About That Tweet (What Are The Barns?)

Two days ago, on Monday evening, I tweeted

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 9.43.50 PM

Then, concerned that I sounded a little too destructive, I tweeted

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 9.44.39 PM

A text smiley face makes everything go down easier, right?

So, about that tweet.

It generated some lively discussion. People asked good questions. And some of those questions made me realize…

How I’m defining “barns” might not be what others assume I was talking about.

I’m not talking about buildings.

Just like I’m not wanting to go into the steel and cement bridge-building business, I’m also not considering becoming a pyromaniac. I’m not talking about burning down church buildings. I’m not against buildings. In fact, our church desperately needs another one.

For me, the “barns” represent an inward focus, and the “bridges” represent an outward focus.

The church’s love of building bigger barns is seen in the endless ways we go about empire-building. I’m talking about Christianity as a brand. Christianity as a political party. Christianity as an entertainment industry. Christianity as a retail product sold at LifeWay and Christian Supply stores. Christianity as denominationalism and tribalism. Christianity as Christian celebrity worship.

Christianity… built for, and consumed by Christians.

Now, I get it. I’m a Christian too…

And I read the books. I’ve listened to a few Christian songs in my day (I’m not a big fan of Kirk Cameron and Christian movies – but that’s just a matter of taste, I think).

I suppose I benefit from the barns. They have been built for, and consumed by me – Mr. White Christian American.

But I don’t really want to see bigger barns built.

I’m not interested in…




Christian Celebrity Status-


Honestly, I ‘d rather burn the barns and build bridges. Or at least re-purpose the materials and use them for bridge-building.

I would rather see those billions of Christian entertainment dollars spent on meeting the needs of hurting people in our country. I would rather see our denominational hierarchies flattened. I would rather see more listening on our part and less defending of our beliefs and rules in a post-Christian society. I would rather see less protest and more compassion. I would rather see less inward-focus and more outward-focus. I would rather see hungry children around the world fed than…

You know what I mean. Less empire. And more bridges.

Bridges to those who have been hurt, abused, kicked-out, overlooked, labeled, ignored, and vilified by the Christian brand – our bigger-barn-building empire.

Less empire. More bridges.

That’s all. That’s what I meant by “barns” and “bridges.”

Right now, Ellie Goulding’s song is playing in my head…

And we gonna let it burn burn burn burn


I’m interested in your perspective.

What do you think?

Would you add any description to “barns” that need to burn?

Thoughts on bridge-building?


I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

8 Comments to About That Tweet (What Are The Barns?)

  1. Danielle P.

    Less mental or physical constructs from which to stand and call people over towards us? More avenues to go out and find them where they are already standing?

  2. I’m glad you elaborated on this today because I thought a lot about your tweet on Monday and didn’t responded because I didn’t agree with what I thought you were implying.

    I love the local church and I think it is incredibly important. I have been part of the church my entire life and I never plan on that changing. DJ and I are dedicated to serving the church and teaching our kids to do the same. Not because it’s some building – but because of what it can do.

    People want to be a part of something, they want to feel loved and welcomed, they want to build relationships – the church can provide that, and should provide that to all people.

    The relationships I have built within the church have saved me in some of the most unsure times in my life. I know I have benefited from the “barns.”

    It’s when the church becomes an inward focused, “members only” club that things get weird. When churches use their resources to make themselves bigger and better, or to offer another seminar to keep their members “comfy” – I don’t like that.

    That’s why I love NWLife so much. Our doors are open, we’re looking outside of our own little walls, we’re not interested in “bigger and better”, we’re all about those bridges. By the grace of God we’re providing meals and backpacks, and groceries, and the hope that people may need that day.

    It’s not about making a name for ourselves, it’s about loving people.

    So for me and my house – we’re going to stay focused on building those bridges. To make everyone we can feel loved and accepted just as they are, to not worry about a name, a brand, an empire, a popularity contest.

    We’re simply trying to point people to Jesus. I don’t got time for that other stuff.

  3. Something I read from Jonathan Martin today seems to parallel this barn-burning imagery I’ve attempted to use…

    “For a moment, let me frame this in light of the broader tradition: Pentecostalism, rightly understood, is a critique of/radical alternative to evangelicalism, not a subset of it. Pentecostals who act like fundamentalists while simply adding speaking in tongues don’t understand their own tradition. Pentecostalism, at its core, is misfit religion; it is spirituality on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. When people who can’t find any other place to belong elsewhere come together and share a combustible experience of the Spirit, Pentecost happens. Pentecost is what happens in Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Revelation,” when Ruby Turpin gets hit upside the head by grace, enabling her to finally see the heavenly battalion of freaks, misfits, and nice respectable people, too—all together on their march to glory.

    The Spirit is the ultimate non-conformist, the archenemy of the efficiency so much contemporary church culture prizes above all else. To be clear, there are many deeply Pentecostal people that are not in Pentecostal churches. The Spirit people—the subversive people—are in all parts of the Church. But I am especially grateful we have had more than our fair share of them in community with us here.

    Whenever and wherever people don’t domesticate the Spirit—when they say yes to God where the system says no—that’s Pentecost. When old ecclesiastical power structures burn down, there’s a big tent underneath the night sky where the Spirit says, “come on in.” That’s Pentecost. Pentecost is big tent religion. It’s an open tent with no sides to it. Everyone is welcome. As it was in Acts when the Spirit fell on the house of Cornelius, and the “wrong people” were then participating in the power of God … as it was in 1906 when the Spirit fell at Azuza Street, shocking the world with its multi-ethnic worship and its women preachers … Pentecost is scandal. It seems you can’t get more progressive than the Spirit of God, because the Spirit brings the future reign of God into the present, disrupting all our existing categories of left and right and Jew and Gentile and male and female and slave and free, making all things new.”

    Taken from: http://renovatuschurch.com/#/newsevents/a-letter-from-pastor

  4. Danielle P.

    Wow, I’m blown away. Now I know what to call myself, and gosh darn it, you’ll have to excuse me for being less upset than I expected to be.. I’m a real Pentecostal Christian. In the rightly understood meaning of the word, I mean. In one way, I am shocked. But that is only because I didn’t know my definition of “Pentecost” was wrong. I had understood it to be more like fundamentalism + speaking in tongues. Then, in another way, I feel very relieved. Because I experience Pentecost every single day, almost everywhere I go, but I did not know what to call it. Imagine how curious I was for a definition!! And the description on that “Renovatus” blog writer gave, makes the utmost sense. If Pentacostalism is the term for, combustible experiences of the Spirit which happen between misfits, random types of believers, unbelievers, and whoever else happens to be in the “barn/room” then I definitely fit right into that category. Yay, I know my category!!!.. The non-category.. Bahaha

  5. I just have to say, I love all of this.

    This is exactly what I would love to see happen in churches everywhere. I think that any of us that carry wounds and scars from church are looking for this very thing. I’m. Thankful today for my online community – I’m finding the embodiment of this there. Thankful that you are a part of it as well.

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