When I was a 17, I went to a youth meeting at the Protestant church that my family attended and there was a small group of young people visiting from another church who gave their testimonies of being saved by Jesus Christ. They were excited with the Holy Spirit and spoke of God and how their lives were changed. Because of their testimonies, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and welcomed Him into my heart.
Even though I had been attending this church for many years, I had never heard the gospel told as these people spoke of Him. Their testimonies had opened my eyes to Jesus Christ.
Desiring to serve Him and learn His truths and ways, I refocused on what the church had to teach me and was eager to learn all about God and His Kingdom. I didn't realize it then, but instead of deep spiritual teaching on the ways of God, the church taught me "Churcheology".
It was like the old bait and switch.
church was dull, ritualistic and formal about God and Jesus Christ and spoke
of Him as if from a distance. It was like the group of visiting young people
and the people in my church worshiped two different Gods. Unfortunately, they
were only visiting and I was stuck in my church.
After a few years, we changed from one church denomination to another and I had hopes that it would be more spirited than the last, and it was, but not in a way I expected. Though there was some talk of Jesus Christ and His teachings and how to serve Him, much of what I heard was how to be a good Christian, according to the church. Don't do this, don't do that, tithe your money, attend church and Sunday School every week, don't drink, don't smoke, don't have sex before marriage, don't hang out with sinners...yada, yada, yada. Instead of instructing me on what to do, they kept harping on what NOT to do.
I was young, so I didn't know any better. I still had the fire of the Holy Spirit in my heart and did learn various things about God from talking to other young people and reading Christian publications. What I didn't realize was that the fire was slowly being extinguished by this intense self-focusing of the church and its own matters and concerns. Though the church was different from the last, they both had their own self-interests at heart.
Instead of the power and wonders of Jesus and how He could transform our lives to change the world, I heard about how some people were going to hell. That the world was evil. That the blood of every man and woman was on our hands if we didn't witness to every soul. It was pretty scary. It also didn't sound right. It was lots of negativity.
It seemed like the goal of the sermons were to try to make us feel guilty and more afraid of God. These sermons never inspired me to draw closer to God, but rather to run in the other direction.
On top of that, there were building committee meetings, youth activities, tithing sermons, financial reports, choir rehearsals, invite-a-guest drives...all church related stuff.
The church was the center of the Universe.
I learned a little bit about how to walk spiritually following the steps of Jesus: Pray, listen and obey, but I came to realize that the reason there was not much deep spiritual talk was because the pastor and many of the congregation members were spiritually immature. They couldn't teach me anything, because they didn't know anything either.
I also noticed something else. The pastor was never really questioned. There was no real discussion about issues that we disagreed with. The young people just listened and blindly accepted what was taught. Perhaps the members thought the pastor was more educated about the Bible or they were too lazy to investigate on their own or just afraid to challenge the pastor, either way, the congregation never questioned him, even when something didn't sound right. Individuals might raise issues, and some discussion would ensue, but usually the questions were wrapped up in short easy answers. There was little interest in discussion or praying for understanding about perplexing spiritual and moral issues. The pastor cited the denomination's views and gave the same pat answers for everything and if the questions were unanswerable, it was always, "God works in mysterious ways".
In fact a lot of Christendom just put out short quips as answers to long complicated issues, designed to stop any further dialogue. These pat answers have become more confrontational, meaning to say, if you don't accept their answers, perhaps it means your faith is not solid.
"The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.", "It's a sin because the Bible says so", "I didn't say it, God said it", "Let's call a spade a spade...Sin is a sin" "It's of the Devil" "God hates it", "The Bible is against it, "It's an abomination", etc. All manmade jingles used like Scripture to stop any further discussion.
It was impossible to have an intelligent, non-biased discussion without someone throwing in one of these jingles to make you shut up. But I suppose that is the purpose.
But the church DID preach the gospel and people were saved. That was a great thing. But once a person became a Christian, it was get 'em involved in church and move on to the next. Like cattle. Nothing about nurturing the young Christians and tackling their tough questions. It was expected that they would just attend Sunday School and learn everything there. Sunday school was NOT taught by any learned seminarians or Bible scholars but usually by a volunteer mom or church member. These "teachers" usually used Sunday School manuals to teach from.
