There have been times in my life when I’ve nearly lost my faith altogether. There has even been a time where I could have easily held the label of an Atheist, all while continuing to teach Sunday School.
But that’s not the kind of thing you go around telling people in the middle of your struggle. That’s the sort of thing you share once you’ve conquered the doubt, lest someone judge you an apostate.
Funnily, my issue of crisis wasn’t one of pain. It had nothing to do with hard theology or why bad things happen to good people, or why children starve to death, or why evil is allowed to exist.
No, sadly, the number one killer of my faith has been … the church.
The church has caused me to doubt the power and goodness of the Christian God.
The church has caused me to doubt that a transforming power really exists in Christianity.
Why? Because I’ve been surrounded by people who know a lot about God and who know they should love God and follow God, but I’ve seen very few who actually surrender to him in a way that changes them – that transforms them in such a powerful way that it’s like they’ve been born all over again.
What I have seen are people who want to be transformed, and who study more and more of the right thing (or don’t), hoping it will save them.
And yes, you could argue that people are just that -people. And that none of us are perfect and we’re constantly being “refined” and growing in the Lord.
There’s truth in that. But it’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the majority of people not following the teachings of Jesus at all – simply wearing his name, caught up in the world like wheat choked out by weeds.
I was choked by weeds, too. Wanting fruit. Wanting power. Wanting transformation. Yet unable to put my finger on it.
I’ve heard the teachings of Jesus modified and rationalized away from the pulpit. “Yes, you should give your life to Jesus – but he doesn’t require that much of you. Yes, you should give your resources to Jesus -but not too much (Also, he particularly wants you to pay his “staff” and his utilities). Yes, we all have to pick up our cross and follow – but not too heavy of one, in fact wearing one around your neck will do just fine.
We’ve filled the pews, but have we filled our hearts?
So, to keep my faith, I’ve had to leave the church. I’ve had to leave the man-made bits that have turned my relationship into a religion, to seek a more natural community with other believers who are also struggling to believe inside the walls of the church.
And it feels good, y’all. It feels right.
picture by Brian Erickson via Dreamstime.