One of my college friends posted something on Facebook the other day that has really stuck with me. He asked, "Why do Evangelicals feel like they have to make up rules?" It stuck with me for a couple of reasons. It first stuck with me because my friend comes from an Evangelical background and the second is because I have been asking myself a similar question. With some much going on in the news these days I keep wondering why Evangelicals choose to draw specific lines in the sand that keep so many non Christians from knowing the true love and grace of Christ.
In church today the pastor gave a sermon on "Your Place in the Race" and he referenced the scripture passage in Hebrews 12:1-3 about running the race God has set before us. He also discussed the hindrances or road blocks that stand in our way when we are trying to run that race. During the sermon I couldn't help but think about how the Church has been one of those hindrances in my life. Instead of the church being an encouragement to me and cheering me on it has often times tripped me up and made me feel unworthy of the competition. As I was sitting there I was reminded of my friends post on Facebook and realized that I am probably not the only one who has felt that way.
Strangely enough, on the way home from church, I was listening to an album from a band I used to listen to in College. They have a song entitled Christian Hate Mail and the chorus sings "Send us your hate mail in the name of Christ. Insult us, bash us, bond don't play nice. I'm sure the Father's proud of the way your treat your brother. It's sad to say the Christian way is beating up each other."Read more: Calibretto 13 - Christian Hate Mail Lyrics | MetroLyrics
The Lyrics of this song reminded me again about how horrible we can be to one another and then we wonder why people do not want to come to church anymore.
When I was young I tried my hardest to be the perfect cookie cutter Christian (when I think of this analogy I like to think of myself as the star shaped cookie cutter). I was at church when the doors opened. I went to Sunday School, attended youth group, went to all the church activities, carried my Bible at school, and did my best to fit the mold. When I was a senior in high school God led me to Lee University to study Youth Ministry. Instantly the hurdles started popping up, but not from who you would imagine. All of a sudden I had Christians telling me that this was not a woman's job. Church's didn't hire woman to be youth pastors. They would say things like, "Maybe you will marry a youth pastor and then you can help him." I was determined to prove them wrong. I packed my bags and headed to Tennessee to fulfill God's purpose in my life, but before I left I was given a warning from my Sunday school teacher. He told me that a Christian school would change me more that I ever imagined and boy was he right.
When I got to Lee I found a lot of other cookie cutter Christians, but there were also a lot of Christians who didn't quite fit the mold. Some of these "free form" Christians were my friends, some were classmates, and some were my teachers. They inspired me to start asking the hard questions about my beliefs. They challenged me and during each and every challenge I found myself being remolded and reshaped. I no longer looked like that perfect star shaped cookie cutter christian I did when I first started school. Instead I felt myself being freed from that mold and I was becoming one of the "free form" Christians that now filled my life.
As time went on I got older, met my husband, started a long term job, had children, and lived life. I also realized that I am constantly being changed and reshaped mentally, physically, and spiritually. I no know that there aren't easy answers to the hard questions about God and that is okay.
Now, as I have just finished my degree in ministry I have thought and prayed about finding a job in my area of study and yet I am afraid that I do not fit the mold for the majority of churches today. Many churches are looking for a cookie cutter version to fill the position. In a time when so many people are leaving the church or not attending regularly it should send up red flags to the church leaders. People want to feel accepted, they want community, they want to interact with real human beings instead of cookie cutter versions of one another. Lot's of churches like to think that they offer this type of environment and yet they are making closed minded political statements from the pulpit, still not allowing Woman to hold leadership positions in the church, and constantly drawing lines in the sand. Of course God wants us to strive to live a Holy life, one free from sin, but it is clear that we all fall short of that on a daily basis.
I am just thankful that the Bible is an excellent example of how God can use some pretty messed up individuals to do amazing things. So, although I may not fit the mold of the church, I am encouraged that neither did the main characters in the Bible. Even Jesus went against the church leaders of His time and still accomplished His mission on Earth. Does it not open any one's eyes that Jesus' own people were the ones yelling "crucify him"????
So where is my place in the race? Well, I'd like to believe that I am running at a pretty steady pace, but I'm not running a clearly marked marathon. Instead I am running one of those crazy obstacle course races. God did not give me a clear course along paved roads. Nope,he gave me a course filled with mud pits, ice baths, nets, ropes, and fire. My race is challenging, messy, and constantly reshaping who I am. I believe that even if I don't fit the mold of the church that God can still use me to do amazing things. The church walls never stopped Jesus.