Living In Perfect Harmony [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookAs I mentioned here last week, I published a book on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”.

As I was recently revisiting this book, I came across a chapter or two that I wanted to share again.

And so that is what I’m doing again here today!

Today’s post is particularly interesting in light of two previous posts this week, Our Experience at the Hill Cumorah Pageant and The Need to Be Right (Can Be So Wrong!).

This is the official book version—the chapter from the book. As such, it’s been edited, partially re-written, and should be a tad more complete than the original posting on the blog in 2005.

If you’d like to get the whole book, please click the Bookstore tab at the top of the page, and you can purchase a copy through Amazon. Thanks!

(Want to read the back cover?)

And now, “Living In Perfect Harmony”

Living In Perfect Harmony

Last night I had a conversation with a friend about some of the choices we have made recently in how we live out our relationship with Jesus. Our close friends know how we have struggled recently with the current (and long-standing) set up of the “church”. How it frustrates us that we have tied our weekly programmed gatherings into the essence of who we are as the church, and things of that nature. This friend disagrees with our conclusions, and just wanted to ask me about some scriptures, in a slightly confrontational way. (Not bad confrontation. No malice was evident, only concern for a friend.)

Well, we went around a few times on a few scriptures, and ideas and practices that some would consider essential, others might not. We definitely had differing conclusions on similar scriptures. Again, we did not throw punches, but there did not appear to be any reconciling of our intellectual differences.

And to my friend, they seemed important. Very important.

So I tried to make a break in the conversation and get us out of the loop of arguing our different vantage points on truth, and try to come to some agreement. Even an agreement to disagree. We agreed to continue the discussion at a later date. That was at least a good step I think.

I still believe that if we argue “truth”, it will only cause relational friction. I have a few friends who are at least skeptics, and on many days they are more like atheists who need to speak their mind to God. (Which is at least a little ironic.) But what I have noticed is that when viewpoints are in such stark opposition, the arguing is mostly just wasting time. No opinion will be swayed by such banter. No “truth” will be settled by an argument. I really believe that nothing can be gained in such a confrontation.

They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong, the Lord's power will help them do as they should.(Note: That is not to say there is no place for confrontation. If there is a person whom you love who is clearly doing something that will harm them, there is a place for direct and unpleasant confrontation. It most likely will not resolve the issue at that moment, but can certainly lead to better choices down the road. If, as in everything, it is done “in love”. Real love. Not just, “I say this in love” love.)

It has become obvious to me that the only way the give and take can happen in relationships is when differences are 1) accepted and 2) discussed when not in conflict. If there is any hint of “I’m right, you’re wrong” then no relational progress will be made. And again, the emphasis should be on relational progress and not on intellectual, factual “truth” progress. In my opinion.

So after that conversation, I just realized how incredibly different we were. (At least, in the specific area of life we were discussing.) And actually, how badly I had responded. He brought a few things into the conversation that I personally think are silly, void of meaning practices, and, unfortunately, I laughed as he brought them up. I was only thinking of me at that point (I was slightly on the defensive, I suppose, too) and I reacted as though he were not a person capable of being hurt. I hope he was not, but I realized after he left (very much to my chagrin) that I had reacted very unlovingly to some things that he holds to be very important.

As I thought about it more—both my reaction and the issues he raised—I recalled a chapter in the letter Paul wrote to the church in Rome about the very thing we were discussing. And, again, my reactions in that conversation.

I read it today, and I was blown away by the applicable truths I found. I need to quote large chunks of scripture below. Please do read it all, and I will add my comments as we go.

Romans 14:1-4
Accept Christians who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it is all right to eat anything. But another believer who has a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who think it is all right to eat anything must not look down on those who won’t. And those who won’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

Oh wow. I have read this before, and in Bible college, it was a good source of humor to say that, “Vegetarians have weak faith!” That’s obviously not the point, and the comment was made in jest, but funny how even in jest we were criticizing, as Paul is warning us not to do.

Two things. One, don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. And two, to whom do we belong?.

First, as I mentioned to my friend, I really don’t think arguments over what is right or wrong will really go anywhere. God has given us much more freedom than the institution of the church is able to allow for. An institution, by nature, must have some set of guidelines or principals to adhere to that separate it from any other organization, and society at large. Otherwise, it would have no reason to exist. So there is a bit of conformity necessary for its very existence. But that is not so of Jesus’ body. We do not conform to the pattern of this world, but we are transformed by him.

Therein lies the other, deeper truth.

He does it. It’s his body. His church. He knows his servants, and he will lead them. This theme is present through this entire section of Paul’s letter. Who are we to question the practices or beliefs of another brother or sister (that are not specifically against the revealed will of God for all of us) in any matter? Paul says they (we) are “God’s servants.” The owner is not the person in question. Nor can they, nor should they be controlled by other servants. The Owner is Jesus Christ.

