I am very excited to introduce you to my latest book entitled Elementary. Although you can read the first several chapters for free at most of the ebook vendors on the web, I thought the last chapter was a better way to introduce you to the content. This chapter reveals the inspiration for the book, and even the final intent of the book as well. Please enjoy closing chapter, and if it piques your interest be sure to order your copy today!
On a personal note, I thought it would be kind to explain that everything I have written in this short book is not yet a comfortable fit in my personal wardrobe, either. I have written on what I believe to be a few of the most clear teachings in the Scripture, but it is difficult for me to wrap some of them around my life as well. What I have not meant to imply is that I expect every believer who reads these teachings to jump to attention, agree with me on every point, and immediately practice every challenge I have made. That would be hypocritical of me, since I am making awkward progress on some of them myself. That being said, I do expect something from you. It is the same thing I expect from myself, so this is a respectful expectation.
I expect you to lean.
When I know that God is challenging me in a new direction the least I can do is lean toward it. I may not understand why he is dealing with me in a certain way. I may not know exactly where this new direction will lead me, but if I know that God is leading then I can at least lean toward his leadership to practice my trust in him. Leaning is the process of shifting our weight in the direction we intend to go. My sons jump on the trampoline all the time—I mean, all the time. Their obsession has taught them a lot of things about balance and direction that I may otherwise have never known. One thing they have shown me is that wherever you point your head is the direction your body will want to go. So, to perform a front flip they jump, tuck their head in toward their belly buttons, and, amazingly, they land the front flip! They have also figured out that when jumping really high on the trampoline, the slightest tilt of their head can take them on a brand new course, so they choose to be carefully aware of their posture at all times.
I am expecting that each of us will tilt our heads toward the teachings from Hebrews 6. Right thinking leads to right action, so even the slightest motion we make with our heads toward the elementary teachings of the Kingdom can bring about significant change in our direction with God. I am expecting each of us to lean toward the most simple foundations in following Jesus. I believe that if we do this, that we will begin to move with God toward the dreams he has for all of us. Whether we understand everything perfectly or not, I believe we still must lean. Even if we can’t predict every implication of these simple teachings, I still believe we should lean toward them, and then allow our lives to follow.
I can also say, to encourage you, that I have faced these lessons in very practical and difficult ways in my own life. My first draft of this book had tons of examples from my own life and of people I know as we attempted to embrace or deflect the weight of these teachings. I removed them to make the book speed along faster, and to avoid narrowing each teaching’s application to a single example from my experience. I decided to fly over the teachings with a bit more altitude so you could get the broadest view possible in such a short book, and understand how broadly they can be applied to everyday life. I relay this to you so you understand that, for me, this is not a philosophical work cooked up in an academic research room. These struggles have been on display in the arena of my life, and in some cases the arena, as it were, also contained lions and gladiators.
I still remember where I was the first time I was challenged to forgive God for disappointing me. I remember that it felt almost sinful to consider such a thing, but I did it anyway because I knew I wanted to restore a trust in the goodness of God’s heart. I was learning to place my faith in God, and it was hard. I can also remember the first time someone asked me if I had been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and how the feelings that came up in me could only be described as rage. I had cultivated an extreme kind of self-defense around the idea of truth as a young believer, and challenges to my theological rightness felt like an attack on the core of my safety in God. The instructions about baptisms caused me some serious difficulty, at much deeper levels than arguing about whether to sprinkle or immerse. I can also remember the first time I entertained the company of Church leadership who did not wear their denominational affiliations as the brightest part of the name badge on their lapel. This made me feel very, very suspicious, because membership in an established religious institution seemed to be required at the very ground level of legitimacy in my Christian world-view. Receiving the Kingdom way of the laying on of hands was not natural to me at all. I also remember the first time I tried to explain to my own father what I had been learning at college about the mythologies in the Old Testament, and how we had to get past the literal part of the stories so we could discover what God was really trying to say. As I repeated what I had been hearing in my Religious degree program, I felt a kind of odd shame come over me as my father couldn’t control his look of disbelief in what I was saying. It took quite a while for me to regain a sense of intellectual confidence in the Scriptures after that season of collegiate “learning.” Choosing to trust God at his Word has been very a long, difficult process for me. I cited all these things from my life to show that neither my Christian tradition, nor my personal practice, have always been in line with the elementary teachings from Hebrews 6. Changing your mind, no, let me correct that, changing my mind is a very difficult thing to do. I have taken many years to lean toward agreement in these simple teachings we have been reading together, and I am still choosing to lean in today.
