by Chris on June 27th, 2016

Brennan Manning taught that God's big moves rarely fill stadiums. I am convinced he was right. 
God chose a small nation. His son was born in a stable. His death was minus most of his inner circle even.  While there are a few examples of "big numbers", the mass conversion in Acts, feeding 5000, it seems like those were the exception not the rule. He chose 12, he kept company with a few more, and spent a good amount of time getting away from or frightening off the big crowds.  

So I wonder about our own fascination with  what is popular, shiny, "successful", and "mega".  All of these things are patently at odds with intimacy. We show up, have an experience, identify with something grand and think that's God. I'm not saying he's not in those things. However, I have a favorite saying I've been spouting off for about 10 years
-God can do anything, anywhere, anytime, through anyone or anything...even a church.
I would go so far as to add "even a mega or multi-site-church" 

But the people and places that I see God most often today and in scripture aren't successful or big or glossy. They're old, and sometimes dusty, and usually don't attract too much attention. My life was changed by a guy who came and ask me to meet and pray together when I was at my lowest. The greatest wisdom has come to me from people far from the spotlight.  

And I think the spotlight and bigger stage or venue put us at odds with the purposes of the God whose joy it was to walk with his first couple in the cool of the evening.  I think the video screen, anything that keeps us from looking each other in the eye, is askew from the God who came and dwelt among us. 

My desire is to help create and participate in environments where we can know each other more deeply. Where the cry of the hurting isn't overwhelmed by the bigger sound system. Where the tears of the depressed aren't washed out by the bright lights of the stage. Where we can know one another, love one another, and wrestle out loud with the God that created us, loves us, and tends to us.  

I want to know and be known. I want to know you. And I don't think that happens very well in most of our current religious environments.


by Chris on October 29th, 2014

Power is pursued with all our might.  But "power" as we know it is an illusion.  Power over our circumstances, relationships, provision, career is pursued by means of performance and achievement...by doing well on a scorecard.  But true power is entrusted by God. The doorway to power is the unseen and immeasurable work of love that comes alongside and underneath.  True power is the result of deeply rooted love that cannot be ripped up because of failure or deepened by paltry achievement.  True power is the surrender of the pursuit of "power" and the acceptance that love is powerful in it's powerlessness. 

by Chris on November 6th, 2013

Offenses need to be forgiven quickly, or they will fester and poison the relationship. The poison seeps out and affects our own souls as well. Offenses that are held on to lead to death...The only way is love. Paul says, "love keeps no record of wrongs." In loving relationships, we want to throw away the list in our heads of wrongs done to us and ignore them when they raise their indictments yet again. Too often we keep those lists, ruminate on them, and nurse them like a wounded animal. -- John Eldredge

This is a tough one.  To keep record of wrong gives me (us) feelings of power, or at least influence, over a situation in which we are powerless.  It's that feeling of control that keeps me (us) from facing the disappointment in others, and more deeply in ourselves and our own neediness.  This will eventually cause death and distance in our relationships.  The real power is in love, forgiveness (even of wrongs perceived, not actually committed against us).  It is in removing the obstacles to love and relationship.  The thing we think we are controlling is the thing we'll lose without a pathway for love.  Offenses, when held offer no outlet to loving relationship.  And the thing we want to keep will wither and die.

by Chris on October 23rd, 2013

We become neighbors when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation...There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbors.-- Henri Nouwen
Deep connection and community are in such short supply. We find out when you leave a particular orbit. You change churches (or leave altogether), you change jobs, you move to a different place and those with whom we thought we were "close" a realized to be more friends of convenience, or seasonal community. I'm as guilty as the next person, sometimes more so.

But I want those connections where I have crossed the road for another. Even more so, I want someone to "cross the road" for me. Don't you? I think it's part of what God made us for.

by Chris Roe on September 23rd, 2013

"Focus on what your child is passionate about. When you ignite the fire in them – let it burn."--Brenda K. Rufener  


I once heard John Eldredge say something like this (paraphrase) "A parents job is to uncover, build up, fan into flame the glory of each child, and then unleash it on the world."  

Rufener also quotes Socrates (in same article) as saying,
------"Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel."  

