Archives For religion

Swearing in Church #@!$%*&!

Erik Cooper —  February 24, 2011 — 7 Comments

There’s an emerging curse word in church circles today (at least my circles). A four letter word that actually has seven. It’s dirty. Nasty. Brace yourselves and stick a finger in the kids’ ears.


(I’m expecting my FCC fine in the mail at any moment).

A pastor announcing a new pr@g&#m at his church today is like a politician bragging about increasing your taxes. You just don’t do it. Your posts will get flagged by internet filters. It could even trigger a Dateline exposé.

Pr@g&#ms are for institutions.

Pr@g&#ms are for mass, assembly line production.

Pr@g&#ms are for religious people.

Pr@g&#ms produce 2% shifts and checklist living, not long-term Kingdom transformation.


I had a fascinating conversation with one of our City Community Church overseers last week. In the midst of our passionate dialog, he mentioned the dreaded “P-word.” After chastising his potty mouth, I asked him a serious question:

When does a valid ministry endeavor become an institutionalized pr@g&#m? When does it cross that line? What is the core difference between a pr@g&#m response and an honest, effective investment in someone’s life?

I thought his answer was intriguing. Worth posting to stir some conversation:

“Pr@g&#ms create spectators and consumers. Transformation demands participation and sacrifice.”

What do you think of that definition? Is he right? Love to hear your thoughts (after I finish sucking on this bar of soap).

My calendar wasn’t lying. The appointment was there. Mocking me. The standard ding of my iPhone alarm became an ominous melody of doom (or was that just Black Eyed Peas halftime highlights?).

It was time to visit the dentist.

Twice a year, every year, for the past three-plus decades, I’ve been the recipient of the same dental speech. The proper mixture of conjured sweetness and implied judgment must be a pre-requisite for every graduating hygienist. It’s not a long oration. Less words than a Bill Belichick press conference, but equally as intimidating.


Come on lady! What kind of super hero do you think I am?

But every six months I make another empty promise that lasts for exactly 9 days. And then the night before my next dental shakedown, I find myself frantically rifling through the cosmetic cabinets looking for a strand of that dreaded nylon string. I’m not really a flosser, but give me 10 minutes and a bottle of mouthwash and I’ll convince those professionals I’ve been rehabilitated. Surely they’ll never notice my swollen, bleeding gums.

Don’t you think we can do the same thing to God?

Fake it.

Put on the show.

Cram in some frenetic religious-type activity that makes us feel spiritual again, even if it’s making no long-term difference.

But Jesus longs to be so much more than something we go digging through a cabinet for the night before we need it. His words more than just screen savers, Twitter posts, or something we hear the pastor quote every once in awhile on Sunday morning. Here’s one of the things He had to say:

“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
Mathew 7:24-27 MSG

While I’m at it, maybe I’ll go ahead and start flossing, too (OK, let’s not get carried away).

Going Commando

Erik Cooper —  November 3, 2010 — 1 Comment

As you may know, I’m a churchie. I grew up in church.  Built my social networks around church.  Developed my gifts in church.  Now I co-pastor a church. (And for the record, I absolutely love God’s Church).

But even though I’ve heard more sermons than Peyton Manning has passing yards, there are still some things I’ve absorbed into my understanding of God that just aren’t true.

The biggest gaffe most churchies face is allowing Jesus to just become a culture (no offense to Kim Walker).  A philosophy to ascribe to.  An unwritten list of behaviors and thought processes that protect us from a sinful world. Like a supernatural Batman suit repelling evil as I, the dark knight, make my way through the sludge of this disgusting world into the glory of eternity.

Visually, it may look something like this:

But keeping up this facade is futile, frustrating, and exhausting (and not as appealing to non-churchies as the Batman analogy might make it seem).

So I see many of my churchie friends rejecting this “Jesus as just a culture” way of life.  Throwing off many of the ridiculous, behavior-based expectations they often grew up with.  Breaking free.  Going commando (be careful Googling that if you don’t know what it means).

And in so many ways, I love it. I’m right there with you.  Except for one concern.

