Why I Haven't Given Up On Church (And Neither Should You)
Isn't it strange that a religion that began with a call to change or let go has become a religion so impervious and resistant to change? - Richard Rohr
Everything began to change for me twenty-six years ago when I went back to church after a self-imposed and angry five-year-long hiatus. I was understandably on edge that day. After all, I'd sworn I'd never darken the door of another church as long as I lived.
I had given up on the God I'd been presented with in my youth. That God was an angry, vengeful deity, bent on enforcing rules, and nearly devoid of the love and grace that Christians claimed were a part of their religious beliefs.
I had also given up on the Bible--deciding that it's countless contradictions, fanciful stories and endless prohibitions were too high an obstacle for me to overcome any longer. I'd spent years memorizing it, studying it and being taught to take it literally. I was done.
No one knew me in the church my wife and I chose to visit that morning, but I felt like everyone was looking at me like they somehow knew I'd given up believing.
And then something happened that I didn't expect: I heard, seemingly for the first time, a message of grace. I heard the pastor speak about the unending love of God and the inclusive nature of that love.
I began to realize that the image of God I'd given up on was a god that deserved to be discarded, because that god didn't exist. I also began to catch a glimpse of the Bible that was different from what I'd read before. It was just a crack of light, but it was enough.
When the tears came that day, they wouldn't stop. I cried uncontrollably in my pew. I actually cried every Sunday for the first three months that we attended that church. It was the beginning of a new way forward in my faith journey.
This is why I still believe in the Church, and why I believe that the Church must continually be transformed if it's going to be transforming.
I often think about what might have happened if I'd walked into the church I attended all those twenty-six years ago and heard the same tired, old, angry message that had driven me away. It's those thoughts that keep me working to create something different.
If you are reading this, and either you or someone you love has walked away from the Church or faith... or both... know this: There's a better way. And there are faith communities out there doing it better. The Good News of Jesus is bigger than you ever imagined. The Bible is more beautiful and expansive than what you see on the surface.
And God is more merciful, grace-filled and loving than you can ever know.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.