I love that!  And, not just because we have (for this season) chosen to homeschool our son.

I think back on teachers and mentors in my life.  Mary Lindsay, Sally Palmer, Lane Lewis, Tom Moore, Mike Hollis, Jim McDoniel, Mark Berryman, Jim Bob Baker, Dale Layton, Barry Strickland (to name a few) and they all invited me into something deeper than just information.  They enacted something in my mind, my heart, and my soul.  Awakened me to something beyond just facts. Some even offered opportunities for on-the-job "training".  

It takes little care or talent just to pass on the declarations, dimensions, descriptions of a thing or a thought.  It takes something more to ignite the deep fires that can burn for a lifetime and beyond.  

My father invited me into things like Amateur Radio, Golf, Basketball, Computers, and Photography.  Some of those things stuck, some didn't  but each one was an invitation into more than just knowledge.
My mother lead me into adventures: New foods, new thoughts, open spaces to share heart-level rumblings and grumblings, even to sit in on a group counseling session she was leading for homeless recovering addicts.  She encouraged me to learn as many skills as I could at any "job" I took.  

The impact of these people has lasted over the decades of my life.  Every day of my life contains imprints from their influence.  I don't know if I can repeat one single "fact" they taught me.  But the invited me to learn, take risks, be passionate, ask questions, "Look it up." (Mary Lindsay), and search it out for myself. And several are still in my life helping me interpret the results.

In our educational systems I think we are missing what these people did, and still do.  In many schools and most churches we "teach" by passing on right thinking or answers.  We often fail to invite people into a process, into a journey that leads them deeper.  An adventure that serves them well, even after we are no longer physically present in their lives.  We can teach that 2 + 2 = 4 or the correct doctrinal position on atonement, but we don't give them a fire that lasts.

Why am I writing about this?  Brenda's quote just struck a chord with me and I felt compelled.  I want to thank these people, and countless others who've done this for me.  I want to be the kind of person that does this in others.  I want to play a vital role in creating the space needed for this kind of thinking/experience (especially about God.)  And, I think there is a lot in this world set against it coming to fruition.  Understandably, I spend a good deal of my time frustrated.  

I want my kids to have those kinds of people too.  I want their environments to encourage them to learn information in the context of relationships that develop hunger for more, as much as, if not more than, give answers.  
I am writing because I want things to be different than I think they most often are.  I am writing because I want to to be a part of that change.  I am writing because these people fanned into flame and tended a fire in me that was birthed by God and it's not yet burned out.

Chris Roe is the Executive Director of Encounter Ministries, a dedicated husband and father, a ragamuffin follower of Jesus, and a terrible golfer.

Disclaimer:  Chris Roe is not a licensed counselor, a divinity school graduate, a marriage or education guru. He believes what he says/writes today, but that's always subject to correction and growth.

by John Wood on July 23rd, 2013

I wanted to take a moment to share the story of a first-timer’s trip into prison as part of the Encounter team. My prayer is that by getting a glimpse of what it looks like on the other side of the wall, you will be inspired to help with a prison ministry yourself or support one financially.

I woke up on my own around 4:30 AM Thursday morning. I really didn’t have to be awake until 6:00 AM but I was too excited to sleep I guess. I’d like to tell you that I was deep in prayer the moment I woke up but I believe I checked the Auburn message boards and just laid there thinking about the day ahead. By 7:00 I had told Amy, Caroline and Thomas goodbye and was on my way to meet the team outside of Birmingham. I want to stop here and say that my wife Amy was as much a part of this trip as I was. Her willingness to serve by keeping the kids without my help while I was gone was huge. The snack boxes she and Caroline put together for the team were also a nice treat.

The trip to Birmingham was relatively uneventful. We met at a house near McCalla and loaded up the very manly white minivan that Chris had rented for the trip. So to paint the picture of the trip out there for you, there were five dudes in a minivan. Sounds bad, but the trip was actually great. Of the other four guys that went on the trip, I knew Stephen and had met Chris once, but didn’t know Mitch or Darryl. Those guys welcomed me with open arms and we had a great time of fellowship on the way to Texas. Some of the deep theological topics discussed were Bachman Turner Overdrive, legalization of marijuana and Umbros.

