I was born on Sunday, August 6th, 1967 (in the same hospital as Brad Pitt, but that's for another post). The next Sunday I was in church. Since then, I can count the number of times I have missed Sunday worship on one hand (and that's really not an exaggeration). I am a son (and grandson) of a preacher man and now I'm a preacher with a son (and two daughters). My whole life has revolved around this wonderful, marvelous, but not yet "without spot or wrinkle" Body we call the Church. With all that my parents went through as leaders in the Church, and all that I deal with as a pastor, I wonder if my children will continue in our steps. In my darker days, I wonder why should they? In my stabler moments I'm pleading with God for them to be the next generation of Reformers. My life's calling centers around the need for ongoing Reformation in the Church. It is what Christ is in the middle of doing, building up and beautifying His Bride. I want to play a role in this process. After all, I'm part of the wayward Bride that Christ is calling to the Wedding Feast.
My bride knows me well. She knows when to graciously critique my sermons and when I just need to sleep it off. Thankfully, she was a cheerleader for her school and now she is mine. When Heather passed on a link to a list of 'Fifteen Reasons Why I Stayed in the Church' I was so encouraged, I bookmarked it, shared it with all my Facebook friends and now I am archiving it here on my blog. I will return to it often, especially on Mondays.
Fifteen Reasons Why I Stayed in the Church
- I believe that there is no such thing as Church (with a capital “C”) without church (with a lower case “c”)--as messy and as difficult as that may be.
- I want to be the change in the world that I seek. And that means engaging the problems closest to me. Like in the next pew. Like in this pew. Like in my own seat.
- I believe that reconciling nations and people starts at home. If I can’t work toward reconciliation in my own church, there is no way I will be able to accomplish it on a broader level anywhere else.
- I’m not a militant separatist. I don’t believe that everybody has to think EXACTLY the way I do before I will worship with them. Even if they are more conservative than I am.
- I don’t expect the church to be anything other than it is—a group of difficult, broken people plodding their way to glory. The kingdom of God is coming; it isn’t here yet.
- I believe the church is bigger than political parties even if the people attending it don’t understand that. Even if the people who leave it don’t seem to understand that either.
- I believe Jesus can and wants to redeem Pharisees as much as publicans.
- I believe by staying in the church I earn the right to speak about the problems I see. It’s the old adage that you can criticize your family but no one else can. By staying with “my family,” I can speak about our failures and the doubts I wrestle with.
- I believe that 2000 years of church history holds a bit more weight than my personal experience.
- I have brothers and sisters in Christ who have been imprisoned and lost their lives for doing the very thing that I would be giving up.
- I do not want to lose people I love and who love me and my family. And while there are times that conviction must trump relationships, these relationships act as a grid to help me determine whether my convictions are sufficient enough to risk losing these people from my life.
- I need the church to regularly remind me about the things that I don’t like in the Scripture. Things like God’s anger and my sinfulness--things that if left to myself, I would conveniently ignore or rationalize.
- I am not an island. My choice to leave church affects everyone else in the congregation. Remove one part from the whole and it is no longer the same entity.
- I have children. And while I’ll be the first to admit that it’s dangerous to raise your children in a church that distorts the gospel, it’s equally as dangerous to raise them apart from church altogether. One way the gospel is expressed is in the loving covenant relationship that happens in the church – I want that to be part of the warp and weave of their experience. I want them to know that real commitment means taking the good with the bad.
- Jesus hasn’t left the church. No, of course, I don’t mean this in a sanctimonious way. (If I had, I would have put the word sanctimonious in asterisks.) I mean simply that after he threw out the money changers, Jesus continued to worship and sacrifice in the temple. His work is to purify and redeem, not to alienate or destroy.