Ratifying beliefs … Confronted by Jesus …

Achievers face the tyranny of accomplishment. Precision and speed often mean missing the impact of content. Dr. Pretlove may have hinted at this with me when he told me, "Some people go to church just so they can go home again." Failure to engage the content of a worthy project renders accomplishment meaningless. Going to church just to say you went makes attendance meaningless. Getting a degree just to say you have one makes your new found expertise questionable. Most Americans are achievers. Groomed to fulfill the American dream prompts us to practice utilitarian ethics. We are most pragmatic about life. Once the course is charted in a given direction we look for supportive advice and influences. We want confirmation on the way not question.

Today I listened with interest to an interview with Dieter Zander (also here) – for our current ETREK course. Our discussion centered around "spiritual formation." Really the issue focused our attention on how is it we are following Jesus. The genre of "spiritual formation" becomes for some nothing more than an end rather than a means. Something Richard Foster notes well in his classic, Celebration of Disciplines. The conversation pivoted at times on the role of the Church in following Jesus. Dieter offered something he once heard Dallas Willard say, "They come to church to have their beliefs ratified."

Much like settling in on the course to pursue the American Dream we look for a place to "ratify" what I already believe. It is less about finding a place to live in community with others and together to carry on the mission of God in the world. It is more about being regularly reassured of the way I am thinking. If it is true we tend to be "achievers" in this Country our conversion, coming to follow Jesus, is as laden with cultural baggage as any New Testament context. We simply look for ways to have our cake and eat it too.

Willard evidently went on to suggest until there is something of a crisis one will really not follow Jesus for he or she does not think they need a teacher. Formation becomes an option for the achiever once he or she gets across the line, grabs the ticket to the city of gold. When we talk about thinking missionally it is with this reality in mind. Until we own our individual self-sufficiency we will not, to borrow from Rob Bell’s "Dust", be covered with the "dust of our Rabbi." The reason: we don’t need anyone to teach us to accomplish the American Dream. The problem: the American Dream and the Kingdom Dream compete. Once we admit our thinking is wrong our approach to church may change. We may be confronted with Jesus. Our attendance may take on different meaning when we no longer come to get our beliefs ratified but we come to follow Jesus because He wants those who are his disciples not to just know what he knows but to do what he does.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

8 comments on “Ratifying beliefs … Confronted by Jesus …

  1. says:


    I really like the comment about yielding to a teacher only when one has come to a point of crisis. I know for me self sufficiency is a sinful attitude that I battle regularly. This becomes then the tipping point of faith vs. mere assent. To continue along the lines of your post; I can have ratified what I have given strong assent to and be justified in my own mind.

    The way of the Kingdom life calls for a faith that lives and gives life and has its origin in Jesus. To add Jesus to a life that lives according to a different story is to fail to ‘press’ into the Kingdom, IMO.

    Great Post!

  2. says:

    “We come to follow Jesus because He wants those who are his disciples not to just know what he knows but to do what he does.”

    Now that’s a keeper, for sure.

    This is a real struggle for the modern church, in my opinion. So many have literally spent decades in churches where the goal was attendance itself. And that stuff about having our beliefs ratified just shows how consumeristic we’ve become and how we need to think freshly about what it is we’ve been called to. When we do we will (literally all of us) have some things in our lives that we hold near and dear that are challenged. Jesus not only challenged the beliefs of those who opposed him, but told one of his very best friends to “get behind me Satan.”

    I think it was Luther who once said that if all the people around me are doing is reaffirming my beliefs then I need to reexamine my beliefs. OK. So I paraphrased that a little. 🙂

  3. says:

    In fact, to add Jesus to my story rather than live into God’s story is really not much different than what Hindus do with Jesus. In the end we create our own pantheon and maintain we are still Christian.

    You hit something I have been dealing with since 1993 and completing my “terminal” degree. Generally that means settled. Instead what it mean for me that if I stop learning and changing, I myself will become terminal.

  4. says:

    Have you ever read something and thought are they talking to me?
    Thats what I felt.

    Sadly I’d say up until the past few years and this sounds bad to say, I think I went to church to “ratify my beliefs”. I don’t think I was doing it consciously but that is what I was doing. I think I took the same approach to learning what it was that God wanted me to do as I did my school studies, and that is through osmosis. If I show up, surely some of it will sink in; RIGHT? Once again, I’m reading something that is causing my mind to stir! Thanks haha.

  5. says:


    I really think it is the product of our environment. Not for all, but for most/many. I have to watch me generalizations because someone may well prove me wrong. I know that after more than 20 years in ministry with the church in one form or another, this tends to be true for most.

    The quote stirred me too.

  6. says:


    Great stuff! The hardest thing for me is being able to honestly indentify where God’s narrative is being lived out in my life and where the story of the American Dream is shaping and forming me. For so long I have consciously and unconsciously melded the two together. My life could probably be easily characterized as the Gospel according to Horatio Alger rather than the Gospel of Jesus.


  7. says:


    You note well the predicament in which we we all find ourselves. Learning to understand our own context may well help us identify the long held beliefs we must surely get free of in order to learn from Jesus taking his easy yoke.

  8. says:

    An interesting side effect of being in this place is that there is only ONE church to go to. I’ve discovered that there are actually several apporoaches to “doing church” and “being community” this way and some are not as good as I initially though.

    Even in a diverse and ‘ecumenical’ church such as this we can still only attend to ratify our beliefs by hitting the lowest common denominator of belief. Taking challenge and thinking out of preaching and only repeat platitudes and proclimations of our own rectitude and salvation (with careful dodging of just HOW that’s accomplished) so as not to step on anybody’s theological toes. Bleak as that sounds, there are a few guys here who challenge when it’s their turn to talk so it’s not all bad (they’ve even been known to quote Mr. McLaren!). Sometimes my cynicism abounds. Though, I’ve started heading up a discussion group of J.K.A. Smith’s “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism.” SO that’s plenty challenge as well.

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