We arrived in Winnsboro, Texas at the Fennell compound around 10 PM or so. I met Barry Strickland and John Fennell at that time. Barry is a part of New Wilderness Adventures and lives outside of Dallas and John has his ministry NEWCOR near Winnsboro. The Fennell’s had a spread of snacks laid out for us to eat on. When rooms were divvied up, Stephen and I decided we would stay in the shed that John had turned into a house recently for a man that lived across the street from him.  It doesn’t sound that glamorous, but it was a really cool spot.

Basically, a man was living across the street from John in a trailer that was caving in. John moved a very large shed from another location and made it into a house with a kitchen, two twins, a closet and bathroom so that the man could move from his trailer into the new place. Sadly, the man was diagnosed with cancer and died five weeks after moving in.

I slept hard that first night after traveling all day. I was disappointed to learn that I would have to take a cold shower Friday morning (more on this later). After I got dressed I went across the street to John’s. They had made a huge skillet full of sausage and eggs along with hot corn tortillas and hot sauce. It was a great way to start the day.

I was feeling pretty anxious and excited as we loaded up to head to the prison. For one, we were going to be going inside a prison. Two, I had to speak to the prisoners that evening on “The Poser”. We made the short drive to the prison. As we arrived I could see the chapel where we would be working. I also noticed a large wooden sign over the main entrance that said “You Can Make a Difference”. Indeed.

As you go in the main entrance they ask you to remove your shoes as they give you a pat down and check you with a metal detector. You then trade your driver’s license for a chaplain volunteer tag. After all of that, you are escorted into the main prison yard by a guard. As we walked out into the yard there was a line of about ten prisoners there that we said hello to on our way to the chapel.

Friday morning we had to go through training. I don’t mean chaplaincy training. I mean prison training. They cover literally everything from what to do if you are held hostage to “don’t fall in love with a prisoner”. The training was done by Chaplain Casey Miner. Chaplain Miner is a dynamic personality and through God’s help, the driving force behind the chaplaincy program at the prison. I enjoyed learning from him so much over the weekend. During training Chaplain Miner was asked about how he handles other religions within the unit. His answer was that he is completely accommodating to all religions within his wing. He said the result is that the prisoners start asking the question “Why does Chaplain Miner treat me so much better than my own pastor?” He talked about the dramatically improved recidivism rates that have come about through the implementation of programs and events like the one we were conducting. The bottom line is, in Texas and other states, the numbers do not lie. These programs are working.

After training we went out for lunch. We then came back to the prison to start the program. The prisoners arrived at 1:00 PM. There were 67 prisoners in attendance over the weekend. Each one of the guys has six months or less left on their sentence. As they came through a door they were greeted by several of us in a line. The prisoners all wore white along with a name tag that has their name and the word “OFFENDER” on it. Once they were all seated, Chaplain Miner went over some ground rules. Each prisoner was given a two-liter soft drink and a plastic cup. This was for them to consume throughout the weekend. He also told them that as they knew, outside of the chapel he is Chaplain Miner. For this weekend though, within the chapel they could call him Casey. Also, instead of the prisoners being known by their last name they would be going by their Christian name for the weekend. Each guy was given a name tag to put their first name on. They were then told that they could move their chair anywhere in the chapel they wanted to in order to be comfortable. Freedom.

I cannot do the material that was presented to the prisoners over the weekend justice in a blog post. However, I want to give you an idea of how it is presented and why it works differently than most anything these guys have been exposed to in the past. The first talks on Friday are all about having the guys take a look at themselves. We aren’t there to tell the guys that they have done no wrong in their life. For instance, my talk Friday night was on “The Poser”. This is basically the false self that you present to those around you. Those guys know all about this, but for many of us we have been posing so long that we don’t even realize it anymore. By the way, if you are reading this and think you don’t pose, think again.

I enjoyed being able to address the guys Friday night. I was thankful that the guys on our team encouraged me where I thought my talk fell short. Public speaking to a room full of prisoners was different than anything I had ever done before.  Another thing that I will mention about Friday night at the prison was how we started building relationships with the prisoners. Several of them came up to introduce themselves and talk. More on this later.