Instead of searching Scripture and praying about certain burdens and issues, most of the congregation merely nodded and accepted everything, like babies being spoonfed. Even the most zealous person seemed to just mimic the words given to them, word for word, quoting the pastor as if his words were God's words.
After attending this church many years with a variety of different pastors (with different egos and agendas) coming and going, church began to blur together. Yes, some pastors were inspirational and there was talk about God and such, but the longtime members became accustomed to the church language and eventually just accepted whatever came at them as all good Christians should.
After so much time of church nodding, the members seemed to become lifeless. No excitement, no revelations, no action, no fire...no nothing. They had seen it all and Hey...no big whoop.
The people didn't make a fuss about much anymore. Just smiling and agreeing with a sermon was enough. People saying AMEN and returning to their lives, dealing with kids, money, jobs, stuff, and boredom...waiting for the next Sunday and the "Rapture". I knew then that many of the people were rendered useless. Their entire lives revolved around the Church. All their friendships were from the church. They criticized other churches and religions. They made their own decisions about what was right and not right and they were content knowing that they were right about everything. It was not a fault of their own, but they were hypnotized into self-righteousness, isolation, comfort, complacency and nodding off. They were entrenched in their Churcheology.
Every week was..."very nice sermon Pastor...see you next Sunday."
Oh but, if something changed in the church! Perhaps the program was reorganized or a ritual was tweaked, or music was changed, boy was there a STINK. People suddenly went ballistic. And boy did they follow the church laws and by-laws to get things done. Everything had to go through the Committee, which went to the Board, which went to the Pastor and then presented to the People. And if anyone wanted to try something new...well..."We don't do things that way here!"
And if there was a problem, someone would get mad, egos were bruised, then some people would leave the church, but after the dust settled...back to business as usual.
There were some people who knew it wasn't up to par and eventually left, but the majority stayed in the church because of friendships, family or their sense of obligation to stick with the church through thick and thin...even if they suffered spiritually. Who can blame them?
And I, like the others, didn't know any better so I did the same thing and was a part of this same routine, week after week.
wasn't until I had to grapple with my being "gay", did my world
turn upside down and I knew I couldn't rely on the church for answers.
I had heard their answers before and their set ways of thinking and knew they didn't know what they were talking about.
I had to deal with God alone.
Up until then, I had believed everything that the church had taught, that being gay was an abomination and that God sends gay people to hell. It was a devastating time for me. I had heard the same message about the evils of homosexuality from all of Christendom.
"Homosexuality is an abomination"," God hates gays", "God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve." More nasty quips designed especially for gay people. (The Adam and Steve joke is decades old.)
They had never walked in my shoes, yet had no problem telling me how God had no mercy for people like me. They didn't get it. By judging other people and casting stones, they already violated everything Jesus taught against.
But after much emotional grief and introspection, I had to confront God for understanding about what was happening with me and it was not until I got the accusing voices of the church out of my head was I able to hear the clear voice of Jesus. His was the voice of compassion and understanding. I had falsely believed that their voice was the same as God's voice.
When I understood that God had a purpose for me, I realized that being a Christian is more than just warming the church pews and going through the motions. Spirituality is a journey with God who reveals the secrets of His Kingdom to anyone who hears and follows His voice.
Each person has their own journey that has nothing to do with the church, but involves a personal dialogue with God alone. It is He who answers our unanswerable questions. It is He who knows our hearts and desires our fellowship.
It wasn't until I threw out ALL the church babble, did I find the true personality of God. That was the beginning of my spiritual journey with Jesus Christ.
Today, I stumble upon so many people who are still held captive by Churcheology, blindly serving, attending and tithing to their church faithfully, thinking that is all that is required and never digging deeper into their relationship with God.
For me, realizing I was gay was the best thing to ever happened to me and my relationship with God.
I used to envy Christians who had an easy life and had their lives all planned out, happy in their church home, year after year following wherever their pastor leads them.
Now I know better.
© 2008 Edrick
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