if you've ever wanted to give church the finger, raise your hand

i don't know why this came to mind this morning, but here we go.

basically, i was just wondering how many of you have, at some point, decided that church wasn't for you, maybe even that god wasn't for you. here's my story:

i grew up in fresno, california as the son of a youth pastor at a run-of-the-mill assemblies of god church. my childhood was good. when i was about 6 or 7 years old, my dad started getting really excited about the idea of teaching english in china. before i knew it, we were living about 10 hours from the russian border in the northeast corner of china. i loved it. our one-year trip was cut short as a result of the student uprising that happened there in 1989. we returned to the states for a couple years before returning to china for another 2. there is a lot more that could be shared but in the interest of this story, the main thing to remember is that once my dad stopped being a youth pastor, that was the end of his paid ministry career.

fast forward a few years, i'm in high school. i never got too involved at school because i was always involved at church. my closest friends were there, i was tight with my youth pastor and i just never really got into the whole school-spirit thing for whatever reason. i graduated high school and stayed in town; living with my folks, working full-time and going to junior college. i was also "interning" with the church and the same youth pastor i was really close with.

after 2 years at j.c., i transferred to southern california to attend vanguard university. in retrospect, this was the path of least resistance and that's probably why i chose it. my 2 years at vanguard were some of the most formative in my life thus far. i came face to face with some serious relational issues between my dad and i, and was able, with some very good counselling, to talk with him about the issues and move past them. i got my first taste of life on my own, and simultaneously realized that life in college was way, way easier than life in the "real world." i also became completely disillusioned with the church and christians and found that the more vocal any person or institution was about their christianity, the more i distrusted its validity.


i just happened to have close contact with a professor who manipulated and guilted students into doing what he wanted, played favorites among students, threw temper tantrums and smiled graciously as he talked about what a great program he ran. it was very off-putting. i had a friend who got into trouble for going to a party that took place while she was out of the country. the biblical guidelines for conflict management took a backseat to hearsay from "good" kids.

my desire to have any ties to anything with a christian label ended with my tenure at vanguard. i worked at starbucks and hung out with my work friends. i loved god and believed the same as i had except i had zero desire to be a part of a church or associate with anyone who claimed to be a christian because i would bet dollars to doughnuts that they were paying lip service to the god of their parents without having ever taken a second to ponder what christ really stands for or why he came to this earth.

7 years later, i'm a pastor. what?!! i moved to north idaho to help to start a church with the youth pastor from my high school days. i chose to go for it because i knew him and his desire to throw off the trappings of christianity and embrace what christ really stood for. for the first several years of my tenuous church involvement, i still held a high disdain for anyone who was too vocal about their christianity as i was still pretty sure that they were speaking loudly to cover something up.

today, i'm the leas cynical that i've ever been (which isn't saying much at all) and am doing my best to allow god to shape my heart into one that gives people the benefit of the doubt, recognizes that we're all hypocrites and loves people regardless of the names they trade on. i am willing to refer to myself as a christian, though it still gives me pause when i have to. i'm really trying hard to live a life that answers the question without words, but sometimes it comes down to that and i'm really trying to embrace the idea.

i'm a christian. i'm not prefect. i put up facades just like my college professor that was so instrumental in giving me an excuse to abandon the church. i allow hearsay from the "good" people to preempt the biblical mandate for conflict resolution. i am selfish and blind like so many of the "spoiled christian kids" that gave me an excuse to distance myself from them.

i realize now, with a sense of irony that makes my throat hurt, that it was my own arrogance and pride that convinced me that these people, this label, was dragging me down. that wasn't the case. i still don't feel it like i know i need to , but i'm trying. so if i've acted in ways that have made you feel like you don't want to be associated with me in any way, i'm sorry. i can't say it won't happen again, but i can say that i'm truly sorry and i'm doing my best to allow god to shape me into the person he wants me to be, a little bit more each day. not that it's a smooth ride, but what am i gonna do, quit? not again.

1 comment:

massivetruth said...

*raise hand* I arrived at that point a little less than a year ago. I was sick of the legalism that was so prevelant, that I became bitter and weeped. I had never been at that point before and it crushed me.

Then God gave me a vision to visit a congregation in town that I swore I would never go to. Having been obedient, we have never gone any where else. It was exactly where God wanted us and that joy was restored.