Old Church Acquaintences, New Thinking

For a couple of days now, I’ve been engaged in an email conversation with a the pastor of a former church of mine. It has been about 5 or 6 years since we last spoke. We ended our previous association on a bad note since I had gone to him for counseling and he provided some very astute statements that pissed me off then, but I now realize were pretty much on target. I never liked how our friendship ended or that we had bad feelings. So, good 12-stepper that I am, I tried to apologize and make amends where I felt that I had been particularly mean. I didn’t apologize for having beliefs and feelings contrary to his. I only apologized for unkind statements.

It’s interesting. I’m in a much better place, mentally and spiritually, than I was then. I no longer feel anxiety when confronting him with what I believe. In fact I find it fascinating in a new context. The dread I once felt about spiritual authority figures is now mostly gone. I even had the guts to tell him that I no longer place any blame on myself for the church’s failing me. Because of course, he places no blame on the church, only on those of us who find things wrong with it. For him, the individual Christian needs to adjust their attitude to live in community, not the other way around. He is still singing the same one-note song: “Christians are not meant to be alone. Christians should go to church. There’s nothing wrong with the church if we had the proper attitude and so on.” I can’t even muster up enough anger anymore about such head-in-the-sand thinking. That’s too easy of a target.

But I can now say to him without fear some of the things I’ve learned in the last six years: Christians ARE in community when they go to work, talk to their neighbors, communicate online, and any other time that they engage in public debate and conversation with others. Iron sharpens iron, whether it’s in the next pew or in cyberspace. I told him that I found faith where ever I could find it and not just in a building, designated as a church. I almost feel sorry for him now, because he can’t help but mouth the same words over and over again. It’s his livelihood after all.

To be fair, he is nothing but gracious towards me, almost to the point of being subdued. I think his family has been through some hard times. But I’ve always liked him and his wife. They are just like you and me. He pastors and home schools their kids. She is an accountant and works outside the home. But they are committed to their faith and their church and there is no room for thinking outside the box. It’s sad really. There is so much potential out there as we see in the Emergent Church movement. (Not the “emerging” variety ala Driscoll either, which is the same old church dogma dressed up for new generations)

You know, I love to study religion. I love to talk about religion. I love to debate religious issues. I miss the community. But, I love spiritual and intellectual integrity more. I’ve realized that I am unwilling to be the only thing about my faith community that changes. So, if the church isn’t changing, it’s not up to me to sit quietly hoping that something will happen. No, it’s up to me to create my own sacred space, where ever and when ever I can find it.


5 thoughts on “Old Church Acquaintences, New Thinking

  1. Love the fact that you actually have a category heading that reads “Detox from Church”, that is priceless.

    I’m wondering if you would like to expand on this thought process further in another post. I understand most of what you are saying and can identify with much of it, but i’m having a hard time nailing down exactly where you at in the process.

    What are your thoughts on the House Church Movement? Cell Church Movement?

    You note the potential in the Emergent Church Movement. Have you managed to find an enclave of emergents in your area?

    I would agree with the statement that “a christian can not survive alone (for too long)” BUT I would also agree with the statement, “One need not look to the church to find other christians.”


  2. revolutionfl,
    Welcome to the site! I’ve come quite a long way in the detoxing, dechurching process. See my other blog at http://www.thejourneyout.wordpress.com, especially the first 3 or 4 posts.

    On this blog read these:

    Basically I’ve been a Christian a long time and find the church a hindrance to spirituality more than a help. I do however wish I could find a church community that truly embodied the Spirit, but I fear I won’t find it living where I live. I live in the rural Midwest, the bastion of conservatism and fundamentalism. There are no emergent churches, house churches, or cell churches where I live or anywhere nearby. So, I’ve turned to the internet community to find what I need.

    I also work in a large urban church that, while very traditional liturgically, has some very progressive social ideas. A woman is on staff as Associate Pastor, etc. This gives me some hope. While alot of my internet friends have given up on the church, I haven’t quite yet, even though I’ve been burned several times. Call me stubborn I guess. Maybe an optimist? (I thought I’d never say that about myself!) One thing I do know for sure, I will never adhere to the fundamentalist variety of religion again. That way lies insanity. I explain what I mean by “fundamentalist” in The Journey Out blog.

    I hope this helps explain it a bit more and thanks for posting.

    ps. I like your web site.

  3. Great post. I understand what you mean about feeling spritually strong enough to face people you thought were “more Christian” than you, and actually having a great discussion with no residual guilt or feeling “convicted” As for people saying that Christian should not be alone and that it is spiritual immaturity to want to be alone, I figure that’s a “gimme” In other words, ok, I may be spiritually immature, but that’s where I am right now” It gives them their point but yet does not compromise your integrity. Maybe (most likely) we are immature, but God is growing us, and when He is ready to assemble us, we will be assembled. Until then, we are sustained by the manna He gives us each day. It really does take the pressure off from having to perfect oneself.

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