Interview with Mike Clarensau about “From Belonging to Becoming”


In this video, I interview Mike Clarensau about his new book, From Belonging to Becoming: The Power of Loving People Like Jesus Did. Mike is senior director of the Healthy Church Network. Prior to that, he was senior pastor of Maranatha Worship Center in Wichita, Kansas. From Belonging to Becoming charts a new pathway of discipleship. Instead of believing-belonging-becoming, Mike argues that Jesus practiced belonging-believing-becoming, putting relationship before the call to faith or the commitment to a new lifestyle. Indeed, the relationship with Jesus made both faith and holiness possible in the lives of Jesus’ followers. This is the model of discipleship we too should follow.

I reviewed Mike’s book here.

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Here are the questions Mike answered with timecodes:

  • 00:03 Introduction
  • 00:28 The “assimilation process” at most churches looks like this: believing-becoming-belonging. In this book, you argue that belonging comes first: belonging-believing-becoming. How did you come to the realization that most churches’ “assimilation process” has things backward?
  • 05:39 Throughout the book, you use the story in Luke 7 about the sinful woman anointing Jesus’ feet at the home of Simon the Pharisee. There are three main characters in the story. There are also two ways of responding to the sinful woman and two ways of responding to Jesus. What are those ways?
  • 08:45 Why is so hard for pastors and church members to realize that their ways of responding to “sinners” are often more like the Pharisees’ than like Jesus’? What are the rationalizations we offer for our ways of responding, and why are they wrong?
  • 12:28 What do you mean by “belonging”? Does it involve putting nonbelievers in positions of leadership at the church?
  • 15:16 John Maxwell says that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Is that true? What do you mean when you say, “Once that people know that you care, they care what you know”?
  • 18:00 Throughout the book, you share your own personal journey of discovery on this matter. How did your specific context in Wichita, Kansas, help you make this discovery?
  • 22:02 Are you really saying that there aren’t moral absolutes or things that the church should be known for?
  • 25:12 Isn’t it a lot more easy (and fun) to denounce sin than to redeem the individual sinner?
  • 26:50 Is belonging-believing-becoming a methodological approach to helping people experience the wholeness of life Jesus offers?
  • 28:36 All of this sounds like that “seeker sensitive” stuff. Doesn’t the Bible describe the gospel as an offense?
  • 31:10 The book complexifies our thinking by forcing us to realize that much of what we do at church is more Pharisaical than Jesus-like. It forces us to ask, “What kind of Christianity am I actually practicing?” What’s the difference between becoming like Jesus as opposed to becoming like other church people.
  • 33:31 Part 2 of the book describes the shift of thinking church leaders must experience to begin to welcome the “sinful woman” into their community as Jesus did. What does that shift look?
  • 36:46 What can pastors do to begin to forming friendships with people outside of church?
  • 39:19 What about the objection: |”We don’t want ‘those people’ around our kids”?
  • 41:22 What can we do to be more friendly to people who begin to attend our church?
  • 43:45 What should church leaders take into account in their “assimilation process”?
  • 46:31 What is “congregational astigmatism”? How do we overcome it?
  • 49:00 What is the Healthy Church Network? Where can people get more information about it?
  • 50:32 Concluding remarks
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5 thoughts on “Interview with Mike Clarensau about “From Belonging to Becoming”

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  1. George, I don’t know where to start. Do we have no theological sensitivity? This is an intrusion of the “Emergent Church” heresy into the life of the church. First, “BELONGING to becoming”? “Belong” does not mean being loved and cared for, it means to be a “part of.” In the Christian context it would mean to be part of the family of God and no man can be a part of the family of God without first “becoming by faith in Jesus.” Wait, I am not missing the point here. Welcoming and being kind and serving is absolutely the right thing to do to unbelieving persons. But, “to let the outsiders determine how caring we are” totally misses the point. We are first to declare the gospel truth, which will make unbelieving rebels and sinners uncomfortable and not wanted. Love is NOT the way into the Church of God. It is hearing and repenting and believing when confronted by the truth of the Gospel the transforms us into a child of God and a “belonger” in the family of God. It is not just Pharisees that resist the Gospel. All have fallen short of the glory of God and are suppressing the knowledge of God with our wickedness. Only the truth delivered in the power of the Holy Spirit will change a rebel into a believer and then into a “belonger.” The passage in Luke teaches a very important point but it is not meant to be a formula for evangelizing the world. Matthew 28:18-20, is: Going, preaching, teaching all Jesus has commanded is. This all sounds so sweet and wonderful, but it subtly but surely takes away from the importance of declaring the truth to a world that needs to hear the hard and healing truth of the Gospel. The most loving thing I can so is to love the sinner by sharing the Gospel with the unbeliever. I visited a college church on the west coast who believed everything this man advocates. At communion, we were told this was an “open communion” which he defined as “if you have a heart for something more, if you are still seeking for God.” then you are invited to participate. Loving perhaps, caring perhaps, but heresy! I am going to out now and chew on nails.

