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On My Return to Vocational Ministry

Hello blog readers!

I’m still here. I’ve been sick over the last week, and the last two weeks I just haven’t been able to find time to write. I intend to pick back up with the blog series this week. Thank you for your patience.

In the meantime, I thought it was best to put together a video about my journey over the last 14 years—out of vocational ministry and back again.

You had questions, so I’m responding.

As I announced a couple months ago, I have been called to pastor an Anabaptist congregation in the New River Valley of Virginia. We now know that we will be moving after Christmas. My official start date is January 1st, and my first Sunday at Christiansburg Mennonite Fellowship is January 5th.

The following video is 25 minutes in length. Feel free to ask further questions if you’ve got them. Please follow the rules of the blog. Thanks!

Other Related Posts:

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


Talking to Jesus on the Back Porch

Have you ever struggled with prayer? You may not be quiet as analytical as I have been with prayer, but maybe you have at some point wrestled with the purpose and the practice of it—even doubted its power to make any difference at all.

Let’s be honest. Prayer is a mysterious thing. But even those of us who are willing to embrace mystery often stumble over deterministic theology (everything is already settled), well-meaning sermons on prayer that only brought the ceiling closer to you, and marque slogans like “Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes you.” It’s enough to make you want to become a Buddhist.

About 6 or 7 years ago I entered into a new understanding of my identity in Christ. I had recently come out of vocational ministry and was burdened down with a work-centered faith. In many ways I suppose it was like hitting the reset button on all the things I thought I knew about Jesus, the church, my identity, and prayer. I needed it. Ever felt like that before?

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Jesus, Matthew 11:28

If you want to experience the Lord afresh in intimate fellowship with the Father by way Jesus, then I think it’s necessary to see prayer as a way of resting in the Spirit. It’s amazing how often you can do this throughout the day if you’re intentional about it. Prayer requires intentionality.

“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.” Jesus, Matthew 6:6

While we’re told to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17), it would be wise to listen to Jesus talk about prayer as a personal retreat. The intimate times with the Lord enable us to pray continually from a renewed identity with sensitivity toward the Spirit.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Ever find yourself saying, “Was that you, Lord?” Maybe you’ve wondered, “Was that my thoughts, or was God speaking?” I’m willing to bet that you’ve been there before. We’ve all been there.

A few years ago I decided to make an intentional effort to move out of the “roaming” mode of prayer—that place where I’m skeptical about hearing from the Lord—like a bad connection. I became convinced that God speaks to us through our thoughts into our spirit.

When I finally let go of this paranoia and unhelpful skepticism, knowing that I certainly wasn’t having a conversation with myself, I then began to experience intimate moments with the Lord, and much more frequently.

I simply trusted that the Lord was listening, and that he always desires to speak to me. He is closer than a brother (Prov 18:24).

Meeting Jesus Around a Campfire

If I have a place to “go away” by myself and “shut the door” (so to speak), it’s my back porch. Over my fence looms a forest of pine trees. I enjoy creation around me as I sit next to my cast iron chimenea (Mexican-styled fire pit) at dusk. A cup of hot tea or coffee aids in relaxation.

I enter into a place of solitude within my soul, opening myself up to the Lord, as I stare into the fire and close my eyes… waiting… expecting.

I imagine the Lord there with me, I see him just as I might see the face of a loved one. The real difference is that I’m not simply visualizing or remembering. I’m creatively imagining for the sake of conversing with a real person. I’m not talking about delusions of grandeur here.

Since I haven’t seen Jesus with my own eyes, not yet anyway, I borrow the face of Christ played by Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ (2004). That may seem strange at first, but it’s perfectly safe and effective.

The first time I did this I imagined myself on a beach at dusk. I saw the Lord’s face through the fire as if he’s sitting across from me. Within myself I said, “Lord.” He looked at me and began speaking with, “My son, I love you.” Those are usually the first words I hear him speak to me in prayer.

While my mind often races and seeks to be interrupted by intruding thoughts or slip into “roaming” mode, I resist the distraction and focus on the Lord—remaining in the moment as long as I can.

If I will stay open to the Lord and allow my imagination to move freely with the Spirit, I have found that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a rush of words from Christ, who is the embodiment of the Father.

Jesus Wants to Get Personal

“Though most believers are comfortable speaking of a ‘personal relationship with Jesus,’ few concepts are so greatly celebrated and little experienced.” Wayne Jacobson

I feel that I’ve only begun to experience Jesus in a fresh way. I’m what you would call an aspiring Christian mystic. What I hope to inspire with this post is a courage to try a method of prayer that treats the Lord as a real person, and a dialogue between two beings. Don’t pray like the hypocrites.

What’s keeping you from a fulfilling prayer life? Where’s your back porch? Does your prayer life suffer because of bad theology? What about your ability to creatively imagine the Lord being present in your life?

Give it a try. Take some deep breaths, close your eyes, and see the Lord there before you in the power of a disciplined imagination.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

For more on prayer, see the following books:


My Interview on Gottalife Radio

I was interviewed on Gottalife Radio by the spirited Scotsman Kenny Russell in the Summer of 2009. If you’re not familiar with my journey out of the organized church into organic church life, you will want to listen to this interview in its entirety.

I’m sharing this interview because I do have many new readers, but also because I want to be transparent about how our lives reflect a real journey with Christ. If we’re growing, we ought to be in a constant state of flux.

My wife and I learned a great deal about Christ in community between 2006-2011. Much that we have learned through the years has been refined, as we have since moved back into more organizational forms of church life.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I’ve recently made clear here, here, and here that organized Christianity is not the enemy of authentic Christian community. Many well-intentioned folks have overcorrected in their attempts to discover a more familial church life.