Listen to this powerful line again:

They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

Wow. What if we really lived that way? What if we really trusted God to take care of his own people? They are not responsible to you, or me, or any group of elders, pastors, apostles, or anyone else who cares to wield the authority of a title over them. They are personally responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

I say this with such emphasis because I think this piece is so lacking from our corporate life together. Even our individual lives with God. We really don’t believe he’ll do it. We know he can, but in order to be responsible, and keep things going in a good direction, we have to make things happen. We can’t trust God to speak truth into someone’s life. We need to do it. And when the task grows too large, we arrange any sort of structure—rigid or not—to implement that “back-up” plan.

In short, we don’t allow room for Holy Spirit to convict and transform people, we feel like we need to do that. Because he won’t.

Well who do we think we are?

Amazing stuff. Please read on.

Rom 14:5-9
In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter. Those who have a special day for worshiping the Lord are trying to honor him. Those who eat all kinds of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who won’t eat everything also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose, so that he might be Lord of those who are alive and of those who have died.

Arguing from the same line of thinking, Paul partially turns his focus from food to a subject that hits much closer to home currently. He says that some Christians have a special day for worshipping. And he does not say this is good or bad. He says it just is. But what we do with that is where the good or bad arises. We should not condemn someone for not holding a certain day sacred, or worshipping on the day we do. Nor should we condemn someone who does have a “special day for worshipping the Lord.” That line obviously hit home, as one thing that irks me about our current structure is the emphasis we place on Sunday. How we even call it both the Sabbath and the first day of the week, which are incompatible terms. (Sabbath was Saturday, while the first day was Sunday, and in our culture, I’d say the first day would be Monday.) But again, the details are not important. Paul says, “Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter.” Whoa! Really? Is that how we live corporate Christian life today? I don’t think so. I think because of the nature of a large institution, we require a bit of conformity, that Paul says here is unhealthy to individuals and to the body.

Romans 14:10-13
So why do you condemn another Christian? Why do you look down on another Christian? Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say,
    “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
    ‘every knee will bow to me
       and every tongue will confess allegiance to God.’”

Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God. So don’t condemn each other anymore. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian’s path.

I just want to point out again that Paul is emphasizing that we are not to call each other to a life according to your own conscience, but to their own conscience. He says we will each give a personal account to God. So, if I do something because you tell me to, even if that doesn’t really match what I am thinking or hearing from God or my understanding of Scripture—if it goes against my conscience—then I will have to answer to God for doing something that I did not think was right.

But at least my helpful Christian brothers and sisters will think I am right. I look like them.

We do not own other people, or have a say in what is right or wrong for them. Nor do they. They answer personally, and directly to their Master and their Father.

Romans 14:14-19
I know and am perfectly sure on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another Christian is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be condemned for doing something you know is all right.

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

I think that’s it. I think, as I mentioned at the top, that relationship is the key. Not an intellectual understanding of truth, but neither is it devoid of any absolute truth. It is the truth applied in love and lived out in relationship. As Paul says, aiming for harmony as we build each other up. I do like how he uses the words “aim” and “try”. He knows we are all flawed. Every one of us. So complete harmony is impossible. But it should be our aim to only speak words of love that build up and encourage harmony among us.

It is interesting to note that Paul actually makes a definitive statement regarding the morality of what we eat or drink. He says he knows for sure from Jesus that everything is OK. And yet, that absolute knowledge of truth can not supersede relationship. The relationship is paramount. Not the intellectual truth.

Also, he reminds us that the Kingdom is not a matter of what we eat or drink—or what days we hold as special, or even what we do on those days, I suppose—he says it is a matter of living a life of goodness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Again, the focus is not on a factual truth, but a life of love toward one another directed by Holy Spirit—not requirements or restrictions placed on us by others.

Romans 14:20-23
Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves. But it is wrong to eat anything if it makes another person stumble. Don’t eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another Christian to stumble. You may have the faith to believe that there is nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by doing something they know is all right. But if people have doubts about whether they should eat something, they shouldn’t eat it. They would be condemned for not acting in faith before God. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.

I noticed that Paul specifically included drink wine in here. There is a taboo associated with alcohol among some groups of Christians in America these days. I wonder if the same was true in Rome in the first century? Well, Paul’s truth then applies the same today. Jesus says there is nothing inherently wrong with any food or drink, but as he has led each individual, so must they choose. If it’s wrong for you, don’t do it. If it’s wrong for the brothers or sisters you are with, don’t do it. Food or drink—or your own freedom—is not worth the conscience of a fellow believer.

What an interesting chapter. It has given me pause again to consider my reactions to things spoken of, or done by the believers whose lives I come across. God is working in their lives, and who am I to say how they live out their relationship with him is either good or bad?

Please don’t interpret the words in this book that way. That is not my intent. I do not want followers. I don’t want to convince anyone that I am right about anything. This is a place where I get to work out stuff that Father is teaching and working in me, and I hope that by sharing it here, perhaps you may hear something from him as well. But it is certainly not intended to be taken at face value and applied to your life.

