why i was not raised in the church

for years i could not figure out why i just did not get what many church people were talking about, mostly about evangelism. oh, sure i faked it [wink, wink] and i held my own. i was impressive, i was able to pop all kinds of theological term and concepts into conversations,and people just smiled as i spoke; dude, i was good. i read all the books, talked all the talk and even impressed people with my bull. then, not to long ago, it hit me in the head like a ton of feathers [sure, the weight the same, but they are softer then bricks], the reason i never truly fit in with many in the "church crowd" or some of their ideas is that i was not raised in a church; i was not a "in" the church crowd. i did not have the "church" cross to bear.

that's right, i never had a youth group experiences where the youth pastor made me go home because i was wearing a marilyn manson t-shirt; i never had a youth pastor tell me i was going to go to hell because i dyed my hair blue; i never sat through silly old crusty hymns with off key organs and bad singing; i never had to sit through a sermon from a pastor known to put people to sleep or simply not get the point; i never had the opportunity to serve over cooked chicken, in gray sauce and green specks. i never had those experiences, i was not raised in the church.

when i realized this, my first reaction was to feel as if i missed something in my life; i was actually depressed for a few seconds - then i realized, that i did miss some things and to be honest i saw it as a blessing - that was when i realized why called me into ministry. not because i had this great christian tradition going back generations like so many of the ministers i got to know over time; in fact, being irish the only thing that goes back that far in our family is the love of a good whiskey. go back far enough in my family tree and your find mail-order brides, horse theives and rebels. when i realized i did not carry the baggage of so many other ministers i realized that for me, this is all some what new.

i do not know what it means to be an "evangelical, post-protestant, liberal, conservative, charismatic, fundamentalist, calvinist, anabaptist, anglican, methodist, catholic" because i have never been any of them [well, i did serve in the methodist church while i was in seminary]. but you see, those terms have no meaning to me, and they had not meaning to me for most of my life. to be honest, excluding the way they get people wet [dunk or dip] i could not tell you the difference between many of then today.

you see, as a person who spent most of his life outside the church i can tell you right now, people who are where i was do not give one good rats ass about any of that. to them, all that is just silly stuff people do for control. they do not care what church you go to, what God you pray to, what denomination you hold ties with, or what version of the bible you read - all they care about is "why do you want to be their friend?"

now, that is the danger many people who have all that christian baggage have a hard time dealing with. before you give the standard "good little chrsitian" answer, remember that those outside the church do not care about the "good little christian" answer. they could careless about your desire to share with them christ because you are told to, or you love them in christ [i love the churches that qualify "love" to say, "i love them in christ" and not just, "i love them"], or you want them to be in heaven - remember, none of that matters to a person outside the church; they do not care about those reasons, and to be honest if at any time they feel that any of those are the reason you desire to be their friend - they will run in the other direction. you must become their friend, because you desire to be their friend - any other reason is a lie, and is creating friendship on a lie. friendships must be developed on truly desiring to want to be a friend, not because you desire to grow a church or "save people."

that may sound hard for those who were raised in the church, but to be honest, i hope it pisses you off so much that you spend the next few weeks thinking about it. because, even if you don't like it, it is a fact. i know, because if i knew the people who shared christ with me only did it became they wanted to share christ with me - i would not be here today writing in favor of the church. if you do not make friends with people because you want to know who they are, you are lying about friendship and are only interested in growing a church. i need to say this, because even if you think you are doing good, you are not - be my friend because you like me, and for no other reason. i make friends with people i like, regardless of their faith - and i live my faith as best i can. if in that process, they desire to know about my faith i will share with them from my heart - but today, evangelism starts with the other asking, and not with me telling.


Rick said...

Wow. Finlly some one in the church I can relate to.

I did not grow-up in the church and I have no "church language". I relate to folks on the street better than I do in the church. I went to semianruy as well and felt like an outsider. The church keeps talking to itself,and even then it feels like nobody is listening. I have more spiritual conversations with folks outside the church than I do inside the church. I left the corportae world to work in the "church". Scary... you remind me to keep it real and to remeber where I came from. Folks inside are too hung up on what they believe and what is right etc. Folks on the outside could give a shit; just be real.

Thanks for writing this.

Jeffrey said...

"you must become their friend, because you desire to be their friend - any other reason is a lie, and is creating friendship on a lie. friendships must be developed on truly desiring to want to be a friend, not because you desire to grow a church or "save people."

A-FREAKING-MEN! You know I'm with ya here John.

Makeesha said...

You make many good points that a "cradle christian" like myself need to keep in mind. Do remember though that being raised in church is not easy and "joining the church" is also not without it's problems...problems that are often blamed on the "cradle christians." I think the key has more to do with everyone keeping their focus in the right place.

Ben said...

This is so well put! Bravo! I recently came our of a small church that would question if you were a Christian or not if you had too many friends outside the Church; or if the pastor felt like you were taking too long to present people the gospel or invite them to something (there was usually a 3-4 week limit). We weren't allowed just to love people or reach people where they were at. We always had to have alterior motives which does push people away. Being able to just love people...It's amazing and freeing. Just had to share. Thanks.

Makeesha said...

That's such a shame Ben. I get so frustrated when I hear stories like that. Fortunately, the tide is shifting in the church.

Doug Pagitt said...

Hey john , I am working on a book where this would be a great addition - it is all still coming together - would you be open to talking about including it with me at some point?

Doug Pagitt
Pagitt at M A C dot com

Pammu said...

i know how that feels. i made a big deal out of it only because my friend who felt it as a "loss" made a big deal out of it. but you can't change anything's that past.

i do agree with what you say about lying about friendship and only being focused on the growth of the church. i live with it every sunday that it sickens me (imagine hearing the word "evangelization" every single sunday from a sermon that digresses to an old pastor's old days in the country).

yeah and what's up with all this "i love you in christ"?

god bless