Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A New Kind of Church (part 3)

"It's time to stop being timid, stop being so concerned that we will 'offend', and start being what God intended the Army to be!"

With that in mind, I continue this dialogue. Amid much drama!

I think, for most young people, the real search for what they believe happens at University. Not only are they away from their parent’s watchful eyes, but they’ve also got a host of new ideas floating around them from new friends, books, and University professors. For me, however, I never really got that chance at University. I started serving in the Baptist church immediately after high school. It was the same denomination I had been brought up in and that fact gave me very little room for questioning. After all, part of my job depended on the fact that I agree with the doctrines of that particular church, so I never really questioned it much. I didn’t want to. I wanted it all to be true so that things wouldn’t get complicated. So my questioning really began with the church as a whole, rather than any particular doctrine.

Through a series of events, I started questioning the accuracy of the church at a very early age, but it wasn’t until I started serving in the church that I seriously began to question its authority. Truly getting to know your leader will either make you rally around “him” or will convince you that he’s not capable of leading at all. I experienced both as a young minister. But I also experienced God’s grace through my own mistakes as a leader and, once I had come out on the other side, I learned that God uses imperfect people on purpose. He does it so that no man can take glory for what He’s done. And so God chooses to use me and a library full of people who really have no business being in charge. Amazing grace.

So I spent my first eight or nine years in ministry teaching what I was supposed to teach, not allowing myself to question whether any of it just might be a little off the mark. Again, I really, REALLY needed it to be true! My pay check and career depended on it. But in 1998 I finally left the Baptist church and began working with The Salvation Army. It’s funny The Salvation Army, when it comes to our rules and traditions, we have a very firm hand, but when it comes to doctrine, you are often quite free to figure it out for yourself. I can’t begin to tell you all of the different doctrines represented in The Salvation Army. In fact, outside of the non-denominational denomination (let’s be honest), I don’t know of another denomination with as many different doctrinal statements floating out from its pulpits. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that the Army is doing anything wrong by this. I’m just suggesting that doctrine is not the Army’s top agenda. And so, upon beginning work with the Army, I suddenly found myself in a place where I was free to ask the question: “do I really believe all this stuff that I say I believe?” And so the search began.

I have to tell you that it was quite freeing. Quite freeing to admit that some of the things I had been teaching all of those years didn’t quite add up or, at the very least, were questionable. And so began the process of dissecting my orthodoxy. And I’m still doing it. And, in doing so, I feel that I’m getting down to the root of Christianity. It used to be that I considered my doctrine to be the root of my Christianity. It guided me to do what was important to that doctrine to maintain my Christian label. But now I see that only two things are truly important and they are what make me a Christian. Love the Lord my God with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love my neighbour as myself. Evidently ALL of the Old Testament (and I suspect the new one as well) hangs on these two things. The thing is though, once you adopt this as your orthodoxy, it opens up about a million new doors and windows that you have to consider.

To be continued...

(End of part 3)

Comments on "A New Kind of Church (part 3)"


Blogger Nicole_Hostetler said ... (8:03 PM) : 

I have been eagerly awaiting part 3 and here it is! I appreciate your honesty and pray that you never stop seeking to grow in your faith and understanding. The only thing I would like to add is that it is not "the man" of the Army who is not reflecting upon doctrine or even considering it, we (I mean the laity)have become lazy in our faith walk. I believe that Army authors and leadership have taken a fresh look into our doctrines and are attempting to "clear up" any human errors that have been passed from generation to generation. Dare I sound repetitive (but I don't care), this is why as leaders and officers we need to know (I mean heart, mind, body, and soul)our doctrine! We cannot just idly sit by and recite what we haven't a clue means! Instead of having a whirlwind doctrine and soldiership class, we should take time to relearn, re-examine, and re-explain the very things that we say we believe. I don't think that we have held leaders and officers accountable for what they preach from behind the pulpit(and oftentimes around a dinner table). There needs to be a responsibility to clarify personal opinion and questions so that they are not misunderstood as truth or doctrine. I know that this can be true for other churches as well. We should embrace our salvationism (I say this is our "denomination")and not be ashamed (even if we are considered an oddity or misunderstood by the rest of the "normal" church).


Blogger Pete said ... (8:20 PM) : 

Agreed on the two great commandments - well said! However, is the wide array of doctrine coming from S.A. pulpits symptomatic of an ordination process that is perhaps a little too abreviated? Perhaps that is a whole other topic, but that is what came to mind mid way through reading the post. Generally, I don't think that election vs free will arguments (and the like) are time well spent, but sometimes I wonder if the SFOT process sends ministers out ready for battle in other more critical areas.


Blogger blogblogblog said ... (9:04 PM) : 

Isn't it interesting how these questions cause some of us to pitch out or at least drastically reduce the emphasis we place on our doctrine and others of us to rally around it?


Blogger Cari said ... (4:37 AM) : 

So here I've been wondering, what do I do? Do a continue in the traditions that I've grown up on and been fed all my life? Tradition serves me well and keeps me grounded. But where do I draw the line? At what point am I just another hypocrit Pharisee? And when I attempt to affect change, I fear I'm falling in to the "entertainment trap." I envy my friend who is a new Christian after being raised by evolutionists because she is a seeker of the truth, who finds answers for herself. Me? I already have all the answers. I cut my teeth on Baptist doctrine and beliefs. My answers were given to me long before I had the questions. Leaves you little reason to question. Happy, floating, on my pink cloud when suddenly things don't add up. I'm proud of my heritage, of my tradition. But now I AM free to ask questions. God brings us to this place so that we'll seek more deeply. I know I'm so blessed to have Christian upbringing. Don't stop asking questions. And don't be satisfied until you know your answer is from God. Jer. 33:3 Come to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you do not know.


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