All posts by Paul Nowak

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

The Wind, The Trees, and Revolution – G.K. Chesterton Guest Post

This essay, which appears in the volume Tremendous Trifles, is an important one to me and the idea of Eternal Revolution for (at least) two great reasons. First, it explains the idea that revolution is never the actions of mankind, for the revolution must always start as a spiritual movement towards an ideal. Second, it reminds us that it is right and just to pray for revolution. 

 

I am sitting under tall trees, with a great wind boiling like surf about the tops of them, so that their living load of leaves rocks and roars in something that is at once exultation and agony. I feel, in fact, as if I were actually sitting at the bottom of the sea among mere anchors and ropes, while over my head and over the green twilight of water sounded the everlasting rush of waves and the toil and crash and shipwreck of tremendous ships. The wind tugs at the trees as if it might pluck them root and all out of the earth like tufts of grass. Or, to try yet another desperate figure of speech for this unspeakable energy, the trees are straining and tearing and lashing as if they were a tribe of dragons each tied by the tail.
As I look at these top-heavy giants tortured by an invisible and violent witchcraft, a phrase comes back into my mind. I remember a little boy of my acquaintance who was once walking in Battersea Park under just such torn skies and tossing trees. He did not like the wind at all; it blew in his face too much; it made him shut his eyes; and it blew off his hat, of which he was very proud. He was, as far as I remember, about four. After complaining repeatedly of the atmospheric unrest, he said at last to his mother, “Well, why don’t you take away the trees, and then it wouldn’t wind.”
Nothing could be more intelligent or natural than this mistake. Any one looking for the first time at the trees might fancy that they were indeed vast and titanic fans, which by their mere waving agitated the air around them for miles. Nothing, I say, could be more human and excusable than the belief that it is the trees which make the wind. Indeed, the belief is so human and excusable that it is, as a matter of fact, the belief of about ninety-nine out of a hundred of the philosophers, reformers, sociologists, and politicians of the great age in which we live. My small friend was, in fact, very like the principal modern thinkers; only much nicer.
In the little apologue or parable which he has thus the honour of inventing, the trees stand for all visible things and the wind for the invisible. The wind is the spirit which bloweth where it listeth; the trees are the material things of the world which are blown where the spirit lists. The wind is philosophy, religion, revolution; the trees are cities and civilisations. We only know that there is a wind because the trees on some distant hill suddenly go mad. We only know that there is a real revolution because all the chimney-pots go mad on the whole skyline of the city.
Just as the ragged outline of a tree grows suddenly more ragged and rises into fantastic crests or tattered tails, so the human city rises under the wind of the spirit into toppling temples or sudden spires. No man has ever seen a revolution. Mobs pouring through the palaces, blood pouring down the gutters, the guillotine lifted higher than the throne, a prison in ruins, a people in arms–these things are not revolution, but the results of revolution.
You cannot see a wind; you can only see that there is a wind. So, also, you cannot see a revolution; you can only see that there is a revolution. And there never has been in the history of the world a real revolution, brutally active and decisive, which was not preceded by unrest and new dogma in the reign of invisible things. All revolutions began by being abstract. Most revolutions began by being quite pedantically abstract.
The wind is up above the world before a twig on the tree has moved. So there must always be a battle in the sky before there is a battle on the earth. Since it is lawful to pray for the coming of the kingdom, it is lawful also to pray for the coming of the revolution that shall restore the kingdom. It is lawful to hope to hear the wind of Heaven in the trees. It is lawful to pray “Thine anger come on earth as it is in Heaven.”
The great human dogma, then, is that the wind moves the trees. The great human heresy is that the trees move the wind. When people begin to say that the material circumstances have alone created the moral circumstances, then they have prevented all possibility of serious change. For if my circumstances have made me wholly stupid, how can I be certain even that I am right in altering those circumstances?
The man who represents all thought as an accident of environment is simply smashing and discrediting all his own thoughts– including that one. To treat the human mind as having an ultimate authority is necessary to any kind of thinking, even free thinking. And nothing will ever be reformed in this age or country unless we realise that the moral fact comes first.
For example, most of us, I suppose, have seen in print and heard in debating clubs an endless discussion that goes on between Socialists and total abstainers. The latter say that drink leads to poverty; the former say that poverty leads to drink. I can only wonder at their either of them being content with such simple physical explanations. Surely it is obvious that the thing which among the English proletariat leads to poverty is the same as the thing which leads to drink; the absence of strong civic dignity, the absence of an instinct that resists degradation.
When you have discovered why enormous English estates were not long ago cut up into small holdings like the land of France, you will have discovered why the Englishman is more drunken than the Frenchman. The Englishman, among his million delightful virtues, really has this quality, which may strictly be called “hand to mouth,” because under its influence a man’s hand automatically seeks his own mouth, instead of seeking (as it sometimes should do) his oppressor’s nose. And a man who says that the English inequality in land is due only to economic causes, or that the drunkenness of England is due only to economic causes, is saying something so absurd that he cannot really have thought what he was saying.
Yet things quite as preposterous as this are said and written under the influence of that great spectacle of babyish helplessness, the economic theory of history. We have people who represent that all great historic motives were economic, and then have to howl at the top of their voices in order to induce the modern democracy to act on economic motives. The extreme Marxian politicians in England exhibit themselves as a small, heroic minority, trying vainly to induce the world to do what, according to their theory, the world always does. The truth is, of course, that there will be a social revolution the moment the thing has ceased to be purely economic. You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.
I get up from under the trees, for the wind and the slight rain have ceased. The trees stand up like golden pillars in a clear sunlight. The tossing of the trees and the blowing of the wind have ceased simultaneously. So I suppose there are still modern philosophers who will maintain that the trees make the wind.