At the center of this lie many of us grew up believing about God was…me. Cultural protection. Self protection. Self righteousness. MeAnd simply removing the outer layer still leaves the exact same person at the center.

Shedding lies without embracing the truth just leaves you naked.

The truth of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ comes to live inside of me. That me dies.  That Christ becomes the new center.  And out of His life flows my life.  True life.  True freedom.

“Christ lives in me.  The life you see me living is not “mine.” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I am not going to go back on that.” (Gal. 2:21 MSG)

So lose the lies.  Shed the baggage.  Go commando. Christ came so that you could be free.

Free to put Him at the center.

Cheap Faith

Erik Cooper —  June 9, 2010 — Leave a comment

If we really had the guts, some of us would have to admit our faith is cheap.

Never tested.

Rarely wrestled with.

Never sacrificed for.

Just handed to us. By our family.  Our surroundings.  Our culture.

Not an encounter with God. Just something we do.  Our lens for thinking about and understanding the world.

And like a leaf being swept down the white-capped rapids of a raging river, our faith is just going where the motion naturally takes us (or sometimes leaves us drowning against a protruding rock).

Cheap faith.

In that context, the question “why?” is an assumption-bucking question.  It’s paddling upstream.  Swimming against the flow.

“Why?” is powerful.  It can also be incredibly dangerous.

In the hands of a cynic it can breed a sense of meaninglessness, contempt, and even less trust (if that’s possible for a cynic).  But asked with the right motive, “why?” can bring strength, deep conviction, and even greater freedom.

This week at CityCom, we launched a brand new series aimed at asking “why?”  (Or in our case, “Y.” You know we just can’t be normal).  Click here to hear the audio of the opening message called “Y Ask Why?

Jesus loved to ask “why?”  But unlike the religious leaders of His day, His “whys?” weren’t aimed at protecting cultural assumptions.  Jesus’ questions cut His listeners to the core and exposed their motivesWith Jesus, it’s not just the action but the driving force that really matters.

What’s your why?

Why do you believe what you believe?

Why don’t you believe what you don’t believe?

Asked with the right motivation and within the scope of true community (like drinking alone, asking why alone may be a sign of trouble ahead), the question “why” will destroy cheap faith. Because Jesus Christ is not a philosophy to be embraced, He’s a “Person” to be encountered.

And He’s not afraid of your “why?”  In fact, He just might meet you there.

The Jesus Bubble

Erik Cooper —  May 19, 2010 — Leave a comment

Sometimes I live like Jesus is a giant, inflatable bubble. You know, like something you’d see on that ABC summer smash-hit series Wipeout (yes, I know they jump on top of the big red balls, just roll with me here).

If I can figure out the rules, contort myself just right, and gain the assistance of a fully trained production crew with a human-sized shoe-horn, maybe (just maybe) I can squeeze inside.  Sure, it’s exhausting.  But it satisfies my sense of self-righteousness and desire for control. After all, I want a God I can define, and today I’m defining him as a giant, inflatable bubble ball.

Only problem?  Jesus isn’t an oversized sphere (Seriously. I’ve read the whole Bible. Prince of Peace, Lamb of God, Lion of Judah. No inflatable ball references anywhere).

He’s not asking me to squeeze my way in.  He asking to be invited in.

It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! (Romans 8:11 MSG)

I’ve been following Christ for a long time now, and still every so often I realize it’s happening again.  Slowly and subtly, life becomes all about my effort to squeeze in. To fit the Christian culture.  To Perform well for all who are watching.  Including God.

To climb inside the Jesus bubble.

When all along Jesus is waiting to come alive inside of me.

To do the work.  That I can’t do.  His Spirit.  Inside-out.

Elementary?  Maybe.  New revelation?  Not really.  But I bet every one of you wrestle with the same temptation: trying to climb your way into God’s good graces. It’s natural.  Like water flowing downhill (or boogie boarding into a pool full of breakfast cereal…for real, click here).

Are you trying to climb inside the Jesus bubble?  Why not invite His Spirit to come alive in you instead?

It actually works.  And you look a lot less silly.