Saturday, December 17, 2005

On rejoining the Flock..

After 25 years of non-attendance at any church, save for funerals or weddings, I am starting to look for a church to attend.

I thought I had found the perfect fit, years, ago when my family joined a fairly large Southern Baptist congregation in the larger town down the road. It had everything we were looking for.

It was basically made up of young families, was centered on the Gospel, the officers and pastors non-judgemental in matters of dress or lifestyle or income and emphasized the triumph of faith over the foibles of humanity.

Little or NO time was spent on the politics of the Bible, whether they be literal reading of events or prophecy or taking of chapter and verse meanings.
I think I had better illuminate that:
The ONE topic of continual discussion was submission of the wife to the husband, as the church submits to Jesus as the messenger of God. e.g; NOT equal partners.. but that is itself open to interpretation, as the wife may indeed be the bulwark of the relationship. I saw no reason to use that to deny deacon-ship to a woman member of the Church, for instance.

But here's where it fell down:

Meetings, beside Sunday School and Church on Sunday, on Sunday night, Wednesday night, then some set for Monday night, something else Tuesday evening.. Bible Study or group education in other forms of ministry. Then something specific for Thurday evening.

And often some activity set for Saturdays, be it door to door testimony, or some public service project.

Nothing wrong with all that, surely, yet it ultimately soured me. Why? Because of the constant 'encouragement' of other members and church lay-officers to participate in all these.
One surely can politely beg off.. yet the niggling little hook remains in the conscience. "Am I a good believer and practitioner?".

The good folks down the street and those in the meeting rooms didnt MEAN to do it, but the effect, in my mind, persisted as 'judgement'.

And finally, it became to much to bear and I, sadly, drifted away from all of it. First the midweek activities, then Sunday School.. and, finally, going to Services.

All of this NOT helped by the well-meaning greetings I got when I DID attend.

"We've missed you." is indeed a loaded statement under those conditions. Yeah, yeah.. I can analyse out of the motivation of those words, but still..

And something ELSE! It was at this time that the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention was taken over by the conservative wing.

Though the best spin was put on intent, I could read between the lines; more literal interpretation of the Bible, emphasis on acts as testimony to faith, less tolerance of non-compliance within the community.

In other words, the newly joined member of my own Church who ran a bar which had been in her family for decades (imagine!) would be prodded to divest of it. Not left to do so of her own volition.
Now, the pastor HAD publicly rebuked her for serving another member who was an alcoholic, and I agreed with that, but it became clear that if you wanted to be a Southern Baptist, at all, you certainly would not drink or smoke.

Caffeine addiction, however, was still tolerated. {Those of you who've been to SBC churches will appreciate that: coffee = 'Baptist Beer')
:)
And the position on school prayer shifted.. the SBC had previously been notable for opposing teacher-led prayer in public schools, and had biblical grounds to do so.

At any rate; now I am looking, again.

And this is what I'm gonna be looking for:

Emphasis on the Gospel and WHY God sent his Son to us.

Proper interpretation of Jesus' sayings; e.g; "I tell you if any man looks at a woman with lust, he has committed adultery..."
- That cannot be used in one Sermon to emphasize the "Good News" over the 'Law', then in the next to cast guilt on fallen believers.

Acknowledge that we do not understand HOW God created us and the Earth. And that it doesnt MATTER, only matters that He DID. i.e.; God created Darwin, too.
Likewise it makes not a hill of beans difference how OLD the Earth is.. maybe God ALSO created carbon isotope decay.

I shouldnt even include this as it's obvious to any bible reader or one raised Protestant; but, anyway, Rome or Pilate did not kill Jesus, Jews didnt kill Jesus, it was WE, in the form of the POLITICAL 'CHURCH', that killed Jesus.

Why can't we recognize we are doing it, AGAIN!

And MOST important, Jesus was NOT a Socialist and DID NOT advocate for taking from the rich and giving to the poor.. I cannot find ONE reference of him preaching to his flock to lobby Rome for more social programs. He preached good works for the INDIVIDUAL and congregations.

Finally, the Church I select will have some form of Confession..Baptists use the method "Going up". Many mainline churches dropped this LONG ago.. but it is good for the soul to renounce your slips.
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I suppose I will refine all the above and send it out in form of a letter to local churches, asking the pastor to have the ELDERS respond to it.

We'll see and I am looking forward to it.

And, while I've been thinking along these lines a long time, here's the guy that incented me to do this.

Peace in your heart, first.. at least try!

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