We got back to the Fennell compound Friday night where they had prepared vegetable lasagna which was outstanding. I didn’t linger too long before I was ready to go to bed. Friday had been a long day and I knew Saturday would be even longer since we were due to be in the chapel from 8 AM – 8 PM. When we walked into the “shed” we saw that the Fennell’s had changed our linens and put mints on our pillows. So we were getting the Ritz Carlton treatment even though the accommodations were a little out of the ordinary. This is just one of many examples of how the Fennell’s showed us love over the weekend.

Saturday morning came early. The Fennell’s had prepared enough biscuits for an army and a huge pan full of gravy and eggs. I’m pretty sure I had four biscuits with gravy. Yes, four.

We made it to the chapel a couple of minutes after the prisoners Saturday morning and some of them jokingly formed a line to greet us like we had done the day before. This really set the tone for what was to come on Saturday. I had a guy come up to me and tell me how much what I shared on Friday night had meant to him. This was very encouraging to me.

After a short worship time, we started off Saturday talking about the wound. We basically explained to these guys that there is a reason that they are the way they are. As John Eldredge says, for most men their wound comes from their father. Satan uses our wounds to confuse us and define us. I felt led to share about some of my own wounds, as did several others.

We then talked about healing. This is where the turning point was for me. These guys start to see that there is a reason they are the way they are and also that God wants to heal those wounds. There is a time where guys are able to say “It’s not my fault _______” and just call out things that have wounded them during their lives. Examples would be “It’s not my fault I never knew my father” or “It’s not my fault my father left me when I was a kid”. You can literally feel people being healed. These sessions were just incredible to me. Since I had gotten my planned speaking part out of the way I was able to settle in and truly experience the conference along with the prisoners. Another thing that is talked about on Saturday is the battle that they have ahead and that they are warriors. They are told that what was ahead of them would not be easy, but that it can be done.

At lunch on Saturday we brought in Subway for the prisoners. Compared to what these guys normally eat, this was like a filet. After lunch the guys watched a video talk on “Sonship”, which discusses God as your father. So just to recap, the guys have been talked to about who they are, why they are who they are, the healing that God wants to do in their lives and God as their father. See a pattern yet??

I want to mention that there are several breaks throughout each day where the prisoners are served cookies and chips. This was also a great time for them to talk to us and gave us an opportunity to build relationships with the guys. Without a doubt, the best part of the weekend for me was building relationships with the prisoners and encouraging them.

Saturday night we talked about women and relationships. We then had a round table discussion where Chris would ask us off the cuff questions about our marriages. It was basically like being on a Dr Phil show but in prison. We mainly discussed things that had worked in our marriages.

We left the prison a little after 8:00 PM. When we got back to the Fennell’s Saturday night they had prepared steak and vegetables for us. We also had birthday cake because it was John’s grandson’s first birthday. Saturday night, I had a heart to heart with Stephen. Not about the day but about what we should do about the fact that we had been taking cold showers since we got there. We located the breaker box and low and behold HOT WATER.  I crashed pretty hard again after such a long day.

Nobody had told us to be up early Sunday since we were meeting at the donut shop in town for breakfast. I was dripping wet when somebody banged on the door telling us it was time to go. So in about ten minutes or so we were dressed, packed and out the door. Thankfully I am light packer due to my business travels and backpacking trips.

Breakfast was great. We made it into the chapel before the prisoners this time. Some of Sunday’s topics were about fathering kids. These topics were very applicable to me and I enjoyed hearing what the men had to say. We talked about the battle to come and encouraged the men to guard their hearts on what they had learned over the weekend. There was another round table session at the end to answer any questions the men had.

