But when I did take the time to listen, I was given a most clear answer from the Lord. This answer inspired me and my teaching perspective in such a way that we experienced an unusual phenomenon. As the church grew, the growth pattern was very different from any church I had ever known. Sixty percent of the people were coming out of a non-churched background. In other words, we weren’t simply transferring members from one church to another because of a better show. We were actually speaking to people who had already been turned off and away from any form of religion and religiosity.

You know what the answer was that God gave to me? “In order to communicate most effectively to the most people in Orange County, it was necessary for me to separate myself and Jesus from Christianity.” People had already rejected any form of Christianity. This is why they weren’t in church. In fact, in a 10 mile radius around our church facility, 86% of the people didn’t attend church. Well, except on Easter, then only 75% weren’t in church. They didn’t want anything that smelled like church or religiosity. They had rejected this approach to life, primarily because it proved to be irrelevant to them or because they sensed a disingenuous dimension that can be easily communicated through producing the big show each week.

This approach was certainly effective and over the past few years I’ve come to realize all over again that it really isn’t about Christianity; it’s about Jesus. And, anything, even Christianity can get in the way of knowing Jesus and making Him known. We see this clearer today as we work with other religious cultures. It’s simply Jesus for all who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

Last week I was sent a letter of resignation from Christianity that spells out the dilemma clearly:

Dear Christianity,

Today I announce my official resignation as a member of your society. I am sure that in your earliest attempts to draw men to yourself your intentions were well. The problem is that overtime men have become more drawn to you instead of the Jesus to which you speak. Men have taken you and made you something that no longer works for me. For the past thirty years I have followed your ways, believed your “truths” and pretended that everything was ok. The reality is that all is not well and you have not helped. Matter of fact, you are the source of much of my problems.

In you I have had to pretend to be someone that I am not on the inside. I never felt like I measured up to what you wanted. It always seemed as though everyone else had you figured out. I on the other hand have only found myself bankrupt in your lofty expectations. Legalism followed up with rules of dos and don’ts has been the steady diet that you have fed me. I have neither found the freedom nor the abundant life that your scriptures claim to give.

With you I have never:
• Experienced an abundant full life
• Had an overwhelming sense of peace and joy
• Felt like I was good enough for God
• Felt like I truly experienced a personal relationship with Jesus
• Been drawn to pray. You forced me to pray out of obligation
• You never solved the inner core problems of my heart
• You never helped me not to sin. You only told me to stop my sinful behavior
• Most of all you have left me disillusioned to the truth of life

So today I am leaving you. You and I will never again join company to partner in life. Today I declare that I am officially free from your grasps. I will no longer call myself a Christian. When others ask what religion I am I will tell them how I was raised in your system but have left you to follow something much more exciting and fulfilling. The person of Jesus. You have distorted the truth of Jesus and made Him someone He was never meant to be. I resent you for that.

Free from your grasps, I am now able to become a student and follower of the person of Jesus Christ. I believe that it is here that I will find hope, peace, joy and an abundant sense of life. It is here that I believe Jesus will meet me to help fix my deepest despair. It is here that I will find what it really means to walk with Jesus. I am sure that my new journey will bring me to deal with the resentment that I harbor against you. However for now, I celebrate in the freedom of not being bound by the chains of your religious organization.


Stephen M. Johnson
Follower of Jesus!

Please don’t take this wrongly. There is nothing wrong with being a Christian, but don’t let your Christianity come between you and Jesus. The Christianization of Jesus has kept more people out of the Kingdom than most anything else. You see, Jesus trumps everything and everyone else! Jesus wasn’t a Christian. He never encouraged anyone to become a Christian. Jesus isn’t owned by Christianity. He’ll work with anyone. He is the way, the truth and the life for anyone who is interested!