Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A response to Rachel Evan's "15 Reasons why I left the church" Part III

This is my final post on Rachel Evan's "15 Reasons why I left the church."  
  11. I left the church because I knew I would never see a woman behind the pulpit, at least not in the congregation in which I grew up.

This is where Rachel and I definitely disagree. There are evangelical denominations which do have woman pastors. If that is truly your conviction as a woman, then I suppose its probably wise to seek such an evangelical congregation. However, more than few congregations with a female pastorate or who support the female pastorate have one major thing in common: they don't hold fast to the gospel. If your conviction is to connect to an "female friendly" evangelical church, and no such church in your area exists, I think Jesus wants you to stay put. The "freedom" of a woman in a pulpit cannot become greater than your need to place yourself week-in and week-out under the preaching of God's word. Even it is from a fallible man. Like all of us. Don't let this "freedom" become an idol. Paul called himself "free" even though he was in chains, and he did not make Onesimus' freedom THE issue in his letter to Philemon. Neither can the "freedom of woman to preach" become the issue in your church or any other church.
12. I left the church because I wanted to help people in my community without feeling pressure to convert them to Christianity. 

Christians are to love people in both word and deed (I John 3:16-18; Matt 25:31-40). We can serve people and not tell them about Jesus. That sounds un-spiritual. But think about it for a second. We visited the nursing home with the youth group and demonstrated God's love. We had a brief opportunity to share the gospel and took advantage of it. But it wasn't a waste of our time because we didn't evangelize. Neither was it a waste of time to do Angel Tree for Xmas time (and not put a gospel track in it the gift). There are ways to love your community without words and so display the gospel. 
It's also good to give of our time and resources to serve our community and expect nothing in return. We don't give SO THAT poor people become Christians. We give because Christ emptied himself and became poor so that we would become rich. The recipients should not feel that if they don't become Christians the help will stop. 
However, the ultimate need of that person and community is JESUS. And so as we help, we pray that God opens doors for not only conversation but conversions. We can't lose this distinction as we do mercy and show love to our community. As Paul pleads with Herod Agrippa, "I pray that all would become what I am except for these chains (Acts 26).
 13. I left the church because I had learned more from Oprah about addressing poverty and injustice than I had learned from 25 years of Sunday school. 

This one I get, but would feel more comfortable qualifying it. Sunday School or Christian Ed has its main intent (at least in our church) the growing in knowledge of God and His Word that the content of the gospel would cause the Heart to warm. You can't lose this or else you stop making disciples and start creating social workers with no lasting motivation other than self-righteousness.

But the result of the learning the content of God's Word and the warming of the Heart is that the students would desire to serve with their Hands. We have several opportunities for our students to use their Hands (collecting pop tops for Ronald McDonald house, supporting a child in S. Africa).

Honestly the Methodist churches have much to teach us how to best love our communities. I would imagine she didn't grow up in a Methodist congregation (they have women pastors and do a better job at addressing poverty-though some have lost any gospel distinction). Still, many churches are getting better at this. There is much discussion on whether or not it is the church's (as institution) or church's (as believers living as salt and light) job to do this. But whether it's your church leadership gathering individuals and providing the initiative, or rather individual members providing the impetus to love your community, you need to love your community. It needs your love. In practice, churches and leaders on either sides of the discussion don't look all that different. Find a way to love and bless your community, and don't be afraid to fail. Learn from other churches, and if people will listen, stay and teach.

14. I left the church because there are days when I’m not sure I believe in God, and no one told me that “dark nights of the soul” can be part of the faith experience. 

Doubts are part of faith. Faith is messy. I have doubts, and dark nights where I question everything from God's goodness, presence, even existence. Fortunately His Spirit won't let me go too far, a testimony to Psalm 139. Doubts can be evidence of spiritual attack, apathy in tending toward care of your own soul, or even overconfidence of reason or empiricism. But for some, doubts can last longer than others. Even seasons. Still, they are a normal part of growing in faith, so no one should freak out WHEN he has them or WHEN others have them. We can learn from this for sure.
15. I left the church because one day, they put signs out in the church lawn that said “Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman: Vote Yes on Prop 1,” and I knew the moment I saw them that I never wanted to come back.  

I'm against gay marriage. I know Christians who aren't against it because they say you can't legislate morality. This doesn't really hold much water to me because everything is probably in essence moral (killing, stealing, even speeding, etc...). I think. Regardless, we will agree to disagree. But the church is not a political entity. Unfortunately some churches make use of these signs, as well as host candidates to speak in their churches. I don't think this is what a church should do. In reality, such a sign isn't going to change any opinions anyway or win them to your side.

Christians are political and have a right to be political, but the church is a-political. It's a place where in Christ there is neither slave nor free, rich nor poor, black nor white, Republican or Democrat (Gal 3:28). You leave your politics at the door. The church aims-or rather should aim-to produce disciples who think, act, and vote their political convictions through the lens of God's Word with the aim of loving their neighbors. I've been privy to healthy churches who may have someone inform the uninformed (like myself) of the candidates and issues before them on a particular ballot. But those folks have not said, "This is how you should vote on this issue." That's unacceptable.

Unfortunately politics probably isn't as black/white as I'd like it to be either. Our denomination is clearly against abortion. Some positions, like slavery, are like that. But signs telling people how to vote often preclude the opportunity for the gospel to change peoples hearts: seeing the awfulness of things like abortion. Only the gospel can change people's views on marriage. A sign ultimately accomplishes nothing and makes the church lose some of its cultural distinction. The gospel and applying the gospel by loving others does actually make much more a difference.  Its 10 times more effective than a sign. Ultimately a sign is just a sign of impatience.

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