Monday, March 2, 2009


So a question came up from my previous post, “what do you mean Free-Range Christian”. Well, I believe that the term was coined by Wayne Jacobsen so I’ve posted his thoughts here (and my own 2 cents worth after).

“Someone was talking about a wine list they saw at a restaurant that was offering “free-range wine.” They were asking me what that was, knowing I’d grown up on a vineyard. The term really tickled me. According to Wikipedia “Free range is a method of farming husbandry where the animals are permitted to roam freely instead of being contained in any manner. The principle is to allow the animals as much freedom as possible, to live out their instinctual behaviors in a reasonably natural way…” I don’t know how you apply that to vines. We never had to cage them up in our vineyard because they weren’t ever trying to get away.
But as we talked about it, we thought what a great term it was for believers who are no longer a committed part of Sunday morning institutions. We haven’t left Christ. We’ve not lost our passion for the body, but many of us have found it far easier to grow and help others grow without all the overhead, machinery and rituals of organized religion. To some of us it was a cage that did not promote healthy spiritual growth, but actually stifled it by all the personal expectations and political necessities of an institution. Now, I know not everyone feels that way and many continue to find great life and growth in such places. If it is helping you know God better and live more deeply in him, good on you! But it is also fabulous that others are finding more opportunities for growth in the freedom from some of the restrictive realities of many of those institutions.

‘Free-range believers’ is a good way to say it. Now don’t worry. I’m not coining a term to identify a new movement or exploit a new market. I just think it’s a wonderful way to express what many of us are finding to be true—maybe we all don’t have to grow up in the same environment. What may be a joy for some can become a prison for others. And yet we are all believers still in this marvelous journey. Free-ranger believer. That has all the overlays of freedom and not growing being hyped up through artificial nutrition. As many write me, it certainly is not an easier way to live, but for many it is more real and more life-transforming.” (Wayne blogs at )

So, for me “free-range” makes sense. Someone said that the metaphor seems limiting, as animals rarely wander too far from the barn or the barn yard. And that works for me too. Christ has given us the world to wander and to witness too. In fact he calls us to it!

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt 28:19-20)

So if I wake each day and ask God what he is doing and how I can be part of it instead of following my own agenda, well it seems to me the range I wander is defined by Him not me. And the “barn yard” looks beautiful in the shadow of the cross.

As my co-blogger Trucker Frank put it “free-range simply means that we are jumping man made fences in a pursuit of what Father calls us to be”. Could not have said it better my friend!

Thanks TS for the question. I hope the answer makes sense. We’d love to hear comments.

In HIM - fbw


The 2 Ellerbys said...

Hey Franks
that was SO lovely. I am fully embracing that terminology right now!
Is there a t-shirt planned?
Will there be conferences? Please say there'll be conferences...please!
How about worship cd's?
Do you chaps realise how big this could get?

Carhauler John said...

Way to go Frank W. I adopted this term some time ago, thanks to Wayne Jacobsen, and I think it's a good description of living loved. The "instinctual behavior" of every believer is living by the power of the Holy Spirit, unfortunately the confines of the institutional church impedes this process. Like a wild animal that's been caged in the zoo, we no longer need the Holy Spirit to feed us, that's the job of the "zoo keeper" (pastor). That's what we pay him for!!

Carhauler John said...

I would like to know more about this "free-range" wine that Wayne Jacobsen referred to in the quote. I prefer sweet or semi-sweet. I wonder of it's cheaper by the case???

Frank Waller said...

My Dear Ellerbys, while the prospect of self-inflating conferences, books, speaking engagements and a future prime time TV event are alluring, we are gratefully declining. (And we all know that there are enough of these out there, many are just distractions)

All kidding aside, God wants all of us to just abide in him. We both (I get to speak for TF here) really believe that what we need is fewer books and conferences and more “ground troops”. God has bigger plans that include staying rooted in Him, living out His plan, communing with His followers and just living loved by Him. But a nice meal together with prayer and communion would be delightful!

Frank Waller said...

Thanks for your comments John. I love the “zoo keeper” idea. I can think of a few mainline churches that resembled zoos. Someone once told me that free-range wine used egg shells from free-range chickens during the fermentation process – I think he was pulling my leg. Forward for our King!

Theresa Seeber said...

Hmmm. Good piece Franks. I like the term free-range Christians, especially after Trucker Frank presented it to me as a family of horses inside a fenced area looking out at the horses who had jumped the coop. The fenced ones were looking at the escapers like, "I wouldn't dream of going out there! You could be in danger! You could get lost!" But the ones who had gone out couldn't believe their newfound freedom, and found that God was caring for them there in ways they had never imagined while penned. He expressed to me that while the ones on the outside had found new life, those on the inside were not necessarily worse off for not having found it. That is the key - to go in search of what God has for us without expecting others to do the same - we are not all called the same way.
You guys keep up the good work. I love this conversation. :-)