The James Brown Three-Step to an Active Faith

Featured, Meditations — By on March 26, 2011 at 8:00 am

How does God move us from inactive faith to active faith?

Someone asked me this question, assuming that since I’m a seminary-trained “professional” Christian (whatever that means), I’d know more about faith than other folks. I replied that you can spend any amount of money at any Christian bookstore on any number of “how-to” manuals guaranteed to deepen your faith, strengthen your faith, or even make you more active in your faith. And, if that works for you, more power to you, my friend.

I, on the other hand, have no such prescription. I’m certainly not one to be giving advice. I can only speak of my own experience, and, as for me, God has been using a lot of James Brown. The God of all Creation has been using a whole lot of Godfather of Soul to move me from inactive to active faith recently.

It primarily involves three songs (er . . . steps):

1. “Get Up Offa That Thing”

I’ve discovered that anytime I’m not feeling well (physically, emotionally, soul-fully), “Get Up Offa That Thing” makes me get up and move like nothing else.

Get up offa that thing,
dance till you feel better!
Get up offa that thing,
and shake till you feel better!

Believe me, it works. I’m up and about . . . washing dishes, exercising, or browsing through books on my shelf. And, I’m up and shaking, dancing, moving around the room. James Brown is right – shaking and dancing sure do make you feel great! I also discovered that I’m no longer self-absorbed in my inactivity, but absorbed in the Presence of God all around me. I’m listening for God. I’m looking for God. I’m ready to act toward others as God wants me to act toward them. I’m even ready to start acting toward myself as God wants me to act toward myself. Like King David, I can get so caught up in the presence of our loving God that I dance until the cows come home, though as of this time, I have been able to refrain from dancing around in the streets in nothing but my unmentionables.

2. “Get Up, Get Into It, and Get Involved”

Faith is action. Faith is being and doing and doing and being. Even when you don’t believe anymore, as Daniel Bailey says, “faith is believing when you don’t believe.” So just get up, get going, get involved. Go out there and pray. Go out there and do justice. Go out there and love mercy. Go out there and walk humbly with God. Get moving. Just do it. No matter how badly I’d rather rot on my couch than face the world again, I’m always better off when, by God’s grace, I can somehow manage to get up, get into it, and get involved.

3. “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud!)”

Yes, that’s right, I’m a spoiled middle-class white boy from the suburbs, but who doesn’t feel better when this song comes on? Nothing overtly spiritual here, except that anything that moves me from inactive to active faith has to be a good thing, and this song moves me – it gets me up offa my thing, it reminds me that God is not a white middle-class Protestant American male, and it gets me involved; besides, I dance, and that always makes me feel better.

Will this work for you? I don’t know, but it can’t hurt.

So, I suggest trying the James Brown method of moving from inactive to active faith: First, get up offa that thing; second, get up, get into it, and get involved; and third, say it loud (I’m black and I’m proud!). And by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, may the James Brown trilogy of soulful inspiration move you from inactive to active faith.


“The James Brown Three-Step” is an excerpt from Bert’s first book Elvis, Willie, Jesus & Me: The Musings and Mutterings of a Church Misfit. His second book, Psychic Pancakes & Communion Pizza is due out from Smyth & Helwys Publishing in May 2011.

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