 

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Cheap Entertainment: First World Temptations?

One of many popular memes these days is the “First World Problems.” A frustrating issue for a particular minor problem that frustrates someone in our modern society that really is pathetically irrelevant to most people in the world. For the visually inclined, these are usually delivered on a graphic of a woman crying.

Some examples would be: “Went to the store, they were out of organic apples,” or, “Want to go to the store, but its raining,” or, “Got iPhone for Christmas, but it was only a 4S.” You probably get the idea.

For most of the billions of people in the world, these are not problems, but complaints from spoiled people. Hence the laughable nature of the “First World Problem.” The sad fact is people let such problems ruin their day, or throw full-fledged tantrums – even adults – over the hassle and disappointment.

Not only do we have superfluous “problems” in the modern world, we have detractors from the spiritual life that would have been unheard of a few generations ago, and that would boggle the mind of other who happen to live in other, less developed countries.

As I write this, the minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25. A month of Netflix is $7.99. A month of Amazon Prime (with streaming movies, free ebooks, and free MP3s) is $8.25 per month. For less than an hour and a half of work, you can have more movies and television shows than you could possible watch in a month – possibly even a year – without neglecting work, sleep, and everything else in life.

Binge watching and Netflix marathons are becoming a regular topic online. Just a few years ago, TV and movie marathons were occasional program events conducted by theaters or networks, or a family activity that would cost $5 per movie at Blockbuster. Now you can do it every weekend and evening, for the cost of less than 2 hours of labor.

The video game community has experienced this too. Several years ago, I used to flip video games from Gamestop, buying rare games during “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” sales and selling them on Amazon. On the online communities that tracked those and other sales, the term “backlog” became common, and members would post pictures of dozens, even hundreds of unopened video games they had purchased dirt cheap but did not yet have time to play.

Today, Humble Bundles, Steam Sales, and other digital distribution channels for PC and mobile games have made the backlog a reality for even the most casual of gamers. This week Steam is wrapping up one of two major seasonal sales where top-tier games that were $60 last year are sold for as little as $5. Message boards around the internet are full of people bemoaning how much they spent on the sale, and how many hundreds, or thousands, of unplayed games still reside in their digital libraries.

In the last nine years, costs for entertainment have plummeted, even has costs of necessities have risen.  Even the most impoverished in America can have all the media they can consume, and still not afford food or housing. Is not spending $8 on Netflix really going to buy you much more food? It will, however, help you forget your troubles and is a tremendous value.

If Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin & Hobbes) was correct and TV, not religion, is the opiate of the masses, what does it mean now that it is cheaper and more accessible than ever?