I am not your teacher. I am not your master. I am only a fellow servant, who longs to know and follow our Master, and our Friend. He is who I answer to, and so do you. Not anyone else who would presume to take his place. Listen to him, and follow him. Do as your conscience tells you to on matters where he has given us freedom.

Some might balk at that. In fact, I know they would. That, they say, will lead to anarchy. But it won’t. Listen to Paul’s claim one more time:

They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

We rob each other of so much joy in directly following the Head, our Shepherd, our Master. He can, he does, and he will rightly lead us to Truth. To Him.

I supposed that is my challenge. To me, and to you. Let’s allow each other to live out a life directed personally by Jesus. Let’s use our words to encourage and build up, not to condemn a fellow believer when that is so clearly not our place.

You do not belong to me, nor do I belong to you. Together, we follow Jesus. And none other.

This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

The Need to Be Right (Can Be So Wrong!)

Right vs. WrongSomehow, through the centuries and millennia of history, religious folk have gotten the notion that the supreme goal of their spiritual pursuit is to know the right answer—to find and know the Truth. With a capital ‘T’.

Certainly a goal of spiritual hunger is to find answers, enlightenment, and ‘truth’.

But just what that means—”What is truth?”, to quote Pontius Pilate—has been, and continues to be, the cause of such great fracture.

The Focus Is Wrong

If you take a photo of someone, but somehow you focus on the background rather than the subject (the person), you end up with a picture of the wrong thing. What you intended to capture is blurry and secondary, while the extraneous surrounding is what your eye is drawn to. The intended subject is still present, but it’s secondary and you must look hard to find it.

Truth is certainly important. You can do a search through Scripture right now for the word “truth” and, my goodness, the results are plentiful!

But Jesus said:

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!”—John 5:39


“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6

Jesus spells it out: he is Truth. Truth is not a concept, or a list of correct answers, doctrines, beliefs, practices—it’s a person. The person of Jesus.

His Kingdom is so much less about the what (what we should or shouldn’t do) or the where (church, temple, Israel, etc.) and so much more about the whom (God, others) and the why (because he loves us).


But we keep making “truth” about what we know, and especially our interpretations of it, don’t we?

Why do you think there are so many religions? How about just within Christianity? There are approximately 41,000 organizations who call themselves Christians, but separate themselves as “different” from the other 40,999.

We make our differences much more important than what we hold in common.

¡Ay, ay, ay!

The words Paul wrote to Timothy would be helpful to folks today who argue over “truth”:

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.—2 Timothy 2:23-25

The point is that we need to care much less—almost to the point of not caring—about being right and much more about living as greatly loved children of God, loving his other children—and I mean all of them. (Whether or not we agree with them. On anything!)

When we are “right” it makes us smug, self-righteous, and somehow “different” than “them”. Which is not how it is. We are all in the same boat. All in need of grace. All made in the image of God. And all given the ability to freely choose to know him, or not. (And the best part might be that He himself doesn’t seem to be in as much of a rush for us to “get it right” as most people who identify themselves by his name!)

What It’s All About

I read a blog post this morning at Donald Miller’s blog (by a guest author) that ended with this paragraph:

Amazing grace binds us with its simple message that keeps us together. Despite our differences, we are a people tied to each other in love. So we will keep singing “Amazing Grace” and we keep kneeling in the waters of grace so we can always love one another.

The author told the story of how she always thought better of herself for her distinguished taste in music for not liking the song Amazing Grace. However, in one moment when she saw that through the song community/unity was experienced and enjoyed, it was an epiphany for her of what really matters. Not the “truth” of a song’s worth, but each other, and sharing and celebrating what we have in common—made possible through grace.

You see, that’s what this is all about.

We can either hold our ground and fight for “the truth”, OR, we can accept the Truth that God loves every person he created, more than we can possibly imagine, and it’s not our job to change them, convert them, save them, or even condemn them. That’s all his job. We are just to surrender ourselves completely to him, follow him, and as he leads, use every opportunity he places before us to love other people as we ourselves have been loved.

That’s really it.

It’s not about whether baptism saves you, or if you’ve received the gift of the Holy Spirit, or if Allah is the same God that Christians worship, or if Mormons are Christians. It’s not about when and how Jesus will return, whether you are “Once Saved, Always Saved”, free will or predestination.

It’s just not.

It’s about loving God (because you are loved) and loving others.1

In Ephesians, Paul exhorts the believers there to be united, despite their differences. I love the line from early in that chapter, “Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Perfectly said, and oft-repeated in our home.

Listen to how he concludes those thoughts:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.—Ephesians 4:31-32

Yes. Please. Let’s do.

Sometimes We ‘Get it Right’

Now go get a box of tissues, and read this article. 21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity.

Sometimes we transcend the “need to be right” and cross boundaries that we’re “not supposed to cross”, and we just love. Really love.

I believe, that’s who we are meant to be.

We’re not meant to be the ones who are Right. We are meant to know the One who makes Right.

