Aug 06, 2009
Almost eight years ago I preached a sermon called “Losing Your Religion” that has gone on to become the most listened to sermon we have. (You can find it on my myspace page -- http://www.myspace.com/darinhufford). At the beginning of that sermon I asked the people what they were willing to give up in order to truly know the heart of God. What, in their system of beliefs would they lay down if it meant that they could know God just a little more? Little did I know, that was the question of the hour. That very question would be the theme of my life for the next 7 years.
About nine years ago when I started preaching the “Love Series”, I recall sitting in my office alone one day realizing in one life-changing moment that EVERYTHING I had been taught about the heart of God was wrong. I remember coming to the realization that I was going to have to learn an entirely new language. My speech was inundated with phrases, clichés, tones, expressions, slogans and sayings that were all tightly woven with “Churchyness.” Even the way I told a story or related an experience that had happened to me was accented by a Churchy religious drawl. I had what I refer to today as an "Institutional Accent." Unknowingly, I had developed an entire language, attached with mannerisms, expressions, reasoning patterns and voice inflections that were typical of the religious world I came from. Even inner things such as how I processed information or the way I thought and reasoned in different situations was patterned according to the institutional mindset. I realized in that one altering moment alone in my office that I was about to learn an entirely new language, and in doing so, I would have to recover from years of having a spiritual speech impediment. It was as if I was a stroke victim and I was faced with the daunting task of relearning everything from the ground up.
The world has learned to identify this religious accent almost immediately. If you watch shows like “The Simpsons” you can see it recreated beautifully in the “Reverend Love Joy.” He sounds like a typical mid-western Christian pastor. His thinking, his reasoning, and even the way he talks is representative of an entire generation of “Christianese.”
Christianese is more than just a few catch phrases and clichés. It goes way deeper than that. This culture actually invades your individuality and causes you to begin to behave like a clone from the inside out. It affects your inner being if you let it. Before you know it, you can't tell the difference between tradition and scripture. This was my biggest discovery as I entered "the wild." I was amazed at how heartless I had become because of my religion. I knew I needed something to revive my heart, and I needed it bad. It had been fed a steady diet of tradition for ten years and had become blind and deaf to God's heart.
I remember reading how Jesus would rebuke the Pharisees for doing things "for the sake of their traditions" rather than from the heart. I also remember thinking to myself, "Boy, I'm glad we don't do that today." Little did I know at that time almost everything I was doing was tradition. The more I began to actually study what was in the Bible and what wasn't, I found that pretty much all of the stuff I had believed was nothing but church tradition.
When I was willing to give that stuff up, I finally started to see God with more clarity. The better my vision got, the more I started to realize that I never knew Him at all. He wasn't anything like what they had told me my entire life. He didn't even resemble the god of church. He was something so exquisitely different that the church god looked silly in comparison.
I would never have seen these things unless I was willing to give up what I thought I knew. For me personally, it was a journey of separating out things I "held to" because I was told they were the center of Christian faith, from things I actually had experienced first hand and believed because of that experience. In the process of that separation taking place, I slowly and embarrassingly found that the stuff I "held to" far outweighed the stuff I "believed from experience." Actually, that's an understatement. I really found that about 99% of my religion was stuff I "held to" and 1% was stuff I had actually experienced.
It seemed that the stuff I held to, was getting in the way of my having an actual experience. The lines of tradition wouldn't allow life to take place outside of their boundaries. Consequently, nothing took place. I came to a point where I had to take one thing at a time, analyze it, compare it to actual scripture or personal experience and either toss it or keep it. To my amazement, I found myself tossing almost all of it. The more I tossed, the more I could see God's true heart.
Shedding your institutional accent can take a lifetime, but at every point when we drop something dead, we pick up something alive. Living in the wild requires a steady diet of life.
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