    1. Cute. [That response sure stops any possibility of meaningful dialogue.] I think that is the curse of those who believe in truth, love the truth and are seeking to know the truth until they die. It seems to me that our church is so committed to finding the right methods that we have lost confidence in the right message. This not about me. This is about he power of God’s Word. There is a great controversy in the church that has is out there over the issue raised by the emergent church movement because it puts “belonging” before “believing.” I am not saying that the author is not a wonderful man has not put a lot of wonderful things in his book. But, I fear he has unwittingly bought into a system without knowing the theological assumptions behind it. I do not apologize for not being more casual about these things.

  2. I cannot remember you posting a positive comment about anything I’ve written on this blog or posted either here or on Facebook. In fact, you used “chew on nails” or a similar expression in conclusion to a post either here or on Facebook–the one about my interview with Jonathan Kvanvig, if memory serves, You’re frustrated. I get that. But all I hear from you is criticism and frustration. If that’s how you feel about the totality of my work, fine. Just don’t get upset if I volley your own words back at you.

    By the way, I find it interesting that you think my “cute” comment “sure stops any meaningful dialogue,” somehow overlooking that you accused Mike Clarensau–a fellow ordained minister in the Assemblies of God and the director of a national ministry–of promoting “heresy.” What meaningful dialogue do you expect me to have with you after you’ve made that indictment?

    As for the substance of your argument, let me note several things:

    (1) Mike uses the word “belonging” for “relationship with” not “membership in.” In neither the book nor in the interview does he confuse those two things. I know because this was the topic of conversation at the 12:28 mark.

    (2) Second, you write: “We are first to declare the gospel truth, which will make unbelieving rebels and sinners uncomfortable and not wanted. Love is NOT the way into the Church of God.” Frankly, that second sentence is bizarre. God’s love motivates the entire plan of salvation, so clearly love is the ultimate starting point into the Church of God. And clearly we should be motivated by love when we preach that people are “unbelieving rebels and sinners,” so our love motivates our presentation of the gospel. Now, I know that you agree with these two points, so your statement must be about something else. But you write, “Welcoming and being kind and serving is absolutely the right thing to do to unbelieving persons.” But if you agree with that, why do you write, “Love is NOT the way into the Church of God.” I mean, when are we supposed to welcome, be kind to, and serve sinners? Only after we have presented the truth or before? If after, why do you write that welcoming, etc., is “the right thing to do to unbelieving persons”? If before, why do you cavil about love being the way into the Church of God?

    Perhaps, I’ve just misinterpreted you here. Perhaps what you mean is that before a person can become a member of the church, he must confess his sins and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If that’s all you mean, then you and Mike don’t disagree since, as I point out in (1) Mike is talking about “relationship with” unbelievers–i.e., how we related to them–rather than “membership in” the church. So if your statement about love not being the way into the church of God pertains to church membership, you’ve simply misinterpreted what Mike said.

    (3) You write, “The passage in Luke teaches a very important point but it is not meant to be a formula for evangelizing the world. Matthew 28:18-20, is.” Why can’t Luke 7 be one example of how to disciple people? It’s not the only way, but it is a way under particular circumstances.

    (4) “It seems to me that our church is so committed to finding the right methods that we have lost confidence in the right message.” I agree with this to a significant degree. (Personally, I think message and method go hand in glove. Some methods are appropriate to the gospel, others aren’t.) I simply don’t think your criticism applies in Mike’s case.

    (5) “I am not saying that the author is not a wonderful man has not put a lot of wonderful things in his book. But, I fear he has unwittingly bought into a system without knowing the theological assumptions behind it.” Right. Mike’s a “wonderful man” who says “wonderful things,” except for the “heresy” that underlies the entire premise of his book, a “heresy” he “unwittingly bought into” because he didn’t know “the theological assumptions behind it.” Mike as an M.A. and a D.Min. from AGTS. Why do you assume he’s uninformed, theologically speaking?

  3. It sounds like we have something personal going on here. I have never attacked you or anything you have written. I have read other posts and not commented. I have made comment upon some of the works you have featured by others./ “Heresy” is a strong term and I regret using it. But, I assume you are aware of the emergent church’s belief that “belonging” precedes “believing.” That is certainly not a Biblical truth. That is what the author’s words implied./ I have never used the term “biting on nails, ever.” / Love is the motivation for God’s saving work, but it is the Gospel preached in the power of the Spirit that regenerates the soul of an unbeliever. All the love in the world will not convince a sinner he is in need of a Savior without the Gospel. That does not mean that love is not crucial for it demonstrates our likeness to Christ./ We are all theologically uninformed in some areas./ Thank for you candid response. You need not respond to this reply. You made your points. I made mine.

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