To make matters worse, a recent study has found that just two hours a day of television is enough to reduce the life expectancy of a person, especially young adults.

The spiritual life, too, suffers under the burden of so much cheap and free entertainment. It is all too easy to fill the silence and downtime in your life with shows, movies, and video games than prayer. It is too easy to sedate yourself with entertainment than to acknowledge and do something about the needs of others in your community – or in your own home.

The saints and mystics had little no idea of this (although Teresea of Avila, a 16th century mystic, nun, and Catholic saint prophesied that “a little black box” would destroy the family). People today with no access to the Internet do not bear the burden of this “First World Temptation.”

You cannot fight what you do not first identify as something working against you. The next step is to do something about it.

Disturb us, Lord.

Pray for Revolution.

 

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Just Gathering Sticks

The fight of being a Christian is not always a violent opposition to evil. Most of the time, the fight is just doing the mundane thing you are supposed to be doing in the face of an otherwise hopeless situation.

For example, consider the widow of Zarephath, in 1 Kings 7. Elijah was sent to her, and when he found her she was gathering sticks. When the prophet asked her for a morsel to eat and something to drink, she replied that she had only a little meal and oil. Her plan was to gather some sticks so that she and her son might eat, then die.

My family has been experiencing a particularly dry spell these past few months. The idea of gathering sticks today, for tomorrow we will be destitute was a recurring thought in my mind. What I had forgotten was Elijah’s response – “Fear not, go and do as you have said.”

It seems like such a simple response. In reality, it is profound. The command to not be afraid (which, by the way, appears at least 365 times in the Bible) and to continue with the plan for today. In the face of desperate times, that can take all of your strength. That is still part of the fight of being a Christian. It is an act of faith, and a witness of hope.

Knowing  the Gospel, we can likewise remember that we pray for our daily bread, not a steady paycheck. Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow.

So carry on, keep gathering sticks. The more hopeless the situation, the more amazing His intervention when it comes.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Men and Abortion: Free Pro-Life Conference MP3s

 

No one can deny a person’s lived experience. People can argue with us about the psychological stuff, they can argue with us about whatever. But they can’t take away the truth of someone’s lived experience.

Vicki Thorn, founder of the National Office of Post Abortion Healing and Reconciliation and Project Rachel

In my capacity as a journalist I attended the Reclaiming Fatherhood conference on Men and Abortion in September of 2008, put together by Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel, and the Knights of Columbus, with the support of many other individuals and organizations. The 2008 conference was to be the second annual conference, but in the past 2 years in the past 7 years no further symposiums have been arranged. The audio of the conference was supposed to be released as free MP3s and DVDs were going to be made available. So far, this has not yet come to pass.

As I was going though my archives I realized I still had my recordings of the talks. Granted, I was sitting about 5 tables back from the speakers, but the audio quality was still decent for most of the talks. These are “bootlegs,” and you can hear my camera’s shutter and my typing at times, as well as other background noise.

However, it occurred to me that these audio files could be of tremendous use in the relatively silent wake of the 2008 conference. There were a number of valuable and intriguing gems of information at this conference. Advice from scholars and therapists on why traditional therapy does not reach men. Testimonies of real experiences. And antecdotal evidence from 1 study and 3 practicing counselors of a possible link between abortion and homosexuality.

So here they are as MP3s – raw and uncut. There are 14 talks and about 10 hours of audio here. You can’t stop the signal.

Keep on scrolling down to listen to each of the talks right here in your browser, with some brief commentary of my own. Click on the speaker/topic name to start playing  or right-click and choose “save as” to download.

Intro by Vicki Thorn & Testimony by Bruce Mulligan

Vicki Thorn opens the conference, and the first of four personal testimonies is given by Bruce Mulligan. The testimonies (which really need no comment from me) are short and very powerful. Some of the names may be familiar.

John Morales Post-Abortion Testimony (John is the voice behind Champions of Faith)

Jason Jones Post-Abortion Testimony (Jason is a producer of the pro-life movie Bella)

Rev. Brian Walker Post-Abortion Testimony

Vicki Thorn on Fatherhood Lost

Vicki Thorn spoke on the physiological aspects of fatherhood, and how abortion impacts that. Great information for sex ed, biology, or for expectant fathers, in addition to its value to the pro-life initiative and post-abortive healing.