I rediscovered a very related (and pretty funny!) post from this blog’s past. If you have the interest and time to read more, please read Be A Christian!! And, somewhat related: check out this post from even longer ago!

Mormon protesters, Palmyra, NY during Hill Cumorah Pageant in July

Our Experience at the Hill Cumorah Pageant

Mormon protesters, Palmyra, NY during Hill Cumorah Pageant in July

Photo credit: Vasiliy Baziuk/Messenger Post

“You’re all sinners! You are an abomination to God!!”

These words were angrily spit at the thousands of people peacefully passing through the entrance to the Hill Cumorah Pageant’s last showing for 2013—an event which was attended by this writer and his wife.

Friends of ours participated in the Pageant this year. They played various roles up front. We met them after we entered, and they were dressed in their appropriate costumes and headdresses.

Other friends were part of the groups verbally, abusively accosting people as they entered.1

(Fascinating, huh?)

It was truly such a fascinating range of thoughts and emotions as we proceeded from our parked vehicle into the Pageant grounds. You could certainly call it surreal. Many people—many of them families, with young children—quietly progressed toward the entrance. As we walked, the first thing you notice—you can’t miss it!—is a man shouting awful things over a bullhorn. Then, as you reach the entrance, emergency vehicles surround it, lights flashing, since traffic needs to be managed on these nights. At this entrance are a dozen or two folks aggressively passing out literature to everyone who passes by. (I was glad when they did seem to allow for refusals, though.)

Once you have passed through the somewhat foreboding entrance, you are greeted by many friendly, costumed folks who will direct you wherever you’d like to go, if you desire. No aggression here, just welcome.

Yet, the angry, shouting voice marches on. His bullhorn is directed at the seated crowd, inside the event.

“It’s 19th-century fiction! Joseph Smith was a [insert several negative things here]!!”

Jen and I proceeded to the popcorn stand (she loves snacks while taking in a show!) and waited there in line, marveling at the very strange environment. The yelling man (actually, there may have been at least two) continued, audible over the sounds of a passive crowd of hundreds, and thousands.

As the line progressed we noticed that one of the helpers was wearing a baseball shirt from our home school sports league! We did not recognize this boy, but introduced ourselves and had a nice chat with him. He and his sister were helping their grandparents serve the popcorn and Pepsi. (Apparently not all Christians feel the need to venomously denounce every person at this event?)

When the show began, the yelling stopped. I was grateful; several times throughout the night I noticed and was grateful that the grating (degrading?) invectives had ceased being launched from just outside the peaceful confines of the temporary outdoor theater.

The Pageant itself was equally fascinating to me, a non-LDS person. We are perhaps more familiar with the LDS church based on our living in this town, and our friendship with members of that church, but I had never seen that presentation before. The thing that most struck me is how the story seemed to mimic so many familiar Bible stories, but with different names and places. The story’s elements seemed to be “drawn from” (or at least be very similar to) sections of both the Old and New Testaments. The general story is the tale of a family of Israelites heeding the prophets’ warnings of the destruction of Jerusalem (pre-exile2) and eventually finding their way to North and South America, and all that transpired there, all the way up to Joseph Smith being shown the location of the brass plates containing the stories we had just been told of that family and their descendants.

It really was fascinating.

But even more fascinating—and my main point here today—was the angry voice(s) starting up again as soon as the stage show was finished.

Mormon protesters in Village of Palmyra during Hill Cumorah Pageant in July

Photo credit:

I really don’t fault the motives of these folks. They are sincerely wanting to help people whom they see as on the path to hell. In their minds and hearts, it is vitally important for the folks they are “helping” (and maybe for their own consciences?) that they speak out as often as possible against this boldfaced lie.

The trouble is, sincerity and right-motives don’t always align with truth and liberty—not to mention religious freedom that we so value in this country.

C. S. Lewis said the following regarding “having others’ best interest in mind” as the motivation for your actions:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”—C. S. Lewis

I don’t think this need only apply to governments and tyrants. There seems to be a desire to control deep in the heart of mankind. It affects all of us, but perhaps some more than others. And when it is fueled by either a divine directive or just a love for your fellow man …

well, it really gets quite messy.

What I wish I had said to the man with the bullhorn was, “Why on earth are you so angry? What do you hope to accomplish by shouting such nasty things at these people with such audible and visible animosity?” I did not. I honestly was mostly in shock at how anyone could find a logical reason for such actions.

But I do wish I had.

If you are reading this now and you were there this year (2013) or previous years on either side of that protester fence, I’d love to hear your comments as well. I plan to ask our friends who are involved with at least one of the protestor groups how they think they are helping people. They (our friends) were not shouting … so perhaps their group is different?

Regardless, the issue comes down to a religious need to be right.

The article linked below from, written in July 2012, posed the same question that I have been asking since Saturday night (my emphasis added):

“The contrast between their messages of intolerance, their anger and hate, and our music, sense of fellowship and community does a lot to highlight our message of Christian love. They say we’re not Christian,” he continued. “But who’s acting more Christian now?”—Volunteer security guard, Hill Cumorah Pageant

Westboro Baptist church is often maligned for its tactics: shouting hateful things, wearing and hoisting those messages on clothing and banners. These people seemed to be doing the same thing.

