We (my partner Benton Stokes and I) are hosting a retreat in two weeks called God For Recovering Evangelicals. We chose the name because it's ear-catching, and because many of our students are, in fact, coming out as post-evangelicals.
The material is actually called God Ideas For Joyful Living, and I'm kinda wishing we'd stuck with that, because all of us--each and every one of us, religious or not, Christian or not--have ideas about God (or the ultimate reality, whatever you call that) that don't lead us toward joy. That's okay, I guess, but most of us don't even know we believe them.
For example, a lot of our School For Seekers students were taught at least one of these ideas:
- If you give your church a chunk of your income, God will reward you financially.
- God loves you enough to allow you into heaven when you die unless you commit some particular sin. (Usually one that isn't in the 10 Commandments.)
- Beauty is a gift from God. Disease is a punishment.
- If you pray correctly and fervently, using the right name of God, God will give you what you want--beauty, healing, wealth, freedom from addiction, et cetera. (And if you don't get what you want, you didn't pray right.)
- If you face temptations or struggles, either God is testing your faith or the Devil is leading you astray.
Did you grow up with ideas like these?
Do you still believe them?
When they enroll in our courses, most of our students think that they don't believe these childhood ideas. Then they notice that when conflict hits or tragedy strikes--car accident, job loss, illness, death of a loved one--they begin to wonder why God is punishing them. Sometimes our students discover that they believe all prayers are answered with either "Yes!" or [silence].
Why does this matter? Your deep beliefs motivate your actions. Your core ideas shape the way you perceive reality. If you think that you believe one idea but you really believe another, your actions will almost never get you the result you think you want.
Like, if you have the idea that God is all-loving and all-powerful, but really believe, deep down, that God is watching for you to mess up, you won't fully experience God's love. We don't experience love when we are afraid, and fear of making mistakes or disappointing God is a big block to love.
In our God For Recovering Evangelicals retreat, you won't be bullied or tempted into a particular set of rules about tithing, prayer, punishment, demons, heaven, or anything else.
You will discover what your actions tell you that you actually believe.
You will discover where your ideas and your beliefs conflict, and how that affects your life.
You will be offered ancient and traditional ways of thinking about God to try on and test.
And God will draw near--not because you've been "good," but because you will notice God's loving and abiding presence.
God Ideas For Joyful Living is our core course for one reason: You have to know what you believe, really believe, if you want your life to change. I have seen lives transformed, and people more open to joy, more at ease in the world, than they have ever been.
The material, and our approach to it, works.
What you believe matters. We can help you discover it.
Register here: rediscovergod.eventbee.com
Register by May 10 and pay just $295 for everything--food, teaching, materials, worship, quiet, and fellowship. We are holding the retreat at my home, 15 minutes from the Nashville airport, on three acres of green. If you come in from out of town we'll help you find a place to stay.