Coyle and Rue on Existing Research

This talk by Catherine T. Coyle, PhD and Vincent Rue, PhD is very dense with information on studies that have been done already on men and abortion, and their strengths and shortcomings. Might be a bit dry for the casual listener but those of you in the research fields will want to pay close attention to this one. (Intro and start were cut off, sorry.)

Lionel Tiger on Fatherhood without Paternity

Lionel Tiger, PhD. was a surprising guest. Right off the bat he admitted to not sharing the pro-life approach to the abortion problem, but he spoke at this conference out of solidarity with those who recognized men’s shrinking role in society and the harmful impact.

Tom Golden on Masculine Healing

Tom Golden’s presentation on Masculine Healing pointed out how modern counseling and therapy does not address mens needs or provide the environment men naturally seek. A must not only for post-abortive men and those that love them, but anyone who has a man in their life who suffers from grief. Tom was the most animated of the speakers and left the podium for much of his talk, so the audio levels are low.

First Day Q&A with Speakers

Question and answer session with Dr. Tiger, Dr. Coyle, Tom Golden and Vicki Thorn.

Vincent Rue on Trauma and Abortion

The first of the second day’s talks, Vincent Rue returned to address the specific psychological impact and symptoms of the trauma of abortion in men. The talk is preceded by (part of) a presentation of an award to Vicki Thorn.

Greg Hasek on Medicating the Pain

A terrific follow-up to identifying the pain caused by abortion, Greg Hasek spoke on the grieving and normal and abnormal ways men deal with the pain. Another very important talk for those who counsel, love, or treat men that are grieving.

Fr Martin Pabel on the Spiritual Aspects

While many of the speakers to this point may have had a Christian world view, their presentations were on the biology, statistical data, or psychology of abortion’s impact. Fr. Martin Pabel dedicates his presentation to addressing the needs of the soul.

Catherine Coyle on Forgiveness Therapy

Catherine T. Coyle, PhD, returns to speak on the use of forgiveness therapy for men hurting from abortion, and what forgiveness really means. Her talk is preceded by Vicki talking about future plans, including the talks becoming available as free MP3 downloads.

Q&A with Speakers

The closing Q&A session with Greg Hasek, Viki Thorn, Dr. Coyle, and Fr. Pable. There is an interesting point where Hasek, Thorn, and Coyle all recall having post-abortive patients who identified as homosexual after the abortion; some returned to heterosexual relationships after therapy. At this point the data is anecdotal, but could be the subject of a future study. For more information on the conference, you can visit the main site at MenAndAbortion.info. Note: MenAndAbortion.COM is a pro-abortion site. MenAndAbortion.NET is another pro-life organization. The domain suffix matters a great deal here.

Press Coverage of the Conference: American Life League’s Celebrate Life Magazine US News and World Report (and follow up article)

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

It’s Not For You

The first thing you see when you open up The Eternal Revolution, or at least before you get to the main text of the book, is a warning:

This is a book written for Christians, that is, those who accept that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead.

For those who believe Jesus was just a good man, or a fiction, or wrong, or that Christianity is basically about being good to others, kindness, and tolerance – this book is not for you. Close it now, and go read something else.

There are many books that explain Christianity and attempt to justify it. This is not one of them. I would suggest G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, one of many books bearing the title Introduction to Christianity, or, best of all, read through of our sacred text, the Bible. If you then find you accept the basics of our faith, then come back to this book.

Without accepting the idea that Jesus of Nazareth is who He claimed to be, nothing that follows will be understood or acceptable. If you proceed to read this book, keep that in mind.

“Christianity is, as far as you are concerned, a horrible mystery. Keep clear of it, keep silent upon it, as you would upon an abomination. It is a thing that has made men slay and torture each other; and you will never know why. It is a thing that has made men do evil that good might come; and you will never understand the evil, let alone the good. Christianity is a thing that could only make you vomit, till you are other than you are. I would not justify it to you even if I could. Hate it, in God’s name, [like] a man. It is a monstrous thing, for which men die.”

