So, the other day I went to dinner with some church friends at their house and found out that one of my newer friends at my current church had strong ties to the church I grew up at!
I was so happy, I could hardly contain myself. It was a day I was particularly lonely for my church “family”–the one I had grown up with. I left that dinner feeling warm and fuzzy and loved and light-hearted. It’s funny what connecting with family will do to a person.
That said, the friends who hosted dinner have been my church family for years, and the church I go to now I have been a part of for about 15 years–so really, really close to the same amount of time I spent at the church I grew up in. (Started when I was five, transitioned to the new church when I was about 21 and newly engaged.)
Shoot. That’s really close to the same, isn’t it?
But…the place that raised you, raised you. Adult life goes much faster than childhood, so those first 15 years may well have been an eternity. Those first 15 years formed my theology. I was taught in Sunday School, youth group, retreats, and camps to interpret certain scriptures in a certain way. A life time of studying the Bible, and my own time in Bible school has confirmed to me, that that way of interpreting was not wrong. That said…nothing that is denomination specific to what I think the Bible is saying is necessary for salvation. You can get these points wrong and still go to heaven. So, they are more of a comfort to me than anything else…the idea of worshipping with a group that for the most part agrees on things is a nice idea.
Being non-denominational now means that we don’t expect the person sitting next to us to agree on the finer points of theology, that we don’t really talk about those finer points of theology, and that we don’t have a formal standard to hold our pastors up to as they teach.
Did you catch that one? It grates on me. Right now we have good pastors who teach truth. But what if one of them were to go off to some conference or training and be led astray like the pastor who brought the cult to my old church? The old church had a denomination with a codified system of beliefs so that when the cult came to town there was something specific to hold the pastor’s teachings to, and the formal ability to fire him for false teachings.
Our church has a statement of faith and a constitution, but our elders and pastor have the role of maintaining that. If a wrong teaching were to slip into the church slyly and slowly, turning the elders and pastors minds to it one at a time, there would be no stopping it.
I hate that insecure feeling. Why? Because I know this can happen. And also because our church has changed a lot in the last five years.
So, we built a new building, see? And it attracted a lot of new members. More than twice the original number. And almost all of them are coming from different church traditions, for lots of reasons, including, but not limited to, their old church getting on their nerves.
The folks that have come since we built the new building have slipped into leadership roles. A high percentage of elders are new-since-the building, and so are the small group leaders.
And so are lots of my friends! So don’t think I am saying that new people are wrong, or that switching churches is wrong. I’m just saying that we have gained a lot of people with a lot of strong opinions in a time line that feels very “all of a sudden.”
And what if, just what if, some of those families believed something that would be bad for the church and wanted to help the church embrace those ideas that aren’t healthy?
It could happen. It has happened before. And being non-denominational, really, the most persuasive voice wins…
And now, this page is long, so I have to pause, and start another.