About a year and a half ago, I published a blog post called “Is our understanding of ‘church’ important?” In that post, I talked about a discussion that I had with a young lady concerning the church, and specifically what she learned about “church” by growing up “in church”. This was primarily what she communicated:
What did she learn? She learned that church is a place to go. She learned that what happened outside of the building was of negligible value to God. She learned that only professionals are capable of understanding and communicating the Bible.
I concluded that our actions are communicating things about the church that are not scriptural.
Last weekend, while we were helping a friend move, I met a young man from South Carolina. At one point, he and I were riding in the same van, moving some boxes. He started asking me about seminary and church. Since our mutual friend and I are part of the same church, he had heard some things about us – some things that were different. We talked about these things for a long time.
Then, I asked him, “What is God doing in your life?” He said, very honestly, “Well, right now I’m primarily running from God?”
Without asking, he began to share part of his story. I found out that this young man grew up in a situation similar to myself, attending churches that were both conservative and traditional. He was given alot of rules to live by. But, when he questioned some of those rules – specifically asking for scriptural backing for the rules – he was deemed a trouble-maker and a rebel.
He was taught that questioning his leaders was the same as questioning God, and disagreeing with his leaders was the same as rebelling against God. He (and those teaching him) had no category for humility in their understanding of God and the church. This is the current state of much of the church today. Either we agree on everything (that we decide is important), or we cannot remain friends and brothers/sisters.
So, the only way that my new friend could understand his current state is one of “running away from God”. Since he didn’t agree with the man-made rules that the “church leadership” tried to make him live by, he must be rebelling against God.
Again, what we think about the church, and what we teach about the church, are very important. Through our teaching and our actions we can work to help people grow toward maturity in Christ, or we can hinder them.