–  G.K. Chesterton, The Ball and the Cross

There are a great many books that attempt to justify Christianity, building up its members while evangelizing to the unchurched at the same time. Some books might manage to pull it off, but others seem to make a mess by trying to do too much and either not evangelizing or not evangelizing well, or doing far worse by trivializing the faith of the faithful or confusing the newcomer.

I wanted to make it clear from the outset that The Eternal Revolution was for a particular group, namely, those who already consider themselves to be Christians. Identifying and admitting that shared faith from the start, the book can then cut right to the matter it was written to communicate, without having to justify the prerequisite steps such as the authority of Jesus, the validity of the Scriptures, or the existence of heaven and the devil.

It might seem unkind to tell people to put the book away, and that it is not for them. But it is charitable to both the Christian and the non-Christian exactly where the message stands – we must of course preach the Good News to all people (even the saved), but at the same time we must also encourage one another on the journey. You cannot do a very good job of encouraging someone on a path they have not yet accepted.

I quote a rebuke from Chesterton’s Ball and the Cross because it is delivered to just the sort of person who might pick up the book and become even more confused, even to the point of anger or hatred. In the Ball and the Cross the speech is directed to a well-meaning and well-read man who expects Christians to be peaceful and loving, without understanding what it means to be Christian, or quite possibly what the meaning and purpose of love might be. The passage is harsh, it is violent, but it is true. Christianity is a faith the changes the person, and demands change and improvement until the end. It does not teach complacency, even as it teaches contentment. Most importantly, people have died for it, still die for it, and will continue to die for it until Kingdom come.

If that does not at least sound a little familiar to the beliefs you already hold, The Eternal Revolution is going to sound like some sort of new religion – for if you thought Christianity was about kindness and peace and tolerance, it is going to sound new.

Note: Starting this week, the blog will be updated every Monday and Thursday.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Eternal Revolution eBook FREE on Amazon

It is finally available!

The Eternal Revolution is now available on Amazon.com. And to celebrate, for today and tomorrow, the book is free for the Kindle!

Get your copy of The Eternal Revolution today!

Remember, even if you don’t have a Kindle, the software for Kindle is free for iOS, PC, Mac, and Android.

Please tell anyone you know who might be interested. When you get a chance, please write a review on Amazon or or on Goodreads for the book.

Physical Dead-Tree Copy Coming Soon

I expect to have the traditional, physical copy in July, after layout and printing are completed.

Why Free?

This is a “soft launch” – I won’t begin promoting the book until the physical edition is ready. Having the book go free for a couple days helps it not get lost in the sea of products on Amazon, and if I am going to give it away for a limited time, I’d like to make sure those of you who are following the blog are the first to get in on it.

Besides, I’m confident that you will want to share the book with others, and your recommendation will be worth much more than just asking you for a few dollars now.

So don’t delay: Get your copy, read it, and tell everyone you know!

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

All For the Glory of God

“Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

 

As Christians, we hear the instruction to do everything for, or to, the Glory of God. But what does it actually look like when we do things for His glory, and not our own?

The story of Gideon is a great example of this. The odds were against Gideon’s 32,000  Israelite soldiers from the start, facing the combined Midianites and Amelekites that were too numerous to count. However, even those odds were too humanly possible. God had Gideon challenge and test the men until just 300 remained. Unlike the famous Spartans, these 300 had no allies but God alone.

When instructing Gideon to reduce his fighting force, God’s reason was this: “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ ” When something is to be done for God’s glory, it should be done without personal pride in the accomplishment, and without taking credit for it.

This doesn’t just apply to sports stars and performance artists. It doesn’t just apply to public victory and celebration. It is supposed to apply to everything we do.

Why does it seem that the biggest miracles have all happened in the past? Perhaps we have grown too confident – not just in our own abilities, but in knowing what is possible and impossible. But God is in the impossible tasks He sets before us.

If we set out to do something we know is possible, and achieve it, how have we shown the glory and power of God in that achievement? But if we set out to do what is necessary, against odds that are obviously impossible – then the success can truly be a witness to God’s presence and majesty.

 

 

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Christianity is a Fight – J.C. Ryle Quotes on the Good Fight

When I was putting The Eternal Revolution book together, I googled the opening line I had at the time, “Christianity is a fight,” to see if that phrasing had been used before. Only one author stood out in the results: J.C. Ryle, Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, who lived at the end of the 19th century.

