When you “get saved” you are immediately told that you are a “new creation” and that all the old had gone and the new has replaced it. The euphoria that one initially feels seems to confirm that, and you feel free and sinless and pure and without burden, kind of like a “back pain” sufferer of many years cured at a Benny Hinn healing service. You read your Bible daily, pray and “witness” telling all your relatives and your soon to be ex friends that they are bound for hell unless the accept Jesus. When you first walk into a church you honestly believe that the people are loving, kind, and accepting of you as you are.
The days turn into months then months into years, and just like the back pain returns to those healed by “Pastor Benny” the euphoria turns into occasional excitement, then boredom, hidden by the wall of well rehearsed language of the church that give others the impression that you are spiritual and mature. The people in the church that seemed so loving, kind, and accepting begin to loss some of the love when you don’t conform the tried and true traditions of the church. Many people at this point leave the church they have attended, searching of a new church that will offer them the excitement they are lacking.
Others leave the church all together when they do not see the reality of unconditional love, grace, and mercy in the congregation in which they are members. They conclude that Christianity’s claims are false.
Others leave the church when the “old sins” of their past come back to haunt them and they are told by “concerned” friends that they need to pray more, fast more, attend this or that conference, submit themselves to the lunacy of ideas like Theophostics or other equally bizarre “counseling” modalities. Then after all this, when they still struggle they are shunned by people in the church because they must be in some sort of unforgiveable sin or be demon possessed, or not trying hard enough, or not really saved at all. This last idea is most grievous because it focuses on what the person is doing rather than what God has done though Christ. This lie is one of the enemy’s favorites.
So what is the answer…so far this journey has caused me great sadness at times because i do not see a way out of the labyrinth of tradition.
What about all of us who do not fit in, filling the fringe of the evangelical movement and seeing the abuse of power by some, the worship of tradition, and the fear some in leadership have of losing their jobs if they rock the boat. If the gospel is true and there is true freedom and acceptance and grace and unconditional love because of Christ, why not tip over the boat and begin again….a new reformation the challenges the status quo.
Does anyone see the need?
10 thoughts on “The 53rd Day of the journey”
As one in leadership, I would just say I don’t fear losing my job if I rock the boat. I fear damaging people. I know they are in bondage but if we move too fast for them, do I hurt them enough to make them lose their faith? So I try and lead them one small step at a time. Yes, that means that some are still left on the fringes, feeling left out. But if I solely reach out to them, then I am leaving out others. Every decision, contemporary or traditional, coffee in the sanctuary or no food and drink in the sanctuary, jeans or robe….every decision alienates someone and draws someone at the same time. I am trying to balance not for my job’s sake but for the sake of those who are so weak in their faith that they put God in a box. I balance shocking them here and simply nudging them at another time and comforting at another time.
The other reason I don’t abruptly rock the boat–is because I want lasting change. I don’t want them to see the change as “my style”. I want the change to happen because they see the need to change. I want them to reach out to the poor not because their pastor said it is good but because God has awaken the desire inside them. Personally, God moves a lot slower than I am comfortable with but if I enact the change that change will end when I am moved to another church in a couple of years. The most powerful change happens when the laity are empowered and make the change lead by the Holy Spirit. If they do not believe the Spirit is leading me to enact the change, I have no power. It is a heartbreaking thing to watch a church kill itself and be their pastor. But I am in good company–Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Joel–all watched God’s people go in the wrong direction. All of them spoke the Truth of God into their world and all of them were rejected. I understand much better the book of Lamentations. I also see that I am a mere pebble. Perhaps one thing I teach them will open them up to hear the truth and act on the truth in the future. We cannot all harvest. I will be faithful to the call even when I cannot see the fruit.
we (as the church and as individuals) are always in need of reformation …
Leanne has also made some good points
I had never heard of the term “Theophostic” before. Sounds like some wild stuff to me. And by wild I mean completely insane.
Conservative Christianity is in fact a fear based religion. And church leaders are the main fear-mongering culprits. And why not? It fills seats and gets people to give up their money. If I can convince you that liberal politicians, gays, Hollywood, Muslims, and the ACLU are all out to get “us”, you will be more likely to throw some money my way to combat the evil-doers! As a person who has “been there and done that” let me be honest, leaders in the church think about their paychecks, their futures, how they will support their kids and wife (husband), medical insurance, life insurance and all the other little perks that come along with ministry, to think or say otherwise is naive at best! I am not saying that is wrong or evil, I’m just saying that is reality. There is no way “out of the labyrinth of tradition” , because Christianity prizes submission, obedience, and “towing the line”, anything less will be punished by a vengeful God. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, God gets the kind of church He deserves!! He threatens people with severe punishment for disobedience, so naturally, those who are leaders in His church do the same! Traditional churches are set up to keep traditions, even traditions that have outlived their usefulness! Marx was right, religion is the opiate of the people. It keeps many people sedate and in line. After all, why should I try to think for myself, when I’m paying a Pastor to think for me! Hooray for Jesus!! This is what He died for!
