Posted by: minnow | January 27, 2010

RETHINKING FAITH

My journey out of the building and away from what some call Institutionalized Church and I call Building-Based Christianity has caused me to honestly try to figure out what I believe and what I do not believe.  Answering the second half of those questions: the why part, actually helped clarify some of what I believe, as well.  And, digging for answers until I was satified not only helped me understand my point of view better but it also allowed me to understand where I once stood. 
I grew up knowing two things about God–that He loved me and that His followers, the Church, were to showed their love for Him by loving others (helping, giving to, serving, and befriending).  I can not tell you what happened in my childhood that caused me to know  these two things.  I do not think the fellowship I attended was particularly into act of service or even preached on giving all that much.  We were small enough that I felt like everyone knew me and the pastor was a conservative, soft-spoken man.  My mother respected him, which meant he was intelligent and my father admired him which meant he walked his talk.  I thought he must have had the ear of God for his sermons and his presence both sent shivers up my spine and a warm wonderful feeling to the center of my being.   
To avoid turning my post into a mini-memoir, suffice it to say I had several other religious/spiritual experiences in a variety of denominational and non-denominational fellowships.  I went through a phase of thinking all events/people had spirits attached to, controlling, or influencing them and still believe in a spirit world.  I lived many years holding fast to a complementarian view of scripture and marriage which I no longer believe but which has affected my life in serious ways.  (In a nut shell: complementarians think women cannot “teach or have authority over” men (or at the very least hold the office of senior pastor) and husbands are the sole heads of families).  I acquired tongues (or a prayer language) and have witnessed miracles of healing.  My prayer life/education has been formal, highly emotional, prophetic, in services, at meetings, while walking specific neighborhoods or properties, directed, silent, and every configuration in between.  My worship experience (at this point meaning the music part of a service) has run the gambit from traditional hymns through choruses to on the spot prophetic praise.  I have been a part of seeker friendly fellowships, formulaic Sunday morning services, a variety of conferences, small groups, prayer meetings, city-wide gatherings, and Church retreats. 
And, I walked away.
I know better than to say I will never be back, but at this point I can not imagine it.  In a way, I know  too much.  For example, I know that less than 5 percent of what the average fellowship collects in their offering plates ever leaves the building.  And, I am guessing based on all the different fellowships I have attended, fewer than 5 percent of the congregates ever “minister” beyond the doors.  Most of those I have known inside the building, most of the ones who would call themselves believers, paint a picture of God that frightens me.  He is vengeful and unforgiving–unless I jump though certain hoops (in some fellowships some very specific hoops in very specific ways).  And, He is unknowable.  His ways never seem to be my ways which generally translated: “I’d never get it right, never measure up, never be good enough, and always disappoint.”
So–I ran away from home (so to speak) only to discover that my Father ran away with me. 
Do you remember the two things I knew about God?  As it turns out, He taught me those lessons and He meant what He said.  He loves me–without condition.  And, I best return His love by loving others–without condition.  I have learned a few other things as well.  God does not ask me to do something He is not planning to do, for example: forgive 70 time 7 (AKA: without end).  Since I can not quite fit hell (as an everlasting place of torment) into that framework I have had to understand hell differently.  Ready for a shocker–we are living with little (or big) pieces of hell all around us.  Why did Jesus speak so often about the Kingdom of God being at hand?  I believe it is because He brought heaven to earth and everywhere He went He displaced the hell that previously inhabited that place.  When we refuse or neglect to be the hands, feet, eyes, ears, and heart of Christ we allow hell to dwell (and not Jesus) in the places we walk.
Worship and prayer have changed for me too.  I still engage in more formalized prayer with other believers.  And, I have enjoyed singing praises corporately the one or two times I have been in a “service”.  Mostly, however, I have come to understand prayer and worship as a sort of intentional breathing in and breathing out.  The more awareness I give to His presence, the more I incline my heart to hearing, the deeper our “conversations” go.  As I learn how to love others without condition I am better able to testify to His presence in their lives as well as mine–“that act of kindness you just performed THAT is my God’s presence in your life.  That is HIS heart for you and for your life.  We are able to love Him and love others because He first loved us.” 
Is that not the gospel?  Is that not the kingdom of God at hand?
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Responses

  1. 🙂

  2. […] shared my story of emerging from religious oppression here, here, here, and here, and in numerous other posts.  The short version goes something like this:  After […]


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