As we dismissed, the men were given copies of “Wild at Heart”. Many of the guys brought their books by to have us “autograph” them. Now, I’m not going to lie. This was a little weird for me at first. But I realize that it was really not about our names but more about remembering this profound weekend in their lives. This is how I signed each book, “You are a mighty warrior! The battle begins today! Much Love, John Wood”

There is really one huge thing that I want anyone that is reading this report to understand. It does not take a seminary degree to be able to look a prisoner in the eye, wrap your arms around them and tell them that God loves them. Several of the guys really struggle with what they have done to their families. My message to them was the same thing that my Mother told me years ago when I was not all that far from where these guys are. “If you have asked for God’s forgiveness, he has forgiven you already. You need to learn to forgive yourself.” When you say that to someone with tats all over their bodies and gang affiliations and they look up at you with tears in their eyes, it is all worth it.I would highly encourage you to get involved in a prison ministry or to support one with a financial donation. These men will soon be sent on their way with a new pair of clothes, a check for $50 and a bus ticket. What they really need is hope. That is what we were there to give them.

The author of this article, John Wood,  volunteered for his first trip into a prison, his first time as an Encounter Prison Team Member.  I asked if he'd write this post to tell his story and ours.  He is  a devoted father and husband, a decent mini-van rider, a deep thinker, a great expositor on the intricacies of the "Poser", and a beloved son of the Father, and a powerful minister of God's unbridled love for his sons....especially to prisoners. (Chris Roe)

by Chris on July 22nd, 2013

"We are so quick to encourage one another to rest & recharge, yet so reluctant to do it ourselves....."

I think this is because we believe others are so far "ahead" of us in one way or another.  We are all (myself at the head of this line) scurrying so hard to catch up that we can't rest.  Morgan Snyder (of the Ransomed Heart Team) spoke recently about a friend of his that said he always feels behind...at work, in finances, even in his yard!  

I can identify.  Can you? 

I have to pay someone to do my yard now (I blame that on asthma and allergies, but I still feel behind in it.)  I want to be a better administrator and "time manager."  I am almost 40, shouldn't I have that down by now?  I feel like I am being a pretty good dad, but I feel like I don't spend enough time with my kids.  (And I work from HOME)  I have no idea the last time Jennifer and I had a date other than crashing into the couch or bed and watching Big Brother (there I said it, I watch Big Brother, I have for 4 or 5 years, it's stupid, mindless tv, and we enjoy it.)  And I desperately need to raise a lot more funds for the ministry if it's going to survive. 


I didn't have a clear view of where this was going when I started typing, but I think it's showing me more of how I really feel.  The agreements that I have made that I have ground to make up and if I stop, if I rest, I will just be that much more behind.  It's showing that so much of my thinking is still so "Godless".  It's got me at the center, and when it really comes down to it, I'm responsible for making life work.  I probably even think I have to somehow keep the earth on axis too.

I am sure the enemy is behind it all.  He's a liar.  But I am going to resist the temptation to wrap this post up neatly with a conclusive "God-thought."  Because I am still very much in process.  I still feel very much behind.  I am still not at rest.  I've been struggling to breathe for 2 weeks, even had an urgent visit to an Urgent Care on the way home from a Prison Ministry Trip.  And I haven't really stopped to "rest".  God save us....God save me....

by Chris on July 16th, 2013

PRISON REPORT: (Inmates Comments included)

Dear Friends,
Stephen Shirley, John Wood, Darryl Wilson, Mitchell Johnson, & I left Thursday Morning and made it back to Birmingham in the wee hours Monday Morning (sometime around 2 AM).  Our adventure to Winnsboro, Texas to the Clyde M. Johnston Unit was indeed an adventure.  Barry Strickland, New Wilderness Texas Director, Prison Chaplain Fr. Casey Miner,  and John Fennell, Director of NewCOR met us there and we battled for the hearts of our incarcerated brothers and each other.   Over 3 days we  walked through a "Boot Camp" based on John Eldredge and Ransomed Heart Ministries Wild at Heart.  67 inmates gave up visits with their families to participate.  I know our team was affected deeply by the Father's love, and we were encouraged by your prayers.  

I will write a longer post detailing what we covered and encountered, but I believe the comments from the inmates evaluations (given at the end of the last session) let you know how they received the message of God's love and heart for them.  Thank you all for your love, support, and encouragement.

Here's some of what they had to say.

I now know I am in a battle and a larger story. Wild At Heart destroyed boring with adventure. I know I am set free!
One of the stories about your fathers brings me back to something that recently happened to me. The story touched me.