What I hear you saying is a lot of generalizations which is what you are somewhat complaining about the conservative church. I agree that there is a tendency towards a fear based faith. We live in a fear base culture. The conservative Christians often generalize gays as having an agenda of turning everyone gay, they generalize all liberals as being anti-christian. Generalizations are fear based. I have a lot of pastor friends who truly trust God will take care of the pay check and the health care. They will go where God sends them into the darkest of places to reach out to people. Yes, there are pastors who buy into the American Dream as a substitute for the Kingdom. But not all pastors are out for the comforts of life. I know more pastors who wrestle with how do we motivate people to think for themselves and want to own their own faith. It works both ways.
Hey Leanne, thanks for your comments! Every time I have read one of your posts, I am challenged to think deeply about what you have said! If you ever start your own church please let me know! I just want to address some of your comments. You say ” there is a tendency towards a fear based faith” because ” we live in a fear based culture.” I’m not sure if you mean the culture at large or the church culture so many Christians immerse themselves in. Either way, I would disagree with you. Christianity is a fear based religion, because the God of the Bible inspires fear, not love. Jesus is supposedly merciful, forgiving, kind, and unconditionally loving. So let’s hear what this unconditionally loving person says to those sinners who waste their short lives being “screw-ups”. The meek and mild Jesus says that a “fiery furnace” (Matt.13:42) awaits them, there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28), in “outer darkness” (Matt.25:30), where their “worm does not die” (Mark 9:48), “eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46), with “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43), and last but not least they will be “cut into pieces” (Matt. 24:51). If this is God’s way of loving people, or inspiring love from people, then I’ve obviously missed the boat in regards to what love truly is. I haven’t even mentioned the horrors of the book of Revelation in the N.T. Or God commanding the wholesale slaughter of women and children in the O.T. Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew says plainly don’t fear other humans, but “fear Him who can send both body and soul to hell”. The context of that statement makes it clear that Jesus is not talking about reverential fear, but fear in the sense of being scared or afraid, frightened. If we are going to be people of faith, we should pursue the truth at all costs. Even if that truth makes us uncomfortable, ill at ease, or unpopular! It is politically correct in church circles, to make it sound like God is a big “creampuff” , but I have to ignore a whole lot of the Bible to do so! Trust me, I would rather believe in the “Santa” God who goes with the flow and winks passively at our sin! Just one last thought, I talk in generalizations because to detail every circumstance and “name” names, would take an incredible amount of time and space. And posting comments to someones blog does not lend itself to that kind of detailed information. Just so we’re clear, I in no way am putting church leaders down for being concerned with their own welfare, futures, finances or family! As far as I’m concerned there is nothing un-spiritual, weak minded, sinful, evil or wrong with wanting to take care of your loved ones! What is evil and wrong, is our pretending that we are above that sort of thing. Pretending that we are super saints, hypocrisy unites us ALL as human beings, and that is why I no longer put other people on a pedestal, especially church leaders, I’ve gotten to “really” know too many, hell I’ve even been one, they are no better (or worse) than the average sinner, who may or may not be saved by God’s grace ALONE!
Lou–Thank you. I consider the American Culture to be fear based and probably most of human history is fear based.
I acknowledge the hell references you refer to but in my reading of Scripture, I don’t see that as the central theme. I see God giving humanity a choice. We can choose to be in God’s Presence or not. God will not force us to endure his presence if we choose not to. Whether that leads to a literal place with literal fire or a place where our burning desire and deepest need goes unquenched and unfulfilled–I don’t know. I don’t have that answer. But the over arching message of Scripture is God is on a rescue mission. Jesus motivates through healing, resurrecting, and blessing the ordinary and outcasts. I show my colors–I am not a Calvinist but a Wesleyan in theological terms.
I know you were not saying that church leaders are wrong to worry about taking care of loved ones, finances and health care. I am just saying not all worry about those things. Not all pastors are motivated by American values and cultural concerns. I find it a dangerous place to label or use generalizations–whether in a positive light or in a negative light. It narrows our vision in seeing God move. It closes our ears from hearing God in places we don’t expect.
This is good conversation. Lou,you are right in your diagnosis of much of what is called Christianity. And I agree with your reading of the Bible in as much as God is not the “creampuff” that others make him out to be.
That being said, I think we need to take a closer look at the Bible and its authors and their situations. It seems like even though you have left the church, you have not left literalism. Sometimes the Bible tells about God, sometimes the Bible tells us about the people in relationship with God. This is hard to explain on a blog, but I would happy to talk about the way I read scripture in person sometime.
Anyway, I am one of those church leaders who is compensated for doing so, but I do NOT ever encourage my people to trust me to do the thinking for them. And you are correct–we are every bit (or more) messed up than the people in the pews–and if we don’t admit it, we are liars.
I think you have a hope for a better church and a better Christianity simply because you keep reaching out for it. Your desire indicates its possibility. The world (and you) will be better off if you find it–or create it.
Hi Drew, your admission to being “every bit (or more) messed up than the people in the pews” is stunning!! I applaud your courage and faith for being honest! My prayer is that God will fill pulpits with men and women who treasure being real, instead of “performing”. Who see church as something much more than a business where people are simply resources to be used, who see themselves as something more worthy than just a “spiritual spin doctor” or “politician” targeting the wealthy people (big givers) in the area! As far as my “literalism” in regards to the Bible, you are correct, I can’t seem to break with that tradition! I would love to meet with you and talk about it! Thank you for the offer, God bless you Drew!
Sorry Lou, I haven’t checked back in a while. Send me an email at email@example.com