Inspiration Addiction

Inspiration Sobriety

I have been clean for 7 years. I not only was an addict, I was a dealer. Seven years ago I quit the business.

I delivered the good stuff, I had learned that the want for more would make me influential and powerful. I would spend hours each week preparing the dose, increasing the strength, and on special occasions like Christmas and Easter, my best chance to introduce new customers, ramp up production and quality to the limits.  I would long for my customers to have a near overdose experience.

I have been part of a 12-step program, and I am part of The Refuge, a faith community that has a high value on sobriety. Sex, drugs, alcohol and co-dependence are just some of the traps we seek to escape. We celebrate our baby steps toward freedom from these strongholds. I now realize we must add a new deadly drug, one that kills the soul. A steady dose of ecstatic Christianity is deadly. Inspiration addiction is quickly becoming an epidemic.

I believe that in large part the numerical success of the American mega church movement is because of inspiration addiction. The orchestration of the music, lights, message, video, and even the announcements are geared to creating an internal flood of adrenaline. That adrenaline is confused with the Holy Spirit. I have asked people, “Why do you go to Mega Church?” In almost every case the answer is the same: the music and/or speaker are amazing. Yet, no where in the scriptures do any of these values appear, in fact we are warned against it. We read of healing, learning and practicing communities and yet today we find ourselves facing forward, alone in the dark with our heart racing in anticipation of what might come next.

As the speaker, I could manipulate the success of the Sunday service. Tweaking the dose between services, giving the earlier, older demographic a more benign dose. The later Sunday services, or the Saturday night service, I would pour it on to the young people who required much higher doses due to the inoculation of so much stimuli outside the walls of our church. Often, just one dose, one hit of the cosmic cocktail of spirituality and adrenaline is all that is needed to create a steady need of dependence.

Like all addictions, an addict will live with an amazing amount of rationalization. The drunk who hates that he is ruining his family will console himself that just “one more and then no more” will make things right. The inspiration addict will endure the dismissal of women, the poor, even the average in pursuit of the amazing. The addict may sometimes wonder why no one on food stamps is in a position of leadership, or why millions and millions of dollars are spent on the operation of a ministry as opposed to actual food, shelter and comfort.  But the pursuit of their addiction trumps even what they know to be right.

I have confessed my part. I have attempted these past 7 years to make restitution. The Refuge is an inspiration addiction treatment center. Our method is cold turkey.  We give no reason to belong higher than the opportunity to grow in loving ourselves, others and God. So many have come, drawn by what resonates deep in their spirit, but they are unable to live free of the high cost of spiritual compromise.

It just feels too damn good.

I am not apologetic, but I am sympathetic. I know the cycle or a promise to live better, but by Sunday I needed just a little more. Our treatment center is always open, and I can say that those who can endure God will give a measure of freedom.

P.s. I will be gone for a week. I would love to dialogue more with you, so please leave ideas and make your comments and I promise to get to them first thing next week.

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36 Responses to Inspiration Addiction

  1. Sounds familiar. For me the ‘inspiration addiction’ was peppered with a dose of legalism. I had my awakening when the megachurch I was attending wanted us to pledge monthly to raise $14mil for a building expansion.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I hear you Randy and Karl.

    Today is the 4th of July. I celebrate freedom from oppression. Addictions of any kind alter the mood and give the illusion of freedom. They oppress – especially spiritual addiction.

    The highs I have experienced from the Holy Spirit do not alter my mood; His high gives me the thrill of sanity and stability. I am able to experience life to the fullest wherein I do not need to escape from reality by altering myself in any way: I feel my feelings; I challenge my thoughts and realize that the greatest piece about Jesus is that he isn’t into hype. I do not need to conjure up emotions that I do not have as I praise him. As I come to him – expecting no more from him or me – than to be ourselves THAT’S when I experience the presence of my living God – no matter where we are.

    It is FOR freedom that Christ has set us free!

  3. kathyescobar says:

    this post rocks. seriously, karl, you nailed it. thank you.

  4. Lori Ventola says:

    So good. And especially timely as I struggle to fine my voice as a leader. I’ll be thinking about this.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Karl. Just Awesome.

  6. Su Johnston says:

    AM so weary of the naval-gazing. Am weary of how much fault we Christians constantly find with each other. You don’t like the way they sing, he doesn’t like the furniture, she doesn’t like the way the vicar dresses, it was a problem for you and now you fixed it and think everyone else should too. Read Matthew and stop being so critical. No-one was ever saved by scolding. Instead of knocking what you don’t like and saying that your new ways are good, better best, try encouraging. God made each one of us different…mega church is not for me, but if it helps you to get to know God that’s great – I’m not going to spend my time knocking down that which another Christian has built. We don’t have time for this…and if we indulge in it we are just the same as the pharisees squabbling in the temple about which commandment is most important. Love God and love each other..that’s what matters (and those are not my rules).

    • karlw says:

      i admit, i am conflicted on how to love my brothers and still speak the truth (as i see it, for sure a flawed view)
      i just cannot take a pragmatic approach, that what is growing is ok with God. if that were true, wouldn’t we convert to either mormonism or Islam?
      i appreciate your gentle rebuke, and i will ponder it.

    • karlw says:

      I understand the critique, and i often allow my views of how it ought to be to cloud my vision. it is hard to love those that we think are causing damage, but the command remains none the less. I agree, no one was ever saved by scolding- a good reminder

  7. Karla Webb says:

    amen, brother!
    thinking on how sometimes the sounds of refuge overwhelm me, no wonder the one time i visited that lafayette mega church i was horrified. funny how one person’s poison is another’s passion

  8. John says:

    Karl, Karl, Karl, how could you so bite the hand that fed you for so long… your insight and words have really hit the mark with your blog. This post is one of your best, although I would be hard pressed to name my favorite. Thank you for your open honest approach, your words are not filled with venom, you just speak the truth as you have observed and lived, as many of us have. Peace be with you.

