• My BaptismI’m growing weary of couching the differences between the fundamentalism of my youth and my current church environment as just a contrast in tastes. Different people relate to God in different ways and that different ecclesiastical systems play into that. But some faith systems seem to be trying to grow the Kingdom in spite of themselves.

    My family is in the midst of leaving their “independent, fundamentalist, Bible-believing” church en route to another one—probably even more so, especially if Dad gets his “own church.” With the same formulas (just with different numbers), they hope to get a different result.

    I’m not bashing baptists. I adhere to the core fundamentals of the same faith as I did under those environments. I know a lot of strong believers within institutions that espouse “indy fundy” tenants; and I think most of these churches, schools, and ministries mean well, try their best, and are just doing what they know.

    I just don’t understand how anyone who reads any English Bible can support the concept that exterior conformity leads to internal change. I don’t understand how they justify a New Testament church that, in essence, says, “Come as we want you to be,” instead of “Come as you are.”

    This Easter weekend saw my church baptize 68 or 69 people across three services. Over 90% of these wet souls have come to faith in Christ in the past few months. The number’s around 200 since the day I got baptized last May. I’m talking huge life change: atheists, addicts, old and set-in-their-ways Americans. We even had one baptism candidate who was a pastor earlier in life [in the 10% balance], another who had escaped two conservative Christian colleges without trusting Christ.

    In our church, every baptism candidate has to write their story and be prepared to share it with the thousands who attend our baptism services. So many of them talk about coming to a church that accepted them, that didn’t remind them of how dirty and desperate they were—that gave them a peek at a welcoming God.

    They give Christ their heart, because he’s introduced to them that way. Like the Statue of Liberty, we’re telling our local culture to send us their messed-up, broken, battered souls. And it does.

    We don’t have to sell Jesus door to door to people who know we care more about converting them than loving them. We don’t advertise on signs or in mailings or newsprint, trying to get more higher numbers by which to multiply the fraction. We love on people and teach people to love on people. That sounds so liberal and lazy to my old churches—probably because they can’t measure it, codify it, cross it off of their OCD lists. I know; I used to be that checklist guy. Okay, I still am the same checklist guy—just not in this realm.

    It’s gone exponential at our church. I attend a “big brother” breakfast group with new believers; we’ve got people who’ve been saved a month bringing friends who’ve already seen the huge difference in their lives. People who’ve known Jesus for a few weeks are seeing their families and/or friends stepping across that line right after them. We are praying over people immediately when a need is presented. We are surrounding people with any kind of help we can. We are meeting heart needs. Hard core construction workers are melting, moving, laying down their guard. Harley dudes, rape victims, Army infantryman, desperate housewives. Our church is constantly adding to the band of misfits, the canvas for God to show himself wiser, stronger—BIGGER.

    Once they come to Christ, all of the lessons are about heart issues, surrender points—not what they wear to church or listen to in their cars. Not politics. Not Bible translations. Not complicated jargon. Those are band aid deals. If they were big deals to God, they’d be what Jesus talked about most (or at all). But he didn’t. He spoke to people’s hearts—about their hearts. He railed against religion and those who preach external conformity.

    He had to: it’s natural for us. It’s more comfortable to have checklists. It’s easier to work on perception rather than intimacy. It’s safer to have a static God than a dynamic Deity. It’s more predictable to journey through preset landmarks. It’s more human to care about what other humans think rather than what God does. It’s less demanding to follow a position than to chase potential. It’s less complicated to be exclusive rather than inclusive.

    I’m just so done with an easy religion of hard rules. I’ve escaped to challenging faith that rewards far more disproportionately above my effort.

    This entry was posted on Sunday, March 23rd, 2008 at 11:00 pm and is filed under Ponderlust. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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