I first met Bob Terrell back around 1990, or so, and it was his team of leaders that first handed me written teachings on this passage of Scripture from Hebrews. I still have it today. It is a crude photocopied set of paper stapled in the upper left hand corner. Though written previously, it was compiled by Renee Brown for a pastor’s training conference on March 3, 1992, and it was entitled the Foundation Series. I rediscovered it in the spring of this year, shoved deep inside a file cabinet drawer. I found it because of a recent conversation I had with Doug Roberts who was part of that team of teachers and prophetic ministers I met along with Bro. Bob, as everyone called him, back in the early 90’s. I was telling Doug about how disappointing it was to watch some of my closer comrades collapse under pressure in their spiritual lives. I had been watching a strange assortment of issues rise up and become divisive in relationships with people I knew very closely. I had witnessed, in recent days, people being offended at the commissioning of healthy leadership, because the very idea of Christian leadership had offended them. I had seen people cling to license, like the permission to use recreational drugs, instead of holding on to their faith in God, and the family of faith around them. I had seen people become engrossed in New Age experiments, and self-guided paths to leadership positions, with no respect for the relational foundations of the Church. In moments where the Kingdom process and the Biblical solution would have led to peace and family health, instead there was a devolution into fear, name-calling, and isolation. These situations, among others, really had me off balance. It was a harsh education to see how quickly people can fragment under pressure, and it shocked me more because I knew these folks, personally. What was even more difficult was hearing how justified they were in every decision. They were all extremely confident that their judgments were righteous.
When I relayed these instances to Doug, he shared some of his experiences and insights with me. At one point he said, “Ben, a lot of the time when I have seen people failing under pressure it is because they didn’t have a strong foundation. You might need to ask God if you have failed to lay the basic foundations of Christ in the people around you, because it sounds like this may be what God is trying to show you.” When I hung up the phone I began to write on the blackboard in my office and process aloud in prayer. I wrote out the things that I thought were basic foundational teachings, and I was asking the Holy Spirit to show me which ones I may have neglected to encourage in the lives of the precious people I watch over. As I was writing I had a eureka moment as Hebrews 6 came to mind, and I began to consider each of those elementary teachings. I began to consider whether or not I had placed them as foundation stones in my sphere of influence. That’s when I remembered the old resource file of teachings I had saved from my earliest experience with Bro. Bob and Foundation Ministries. When I finally found the old, photocopied and stapled-up teaching sets, I couldn’t believe how much time they spent teaching from Hebrews 6:1-3, and how important each of their Scripture notes were in my own process. My mind was coming alive to the elementary things of the Gospel again, and I began to repent for having neglected to teach the more fundamental things to those I love.
It’s true, I had been to tossing around some of the bigger ideas of Kingdom living like: sonship, kingdom, community, grace, etc., with many of my friends, and we had become quite good at it, but these ideas did not build the strength we all really needed. It was not because these higher ideas were not excellent in the Kingdom of God, it was because we didn’t have the simpler foundation stones underneath them all, and so, we were not understanding their true Kingdom meaning. To be clear, it was not the mistakes in judgment other people might have made that broke my heart, it was their willingness to devalue their relationships in order to hold to their opinions. People make mistakes all the time, and people have disagreements, but it is a flaw in a person’s foundation that would lead them to diminish their family connections as the result. As a family of believers we must always choose to build our relationships on better things like honor, trust, and commitment instead of agreement, permission, and endorsement. We must choose the values that are more valuable to the Kingdom family’s health over other self-preserving values. But, we will not have the courage to make this choice if our lives are not built on a strong foundation. When there is weakness in our foundations with Christ, I have now learned, relational challenges and difficult situations will send us running toward our old instincts for self-preservation and self-protection.