  9. You are getting really good at this whole writing thing. 😉
    Inspiration addiction started creeping me out a few years ago but I couldn’t quite explain why. As usual, someone else was able to put into words my own mixture of thoughts, feelings, and tendencies.
    You are a very gifted communicator, especially when it comes to speaking. That’s definitely what kept me coming back to 5:45 pm at Bear Valley. But what comforted me and challenged me to be really open to God was your commitment to friendship, repentance, and spiritual health.
    My daily struggle is self-righteousness. Not too long ago, I actually held myself in esteem over those who are rich–just because I make less money than them. Oh, poor pitiful me. Thankfully, I sensed something was not good about that and God revealed it to me.
    I’m happy to free from the type of church that values one straight line of thinking/believing. I can hear God much better now.

    • karlw says:

      i know that this is not blog related, but since i have you on the hook…
      I am a grandparent! i made it to wyoming just in time. the most perfect adoption i have ever experienced. i can not stop being weepy
      will send more info later

  10. Kevin Short says:

    Dude, would you please quit with the toe stomping? My feet are really sore from your direct, truthful, insightful, gentle words.

    I am trying to process the present topic…for good or ill, by seeking to keep it simple. Our goal is to seek to be relationally healthy with God and others as our community worships, serves, and interacts with truth. When I try to be inspirational I cannot stop myself and it leads to all kinds of tangential drunken adventures. However, inspiration might occur and I cannot apologize for it as we seek authentic relationships, serving the poor, etc. The temptation comes when we shape an event for the sole purpose of “inspiration” and this impacts who gets to serve, what songs you sing, and how you evaluate the success. Can we be satisfied with less money, less people, but more fulfilling relationships? Your words clearly show your choice and for that I commend you.

    Sadly, inspiration brings the numerical success (cash and people) and therein might be the root of much of the problem. I talked with a counselor recently who is struggling with this same issue and he shared a story of a mega-church leader who leads with an iron fist and goes through staff members like water. His comment to me was, “Once you get big you feel you have to do anything to maintain the success.” Code words like “efficiency” and “vision” are abused as staff members are berated for not reaching certain performance standards. Pastors can all too subtly go from loving shepherds to ecclesiastical CEO’s. The obvious fallacy is that we confuse success with health or success with God’s handiwork. It is not to say numerical success is bad, but it just offers far more temptations. It is one of the reasons we have tried to actually set a limit to our numerical growth and once we reach that point, plant other churches. I am sure there are many other things we can do to create an environment that fosters good health. That’s for another discussion. Great work here Karl!

    • karlw says:

      ok, that is what i meant to say! i like the reminder, and i totally agree that inspiration is beautiful, but cannot be a goal. i am positive that much of what i did when i spoke at events was disguise manipulation behind inspiration.
      My motto “you can be big and follow the ways of Jesus, but you cannot want to be big”

  11. Laura says:

    Dear Mr. Wheeler… (I feel compelled to address you with more respect since you have become a grandpa), at the risk of admitting your post inspires me, I love that you could articulate something that bothered me so badly I had to step down from leading worship several years ago. It was the creepiest feeling to see people watching me and knowing that I had to perform a certain way for them. As soon as I saw the tension in my spirit, I broke off the thing I love the most. So strange, this phenom of the contemporary American church. I’m gonna send you a thesis on what I strongly believe we should be putting our money toward tho. (privately) Hugs. AND CONGRATULATIONS, GRANDPA.

    • karlw says:

      you are leading the way. as a worship leader you will have way more influence. and as for the respect, please- “your royal Grandpaness” is fine

  12. gmiller365 says:

    Wow, great post! This really has me thinking. Is it the mega-church or is the problem we as leaders have created by letting church become about the songs, lights, sound, drama, preaching? Aren’t those things the tools?

    • karlw says:

      no doubt, size is not the issue. in my mind it is a decision to become “attractional”, once that is the desire, then you are on the same course, the same methodology. i have been in countless small churches who wanted to be a mega church, same difference.
      that is another longer conversation, but it is coming.

  13. Karl, Great words…I feel… “inspired ” –I need more! (LOL!) So many churches I used to attend did this –irritated me to no end! In this one church I asked the pastor if he could turn down the loud music at the end of the service because our ministry team was having a hard time praying for folks with all the loudness. He told us, “No. I won’t do that. People need to go out the door feeling inspired by the upbeat music. You can all pray in our ‘prayer room ‘ “.(Which consisted of a small room with a large table that took up 90% of the room!) He was more concerned with a party style atmosphere than with God’s presence. It’s pretty sickening when pastors are more concerned with manipulating people’s emotions than with inviting God’s supernatural presence.

    • karlw says:

      thanks michael, and i intend to come by your blog soon and spend some time, right now i am just feeling a bit overwhelmed. blessings to you and thanks for your wisdom and experience

  14. Wow, I apparently missed a few posts. I guess I went through a phase of inspirations addiction. I am afraid our current church may be moving in that direction. Problem is, I would come home and that nagging pain and emptyness would return.

  15. karlw says:

    interesting, the association of emptiness with the cycle. so, so true of all addictions

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  21. homewardboundragamuffin says:

    Reblogged this on Life with empty pockets and commented:
    The fact that I’m reading this post for the second time in several months means its strikes a chord with me!

  22. Pingback: returning: playing it safe. | kathy escobar.

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