A look at travels through the church-o-sphere.
Some of my background and travels through the Mainstream Evangelical Religion (MER): Having done the church search with my family through the years we’ve been a Christian household, we’ve gone through a fair gauntlet of the variety of MER congregations. We’ve been to
1. non-denom Pentecostal (Word of faith/prosperity/healing)
2. dry, dusty SBC
3. hard-chargin’ Fundamentalist
4. believer or disciple (two kinds of Christian) stereotypical MER
5. nearly isolationist Reformed Baptist
6. kind and faithful Evangelical Free
7. Confessional, PCA
And those are just the longer-termed stays. Being regularly moved around the country (ever 2-3 years), we haven’t been allowed to mesh thoroughly into our local congregation. Important as time is, I think that “giving it enough time” is overrated. In a couple of cases, we gave it too much time. I’ll give the credit to my Wonderful Wife, who is not guilty of this failure. She comes to good conclusions well before I do, and usually my decisions are made because she throws in the final Lego Brick that completes my constructed reasoning. I’m unwilling to just jump when it comes to churches – unwisely so, most of the time.
Point is, experience was a major part of joining all these churches, to the sacrifice of considering doctrine. I didn’t think through the -ologies very well. I can blame that on new-believer syndrome or simply grabbing for what sounded good in my lack of thorough understanding, but it was a failure either way. It took some time to settle down, learn, grasp the life-blood theology that has taken root in my heart and mind. I thought good environment was good theology, in other words. It matched my own desires, made me feel important or necessary, which is a major sin I’ve battled most of my life. I was blinded to my sin and the error in doctrine, culture and practice.
Later on, I ended up swinging on the pendulum and putting doctrine in front of environment. That is probably a better end, but not if the doctrine presented is in error. Or, worse, that it has replaced the subject of the doctrine. I bought that line, hook and sinker. I’m one of the elitist-intellectual types mentioned in an article “Why I Walked Away From Evangelicalism.” I love to look down my nose at those other “little people” who are wrong or hopelessly dumb. It’s a sin I love to sin. And I hate it. But the experience of being on the right path, passing up all those other Christians (leaving them in the dust) was too good, so I was blinded to my sin and to the error in the doctrine, culture and practice.
One could try the claim out on me, questioning “what’s different about the church you’re in now?” And I admit that my sin is not eradicated. I think I can still easily gloss over failures in my church because of the benefits. And I know I can stare down the roughest-toughest Evangellyfish sub-Christian with my newfound power-theology. But I believe a couple of things about this church that both provide a safety-net for me and are going to help me deal with my failures. On with the Reformed bandwagon in Part 2.