Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Evolution of Faith

Last week I started reading Evolution of Faith by Philip Gulley.  Reading the title alone has made me contemplate how my faith has evolved over the years. As if this book hasn't been enough to get me thinking about such things, a few days after beginning this book, I watched a slightly perturbed group of college students try to analyze the gathering (the Porch's weekly "service") for a paper they had to write.  This brought back a rush of memories and the many frustrations I faced in college--the countless classes, chapels, and other services I spent finding all the errors in what as being taught/preached--as I found my faith shifting.  Actually, my faith was more than was crumbling.

Let's back up a bit...

My parents raised me in a Christian environment.  I memorized loads of Scripture in AWANA as a wee one.  As my siblings and I grew older, our family began attending church less and less as all three kids were involved in sports tournaments most weekends.   By the time I was in Jr High, attending a Sunday morning service was a rare occasion, which was fine by me.  While I considered myself a Christian, it was fear of getting in trouble that kept me a decent kid rather than a desire to live in the way of Jesus. In eighth grade I began attending youth group at a Wesleyan church because there was a cute boy there that I liked.  I fell in love with that place (not that boy).  Over the years, I was incredibly blessed to have three different, amazing youth pastors.  Each challenged me in a different way regarding my faith.  By the time I was ready to graduate I had read the Bible in it's entirety (twice), served for a few years on the youth group's leadership team, preached a few mini sermons on Sunday mornings (on Youth Sundays of course), and decided I was going to go on and pursue Christian ministry of some sort (as long as I was able to play softball on a scholarship at the college where I would be learning about this whole ministry deal).  I was solid in my faith and nothing was going to shake me.

Until Bible college.  After taking a year off from school and getting married in that time, I (with Jeff of course) moved to New Brunswick, Canada to pursue "the call" I had on my life to become a full time youth pastor.  At the end of my freshman year I added a Global Ministry Major to my Youth Ministry Major.  At the end of my sophomore year I dropped my global major to a global minor.  At the end of my junior year I was questioning just about everything regarding the institutional church, and was pretty convinced that house churches were the way to go.  My senior year was packed full of frustrations as I was sitting through lectures all about church structure and using Roberts Rules of Order at church meetings.  I can't even begin to describe the anger in me as I became so disenfranchised with the church.  I was disgusted with what I was learning because to me it looked nothing like what Jesus ever intended the Church to be.  I wrote paper after paper voicing my frustrations and arguing my points.  Thankfully, I had professors who allowed me to think this way and graded me according to my work and research and not on the premise that I had to agree with them.

Through experiences of working closely with a youth pastor on my internship for 6 months and working as a youth and young adult pastor in a church for a year after that, I have slowly morphed from being calloused, to broken-hearted, to understanding there's a place for institutional, conservative evangelicalism--even if it's no longer for me.  It played a large role in my faith, and I would not be where I am today if it weren't for it.

While it began with questioning ministry practices and eventually the institutional church as a whole, it didn't stop there.  Just about everything in my faith has been questioned, torn down, and is in the process of being rebuilt...hopefully never to full completion again.  I'm sure there are some who think I've "backslidden" or "fallen away" because I no longer hold some of their most cherished beliefs.  But that's ok.  I have never had a more vibrant, hope-filled, Jesus-centered faith than I do now.  I would never change where I've come from in my faith, even though I no longer hold to much of it.  I'm thankful for where I came from, content with where I'm at, and excited for what's to come.

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