Upon finding his homily, “The Fight” which gets going with the line, “The first thing I have to say is this: True Christianity is a fight.”

I filed the link away, then knowing that I was not the first to use such phrasing. I did not want to read Ryle’s writings until I had finished my book, so that I would not be overly inspired by his particular style or structure.

Having finished my book (just some formatting, cover design, and so forth as I write this) I took some time to revel in the homiletic stylings of the late J.C. Ryle. Considering we had the same inspiration to write a challenge to Christians to fight, separated by over 100 years, it was a pleasure to read and find a kinship in the Spirit. You can find the homily here.

If you are looking for just the highlights from Ryle’s fighting words, here are a few select quotes from “The Fight” and other homilies.

“I fear much for many professing Christians. I see no sign of fighting in them, much less of victory. They never strike one stroke on the side of Christ. They are at peace with His enemies. They have no quarrel with sin.–I warn you, this is not Christianity. This is not the way to heaven.”

” The first thing I have to say is this: True Christianity is a fight.

“‘True Christianity’—mind that word ‘true.’ Let there be no mistake about my meaning. There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. It passes muster; it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money. It is not the real thing which was called Christianity eighteen hundred years ago. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday, and call themselves Christians. Their names are in the baptismal register. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage-service. They are buried as Christians when they die. But you never see any “fight” about their religion! Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict, and self-denial, and watching, and warring they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and His Apostles preached. True Christianity is ‘a fight.’

“The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death, he is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security, He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and dose along the way to heaven, like one travelling in an easy carriage. If he takes his standard of Christianity from the children of this world he may be content with such notions, but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God. If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his lines laid down very plainly in this matter. He must ‘fight.'”

“Warfare with the powers of hell is the experience of every individual member of the true Church. Each has to fight. What are the lives of all the saints, but records of battles?”

“Every professing Christian is the soldier of Christ. He is bound by his baptism to fight Christ’s battle against sin, the world, and the devil. The man that does not do this breaks his vow. He is a spiritual defaulter. He does not fulfil the engagements made for him. The man that does not do this is practically renouncing his Christianity. The very fact that he belongs to a Church, attends a Christian place of worship, and calls himself a Christian is a public declaration that he desires to be reckoned a soldier of Jesus Christ.”

“A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within.”

” This warfare, I am aware, is a thing of which many know nothing. Talk to them about it, and they are ready to set you down as a madman, an enthusiast, or a fool. And yet it is as real and true as any war the world has ever seen. It has its hand-to-hand conflicts and its wounds. It has its watchings and fatigues. It has its sieges and assaults. It has its victories and its defeats. Above all, it has consequences which are awful, tremendous, and most peculiar. In earthly warfare the consequences to nations are often temporary and remediable. In the spiritual warfare it is very different. Of that warfare, the consequences, when the fight is over, are unchangeable and eternal.”

“And yet there is one warfare which is emphatically ‘good,’ and one fight in which there is no evil. That warfare is the Christian warfare. That fight is the fight of the soul.”

It is such a blessed and encouraging thing to find such a kindred soul, separated even by time and space. Here’s hoping that you also find these quotes stirring the Spirit within you!

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Pagan Christian Churches

Over the past few years, I have been reading some of the trendy business strategy books that have been coming out. I’m not convinced it has been particularly useful, for other than Seth Godin there have been few, if any, that seemed to offer much in the way of advice that should be applied to a Christian ministry.

What has been alarming, though, is the number of case studies that came up about Christian churches. Yes, Christian churches that were being hailed as great examples for business leaders.

Christian Churches as Business Case  Studies

For example, in Made to Stick by Chip Heath, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church is highlighted as a case study – specifically, their profiling of potential “customers” under the name of “Saddleback Sam” and “Saddleback Samantha.” This case study has been cited over and over again in business books for its marketing genius. The profile of Sam and Samantha includes such details as education, income, job type (“professional, manager, or successful entrepreneur”) number of kids, debt level, and so on. The church’s marketing is then tailored to meet this profile “customer” to whom they evangelize.

