Author Archives: Matt Dabbs

Review of “Letters to the Church” Chapter 8 – Unleashed

Francis Chan starts chapter 8 in Letters to the Church with the illustration of a zoo. Wild, powerful animals in comfortable cages. Food is brought to them. They aren’t exactly tame but they also aren’t living the life they were meant to live.

This is Chan’s illustration for church – something so powerful put in a pew. On page 152 he writes this, “I wonder whether you’ve felt like the zebra. You’ve been a faithful member of your church, but you keep feeling like you were made for something more.”

This is a good illustration for some of what is happening. We were made to be church but I cannot say that what we call church is precisely what we were made for. There is so much more.

In Churches of Christ we have settled for church be correct worship and a correct view of the steps of salvation (each of those have 5 parts). Viola! We have church. Then I read Acts and see something entirely different. We are not them in the sense of imitating what they were doing and valuing what they valued. We have settled for far less!

I posted this a few days ago that I think speaks into this in Churches of Christ and I would love your feedback on this video when you get a minute.

Chan then goes on to talk about being at a conference for mega church pastors in the East and how they laughed as he described to them what we call church. That was a sad moment for sure. All of this is leverage to challenge what we call church and ask ourselves if what we are doing is it or if there is something else. I believe there is something else and we can learn what that something else is by reading the Bible (again see the video above).

He writes this on page 156,

“Church, the answer is not to build bigger and nicer cages. Nor is it to renovate the cages so they look more like the wild. It’s time to open the cages, remind the animals of their God-given instincts and capabilities and release them into the wild.”

That is certainly compelling and I do believe we have settled for far too little in our churches. What is fascinating to me was just 50 years ago it was extremely common for someone to start a new Church of Christ. Just a generation or so later and this is so foreign! How does that happen and how do we think they way we are doing it is the way it has always been done?

What if we planted new churches, not with the same issues as the ones who came before, but to learn from our mistakes and to start with fresh DNA. What if we empowered and sent people? What if even down to our very children we expected more? We expected God to work and act among us? What if we committed ourselves to prayer? What if we relied on the Holy Spirit.

I think instead we make excuses. We say the world changed and people just aren’t receptive. There is some truth in that but the person we never reach out to will be 100% nonresponsive to the gospel because you never gave them opportunity. We can do better! We must do better?

How do we get the people in our churches to understand this and live this? It is so hard to release an animal back into the wild once it has been in captivity. It doesn’t know how to hunt?

Here is the key – we must equip our people to hunt. To be dangerous. This takes fasting and prayer – we don’t fast and we reserve prayer for about 2 minutes on Sunday about all kinds of random topics.


Review of “Letters to the Church” Chapter 7 – Crucified

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one” – Bruce Lee That pretty much sums up chapter 7. In this chapter of “Letters to the Church” Francis is normalizing suffering. He said he did a sermon series on suffering and talked about all the books of theContinue Reading

Prayer in the Early Church – What Were They Praying for and What Can We Learn from Them?

What can we learn from how the early church prayed? We can learn so much! As I have gone back through Acts and the Epistles I have looked for some common threads and themes that come up over and over again. Here is what I found. The early church prayed together regularly. We see itContinue Reading

What Will Our Generation Look Back on And Regret?

Sometimes I wonder what I will look back at in 10 or 20 or even 30 years and regret in regard to Christianity and church. Here is the main thing I think we are going to look at and shake our heads at our past selves – we couldn’t get outside ourselves, outside our comfortContinue Reading

Being a Disciple in How We Talk Online

Our Christianity doesn’t have boundaries on where or when we act as followers of Jesus. If Paul had known of social media he would have said to be like Jesus there too. This can be quite difficult. It is difficult because we are humans and make mistakes on a platform with other humans who makeContinue Reading

How to have a Christian Conversation on Social Media – Barriers

When we get into conflict our body has visceral fight or flight reactions that keep us from having a productive conversation. This video helps us identify the physiological signals that warn you it is time to discipline your thoughts and words if you are to move forward in a productive and disciplined way. Online conversationContinue Reading

Review of “Letters to the Church” Chapter 6 – Good Shepherds

We have a funny relationship with the word “pastor” in Churches of Christ. Elders are pastors, not preachers, we say…but the preachers often pastor as much or more as the elders. This is a common occurrence but certainly not universal. I think we are correct, biblically, but don’t often live it out in practice. ThatContinue Reading

The Third Miracle

By Milton Jones When Christian Relief Fund drilled a new well in Barwessa Kaptorot, the people living there called it “the second miracle.” This area of Kenya is one of the most desperate in the world when it comes to the need for water. It hasn’t rained there in years. You can imagine how muchContinue Reading

Possibly The Most Needed Change in our Churches – Reconnecting the Holy Spirit and Discipleship

This has been on my mind a very long while. I shared thoughts on this for nearly an hour at Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration this afternoon and thought I would boil it all down to this video. Please watch and if helpful share via social media. I believe if we can reclaim this combination (as demonstratedContinue Reading

We Value What We Count and Count What We Value. So Count the Right Things

We typically count two things in church – attendance and contribution. That’s okay. That probably should be done. But there is so much more we need to pay attention to and there is nothing like counting things to give accountability to what is going on. Some things we cannot quantify. They are qualitative things. ButContinue Reading


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