When will we Christians learn to let Holy Spirit do the guiding into all truth?3

Perhaps we never will.

do what is right, love mercy,
and walk humbly with your God
—Micah 6:84

For further information and research, please click these links. There are articles and videos that shed more light on what I have written here above. Always good to have a bigger picture!

  1. Thankfully, the people who are friends of ours were only handing out literature with one of these groups, they were not shouting angry, hateful diatribes at everyone passing them by.
  2. See Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the stories in the history books, Kings, Chronicles, etc.
  3. 1 John 2:27, John 16:7-9, etc.
  4. Micah 6:8

¿Saber, o Conocer? [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookSeveral years ago I published a book containing much of the writing on the topic of the Church that I had published here up to that point. Those posts are still available in the archives, and many are still read on a weekly basis.

Just the other day I was flipping through a copy of this book, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church, (I call it “The Church Book”) and came across a chapter that had some really good thoughts that I wanted to share again.

And so that is what I’m doing here today!

This is the official book version—the chapter from the book. As such, it’s been edited, partially re-written, and should be a tad more complete than the original posting on the blog in 2005.

If you’d like to get the whole book, please click the Bookstore tab at the top of the page, and you can purchase a copy through Amazon. Thanks!

(Want to read the back cover?)

And now, “¿Saber, o Conocer?”

¿Saber, o Conocer?

Following up on the last chapter, Information Exchange, I have noticed that it seems everywhere I look, the more noble goal, the thing to most strive for in life is knowledge. We paint scientists and teachers and other fact-based professions as the most honorable, and wisest professions. And then there is our obsession with experts. As a society, we would much sooner trust a person who spent decades of their life in a classroom, than we would a person who has been a close friend for years.

Knowledge reigns supreme.

And we see this even in the church. The place where the wisdom of the world should have no hold, but in fact it does. Our entire concept of church is much more like a university than a family. In my opinion, this should not be. The church is not an educational institution. Jesus did not set up 90-minute classes offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings in the Temple courts. He didn’t establish the School of Jesus, or Nazareth Christian Academy. He just loved people, and revealed truth about life through stories, and through life lived with a few close friends. You’d think if knowledge were indeed supreme, Jesus might have been more intentional about it.

Now, even a quick study of the book of Proverbs, and the Psalms, and even Ecclesiastes and Job (we call them the books of Wisdom) shows how much emphasis the people of God and God himself placed on knowledge. When you read those books, and the verses that specifically mention knowledge, it’s quite evident that knowledge is supreme over all else. It is better than the choicest gold, it will deliver the righteous, and knowledge and understanding come straight from the mouth of God. So, it’s quite obvious that God places a premium on knowledge.

But as I continued to read, one scripture after another about knowledge, something struck me. I have grown up in this culture, and so I first think of knowledge as the stuff of trivia — life deconstructed into lifeless fact and ingested and regurgitated by rows of mindless sponges soaking up so called “knowledge”. We have cheapened knowledge into what in Spanish is called Saber. (Yes, I know, that’s the verb…)

You see, in Spanish, there are two words for the verb, “To know.” (From whence cometh the noun, “Knowledge”.) The word saber means to know stuff. It means I know that my name is Greg. I know that I have three kids. I know that I live in Palmyra, NY. Yo sé. I have learned and can repeat to you those factoids.

The other word would also be translated “to know” but has an entirely different meaning, and a different use. Conocer means to know, and it is more intimate. It is how I know Jen, or my kids, or anything with which I am very familiar, especially people. Yo conozco a mi hijo, Ian. I know my son Ian.

In English, the word looks the same. I know the Bills won this weekend. I know my son, Ian. But in spanish, if I said, “Yo conozco a mi hijo, Ian” and then said, “Yo sé mi hijo Ian” — using two words that could both be translated “to know”, I would end up saying very different things. The former would convey an familiarity with Ian, that I know him personally and intimately, that we have shared life together. The latter would be more correctly translated, “I know of my son, Ian.” It is detached, informational, intellectual knowledge. Personless. Lifeless.

And that’s exactly what we have sometimes. We have switched the words and forgotten to check the meaning. When we see that we need to strive for knowledge — when we understand that knowledge is the commodity we must seek — we are thinking the kind of knowledge that is taught in classrooms. So, we set up lectures and series of lessons, and we create study guides and study Bibles and study groups, and all sorts of tools to fill our minds with the “knowledge of God.” But Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians:

“Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.”
1 Corinthians 8:1

And later, in 1 Timothy, he states:

“[avoid] worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’”
1 Timothy 6:20

Paul knew that there were different kinds of knowledge. One that builds up and should be sought after, and one that isn’t even knowledge at all, and only serves to build up the ego of the person who possesses it.