I will focus on being a man of God and let Him change my life.

The battle is for freedom. If I give up the devil will win.

It was the best weekend I’ve ever had. I wish it didn’t have to end.

I feel the sonship the brotherhood and the knowledge and truth that God the Father loves me.

I realize that I had been a poser in one way or another all my life. The knowledge of God as my father has expanded.

The fellowship with “real men” impacted me the most.

The openness of your testimonies were powerful.

Wonderful! Life Affriming! Eye Opening! Hopeful! Thank Yoy.

You have done so much to heal my heart. This is life changing.

Wish I could have done this years ago.

I enjoyed receiving new ways to understand and share God’s word to myself and with others.

I enjoyed the movie clips and the alone time with God.

I never heard nothing like this. (In context with the rest of his evaluation this is a positive comment. –Barry)

Loved the weekend. Learned things to take with me to apply to my life and to my family.

Loved the part about fighting for our wives and daughters.

I enjoyed every minute. I didn’t want it to end.

Learning about being fathered, heart of the woman, spiritual warfare was amazing I have gotten much from this time.

The topics covered have been great concerns of mine. The seeds have been planted and I will let God nurture them.

The weekend brought new understanding. Thanks.

It was awesome. I loved it. Come again.

I loved it. I am looking forward to going to Colorado to boot camp.

The emotions, the thoughtfulness and caring that was put forth was the most impacting part to me.

I have been having trouble with my wife. The things taught were eye openers that will help me with my relationship with her.

The enthusiasm was powerful.

Wonderful and fun – great teachings and fellowship

This was a different experience of showing me how the Lord is, how He works and how forgiving He is.

Very good!

It was a blessing can you come back next weekend?

It renewed my belief as it pertains to my God and how He wants us all to be great warriors.

This has changed my life. I can’t wait to start applying it to my every day life.

The most powerful part was beauty to rescue. I needed it so much. I need to rescue my princess.

Personal stories from the heart impacted me most.

It has changed my life. It has made me know my purpose.

This is my best weekend since I have been locked up.

It is good to hear others with the same problems I have.

This was a very good time with God and getting to know more about Him.

I learned a lot about what a woman wants from me and how I should treat them.

I learned how to stand up against the devil and his schemes.

…it opened my heart. I see where I’ve been hurt and how I have been running to women for an answer.

I will give my life to God forever and stay out of jail.

I will be a better person because of this weekend.

How I have found what has wounded me in my life.

I will quit trying to fix my wife and let God fix her.

I understand there is a villain in my life and how to fight.

I will show my wife and daughters they are princesses. I vow to fight for them and never give up.

I have been asking God to provide inspiration that this weekend has brought for me.

I now realize that I have a Father who loves me and seeing how I’ve blamed myself for my earthly father abandoning me.

I now know that if I don’t give up I cannot fail.

I was blessed by all that was done.

It was great.

This was amazing and inspirational. I will apply what I have learned.

I have a wonderful peace of mind and a feeling of freedom.

The teaching on Sonship was powerful to me.

It was good to hear so many are dealing with the same issues as me.

The quiet time really allowed me to admit what was hurting me.

I know what my wife’s needs and wants from me.

Excellent job, well done! I hope to give back like this some day. I look up to you guys and what you are doing.
If you have any desire to join us on our next adventure it will be in January.  It takes several months to get approved by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as a volunteer.  Please let us know by emailing chris@setheartsfree.com. 

If you would like to help financially you can donate at www.encounterministriesonline.org and click WePay

Special thanks to Barry Strickland of New Wilderness Adventures for inviting us into this larger story and partnership, to Fr. Casey Miner, the Chaplain of the Clyde M. Johnston Unit for his dreaming heart and for trusting us with his men, to John Fennell and the whole Fennell clan for hosting us with unrivaled hospitality and tenderness.

by Chris on July 1st, 2013

As discussed in the last blog post "The Secret to Effective Ministry", there is a different, deeper teaching that is so often overlooked in our spiritual formation.  It is the learning that comes through experience.  Not just the experience of doing something, but doing it at the direction of one who cares for you, one who knows somethings cannot be taught simply by transferring facts to your brain. 