While a great deal of organized religion has lost its way in attempting to market the gospel way to evangelical consumers, there is a pronounced leadership and organizational church life that is able to do great good for the Kingdom. For “organic” Christians to discount or demean these forms with talk of “good is the enemy of what’s best” isn’t helpful.

In fact, I even think it can be divisive. We should celebrate wherever and whenever Christ is being known in community and the church is actively on mission for God’s Kingdom. I have issued this challenge before.

Planting a New Church

I think it’s now time for me to follow through with a calling God placed on my life many years ago. I believe that the Lord would have me plant a new church as its lead teaching pastor.

I’m currently in an exploratory stage with intentions of planting a different sort of church in our city. I’m convinced that the Lord desires to have a fellowship that works to bridge the gap(s) between the church and academy, faith and reason, and science and theology—to create a community of radical disciples who get all of their life from Jesus, not from their theological opinions. This is especially needed in the Bible Belt of the United States.

I envision a learning church that seeks to remove intellectual obstacles that needlessly bar people from the Kingdom—a church that isn’t afraid to ask questions. The Lord wants a church that truly loves like Christ. He wants a church whose allegiance is given only to King Jesus and the upside-down Kingdom that is coming to earth.

I must confess that I’ve been deeply inspired by the work of Greg Boyd at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN.

I would appreciate your prayers as we venture into the unknown. I believe the Lord wants to turn the tides of pop-culture Christianity and respond to religious fundamentalism that breeds toxic cynicism, that may well be keeping an entire generation from seeing the beautiful Kingdom of God.

Please stay tuned, I’ll soon be posting more of my thoughts here at the blog, and how you can help. In the meantime, thank you for your prayers.

Enjoy the interview! Be sure to listen to the second half, that’s what I dig the most. Jesus is awesome, saints.

D.D. Flowers, 2012.


An Organic Church Challenge

For those who follow my blog, you know I’ve been reassessing my understanding of “organic” church life in the NT. As I mentioned in a few recent posts, I’m finding that it’s not really helpful to use the term, especially since it has gone viral.

I agree with much of the contrast that is drawn between the church as institution vs. organism. So, I’m currently opening myself up in order to imagine a church life that does not grow out of reaction to the abuses of the organized church, or from the neglect of the NT by those who believe they have obtained something of Christ that others have not.

Here are some thoughts I’ve been having.

It is entirely understandable that many people hear what some “organic” folks are advocating (as I have also advocated) sounds like an abandonment of all ecclesiastical structures. It then becomes confusing for folks to hear them say that it’s OK to have some sort of skeletal structure, you just need to find the “balance” in it all.

What does that look like? We can all say, “It doesn’t look like this or that…” but I don’t see how it’s possible to judge one church from another on whether Christ is truly reigning in their meetings based off our prescriptive readings of the NT. I’m fine with saying there are things the NT does not explicitly teach, advocate, or allow—even prohibits—things that are antithetical to every-member functioning. But beyond that I think we need to be careful how we proceed in setting boundaries.

It seems to me that the “organic” promoter viewing another person’s practice of church life (with all of their biases, interpretations of Scripture about church practice, good/bad personal experiences, etc.) could make many wrong judgments about many churches because they don’t fit their own vision of NT church life. This concerns me.

Something else that troubles me is the constant downplaying of teaching and doctrine. At the same time I hear “organic” advocates affirming that teaching and doctrine are good for the church. Huh? Which is it? Naturally, folks in and outside of these house churches hear this and think that doctrine can only divide and that it’s not conducive to “gathering around” Christ.

I don’t think that’s what the “organic” leaders mean, so I think it really needs some clarification if they’re going to help others hear what they’re trying to say about Christ and the church.

I also think it assumes that we have a prescriptive church life, instead of a descriptive one contained in the NT. It might at times be necessary for a church to become a forum for discussing doctrine. Just like there are times the church needs to adapt for other concerns facing the community. I believe the unveiling of Christ can happen during these times as well.

Could it be that assuming Christ can’t be unveiled during these times is also a reaction that equally leads to wrong conclusions?

Having spent a few years in “organic” church life, I’m beginning to think that we should keep a big vision of Christ and a small vision of the church, as far as our ideas and expectations are concerned.

We can learn this from those who first pioneered the house church movements within China and the United States.

This would require us celebrate Christ in community wherever we find it (calling others to that), and say less when it comes to critiquing the church practices of others who sincerely love the Lord and are being faithful to him where they are.

I hear more lines touching on what church life is not, than what it is. Which seems to translate that there are tons of things that folks serious about church life will not do if they want to meet around Christ. I don’t think that’s what is intended, but I feel that’s what those on the outside hear. I heard that on the inside, and I’m now hearing it as I have put a little distance between myself and the “organic” folks.

I tend to think a generous ecclesiology that is Christ-centered in community, is not continually preoccupied with denouncing what may be “pagan” Christianity, but rather it is concerned for sharing the Christ you know and leaving it at that. Are “organic” folks OK with that?

Some days I’m not so sure.

I don’t think this means there isn’t a place for deconstructing the church, (cause I do!) especially among those who are asking questions and are open to rethinking the wineskins. However, if we’re not careful, we can easily set ourselves up against those that don’t meet like us or share the same vision for the church. We can easily build more walls than open up doors.

We can forget our visions of Christ at this point… they will only edify those that agree with us. Though in the end it’s not edification, just spiritual narcissism nicely contained in elitism masked as dreams and visions.

Since it is a “balance” that we seek (one that is hard to reach and know when we’ve reached it), I don’t see how it’s honest and edifying to talk like we know exactly what the church is supposed to look like when we’re getting it right (or when we think we are). Lord, help us!

In a nutshell, we need more humble recognition that the Lord moves through the church in more ways than one. Then we may rejoice with others receiving their own revelation of Christ and being faithful to their calling.


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