Problems with Playing Church Today

Written and presented by Shawn McCraney in Murray, UT.

In this episode of “Heart of the Matter,” Shawn McCraney emphasizes the show’s unique approach to faith, rejecting traditional doctrinal statements and organized religion’s rigid structures. He responds to viewer questions about their doctrinal stance, asserting that faith and love should be individually defined and explored. McCraney criticizes the historical and modern abuses within religious institutions, advocating for personal spiritual seeking over reliance on religious authorities. He stresses transparency and authenticity in faith leaders, acknowledging human imperfections while promoting a journey of faith guided by the Spirit rather than human intermediaries.

Introduction to Problems with Playing Church

Live from Salt Lake City, this is Heart of the Matter and I am Shawn McCraney.

Hey! Thanks for tuning in. Father, we seek you and the Spirit of your Son. In His Holy name, Yeshuan, Amen.

Doctrinal Clarification

Addressing a Comment

Right out the gate I want to address an important clarification. We got a comment posted from a person known as sunfilms80 who kindly asked for a doctrinal statement from us.

Our Response

We replied with the following:

“The only doctrinal stance we make is faith and love and we let people subjectively define what that means. We have lots of books at thegreatnewsnetwork.com, though, to unpack how we came to this conclusion.”

Sunfilm replied,

“Thank you for that. A statement of faith might be more helpful though. I don’t really have the time to read all of those books. I would be interested in following and listening, but for example if one day I learn that your faith is Unitarian and not Trinitarian, I might not be too happy to learn that after a few months. Anyway, do what you want.”

Our Position

I’m grateful for Sunfilm’s request because it serves to show how far afield we are from traditional thinking and religious mindset typically associated with organized religion.

I might personally maintain a specific view which will admittedly slant some of the teachings we present, but I will always try and point this out when present and mention the other views that exist all the while admitting that I may be wrong and that all views are welcomed from seeking souls.

This is a very different approach from organizations that stand on this point or that, categorizing themselves as of this persuasion or that persuasion.

I am just a teacher. The group I teach all believe as they choose and are inclined and participate as a means to consider, not to be told what to believe or do.

Statement of Faith

Why We Don’t Have One

We do NOT have nor will we ever have a statement of faith or mission statement because the mere existence of one automatically serves to divide.

Brother – doctrines divide and create divisions – they really do and so we leave it up to each individual to determine (hopefully by the Spirit) what they choose to believe and leave it up to them and their Maker.

The only perspective that we steadily teach from is we strongly suggest a fulfilled view of scripture but point out that if this view is incorrect then our interpretations are also incorrect and for people, again, to go accordingly.

Emphasizing Faith and Love

Why? There is just SO much that we just don’t know. So so much material that is interpreted differently by respective believers and scholars and denominations.

I will say that I believe that God reconciled the entire world to Himself by and through the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of His Son and that all individual people are now in a place of choosing either to seek and follow Him in spirit and truth or not.

Beyond that, we have absolutely no statement of faith and suggest that this information should be enough of a statement to bring informed consent to anyone considering our content.

The end of the road for all of this is we preach, teach and encourage ubiquitous “faith and love.”

Faith in what? Each individual has to decide this for themselves – we can’t decide that for you. Hear, learn then go as you are led.

If this approach is too open for you, and you need to be sure that wherever you are listening to will confirm your existing views or biases, you have probably come to the wrong place.

Welcoming All Perspectives

We will NOT be labeled nor assigned man-made titles other than we TEACH from a place of fulfillment, and we promote faith in the unseen God and love for Him and others as His Son commanded.

What that looks like is NOT denominational but instead welcomes all denominations all the time as people of faith ought to be on a journey and not having arrived.

Engaging with Seekers

Addressing Viewers and Comments

This also brings something to mind that is not easy to hear but I’m obligated to say it anyway –

Seekers seek. They are driven to do the work and to put the effort forth to seek. Seekers are willing to be tested, challenged and to expose their existing views to things that they are willing to change when the evidence moves them to.

We exist to reach seekers – not religious people – seekers of God in spirit and truth. We are not here to spoon-feed anyone what they ought to believe but to teach them what they could believe – and not.

Our audience is a scarce rarity. We will never appeal to the masses because the masses usually want to either be told what to believe and the masses usually are not willing or interested in seeking as a means to make up their own mind.

We ardently stand by the following passage and believe it is the dividing line between children of God and His sold-out Sons and Daughters, when we read

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

The Greek word translated diligently there is EX-AYE-TAYO and it means crave.

Conclusion on Seeking

For those who crave to know Him in spirit and truth, statements of faith are a minor factor in their quest. Hope this helps.

And we welcome your calls tonight to confront this approach with religiosity if you are so inclined.

220-222-HOTM

Over the next few weeks and then every month thereafter we are going to introduce and/or highlight various people, ministries, and tools that they offer for your consideration.

Introducing Delaney McCraney

Segment with Delaney

And my first introduction in THIS FULL CIRCLE show is to my youngest Daughter, Delaney McCraney to talk about something that we do together to help people not too familiar with the Bible.

Delaney!

[Segment on “I DON’T GET THE BIBLE”]

Feedback on Last Week’s Launch

We’ve had some good feedback on last week’s launch along with a good number of views (for us) and considering that it’s not a topical favorite in the world.

The most negative responses were by my telling the caller to F-off with double barrel digital indicators.

This was so inappropriate to some viewers because when we are talking about public discourse – especially religiously oriented public discourse – that word and those elevated fingers are frankly repugnant to most people – unless of course, they are watching professional athletes compete with each other who do the same or are viewing an action-oriented film where the protagonist passionately stands up to corruption.

In those settings, such things are often passable and expected, even to people of faith, right?

But in the arena of faith boy do we want our representatives to appear good, holy and to speak calmly, reverently, and with decorum?

Authority and Abuse

Human Nature and Authority

There are some sobering facts about humanity that we just cannot get around. One of them is that most people have a hard time directly resisting the urge to honor and respect people in positions of authority and/or those who are socially respected and esteemed as successful.

We give a lot of wiggle room to the powerful, wealthy and famous in what they say and do but when a common man or woman does the same things we tend to judge and vilify them.

Whether a schoolteacher, referee, coach, someone in law enforcement or the military, most people in the face of any semblance of “authority” will submit to it – even trust or elevate it – one, because the authority appears to know or represent something we are supposed to respect and follow, and two, people are typically quick to surrender their responsibility over to others who appear to be above them in the social strata of whatever area of life in question.

Worshipping Success

Human beings are also naturally inclined to adore/worship/follow material representations of success that they will often surrender their will and reason over to them unquestioningly.

From our Hollywood and musical stars to business moguls and powerful politicians, most people can’t help but gravitate toward their allure and position, while yearning for their audience and attentions and will often go to extremes to please or impress them – even being willing to surrender over to them control over their lives.

Examples of Abuse

The recent stories surrounding the depravations of Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, and Bill Cosby come to mind from the secular world but religion has more of its fair-share of powerful predators in the likes of Ted Haggard, Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, Bob Coy and of course the most recent expose being of the late Apologist Ravi Zacharias…and these do not even scratch the surface of the unknown or lesser-known abuses that thousands of people over the centuries have experienced at the hands of their trusted religious authorities, leaders, pastors, priests, bishops, reverends, youth leaders, and spiritual mentors.

Because of what we have errantly come to embrace as the model for doing church today – which was certainly based on the model found in the apostolic record where Yeshua called human apostles and they afterward selected deacons, pastors, elders and such to help govern that Church bride until He came for her – why on earth has God allowed, encouraged, or worst yet demanded a similar system to exist all the while knowing what men and women in power are capable of doing?

He…hasn’t.

God’s Stance

And He tacitly says so in His scripture. But men have overlooked or ignored what He says and merely created bastions of supposed authority themselves by and through an anachronistic application of that former biblical model.

They’ve had no right, no authority, but they have all offered a corruptible material counterfeit to what God does through His Spirit and the results have always, always, always been a fail – without exception.

Reflecting on the Garden Account

Think about it? Is God behind ANY person, group, or institution that will harm even one person that trusts them in His name? Even ONE soul?

NEVER.

Go back with me to the Garden account. God created Man in His image, male and female made He THEM, and after giving some brief instructions He allowed them to choose to follow those instructions out of love for Him or not.

They of course chose to “not” and in the first act of playing religion, they dressed themselves up in fig leaves to hide their nakedness.

It’s a type, plain as day.

The New Covenant

Before and After Christ

Yes, we can see that God called men and women to lead others in the days of His relationship with the Nation of Israel prior to the advent of His Son.

That WAS a different day and age. BEFORE His Son.

And yes, Yeshua certainly called first-hand witnesses of His resurrection, and yes, they, in turn, allowed other people to help govern that Bride in that day as she waited to be rescued by Him as He had so clearly promised.

But beyond these biblical descriptions, applicable to them/then, once Yeshua had reconciled the world to the Father, God Himself describes what His New Testament would look like in Jeremiah 31:31-34, saying,

Jeremiah 31:1 Behold, the days come, saith YAHAVAH, that I will make a new covenant (testament) with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith YAHAVAH:
33 But this shall be the covenant (testament) that I will make with the house of Israel; (and remember, by faith we are all adopted into that house, according to Paul) After those days, saith YAHAVAH, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith YAHAVAH: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

The Role of Tertullian

A man named Tertullian a hundred plus years after the utter obliteration of Jerusalem decided that he would call the collection of apostolic writings “the New Testament” and the fallout from this decision has been sobering in terms of nearly two millennia of ecclesiastical abuse. WHY?

Because it DIRECTLY usurped how God Himself described His New Testament and replaced it with a collection of books, written with ink on paper instead of by the Spirit on individual hearts and minds.

Remember this as I am going to return to the idea in a moment before we go to the phones.

The Church’s Evolution

So, men (who were not taken from the earth when Christ took His Bride but for some reason remained behind) they somehow convinced themselves that it was necessary to continue to practice church “like the apostles did with the nascent holy pure and unblemished Bride,” and they used their writings to help dictate how this should be done.

The first of them were known as the patristic fathers or the early church fathers. They all disagreed with each other and bore numerous unbiblical views about matters of faith from very early on.

These 1st and 2nd Century believers ultimately fomented into Catholicism, which got its legs under Constantine, who took genuine conversions occurring by and through the Spirit of God directly and made conversions mandatory according to the State.

This quickly turned into innumerable predatory practices at the hands of that religious authority for the next 6 to 700 years.

Eastern Orthodoxy, unhappy with some things, chose to part ways with them in 1054 – a schism which was utterly without authorization in the sense of the Body supposed to be of one Lord, one faith, and one Baptism” and made the faith ostensibly worshipping two Lords, two faiths and two baptisms.

This was followed by the Protestant Reformation around 1530 which introduced sola scriptura to the world, again relying on ink and paper instead of the Spirit (notice that there was no sola spiritus) and that was followed by the Restorationist movements from the likes of Alexander Campbell, Joseph Smith, Russell, White, and Eddie.

All refusing to take God’s literal words seriously from the text that they claim to uphold. All subverting His words. All opening up people who trust them to abuse.

Common Traits of Religious Movements

What do all of these expressions, intended to replicate the nascent church via material religion have in common?

They have all:

  1. Divided the body.
  2. Introduced human instructions, insights, doctrines, and practices.
  3. Have all committed ecclesiastical abuses in His name.
  4. Put people into various forms of religious bondage which Christ came to set them free from, stripping them of the Liberty they could have in Christ.

God’s New Testament

This is one reason WHY God described His New Testament in the way He did.

It is the reason Yeshua Himself said to Nicodemus,

John 3:8 The wind blows where it wants, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

We propose and stand by how God Himself described His New Testament and acknowledge that no religious institution has ever had the reign or control over His Spirit.

We propose that nobody is any longer in a place to tell anyone else that they need to know the Lord, and we propose that this ought to cause all human teachers to be self-effacing, humble, open to all ideas and views and who are especially reticent to mask or camouflage themselves as holy, authoritative, and therefore trustworthy.

The Call for Transparency

In other words, we think that anybody who refused to openly admit to their human depravities should automatically be suspect of being worthy.

There is only one Good, and that is God. We are NOT holy, even if saved, even if mature, even if we outwardly appear to be, look right, speak right, or try to seem right.

No matter how much lipstick we put on the pig, we are all still pigs – pastors included. Bishops included. Priests included.

The game of religion has long abandoned this approach. The game of religion, because it must be seen as the intermediary between God and man, MUST, by this very definition, present its leaders as worthy, holy, and better able to represent God than those sitting in the pews.

Wasn’t this the tenor of Yeshua’s story of the Pharisee and the Publican who went up to the temple to pray?

Wasn’t the latter, who couldn’t even lift his eyes better equipped to enter the Kingdom than the proud righteous in His own eyes Pharisee?

Defending Against Criticism

Addressing Sage’s Email

We received an email from a man named Sage who wrote:

“Why would you defend a religion that was started by Joseph Smith? Are you okay with the fact that he r*ped young girls and was a known con man? Look up Fanny Alger. Look up The CES letter. He was literally murdered in a jail where he was being imprisoned for burning down a printing press that was posting articles about him being a pedophile. Joseph Smith is just the older LDS version of Warren Jeffs.”

First of all, some of what you present is not accurate, Sage, but some of it is. For argument’s sake, let’s assume it all is factual.

The Flaws of Founders

Your reasoning sounds logical and good. It sounds upright and something we ought to consider. But it’s not.

For some ridiculous reason, you seem to want to believe that people (in the faith) can and should be trusted – that personal worthiness is a measurement of the truths they promote.

They are not connected. Your question is like suggesting that a cancer specialist is never allowed to smoke, drink, sunbathe, or eat processed food.

Even in the world of religion, the one thing has NOTHING to do with the other. Why? No man should ever be seen as being holy, worthy, or good – ever – because no man is.

Examining Historical Figures

Think about King David.

God said that He was a man after His own heart. David broke almost every point of the Law, did you know that?

He put the ark outside his house.
He let his men eat the showbread reserved for the priests.
Bore false witness.
He committed adultery.
He committed murder.

But God said that He was a man after His own heart? Why? Because He never ever had any other God before Him. He never practiced idolatry. He never allowed anything or anyone to come between Him and His God.

To the point that in reference to his actions against Bathsheba and Uriah he said,

Psalm 51:4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight:

David was true. David had a heart for God. He was authentic. And as such, we are allowed to see that he, like all human beings, was a failure in his flesh.

Aren’t we all?? Clergy too – even clergy especially?

The Role-Playing of Religion

The role-playing created by the game of religion allows for all manner of innuendo, shadow-play, and corruption to occur with men and women pretending how they think they should be rather than honestly

admitting to what they are – if not with their hands then in their minds.

When Ravi Zacharias’s sexual perversions were discovered – mostly post-mortem – many in the Christian community thought it appropriate to renounce his once-believed inspired teachings altogether.

To strike his name from the halls of holy piety.

And they ironically concluded that MORE accountability was needed! Isn’t that comical? Don’t they realize that men and women who want to sin will never respond honestly to human accountability?

The Need for Authenticity

What should have happened in the case of Ravi Zacharias and all the cases of abuse over the millennia is people of faith should never elevate any person up as trustworthy.

Ravi should have had the liberty to be as authentic from the start so that it could publicly be understood serving as a protective barrier to unsuspecting women WHILE sharing his astute apologetic perspectives.

Such transparency is never allowed in church playing. No, religious people want religious “looking” people to lead them then chomp at the bit to destroy them when their feet of clay are discovered.

They forget that Peter, who was put in charge of opening the doors of the Gospel to the world was a hypocrite and was called out by Paul.

They forget that Paul considered himself chief of sinners and admitted, while he was an apostle, that, “he did what he did not want to do and did not do what he desired.”

Who admitted that he had a thorn in his side that he prayed God to remove and God said, my grace is sufficient.

Personal Transparency

You want a protective barrier between me and you? I love women, I enjoy porn when my flesh reigns, I like to get blitzed when it’s responsible and I will do everything in my power not to punch you in the face if you drive poorly but I want to.

To look at Mormonism as the product of its founder we must also be willing to look at the founders and participants of every religious movement and admit that all of them fall short – except Yeshua.

And that is the point – God wants us to look to and trust in Him, by His Spirit – and no other because all others are failed intermediaries that are willing to be honored, followed, and sometimes even worshipped.

How many priests, pastors, youth leaders, and bishops have taken children and teens into their clutches because they were trusted as being holy by them and their parents and have been abused?

You think God thinks this is justifiable to a degree? That it’s the cost of doing religious good?

How many billions of dollars have been swindled in the name and cause of God? How many women have been abused and mistreated by religious authority?

And you want to look at founders? Joseph Smith is low-hanging fruit because he was frankly a dude who liked women. What about the traits and flaws of others which were just as morally corrupt (according to your standards) and even more corrupt according to God’s?

Examining Religious Leaders

Martin Luther? In an age post-Christ, he was a misogynist and confirmed anti-Semite. So goodbye all of Protestantism.

Calvin? Had people literally put to death for disagreeing with him! To death!

Erasmus – who is a scriptural hero of mine – a confirmed homosexual (by all accounts).

This is the reality, folks. And we haven’t even mentioned Hillsong or any of the other utter bull shitake mushroom sauce surrounding John McArthur and MLMs or the like.

Show me a pastor who actually believes that he or she has the right to be esteemed as holy and should be treated as such and I will show you an absolute HYPOCRITE, a Liar, and a person unworthy of being heard.

Embracing Transparency

So, all that said, I refuse to pretend to be what I am not in my flesh. That is why I reacted to that caller last week (where there is a backstory you are not familiar with which should also serve as a reminder to withhold making judgments of one another).

Anyone serving the King would embrace similar transparency with respect to their human weakness. To play the game of worthiness, in the end, always, always, always, in some corner of the world, lends to depredations, manipulations, and abuses in the name of God.

When this becomes the norm, the secret abuses will diminish – guaranteed – and the New Testament God will be in place leading by His Spirit – and not men – after all these years.

Don’t agree with me? Here’s a finger.

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