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The Making of a Christian Radical

By Dave Kahle

Dave's intimate account of how he became a Christian radical.

Given this upbringing, by all rights I should today be a staunch Catholic. However, my parents, in addition to raising us as Catholics, also raised all of us to be independent. My father had heart problems, and was never expected to live much beyond 40. My parents were well aware of this, and in preparation for his early death, taught all of their six sons to be independent and self-sufficient. It followed naturally that my five brothers and I began to think independently, also.

A tension naturally developed. On one hand, we were expected to accept the doctrine and practices of the Catholic church and live our lives according to it, and, on the other, we were taught to live and act independently. Those two influences tugged at me from opposite ends of the spectrum.

Independence won out.

As a teenager I began to see contradictions in the doctrine I was expected to accept. How could eating meat on Friday, for example, send you to hell one year and the next, because the Pope says so, be perfectly OK? The doctrine of Purgatory always gave me trouble, particularly the idea of indulgences. Give the church money today, and after you die you'll spend a few less days suffering for your sins. The more I questioned these and other teachings, the more skeptical I became.

The priests and nuns that staffed the schools to which my parents sent us generally seemed to be a bit weird. Many appeared to be the kind of people who probably couldn't make it in the real world. It just didn't make sense to me that these people were being held up as objects of respect and examples to emulate when they appeared to be just the opposite to me.

Not only was the teaching suspect and the clergy questionable, but I found the church lacking in a more personal way. During my teenage years, my father had several heart attacks and eventually died of one. This was traumatic for all of us and certainly helped shape our lives. Over these years, I found little strength or comfort in the Catholic faith. Add that to the host of issues that most teenagers go through, and it left me feeling empty. All the church had to offer me was a list of rules and a bunch of meaningless rituals.

I knew something was missing. At the time, I couldn't articulate what it was. Now, I see it as a lack of a meaningful relationship with God.

This vacuum became a very real motivation for me. I became a seeker, looking for the missing spiritual ingredient in my life.

I became, first, an atheist. It was a way to rebel 180 degrees from the faith I found lacking. My personal life reflected my lack of anchors. I attended college because it was the thing to do, but I had no real direction or goals. A girl I was dating became pregnant. I was led to believe that I was the father, and married when I was 19. I worked full time, went to school full time, and filled my days with rushing from one task to another.

In my quieter moments, I searched for what was missing in my life. I studied philosophy in college and progressed from being an atheist to being an agnostic. Soon Eastern thought became very attractive. I studied Zen and toyed with Yoga. The laisse-fair attitude of the late 60s and early 70's made its impact on me as well.

But in all of this I was rootless. I felt like there was nothing genuine in my life. I had a job teaching, because it was the thing to do. The faith of my childhood appeared to be meaningless ritual, and I had been manipulated into a marriage that was similarly appearances and rituals with no substance.

After three years of marriage, I divorced. I was teaching, studying for my master's degree, and working a couple of extra jobs. It seemed like my solution to being confused and uncertain was to lose my self in work.

As I look back now, I'm amazed by how turbulent and unsettled I was during those years from age 17 to 24. I worked 50 - 60 hours a week, while I completed my bachelor's and master's degrees, and was busy every waking hour of the day.

Somewhere in that time, someone gave me a copy of a popular book, The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsay. I read it, and it scared me. I got a glimpse of a God that was completely different from the one I had been taught about in my Catholic upbringing.

I experienced an overwhelming sense that what I had been looking for somehow had to do with this God. I began to read the Bible and met frequently with a protestant minister to ask questions and delve into what I was reading.

It wasn't long before I decided to make a commitment and become a Christian. It was not an emotional moment, nor a sudden blinding conversion, but rather a methodical, logical step-by-step progression. First I came to the conclusion that it was more rational to believe that there really was a God then to believe that there wasn't. The evidence was overwhelming. Then, I concluded He was personal, not some mega-force out of a science fiction novel. Then, I concluded that He actually cared about me. I began to see that He was a spiritual parent, and that He loved and cared about me in the same way that a parent loves his children. He did, and does, want a close relationship with His children (that's me and you) just like a human parent does.

Next I considered Jesus Christ. I learned that God loved me, but because He was God -- almighty, eternal, all-powerful and loving -- He couldn't have a relationship with me as long as I was in my natural state. Sort of like taking a can of pure white paint. Just put one tiny drop of black in that can of paint, and it is no longer pure white. Just one drop of interaction between a pure and loving God and me, with all my faults, and God could no longer be who He was. There had to be a way for God to put a bridge between us and Him.

And, because He loves us so much, he reached out and provided that bridge -- His son Jesus. So, I studied Jesus, and came to the conclusion that he was who he said he was. I clearly remember being struck by his claim " I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me." Either he was a con artist, a mad man, or the son of God, sent to show us how to reconnect with our loving father. I looked at the evidence and ruled out the first two possibilities. That led to my commitment to follow him, not knowing at the time exactly what that meant. I was baptized one cool Fall Thursday evening at age 24.

I wish I could say that my life has been a breeze since then. But that's not the case. I've had personal troubles, career calamities, legal difficulties, health problems and financial setbacks. However, God has been with me all the way. There have been times that I doubted that, but He's always intervened in my life to shape my character and handle my needs.

I'm not sure what I would have become if I had not come to know Him. I'm sure it wouldn't be pretty. Clearly, God's presence in my life has slowly changed me into someone that I would not have been otherwise. I've gone from having the tiniest bit of faith when I decided to believe that there really was a personal, caring God, to the firm knowledge, based on experience, of the reality of that God.

And He, God in my life, has made all the difference.

All of this time, I've been plagued with an independent mind-set. My parents did their work well when they set out to make all of their sons independent. Just as I questioned the practices and teaching of the Catholic Church before I made my Christian commitment, in the same way I questioned the practices and teachings of the institutional protestant church afterward.

For example, I found whole groups of denominations teaching things like the sinfulness of playing cards, dancing, going to movies, moderate use of alcohol, etc. Yet I didn't find the teaching in the Bible supporting these positions. Of course, a person could take a position, like "card playing is evil," and then search the Bible for a few verses that could be taken out of content or interpreted in some creative way in order to support that position. But when looked at objectively with an open-mind, there just wasn't support for some of these "Christian-culture" positions.

My maverick mindset caused me to question some of the core practices of the institutional church. Why have church buildings for example? The Biblical precedent was for active small groups meeting in homes, not large masses sitting passively in large entertainment-oriented complexes. What about seminaries, pastors, denominational hierarchies and the political infrastructure within them? I found no biblical validation for many of the practices of the 21st century Christian church.

From a practical point of view, it seemed that many of these practices were even counterproductive. For example, the practice of appointing full time paid pastors in every congregation seemed to me to de-energize the Christian ministry of the congregation's members. Instead of every member of the congregation living out Christian directives, it was delegated to a paid professional Christian to do the work for them.

In short, I found the basic doctrine of the protestant church to be uplifting, but many of the institutions and practices to be as ill advised as those of the Catholic Church. Somewhere along the line, the western Christian church left the simple relationship-oriented Christianity that Christ created, and substituted politics, institutions and rules.

Just as I left the Catholic church years earlier, so I left the institutional Christian church later.

My journey led me to the house church movement. This is a growing movement of mavericks, scholars and new converts who either have left the institutional church out of conviction and a search for a more meaningful Christian life, or have never been exposed to it. Without infrastructure, "pastors" or organization, most house-church Christians believe in the authority of the Bible, the ability of Christians to understand it, the active role of the Holy Spirit, and the reality of relationships with Jesus Christ, His Father, and one another.

While I understand that I am on the radical margins of western Christianity, and that most institutional Christians cannot fathom my position, I've never been more comfortable in my Christianity, never more confident in my relationship with God, and never more secure in my position.

I've been blessed with a loving wife, a large and growing family, good health, and meaningful and rewarding work.

I see the house church movement as a special initiative of God to reach out to those who are turned off by the hypocrisy, politics and culture of the institutional church, to those who have been personally hurt by it, and to those who are seeking something deeper and more meaningful in their lives. While, at this point in time, it is not for everyone, it is a special expression of God's love and grace for some of his children, and I'm happy to be a part of it. It is today where the home school movement was 30 years ago. In the beginning of the home school movement, the pioneers in that movement were being put in jail. While house church proponents don't have jail to worry about, they are subject to the skepticism and judgement of their institutional church friends.

I expect that, in the next generation, house churches will become the accepted mode of Christian community, providing its adherents a closer relationship with God and a deeper attachment to one another. I'm happy to help, in my own small way, to pave the way.


Dave Kahle offers a variety of resources that can help your business stay competitive in changing times. To learn you can reach Dave by phone at 800-331-1287 or send him an email request.

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Distribution companies, by their nature, should be sales-oriented companies. But, most distributors don't do sales very well. That's the premise behind this new book.

The book, written for sales managers and executives in the distribution industry, provides a blue print for executives to transform their sales forces into highly directable, effective, focused performers.

The book begins with an analysis of current conditions that pressure the distributor to revise the way he/she thinks about his sales force. Kahle then paints a picture of the distributor sales force of the future. The sales force will be:
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His advice begins with "See it as a system," a concept that is based on one of the key principles for the book, "When you change the structure, you change the behavior of the people who work within that structure."
 
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