Creating Culture

Just finished my second book of the week, John Burke’s No Perfect People Allowed.  Great book, full of grace-filled stories that made me cry more than once.  Burke is the lead pastor at Gateway Church in Austin.

I took a few notes but was drawn into the book more holistically than I expected, so the note-taking was minimal.  Initially I was underlining passages with glee – until I realized that this copy belongs to someone else.  My pastor, actually.  I hope he doesn’t mind that I wrote all over the first chapter in his book.
A few salient points from my reading:
  • Burke quotes Barna in a profound statement about the church’s role in today’s world:  “(…the role the church must play is) that of a loving, authoritative, healing and compelling influence on the world.”  Boy, I love that – loving, authoritative, healing and compelling.  Sounds a lot like Jesus.
  • Truth has become relational.  That’s why our stories matter so much.  Jesus manifests His presence through His work in people’s lives.
  • We are dealing with a generation of chaos, often a result of a lack of trust.  So many people have been damaged by families and relationships – how can they easily trust in God?
  • People resist arrogance – one of the questions they will ask when they look at Christians is, “Do I want to be like you?”  If the answer is no, we have a problem.
  • Burke says “Nothing has been more difficult for me than to watch people react in destructive ways to brokenness.”  Acting out of brokenness – even as a believer – can destroy you.  The church must be a lighthouse of hope.
  • Burke says, “Statements like ‘Christ died for your sins’ and ‘God so loved the world’ have been leached of all meaning for today’s seekers.”  They won’t believe it until they experience it from those who claim to follow Him.
  • “To create a culture of grace, a leader must first experience grace – then give it out liberally.”  (Excuse me for a moment while I thank God for this, which has been my experience and which has been the impetus for my present situation.  For which I am thankful, and by which I am overwhelmed….)
  • Give up trying to fix people.  Accept and love them in order to reconnect them with God. 
  • In order to lead others, you have to willingly follow God.
The book’s most compelling section is titled Mental Monogamy:  Creating a Culture of Sexual Wholeness.  It’s a fascinating, honest look at the way culture interprets and internalizes sexual behavior.  Burke quotes Mike Starkey, who says, “Ours is a culture crying out for intimacy, but only able to conceive of accessing it through sex.”  It’s a great discussion of why God’s wisdom and ways bring life, and how that applies to our sexuality.  Burke focuses on helping people become rightly related to God and truly willing to follow Christ, then guiding them to the freedom of following his ways.  He says, “If we try to force people to morally approximate the gospel before they have the source of life-giving water, we spiritually dehydrate them.”  It’s a great examination of why and how God’s plan for sexual wholeness comes with the mandate for sexual intimacy to be within the confines of the marriage bed, and how the church can create a culture for restoration and sexual wholeness so that God’s spirit can change hearts and heal lives.
Good stuff; lots of inspiration here for ministry, for our church, for the future.  Burke’s book is incredibly moving, with powerful stories from real people who were turned off by Christians and by the church, but drawn to into relationship with Jesus once the cultural clutter was cleared away.
Lots for me to think about and process.