a conversation...

This was an email I recieved from an old friend from my childhood...I thought I'd share the dialogue. I've removed a few things to protect the identity of the "innocent"...ha.



Hi Jason,

I hope you received my email from yesterday. I will keep this short.

It's Sunday morning. I am at my computer listening to a sermon because my wife and I are at odds about a church to attend. My wife is not saved. I turned my back on God about 9 years ago while I was in the military. I married my wife, knowing in my heart it was wrong.

This last year I have been convicted by the Holy Spirit to the point that I have given my life back to God. I have talked to my wife about this change in my life and it has caused a tremendous strain on our marriage. In the last two weeks, I have talked my wife into picking a church with me. The agreement being that it NOT be a Baptist church or a Catholic Church.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I have had alot of guilt in my heart about this agreement. As you know, I was raised Baptist, with all the legalistic, "Thou shalt not or else" teachings. I thought all these thoughts and feelings that I was having were sent from Satan. Trying to keep me out of a fundamental, Bible Teaching, Bible believing church.

I just got done listening to your sermon from Feburary 10-11, 2007. I am more confused now than ever. Were the things our parents taught us wrong? Are the thoughts in my mind and heart from God? Should I be concerned with not attending a Baptist church? Can I have the same relationship with God and not study my Baptist Distinctives? Seriously. I consider myself a babe in Christ. However, I want what is right for my family. What is God telling me? What "religion" am I looking for? I felt guilty last week for considering attending a Methodist church. Is it guilt or brainwashing from my childhood?

I have been praying and spending time in God's word this last month. I am finding myself looking for somewhere to go?

Any thoughts about this would be greatly appreciated. Please keep me and my family in your prayers.

Love in Christ---

"John Doe recovering religionist"

Dear "John Doe recovering religionist",

I did recieve your email...it was a pleasant surprise. I'm glad to hear that God is on the move in your life right now, though not without roadblocks as you've shared.

To answer your question in this email...I believe the saving grace in my church experience was my family. If they weren't who they are, I would have chucked the whole thing, because it was barren of life to me. The older I got, the more out of touch and unrefreshing it all seemed. I got sick of the "no's and the don'ts and the watch out's and the beware's and the caution's". It's like we were known more for what we were against that what we were for.

But when I would return home from school or church and see my parents refreshing and honest love of God, I had no choice but to believe it's reality. Then it was just a matter of finding an atmosphere that hit me and fit me. So much of the environment of the Baptist movement (not all Baptist churches by the way) that we were a part of was so militant and fundamentalist, stiff and stoic, rigid and relationally bankrupt. It made much of things that were no big deal and downplayed the core issues of the faith. It hated charasmatics, homosexuals and the big bad world out there, and loved exclusion, seperation and isolation from anything that wasn't Christian. I don't see Jesus living that sort of quarantined existance. He was totally living the gospel in the everyday lives of everyday people. Whores, tax collectors, the demon-possessed, outcasts, invalids, the diseased, etc. That was why he came...not for the healthy, but the sick. I started to wonder why my life was so sterilized and sanitized...so seperate from the aches of humankind. I had to unlearn tendencies to judge and characterize people and move toward them loving with unconditional love. Something I was dying to be free to do, by the way. We're created to function with this spirit.

And yet, I longed to stay pure and holy. I didn't want to chuck off all bonds of obedience in my efforts to move to the dark places and the dirty people...I wanted to have a righteous life in this world without being self-righteous. I wanted to be holy without being holier-than-thou. You know what I mean?

This is a long answer to your question, but I'm trying to say that Baptists are great so long as they love Jesus and long to follow every bit of who he is. But there are a ton of other demoninations that are pleasing God and making a kingdom difference as well. You really have to go and make an evaluation church to church these days. You can't make your decision based on the denomination anymore, if you ever could to begin with. The questions I ask about a church are: "Is this church passionate about following hard after Jesus?" "When I enter this building, do I sense freedom, joy, life and relevance?" "Is there a love for the Scriptures and a desire to apply the Bible to everyday life situations or am I bored and unstirred?" "Do I sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in this place through the music, message and people gathered here?" "Does this church have a heart to connect to the world through relevant and sensical methods of ministry?" ...

It's not like I don't care about "inerrancy" or the "virgin birth" or the "deity of Christ"...but what I find is that most churches agree on those things...the ones that don't I wouldn't go to. What most churches don't agree on is practicing the Scriptures in a life-giving way. They are either dry or dull or drab or dorky. They don't relate to life. They don't stir the human soul. They prepare you for death, but not for life. It's like walking into a time capsule when you enter the "sancuary". This shows a huge disconnect from real people in the real world. And it's not Jesus...it's just not. When he walked this planet, he connected with and attracted everyday lives...not just Bible-believing, eternally secure, King James only zealots of the faith. In fact, those were the kinds of people that he ticked off...they didn't like Jesus. He was not who they were expecting as the Messiah. It's because Jesus made sense to the world more than he made sense to Religion. That's a key component of real faith. Does this connect with Humanity and the Human soul?

Anyway, I could go on and on...but you don't have time and I honestly don't today either. But I want you to follow your heart as you seek to be where God wants you to go. I could care less whether it's a Methodist church, Presbyterian church, Charasmatic church, or a Lutheran church...what matters is whether the particular church you're going to is honesty seeking hard after God...biblically and culturally.

I hope this is of some help to you, old friend.

thanks for writing so honestly...that's where it all begins.



DanielSon said…
conversations like that are so refreshing aren't they? I think you gave great advice, and I certainly know what you mean about wanting to be holy without being holier-than-thou. love ya bro.

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