NOTE: This is a young adult guest blogger. Part of the leadership team at a new church plant.
This blog post is a heavy one for me. Just know this is MY opinion and not generalizing, just giving MY personal experience.
I’m tired of holding it in.
So, here it goes.
Growing up, I had a certain mentality about church, beliefs, norms in church, rules in church, regulations in church, what not to wear in church, etc. I enjoyed church very much [as I still do], but remember all the rules/regulations. For roughly 25 years I was in that kind of church environment. I’m not saying that the environment was detrimental for my spiritual life because I’m still standing in the Lord [thankfully], but it DID affect me. So, as I was saying, for many years I had only one picture of what church was…My view was very one dimensional, as expected.
When my husband and I finally decided to try another church just as a change of scenery, we found things that shocked us and had us gasping at times because we were not accustomed to it. Some of our acquaintances that found out from the grapevine that we transferred over to a “different” church automatically associated us with the word, “liberal.”
Okay, maybe the music was a little different and maybe the evangelism outreach was progressive [example: having Christian movie nights, block parties for the community, vegan cooking classes, and weight loss competitions]. Yes, we get it. It’s different. It is not the Bible time method of evangelism [which for the record is very effective still, but we are living in 2012. I still remember the Y2K (remember that?) when the year 2000 seemed like an outer space age. Well, we are 12 years into it, times change. Yes, I know the word of God never changes [Amen to that], but we can ADD ways to evangelize to the community. We can execute Bible time methods, but also add 21st century methods. It won’t kill ya, I promise.
Okay,enough with my tangent. Back to the point.
We were labeled [and still are] as liberals. This bothered me at first until I came to the realization of something. Being submerged in a entirely different environment opened my eyes. I saw everything in a different light. I feel more loving now towards things now that before would have me judging left and right. Again, don’t freak out or get puffy. This is MY experience and MINE alone [if you can relate, cool…but remember this is ME, Anissa].
Let me confess something to you who might think I am a liberal. I enjoy having instruments and occasionally clapping in my worship [gasps!]. I don’t go crazy, but it doesn’t bother me. But check this out, I also enjoy worship without instruments [granted, when songs are sung with vigor and not like you’re at a funeral]. I can worship BOTH ways and STILL receive a blessing from uplifting a song to God. How about that for a liberal, huh?
When it comes to loving each other and most importantly, God, I feel like I love more freely now. Again, I am NOT perfect or pretend to be [trust, I have my really bad days]. I just see God in a different light now. Before I would mainly see Him as kind of an angry God [yes, I know there are 6 things God hates and 7 things that are detestable to Him like Proverbs 6:16-19 says], but now I see him more as a loving God who cares for me. He even cares about when I have a bad stomach ache [it’s the little things]. He cares when He knows I am trying to be a good steward of the money He helps us find amazing sales [it’s the little things]. He cares about my salvation and my spiritual well-being [it’s the big things]. I can go on and on about how He cares for me. He is an almighty, powerful, but caring and loving God.
I remember years ago we would always talk about “those other guys” who always just spoke of God’s love and never of His “wrath.” I was the one of the ones talking about “How can these people just preach about God’s love and nothing else…?” Now, I sit on the other side where God’s love is frequently preached BUT it’s accompanied by Biblical truths. Today I was actually debating with a friend about this subject and a quote was born, “We cannot preach truth without LOVE and we cannot preach LOVE without truth.”
I remember back then when a young person [or adult] would commit a public mistake, they’d get displayed in front of the church a-la-Scarlet Letter style. Everyone would snicker when their “charges” were read aloud. Thinking back I liken this to wolves with sharp canines just anxious to have the fresh dead meat hit their mouth. Sounds crucial, but that’s how it seemed. The “dead meat” would end up being a pregnant girl with her boyfriend; an unmarried couple that had premarital relations and told someone who told someone who told someone who ended up telling an elder who ended up telling the pastor; people struggling with addiction; a spouse who cheated on their significant other; the list goes on. It was like “the town spectacle.” I remember as a child, pre-teen, teen, young adult seeing people get “excommunicated” and never seeing them again.
I never want to go back to that environment. Ever. Jesus was and still is the complete opposite with us sinners. Who are we to be “superior” to Him and act a different way because we think we are upholding God’s law?
It is my earnest prayer that church environments such as these are overcome by God’s TRUE LOVE and uphold God’s TRUE LAW. Please join me in the same prayer. Be blessed.