Consider what Jesus said to a group of people who loved to learn about God and took pride in their knowledge of Him.

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”
John 5:39-40

Jesus points out to these guys that even though they pour through the Scriptures, and read all about the One who is life, they refuse to actually come to Him for real life. They are satisfied with “saber” God rather than “conocer” God. I happen to give them more credit than we usually do in Christian circles. It’s too easy to think of the Pharisees as ugly, grumpy old men who always walked around with a sneer on their faces, pointing and laughing at people for their spiritual inadequacies. I think they were mostly trying, but just did not understand the truth Jesus was getting at.

Jesus said, in the verse I probably quote the most of any that I know — John 17:3 — that “eternal life is to know you, the One true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. That’s it. Not know about him, or to know all the stuff he said or did, or even to know what he wants us to do. Eternal life IS to KNOW GOD. Conocer. Not saber.

Hosea said it like this:

“For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Hosea 6:6

God doesn’t want us to know about him. He wants us to know him, and to be like him. We can never achieve that on our own, but as we hang out with him, and get to know him, it will be a natural outcome of our relationship with him. As we know him more (again, not more about him ) we will be transformed in his likeness.

At nearly every Christian wedding we hear the famous cadence of love from the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthinians. Love is this, love is that, love is not this, love is not that. But at the beginning of the famous part, Paul says very simply that if we have knowledge, but don’t have love, it’s worthless. (1 Corinthians 13:2) We say the words, but don’t heed their meaning.

I am not saying that all of our learning and information dissemination infrastructure is devoid of love. Obviously, the heart of most every Christian leader is to impart (out of love) the knowledge that they have gained of God’s insane love for us. The motive is not in question, just the method of delivery.

Perhaps in all our desire to have “knowledge” we forgot that there are two ways to “know”.

We can know about God, or we can actually know God. We can spit back facts crammed into our head in late night fact ingestion sessions, or we can breathe the familiarity that comes from daily life with our Maker. The choice seems simple to me. You get to choose how you define knowledge. You can pick what you will strive for.

So what will it be? ¿Saber, o Conocer?

This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

[From The Archive] Relating

Highlighting Articles from the Archives!Our recent visit to Ohio for some big family events has given us the opportunity for some great visiting time with relatives and friends we haven’t seen for a long while—some a very long while! Those visits often include shared meals, certainly include sharing stories, and have also included some great conversations about the things God is doing in and around us.

One thing that seems to keep coming up is the way that we people (maybe especially Christians) related to each other; how we “do life” together.

That led me to this re-post today.

It’s a post from January of 2012. And it’s interesting that at the end I say I will continue thinking about this, and looking for what Jesus wants to show me regarding how we relate to each other, and I must admit, I don’t know that I know any more now than I did then! 🙂

Good questions, good thoughts on how our culture (and perhaps others) are often too busy to relate, too busy to enjoy visiting and really doing life together. Not just events and weekly scheduled things, but really sharing your life with others, and theirs with you.

Please enjoy, ponder, and discuss with me:



Question: The reason I post these “From The Archive” posts is that I think the post from years past is worth reading (or even re-reading) and/or currently relevant. But you have to click through and read it. 🙂 Would it be better if I posted the whole of the article/post again, rather than linking to it? In this case, there are already some comments to add to what I had written, which I’d love to just build on. If you have thoughts on how to re-post articles, please comment on that here below. Thanks!

An Open Letter Apology from the Church

church buildingNot that I have any real force behind this open letter to every person on the planet, but it’s what’s on my heart today. For so long, those who claim to know and live for God have been such a harmful representation of him (myself included) that many people wrongly dismiss their rightful place as a beloved, treasured son or daughter of the Creator of the universe.

Toward remedying that, I’d like to state the following:

To the people of planet Earth:

  • We, the church of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, must humbly ask your forgiveness for our self-righteous arrogance. Although we have known that there is freedom in Christ (for all), we have not partaken of this ourselves, nor do we offer it to anyone else—Christian brother or sister, nor our neighbors who do not identify with Jesus. Instead, we continue in the delusion that when we have general success over one temptation toward self gratification (or, sin) then we can claim righteousness of our own doing, setting ourselves apart from all others, and then condemning them for their inability to control their own unrighteousness and sinfulness—despite our own failures in so many other areas of our own lives, including the areas over which we presume mastery.
  • Likewise, we ask your forgiveness for proudly condemning sinfulness in you—again, despite knowing our own sinfulness, and either willingly ignoring it, or dismissing it as “not as bad as yours”. We know that Jesus said he did not come to condemn the world, but to save it, and that he wants for us to have life abundantly. That is not exclusive to existing “club” members, but an offer to each of us who breathe this air. Equally, and unconditionally. God does not show favoritism.
  • We humbly ask you to forgive our hard-line stance on doctrines, which have caused divisions even amongst ourselves for centuries and centuries. Jesus said that we would be known by our love—first for fellow believers, then for all others—and we have mostly been a disastrous example of that, only putting our agendas and doctrines and “rightness” ahead of love for each other, and love for you. Divisiveness fueled by lust for power, selfish ambition, as well as hatred and envy, and again the ever-present, horribly ugly self-righteousness we constantly wear. Please forgive us for loving right doctrine more than loving our neighbors.
  • We, the church, ask you to forgive us for not acknowledging that our true citizenship is not of one earthly nation, nor even of this temporary mortal existence, and in such a state of willful ignorance, repeatedly indulging the lusts of our flesh: pride, materialism and greed, and gluttonies of many kinds—all while mostly living as uninvolved, presumably “unaffected” bystanders, offering to “pray for” anyone in need (more often than actually getting into the mess of hurt and suffering in which many of our neighbors find themselves every day). Please forgive our inactions to this point, and while we know that we can’t make right every wrong in a broken world, we want to live each moment remembering the grace we’ve been extended, and extend that to you, our fellow human beings.
  • We also ask you to forgive the many times our desire to own the only truth has hurt you. Words, once uttered, can not be rescinded. Actions may even be harder to take back. In humility, understanding that we are no better than anyone else, we ask for your forgiveness and wish to restore with you a relationship like Jesus had with all of those with whom he interacted—who would receive him: one of kindness, acceptance, gentleness, no agenda, no desire to control or demand to conform, and no thought to the “reputation” of the person with whom he abided.

May His True Kingdom come.

Grace and Mercy, and the fullness of Jesus Love and Peace we extend to you,
—The Church, Jesus’ beloved bride

The saddest thing is, if we (the church) would simply acknowledge our own imperfection, brokenness, and that we are all created equal (meaning God does not show favoritism, making any of us better by birth than anyone else on the planet) then the Gospel would not be so readily and widely dismissed.

Now, I am not naive (at least, not entirely) … I realize that since God has given us the ability to choose, even if the church were the perfect messenger—being humble, acknowledging imperfection, and only extending grace, mercy, and love and justice to all—every last person on the planet still must choose to believe that God exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (because He wants to, and he invites us to trust him with all that we are, all he has given us). AND, there most certainly is evil in the world. And sin.

And so, there will always be brokenness.

We, the church are broken individuals, and a sadly broken Body. We are made whole in Christ, but as we remain in this world, cursed in sin, we do not yet enjoy the fullness of that wholeness.

But we can endeavor to simply do what is just, love mercy, and walk each step with God in palpable, real humility.

If that were so, fellow Pale Blue Dot dweller, we would know a very different world.

Question With Boldness

Thomas JeffersonThough most people nowadays can conceive of no better poster child for agnosticism (or, at the very least, deism), Jefferson himself may have had a bone to pick with such people.

In a letter to his nephew, on the topic of forming his own views on religion (a topic which he labeled “important”), Thomas Jefferson wrote the following, now reasonably well-known words:

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

(Somewhat of an aside: My favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson’s autobiography regarding his own faith, “…I am a REAL CHRISTIAN…”. Well that about says it.) 🙂

There are (many) times when I think my being appropriately labeled a “Christian” might be questioned by those who determine such things. I believe I’ve written about my borderline-heretical thinking at least once or twice.

In fact, just the other day I was reading through the Old Testament book of Ezekiel and wondering things like, “Wow, this voice of God does not seem to be the same as even the book of Jeremiah, one book before—and he seemed pretty peeved in that book, too! I wonder if some of the books in what we call the Bible are even supposed to be in there? Who says that council got it right?”

Now, proceed with caution here. I am NOT SAYING that I unequivocally, irrevocably believe and hold to be fact that such questions even might be “true” (in the black-and-white sense of “true”) …

But perhaps my reason for such an emphasized statement above is that, in dealing with things of God, it’s sometimes considered heresy merely to question.

And, folks, that is plain wrong. Really, really wrong.

So, I may be a heretic, but I’m going to keep questioning.

Turns out, by the end of Ezekiel there was some really neat stuff in there kinda flipping the “rules and regulations” voice of God (being interpreted through Ezekiel) on its head. Chapter forty-seven has a really neat image of God abiding in a temple from which living water flows, giving life to everything it touches, including dead things. Hmm… the Living Water… giving Life… where have I heard those things before…?

I believe Thomas Jefferson had it right when he urged his nephew to throw away all bias and personal opinion and really dig into the facts, evidences, truths, and his own reason. Think. Don’t be afraid of the truth (or that it might not be the truth). Find, and know what is true. This is important! To know and understand the Creator is much more important than anything else.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. —John 10:10

I am the way, the truth, and the life. —John 14:6

And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. —John 17:3

We believe in education in this home. Not school, or curriculum—although those can have their place.

Real education. Seek out original sources; find people who are not only knowledgeable but passionate about a subject and learn from them (whether in person, or through recorded words); then, find someone else and hear other voices. Putting all of these pieces together, along with your God-given intellect (reason), and asking the Spirit to guide the entire process. (He is the one who teaches us, after all.)