In Relaunch, Mark Rutland writes about turning around troubled businesses and organizations. He describes the most valuable lessons of his early career from Dr. Paul Walker of Mount Paran Church. According to Rutland, Dr. Walker taught him valuable lessons in leadership. He gives the following examples:

  • The first time Rutland went on stage at the church, Dr. Walker expressed concern that Rutland was not wearing his best dress shoes. Those were Rutland’s only dress shoes, so Dr. Walker told him to get new ones. It was a requirement that a certain level of fashion be reflected in the church leadership.
  • Dr. Walker insisted that professional titles, such as “Dr.” were used. It was for the sake of the congregation, that their were confident in their leaders. “Mount Paran was a congregation of professionals who wanted their leaders to inspire confidence,” summarizes Rutland.
  • Rutland describes Dr. Walker’s reputation from the point of view of area businessmen. One described Dr. Walker as “the best cash flow man in Atlanta.” This had a profound effect on Rutland, who wrote, “I remember thinking, ‘I want businessmen to talk about me that way. I want to be the kind of minister that buisnessmen respect professionally.'”

After leaving Mount Paran, Rutland was hired by Calvary Church in Florida, when the congregation was reeling from money and scandal problems. According to Rutland, the previous pastor was fired by the bank holding the note for the church, and they had final say in the hiring of Rutland as replacement. In the interview process, Rutland recalls that the bankers wanted an account of how he was going to turn things around, and without “any spiritual nonsense.” Rutland writes about the situation, “The borrower, as the ancient words go, is slave to the lender.”

Rutland threatened to move the congregation to a new building and default on the bank’s controlling interest, but he did in fact turn the finances of the church around.

God or Money

I have a hard time reconciling such a vision for Christian ministry with the Bible’s instructions to faithful Christians. Christ told us to go out to all people, not just the urban professionals with white collar jobs. He did not send us forth, telling us to wear not only our best clothes, but the best clothes that are available.

Jesus and his apostles certainly do not seem to be on the same page as to where to find esteem. James writes, “Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Jesus warned that we cannot serve both God and mammon (wealth or money), as we will hate one and love the other. If your pastor is fired and hired by the bank that holds your mortgage, to which of the two are you beholden – or enslaved?

If, according to God, we are blessed when the world hates us and persecutes us, what does it mean if the world thinks we’re the best cash-flow business in the region?

If King David and Israel were punished for a census, what is the fruit of evangelizing to a target demographic based on economic well-being?

At our churches, are we to be inspired by the Spirit of God, or the professional skills and fashion sense of our ministers?

Pagan Christianity

Anything can become a false idol, and that even holds true for Christ himself. If your identity of Jesus and His message conflicts with the warnings, the nature of His ministry, and His commands so much as to put the esteem of the world before Him, then you are service a false image.

I mentioned Phil Vischer’s description of the “Oprah god” before:  “We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. ” 

Mainstream Christianity in America is something other than Christianity. If we cannot serve both God and money, then we need to ask ourselves: who the hell have we been preaching, praising, and following?

Photo Credit: Tricia on Flickr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Samurai of the Wood-Cutting School

Among the last generations of samurai was a teacher named Yamaoka Tesshu. At his dojo, he would have students spend the entire first year perfecting the overhand chop. This was full-time study – and an entire year spent practicing the same move every day.

Critics of Tesshu dubbed his dojo “The wood-cutting school” because of this practice. There may have even been a reference to this as a double-entendre in Akira Kurosawa’s movie Seven Samurai; when we are introduced to Heihachi Hayashida he is chopping wood, later he introduces himself as a samurai “of the wood-cutting school.”

Samurai chopping wood

Ridiculous as it sounds, now and in his own time, Tesshu understood the importance of perfecting even the smallest actions. By having his students repeat the same action for a year, day in and day out, they could subconsciously execute the stroke with incredible strength and perfect technique, without even thinking about it.

As Christians, we too are called to perfect even the smallest things in our lives. “Little white lies” are still untruthfulness. Immodesty or theft of small things is still breaking the commandments. Even if it means revisiting the same virtue, or addressing the same weakness, day in and day out, year after year, we should daily devote ourselves to overcoming the person we were the day before.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.