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Tim Ross: Why The Church Needs to Be Disrupted

Tim Ross: Why The Church Needs to Be Disrupted

Author Wendell Berry once wrote, “If change is to come, it will come from the margins … It was the desert, not the temple, that gave us the prophets.”

Change is something most people try to avoid. We like the way things are. After all, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But change is not something to be afraid of. If embraced and carefully planned out, change can lead us to new places and new people.

That’s how speaker Tim Ross sees it, at least. Ross hosts The Basement, a weekly podcast where he walks listeners through the way they can change or “disrupt” all areas of their life — relationships, family, finances, careers and even faith.

Ross spoke with RELEVANT ahead of the release of his latest book Welcome to the Basement: An Upside-Down Guide to Greatness to discuss why it’s important to embrace disruption and how the church can benefit from a little disruotion these days.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

RELEVANT: Once someone recognizes something in their life that should “be upset,” what is a good first step to take to make that happen?

ROSS: Yes, self-awareness is always my first step. It’s acknowledging that I don’t have all the answers. I need something that I cannot provide for myself. I recognize a flaw within myself that requires intervention, either to eliminate, modify, or accept. Right?

I believe self-awareness is the first call to action. While it might seem subtle, considering Genesis 3, perhaps Adam and Eve weren’t banished for their actions but for what they concealed. Their lack of self-awareness prevented them from saying, “I messed up.” Instead, it was, “Eve did it.” Then, “The serpent deceived me.” But in reality, it was, “I was tempted by lust and pride. I desired your power, God. I craved your knowledge. You said I could eat from any tree, but you highlighted the forbidden one. And I fixated on it daily until that serpent, without even a greeting, asked, ‘Did God say you could eat from every tree?'” Who begins a conversation like that? Clearly, Eve had been eyeing the fruit for a while.

Therefore, self-awareness is the starting point. When you’re self-aware and own your mistakes, humility is already integrated into that action. And God is near to the brokenhearted. He says the meek shall inherit the earth. Humble yourself, and you will be exalted. So, self-awareness and humility are foundational steps.

The practical steps following that are, “Okay, how can we change our mindset about this?” The body of Christ often fixates on “How do I stop doing this?” But what if we shift focus to “What do I need to change?” What lie am I believing that makes this seem better than God’s will for my life? I believe starting there would lead to a much more pleasant experience of obedience and submission.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as you’ve upset different areas of your life?

One of the chapters in my book is titled “Disturbing the Peace.” Jesus, I believe, was masterful at disrupting the elements of people’s lives that were misaligned with his will and ways. Applying this to myself, I reflect on how scripture has disrupted aspects of my life that were out of alignment with God.

Innocently reading scripture, I’d be struck by conviction. “Oh my God,” I’d think, “I wasn’t expecting to be found out! I thought I was reading about Saul, but this isn’t about me. I’ve checked; I wasn’t around during Samuel’s time. How did I get on this page?” I’d then realize, “Ouch, I’ve been found out. I need help.”

So first, I acknowledge the conviction. Second, I pray about it. Third, I confess it to someone else for accountability.

Then comes the wrestling match, like Jacob’s struggle. I’m determined to persevere until I’m exhausted, then grasp God’s knee like Jacob and declare, “I won’t let go until you bless, change or rearrange me!” Anything deeply ingrained in my flesh dies hard. The more we love something, the harder it is to leave it.

Over the years, I’ve adopted the spirit of Leonidas from 300: “Let’s have a beautiful death.” If we’re going out, let’s do it in glory. I don’t mean sinful indulgence, but rather acknowledging, “Lord, I’ll truly grieve this, not because I hate it, but because it displeases you. My relationship with you matters more than my affection for it, whatever it is.”

Whether the object of prayer is removed or remains, I accept God’s will. I’ve prayed about things repeatedly, with no response even from my dad, so I guess you, Lord, will have to handle this one.

What are some things within the church that you would like to see disrupted moving forward?

So this may be the first time I’m saying this out loud. Trigger warning, then. I was surprised, like everyone else, when the vernacular of deconstruction first surfaced. What was it? What did it mean?

I’m not one to comment before I understand the context. I studied administration and justice, aiming to be a homicide detective. To bring a case to the DA, you need a thorough, sequential, and contextual investigation. Otherwise, it’s a non-starter. They can’t prosecute, they can’t go to trial. Missing evidence? Circumstantial evidence? Forget it. That’s not making it to court.

Deconstructionists emerged, and once I understood their definition, I had some thoughts, but no comprehensive commentary. A year and a half later, I felt ready. Let them deconstruct, let them tear down their “legos.” Because that’s what it is. They’re not attacking Jesus or the gospel, they’re questioning how they were taught it.

That’s the essence of deconstruction: questioning the communicated and delivered faith, just like Jesus did with the Pharisees and Sadducees. He deconstructed their beliefs, and it got him killed. So, if there’s nothing new under the sun, deconstruction has already happened, and Jesus was the preeminent one to do it.

John the Baptist could be argued as another deconstructionist, just like Paul. A Pharisee one minute, then not the next, right? In Acts 9. I personally yearn for dismantling the “legos” and returning to the church’s foundational form. Human involvement inevitably means imperfection.

I was saved in a small church of 47 people, including myself. My parents attended for 15 years, even when the pastor held another job. That’s where I surrendered to Jesus, and their foundation remains strong 28 years later.

This contrasts with “Jell-O churches” that offer no standards and lure people with the promise of constant celebrations. The first hardship hits, and they wonder, “Did God abandon me?” Deconstructing Jell-O churches is crucial because they misrepresent the truth, ignoring verses like “in this world you will have tribulation.”

So, no more Jell-O churches, right? Maybe move to “steak churches,” “potato churches,” something with more substance and context. I welcome seeing this change.

The Basement podcast resonates with many agnostics, atheists, and deconstructionists because we help them grapple with thoughts like, “Maybe the whole Church isn’t wrong, just my experience.” They might have had three bad churches in a row. Just like getting food poisoning at three fast food restaurants could make you suspicious, it’s understandable to abandon churches after negative experiences.

But when in pain, we focus solely on ourselves and project to protect ourselves. Our natural state is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. So humanly, if a church hurt you, the thought becomes “don’t go back, don’t get hurt again.” However, this leads to isolation, loneliness, and cynicism.

Without the fellowship of mature believers, your theology goes unchecked, and correction becomes impossible. You become a “cancer cell,” spreading negativity and becoming “weird and ugly.”

That’s an interesting way to view deconstruction. I think inherently most people see it as a negative thing that will only tear down faith. 

Absolutely! I think the thought is that deconstruction is about tearing down the church, but I’m over here thinking, the church is pretty resilient. It’s lasted 2000 years through pestilence and persecution. Real persecution, not just some people talking about it. People have been murdered and martyred in prison. So, no — I feel like this is going to ultimately be very, very good. I think every 20 years or so, things explode and implode. And when all the dust settles, we get to build something new and something different.

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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