Question with boldness, even the very existence of God.

And the world—starting with you—will be better for it.

If you wondered about that “I am a REAL CHRISTIAN” quote from Thomas Jefferson, here’s the full text of his introduction to what some call the “Jefferson Bible” (but he titled otherwise). It should give an even more convincing context to that quote!

I have made a wee little book from the Gospels which I call the Philosophy of Jesus. It is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen. It is a document in proof that I am a REAL CHRISTIAN, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call ME the infidel and THEMSELVES Christians and preachers of the Gospel, while they draw all of their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were he to return on earth, would not recognize one feature. (Thomas Jefferson: In His Own Words, Maureen Harrison & Steve Gilbert, editors. ©1993 Excellent Books, New York, NY.)

Scattering, or Gathering?

Recently I was catching up on some podcast listening and enjoyed hearing Wayne Jacobsen’s response to an article by John Burton. I am unfamiliar with Mr. Burton, but in general, his interpretation of observable trends does seem to differ from mine—at least, his conclusions certainly differ.

His article is titled: “You are NOT the church: The scattering movement : What about church online?” (… long title!)

I feel like it’s a bit of a Straw Man argument—the “I’m the church” section of his article (does anyone really think that he or she, as an individual, is “the church”? I have not come across that philosophy…)—but other than that, I do understand where he’s coming from: I just disagree.

He contends that the trend towards Jesus followers removing themselves from the 501c3 “churches” and emphasizing daily life being the Church (living loved by God, and actively loving his people around you) is a “scattering” of the Church: God’s people are being wrongly divided and the Church is being lessened by it.

Listen to Wayne’s closing comments from that episode:

I think there’s not a ‘scattering movement’ going on, John Burton, I think there’s a gathering movement. Honestly, I think our Sunday morning institutions with their political ambitions, with their different names and distinct doctrines—with all the things they do—they have more to do with scattering the church in an area, and people who are leaving some of those things are actually being invited to a greater gathering; a gathering that’s greater than my preferred style of worship, or my human leader I want to follow; a gathering that’s more important than ‘do we agree on all of these little, narrow doctrinal minutia’.

It’s based on people who are learning to live loved by the Father, and then live as lovers in the world, caring for people. I see that church in amazing ways.

I concur with Mr. Jacobsen. It’s apparent to me that many people who desire a more real, everyday life with Jesus and his Church are not finding that in the organizations that culturally we think of as “churches”, but realizing a much more full life (“I came to give you life, and life to the full”—Jesus) when not tethered to (beholden to) those named entities.

Obviously, no experience or label is universal. And, these are my thoughts from my experience. However, they seem to fit what I observe, and I wonder if we, the Church, continue to miss out on the fullness of life that could be had as first, followers of Jesus, living completely dependent upon him and his lead and sustenance in our lives, and then second, as he intersects our paths with followers with whatever frequency he should choose as head of his church, we encourage and build up one another as those opportunities come: no agenda, or self-sustaining plan to accomplish that end of our own making.

I certainly admit that such a view of God’s Kingdom could be heavily influenced by my own personality. (I bristle at most “plans”. Knowing I have “things to do today” often weighs me down to the point of not being able to do anything!) But I keep coming back to the fact that Jesus didn’t name anything. He didn’t establish a structure to train up and “contain” his Church. He builds and directs his Church… no?

Again, it all comes back to Jesus.

So, please have a look at that article, and enjoy the response to it via Wayne’s podcast episode. And I welcome your thoughts/discussion here as well.

Lord, Save Us From Your Followers

Being a fan of documentaries, and, having many thoughts on the nature and condition of the church, I was intrigued enough by the title and description of the movie above to click the play button on a recent visit to

As the video began, I wasn’t entirely sure which “side” was being presented. I like that! I continued to watch and felt that the issues addressed were handled fairly and with an open mind. That’s pretty rare. Usually you just have to filter out the bias, but they really did a decent job of doing that themselves.

There were many eye-opening scenes depicting the blatant ignorance of Christian men and women, young and old, who were simply unaware of the arguments—no, the people—of the “other side”. There were also some incredible moments of true connection between people who really don’t see the world the same in most ways.

One particularly powerful scene was when the filmmakers set up a “Confession Booth” at a gay pride event in Portland, except, rather than taking confessions, they gave them. They confessed (and asked forgiveness for) the church’s treatment of homosexuals, its stance on AIDS, and other related actions taken by the church. The result was a unanimous (at least, what was shown) open, emotional, welcome response to someone for whom they previously harbored great contempt.

What happened was, they listened to each other. Each found a place where they could meet, and treat the other with loving kindness. It’s amazing how powerful that is: in life, and just to watch it unfold on the screen.

When you have some time—a goodly amount of time—I recommend a thoughtful viewing of this documentary. Particularly Christians, but I think the point the filmmakers are trying to make is that it sure helps when we listen to each other, no matter what our worldview. So there’s a bit of something for everyone, for sure.

Also, the filmmakers’ website: