Archive for May 2012

Hybrid Faith

May 25, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W. May 25, 2012


I’ve driven a Civic Hybrid for the last few years. It’s a unique car. One young man, who is funnier than all get out always tells me, “Pastor Bill isn’t part of the problem. He’s part of the solution!”
Environmentally speaking.
People ask me how a hybrid car works and I tell them, “I don’t know.” It somehow switches back and forth from battery to gas and back again. I just drive it, and thank God every time I stop to put gas in it and see the other vehicles there consuming the family food allowance for the week.
So, as far as I understand it, the hybrid car combines those two forms of powering the car in some safe way that keeps it from exploding. And, as you may have noticed, more auto makers are churning out more hybrid models. A hybrid is becoming mainstream, not just some weird looking Prius that looks like someone cut the back end off with a buzz saw! By the way, a Prius is simply an AMC Gremlin with a new hairdo! If you don’t know what a Gremlin was…Google it!
Hybrid mainstreaming.
There is a mainstreaming happening in the faith arena also of “hybrid faith.” Hybrid faith is a combination of different beliefs and opinions and comfortable ideas that define a person’s faith journey. It’s spicy Italian food with twelves different herbs and spices- a pinch of this, a dab of that!
Hybrid faith is fueled by truth…as the person views it. If I’m a negative-minded person I might blend more Old Testament judgment into how I journey. If I’m more works-oriented I might blend in more of my beliefs from Rotarian community service. If I’m contemplative I might mix a little of the “Desert Fathers” in with some Transcendental Meditation and Buddhist prayer.
In other words, what powers my life gets determined by…me!
The result is that each individual is driving the vehicle for their faith. Absolute truth is what I determine it is.
Just as hybrid cars are getting a foothold now in auto sales, hybrid faith is getting a larger share of the market in the faith community. A Biblical faith is about as easy to find as an Oldsmobile.
Granted interpretation of Scripture needs some grace and flexibility. God is neither Democrat nor Republican, but you would never know it in talking to some believers. Whether one drinks alcohol or abstains from it can be supported with different opinions in different places for different reasons. What is worship is defined by one person one way and another person in a completely different way.
That is what makes hybrid faith a slippery critter to lasso. Defining it is difficult to do because, whether we want to confess it not, our picture of what it is includes our own faith journey experience. It becomes a “snipe” that is hunted, but never really found. The difference is that hybrid faith is there, and growing like the exhaust smoke trailing a ’66’ Chrysler Newport.

Old Voices With New Sound

May 9, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   May 9, 2012


One of my closest friends in ministry is Tom Bayes. He, Chuck Moore, and I (Wolfe) met together for lunch every other Thursday for several years when we were all pastoring churches in the Lansing, Michigan area. We referred to ourselves as “The BMW Lunch Group” (Bayes, Moore, Wolfe).

Tom has a little southern twang to his voice that is distinctive. He and I were roommates on the first trip to Israel that both of us were on. He harassed me in humorous ways about the fact that I was only bringing back a pack of caramel candies to my wife from the Holy Land.

Tom and I talked on the phone about three weeks ago for a solid hour. He sounded like…Tom!

Last week I got a call on him that I couldn’t answer at the time, so I called him back a while later. The voice on the other end wasn’t Tom. It sounded like an 80 year old cowboy sitting around a campfire eating beans and chewing tobacco. It wasn’t his voice.

He asked me how I was doing.

“Fine…do you know who you are talking to?”

“Sure…Bill Wolfe.”

“And this is Tom Bayes?”


“Tom Bayes in Illinois.”

Chuckle. “Yes.”

“Man, it just doesn’t sound like you.”

Our conversation went on. He was telling me a couple things about his wife, Diane. But it felt uncomfortable, because I know Tom’s voice and this didn’t sound like him. Finally, after just a few minutes I made some excuse about needing to be some place, and we ended the conversation.

The thing is, it was Tom. The problem, or the change agent if you will, was Verizon or AT&T. The connection made him sound different. I was used to him just sounding one way. (Of course, I never thought about the possibility that he sounded the same. It was my hearing that had changed.)

As people of God our hearing is often tuned in to a spiritual monotone voice. We can only hear one thing, one note, one voice, one way. One is a number that is used in Scripture quite often to talk about unity, focus, purpose, and wholeness, but we often play it out by thinking that the voice of God gets heard in only one way. When the voice is different than what we’ve been accustomed to it becomes just a little bit too weird.

In Scripture, Abraham heard from three visitors, Moses from a bush that was blazing, Balaam from his mode of transportation, Mary from an angel, Joseph from an angel in a dream, Elijah from a gentle whisper. The way God communicates his message is always truth, but in a multitude of forms.

Can we hear in new ways?

I’ll admit that it was tough to hear my old friend Tom with a new voice. Spiritually speaking, however, I believe you can teach and old church how to hear in new ways.