I believe there is a different kind of discipleship, more complete than in most of our churches and relationships today.  Our present day discipleship is more like Sesame Street (Watch this and you'll learn something) than it is Mr. Miagi.  I think we need more Mr. Miagi. 

Thanks Garry Brantley, for bringing this up Sunday in your most recent sermon (you can download it here http://crossbridgechurch.org/media.php?pageID=70)

by Chris on June 24th, 2013

"The secret to effective ministry, is to take that which has applied to you in your own life, that which you have experienced, and that which has become food to you to give to other people."--Frank Viola on his blog at http://bit.ly/17xEOrO

This quote from Frank Viola (not the baseball player known as "Sweet Music" that pitched for those dastardly Minnesota Twins who beat my beloved Cardinals in 1987) in a recent post on his blog resonated with me.  Throughout a lot of my life and ministry I have violated that maxim, and I have seen many in ministry do the same.

Again, let me confess, that I have often been guilty of this.  I also believe this offense is rampant in the body of Christ.

Why Not?  If we know it, but don't KNOW it, what harm can come from offering well-intentioned advice, common sense, or "discipleship"?

First, it is a spiritual and intellectual stretch.  It is the equivalent of giving someone directions to a place we have not been, giving the recipe for a dish we've never cooked. We give the false impression that we have experience enough to offer insight.  It's taken as "gospel".  And we are out on a limb in that relationship we cannot be certain will hold.

Once out on that limb we're distanced from those we intended to help.  This inhibits connection, friendship, and intimacy.  If what we've offered doesn't prove to be helpful the person is left to think either that we don't know what we are talking about, or more harmfully, that they somehow fouled it up (again).  It doesn't leave a lot of room for deepening relationship or meeting each other in our broken places, when we speak with confidence on trails we haven't traveled.

There are some things only old people know.  There are some things that can only come in time.  Morgan Snyder says, "There are no shortcuts in the Kingdom."  When we speak with authority on things that haven't yet "become a part of us" we make others think that fruit can grow without roots. In the natural world things take time to grow.  Apple trees take years to bear fruit.  An acorn dives a deep tap root down looking for water long before it is a sprout, much less a full grown tree.  Jesus was prepared for ministry by 30 years of life.  His disciples were covered in the dust of this Rabbi day in day out for 3 years.  And they still didn't get it.  Those same disciples wrote their accounts decades, lifetimes later, I believe, in large part, because they needed that long for their experiences to take root in the deep, healthy soil of a long life. 

Giving information and advice to people when we haven't yet walked that road encourages the  Questions/Answers Education model rather than the Process/Wisdom Experience path.  It is prevalent inside institutions to give answers to questions and call that education.  But that way (Q&A/Education) is an elementary process which doesn't produce good students, learners, or disciples.  It produces people dependent on "others" and commonly held notions rather than a lifetime process of organic intimacy with God.  Scripture implores the older to share their experience with the younger (not that the younger have nothing to offer, see Timothy).  Paul spent an extended time after his encounter with Jesus before beginning his outward ministry.  We can offer truth, grounded in scripture coupled with our experience walking with God. Thereby we encourage the idea that entering into a process gives us wisdom from the pairing of our knowledge with our experience.

I find it interesting that Jesus' invitation to learn was "Follow me."  It was an invitation to come  and be discipled by means of hearing his words, walking his paths, and sharing his trials alongside him rather than into anything that resembled a modern-day classroom or church.  Somewhere along the way we (as individuals, and certainly inside the institutional church) have lost that kind of "knowing".  We've settled for educators who teach our leaders by passing on knowledge.  Those leaders then pass on that knowledge to others.  And few of us have much experience with God.

Gordon Dalbey says in his book Healing the Masculine Soul, "Godly instruction only hits its mark after an encounter with the Living God."  In other words, all the teaching without experience with God  misses it's mark.  It can't take root. 

And so, I ask forgiveness from God and my brothers and sisters in Christ for the times I offer advice rather than that which has taken root in my life.  And I pray that we'll allow God to teach us in a new way, and in turn share with others the things we know not the things we think we know.

What about you?  Thoughts?  Confessions?  Questions?