Journal of Heresies

My search for truth in a world of deceit.

Location: United States

I have what is probably an insatiable desire to search out the answers to what may be impossible questions.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Stained Glass

As a child (~7 yrs old), I was upset when my parents decided to stop going to church. For some reason I thought that church was a requirement for all Christians, that not going was akin to rejecting God, and besides... I liked the singing and the crafts, the classes and even the sermons. Since they weren't going to go to church, and I couldn't persuade them to change their mind, I even tried to hold our own church service one Sunday. It all made perfect sense the night before, the message and scripture were quite clear. Yet, when they sat down to hear my sermon, I had forgotten it all. Its probably a good thing I had forgotten it, perhaps the Holy Spirit took it and tossed it in file 13 during the night to restrain my mouth from sin. As it was, I simply looked like a sweet but foolish child rather than a disrespectful one twisting scripture to my own message. Now, my appreciation for my parents decision grows every day. Had we remained in church, I doubt that I would ever have been able to see beyond the stained glass.

Yet for all those years of separation from the church, I still believed that church is where one went to learn about God. So when nearly an adult, a couple years after I understood and accepted the grace of God, I began to go to church with the man who is now my husband. I was an eager learner, and again... loved the singing, classes, sermons, and now a youth group too. I began to consider membership. But, I thought I ought to know a little more about what I would be committing to before taking such a step. These thoughts prompted me to call the pastor. I asked him "What do you believe?" I thought this would be a good start... the basics.

I think he thought I was introuble! He asked me "What do I believe about what? Abortion? Drugs? Sex?"

"No, what do you believe about God, the Bible? What do you BELIEVE?"

He referred me to the church manual, in his words, a large book containing everything that the denomination believed; he never told me what he believed. Besides being quite disappointed, I was also quite troubled. Why couldn't a man who had long been a Christian, called to ministry, why couldn't he tell me what he believed? How could I become a member of a church where a pastor couldn't tell me what he believed? I began to doubt the authority of the church, and to question this idea of membership. Wasn't I already a member of the body of Christ? Why did I need some church to put it in their records?

Since then I've had several pastors ask me to consider membership, and not one has given me a sound Biblical reason for doing so. The last one to discuss it with me ended her argument: "What kind of message do you think it (not being a member) sends to the rest of the congregation? How would they feel?"

At the time, I was the editor of the church newsletter, the youth leader, a participant in several committees, even a lay speaker within our congregation (although technically, I wasn't allowed to because I wasn't a member). I was intimately involved with the work of the church. I did not hide the fact that I was not member by the standards of the denomination, nor did I flaunt it. If anyone asked, I simply stated I was a member of the Kingdom, and the church's idea of "membership" was unfounded. No one minded, except pastors.

In truth, the church membership log has nothing to do with God's membership log; the title pastor has nothing to do with their qualifications to be called such; and, the church isn't where we learn about God. We learn about God by living, by interacting with Him, by knowing His Son, by seeking His Word; by going beyond the stained glass, beyond the proper church behavior, beyond the proper rote answer, beyond the traditions of men. Church and its trappings have nothing to do with a right walk with God.


Blogger lkn4truth said...

Nice observations. I've experienced many of the same attitudes. I probably told you the story of when I asked the local church to have Bible studies with my wife and teach her the basics and instead they showed up the first night asked if she was ready to give her heart to Jesus. She said no, why would I do that? The guy nearly fell out of his chair. He didn't know how to respond. He'd apparently never heard somemone answer no. The sad part was, he had no idea where to start with my wife. He couldn't persuade her from scripture why she should give her heart to Jesus. He read her three or four verses and expected her to change her life because he said it was God's word. It was actualy pretty funny.

10:56 PM, January 23, 2006  

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