So I ended my last blog with a cryptic and earthy thought. Tonight I will expand without the use of profanity!
We left our church of 21 years and ventured into new territory. Leaving behind the Baptist way of life and entering the Presbyterian world of catechisms, creeds, and….rules. Not that rules didn’t exist in the Baptist church, it was just a little, how can I say, less structured.
I should have known that something was amiss when, at the church, the first function we attended was a closing program of their Vacation Bible School, we sat under a tree on the lawn eating a hot dog, ignored by the church folk sitting at the tables. We went from the inner circle at our previous church insignificant visitor in this closed community.
We persevered and continued to attend even though few people seemed to take an interest in us.
Time moved on and we have made some good friends but even today the church does not feel like a home to us. There are cliques and groups that are closed to inviting anyone else in. It feels sometimes like coming into the middle of a movie and not getting it because you missed the first half.
Anyway, my determination NOT to get involved in ministry evaporated over a few months as I was asked to join the praise team and then asked to become an elder. I started a college and young adult Sunday School class, ran Vacation Bible school once, and started to organize outreach. Then things started to go downhill.
By this time I had gotten a good grasp (although incomplete grasp) on God’s grace and unconditional love for us though Christ. This understanding comes out in almost everything that I did and do, from teaching, preaching to outreach. I was and am driven to love others as unconditionally as I can through Christ. Not to rescue them from hell but to show them through love a better way. If they ask questions great, if they reject the message, that is ok too since I am not the one who saves them. The work of conviction, as far as I am concerned, is the Holy Spirit’s job, not mine. Not everyone sees the gospel the same way I guess.
I have been at this church for almost 6 years now. I have been criticized for the way I let my daughter dress to what she reads, to what I wear and what I read as well. I was asked to start wearing a tie so that the people who disagree with me would listen to me. I have been told that I do not respect God because I wear jeans to church services. I have been told that grace is not the only thing that the gospel is about , obedience is as important (even though it is a correct understanding of the depth of God’s love and grace that actually leads people to obey). I have been called a heretic, a Christ hater, and horror of horrors, a liberal. There are people at the church that despise me and have sought to have me removed as an elder.
Here is my crime…I TRY and love all people and seek to help them to become all that they have been created to be. I love the drug and alcohol abuser, I love the person living with HIV/AIDS, I love the gay and lesbian individual, I love the atheist, and people of other faiths, i love “sinners’ of all kinds because I am one too. I want, with all my heart, to see them come to Christ because there is freedom BUT I will not shove a gospel tract in their face, I will not spout platitudes about righteousness and holiness, I will not become their friend only to turn on them when they don’t “receive Jesus”. I want to do all that I can to open dialogue with people.
But it seems like many evangelicals don’t want that. Thus I am at odds with them. Suddenly, as in the days of middle and high school, as in my family, I once again do not fit in.
I am finding more and more that the church as it is today is not a sanctuary for the disenfranchised, weak, and lost person. It is more of a club with do’s and don’t’s and rules and regulations. There is something wrong with that, there is sadly something very “unchristian” about the Christian church.
It is driving me from it…..these people, these pharisees and guardians of all that is right and true (according to them). More importantly it is keeping people from hearing what it really true (supposedly).
This is the crossroad I stand at. If the claims of Christ are true..that one is truly free, and truly loved by God because of the cross for all eternity, then why does the church seem so rule oriented and angry? Why do most people outside the church see Christians as legalistic, narrow-minded, judgemental hypocrites?
Let me share the next few times some of the issues i am dealing with in the church I attend and also some of the issues that the church has chosen pontificate about in society.
Peace to all who have endured my ranting.