I am sure that my wife and I don’t agree about everything, but we are still deeply in love, and we are still married after twenty years of disagreements! This is because we have placed the values of honor, trust, and commitment higher than other values in order to prefer one another. My understanding of the relational nature of the Kingdom has become so deeply embedded in me over the years that the very thought of a single disagreement causing a major relational rift just shocks me. It shocked me each time I watched it happen, and it threw me way off balance in my self-view, and my view of others as well. I slowly, through suffering, came to the realization that it was my neglect of these foundational things from Hebrews 6 that had set me up for these relational surprises. This harsh education showed me that I could never assume that because I see these Kingdom foundations in my own imagination, that anyone else in my influence would see them the same way—even if we had spent a lot of time together. This is why Paul told Timothy, “Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). He didn’t tell Timothy to just “hang out with people a lot, and eventually they will get it.” He was telling him to relay good teaching, just like the teachings from Hebrews 6:1-3, and to make sure that it was his serious work! I have failed to make these teachings my serious work, and it has cost me dearly. I repent.
In the Kingdom seeking to serve is always better than seeking to lead. Maintaining a healthy position and a good posture with those we influence is so important. It is a privilege to serve others, and a treasure to build strong relationships with the people of God. I hope to never assume anymore on those I love, and I am working to make more honest relational contracts. I want to live in a way that others can quote this Scripture as they think of me, “Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other” (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13). I don’t mind telling you that I deeply desire to live at peace with those I influence. I am choosing to work much harder at teaching the elementary things of the Kingdom to those I love, because I think it will help us all live in peace together. Peter felt the same way for every believer, especially leaders, to be kind and respectful to one another, and to learn how to challenge and help each other with humility and grace:
And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.
In the same way, you younger men must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, serve each other in humility, for
“God opposes the proud
but favors the humble.”
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. (1 Peter 5:1–6).
Would you choose, along with me, to embrace these elementary Kingdom teachings? We could all be transformed toward strength and confidence if these elementary things of the Kingdom were to become the foundation stones of our lives. If you influence anyone, I mean anyone, would you please share each of these teachings with them as well? If we don’t cross these bridges early with those we love, then we are bound to end up in a terrible mix of weakness and misunderstanding. If we want to learn how to grow life-long relationships of depth with our believing comrades, we must circle up around these elementary things, and hold fast to their strength. This book was not designed to be theoretical. This book was designed to teach Kingdom-family principles so we might build more healthy relationships with God and with one another. Relationships of depth are, after all, the most important things in this life, and in the life to come!
So, come along with me. Let’s practice Kingdom culture together now, and watch the Father’s good heart being poured out all around us! Let’s become proficient at the simple things the Father loves, since we will be doing these things, together, for the rest of our eternal lives. For today, at a minimum, let’s all choose to at least lean.
Jesus asks us to follow him. Many say that a journey begins with the first step. I say that the journey begins, first, with a lean. We must shift our weight toward the direction we intend to go before we can even take the first step. Jesus’ steps are simple and deep, and we can lean in his direction right now. I believe in you. You can do this. With a simple, childlike trust we can all go on to great things with God, one step at a time. I believe, with all my heart, that if we commit ourselves to the simplest steps in the culture of the Kingdom, our lives, our Church, and our whole community of faith will become more beautiful than we have ever imagined. The transformation will begin in our own lives, and then it will ripple onto the shores of the lives all around us. If you have been holding back on your decision to follow Jesus, I sincerely hope this book has painted a picture so clear, and so wonderful for you, that you know it is time to say, “Yes,” to him. If you have been uncertain about whether you could trust God with your whole life, and build your whole life on his basic requirements, I hope this book has given you the encouraging nudge that you have needed to tell God, “I agree with you.” It is time for everyone to say “Yes,” to God, and live life leaning toward agreement with him.
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
*Excerpted from Ben Pasley’s latest book, Elementary, for sale in paperback and ebook form wherever fine books are sold! Want to read a bit more?