Community


A few months ago I learned about a set of beliefs, a theology, called Lordship Salvation. I had never heard of this theology before. As I read and studied about the theology I saw a lot of things I agreed with in the beliefs. Others referred to it as the most biblical theology, and advocated for it above other theologies such as Free Grace/Cheap Grace, or Arminianism.

Theology is defined as a system or school of opinions concerning God and religious questions.

I have a problem with theology.

My problem with theology is that made by man who is finite to understand and make sense out of a God who is infinite. Theology is a system or school of man’s opinions concerning God. It is man’s way of trying to describe, contain, and relate to God.

Our theology forms the foundation of our understanding of God and life.

Last fall I met the man who is now my pastor through someone who is now a mutual friend. When I first met my pastor I did not know anything about him, but after just a few words from someone else I had just met he expressed great compassion and care to me. We saw each other on a few other occasions before sitting down at my favorite local coffee shop to have a discussion about life, ministry, and people.

We discussed how we view life. We discussed our theology.
We didn’t label it or put it in a box by calling it by man’s contrived names.

I asked my pastor some difficult and direct questions that day because I knew that if I was going to place my spiritual life under his care that I needed to know how he really viewed life. I needed to know his theology because his theology would be the basis of how he related to me, how he lead others, and how he handled stress in life.

I asked questions that cut to the heart of the theology, without ever asking directly about his opinions concerning God.

  • Do you believe that there is a back door out of a relationship and it is okay to give up and walk away?
  • Do you believe  the Bible is THE source of truth?
  • What is the purpose of the church?
  • What do you believe is the purpose of community and how is it developed?
  • What happens when relationships get messy? Do you stick to others?
  • Do you believe leaders should cast vision, or develop vision in conjunction with others?
  • How do you view women?
  • What is the most important thing in your life?
  • When you are stressed, confused, burdened, or overwhelmed how do you respond?
  • Have you ever been broken in life? How has that changed you?
  • Why do you believe Christ came?
  • What is your greatest passion?

I do not have a theology that can be labeled with a man-made title. To do that means I have put God in a box and defined him in a way that won’t change. God doesn’t change, but my understanding of him is constantly changing. My beliefs, opinions, understandings, and acceptance of God continue to grow and change.

What is my theology based upon? In part, it is based on my experience. In part it is based on input from friends, family, pastors, youth leaders, and other leaders. In part is it is based on society. In part it is based on movies, books, podcasts, video clips, etc. Mostly though it is based on Scripture, and daily I am working to have it more based on Scripture than on any of the other parts.

I have a problem.

I have a theology.

There is a solution.

There is one God!

I am walking with a friend right now who is going through a similar depression, spiritual struggle, and crisis to what I experience 10-12 months ago. For the last couple months she has been through an incredibly dark time that has been one of the hardest seasons of her life. She has struggled to hear God, to have confidence in her faith, and has been emotionally distraught and stressed.

When I went through this time last year I tried to express it to my pastor, but he didn’t understand.

When I expressed my struggle I was told I needed to trust the Lord and go through the motions. I was told that we do not need to understand everything and that I needed to attend fellowship even if it was an uncomfortable place for me (since all we did was hang out and have dinner but no spiritual fellowship and I was in such spiritual need).

  • My friend’s pastor has advised her to take the time she needs, to let us know how we can help, and those who know and love her are reaching out to her and offering support so she does not need to initiate.

When I expressed that I was having questions about my faith and understanding about God/Christianity and wondered if I had some misconceptions I was told that I was not a believer because I was doubting.

  • My friend has expressed her struggle and has been told that others will stand with her, help her to work through questions she has, and that because of the Gospel we will never let her go or reject her.

When I asked for support and resources I was told that all I needed was within the local church. I was discouraged from reaching outside that church.

  • My friend’s pastor encouraged her to find a counselor and now she is on medication to help with anxiety and depression.

When I wanted to share with others to get support I was told that I could not share my struggles because it involved miscommunication with the pastor and would cause disunity in the body.

  • My friend’s pastor has encouraged her to share how she is doing and invite others into her journey and struggle so she has people around her praying for her, uplifting her, and supporting her.

When I was in crisis and expressed that to my pastor he never responded and neither did others in the community, and a month later I was told that I was not allowing him to speak into my life so I was sinning by being unsubmissive and was excommunicated from the church.

  • Today my friend expressed that she is not able to serve in a way she had committed to for a ministry. Others have come around her to not only fill in the gap but to minister to her in deeper ways.

I know I walked one of these paths as the person in need and one as the person walking alongside, but the two stories are very, very different. One story led to anguish, pain, rejection, and abandonment. One has led to support, community, unity, strength, and empowerment. My friend’s story is not done yet and I do not know the outcome, but I know that God is actively involved and ministering to her. I know that he is involved and being called upon by a community that is standing with her. I know that he is being allowed to minister to her because her community of Christian friends (that goes far beyond her local church) are standing with her in prayer, strength, and hope.

It is amazing to see the people of God stand together when there is a need!

No church is perfect as every church is lead by imperfect people. Our understandings of God are lead by these imperfect people and often there are things they can say and speak into our lives either through the sermon or directly that may seem correct, but unless they are 100% based on God’s truth then they can be wrong and can lead us astray. This is one of the dangers of organized religion, but also creates opportunities where we can grow and learn together and sharpen each other. Even your leaders need others to help them see different angles, think of things differently, and rethink something that might not have come out the way they intended others to receive it.

On Sunday I spoke to one of the pastors who have been helping me through the processing I have been doing and the healing journey I am on. I asked him about walking in brokenness because I continue to struggle with the fact that others have forced broken relationships on me and no matter what I have tried no progress seems to be made toward reconciliation. I have forgiven those involved and because the forgiveness is deep and true my heart desires to find reconciliation. My situation is not unique, there are many in life where brokenness is forced upon them by others such as divorces, abandonment, rejection, etc. I am sure it is not God’s heart that we live in that brokenness, but what I expressed to the pastor is that I am having a difficult time reconciling what I read in God’s word about living in unity with the fact that I can not force others to walk in that, even other believers. It gives me a glimpse of the incredible grief God must feel over those who he loves deeply and fiercely who will not receive his love and be reconciled with him. I only have a few people in my life that are responding this way but God has millions. I can’t even grasp how that must burden him.

Matthew 5:23-24 says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” The pastor I spoke to explained there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, and then he went on to explain that this and other verses refer to those we are in fellowship with (in a local church with) and since I am no longer in my old church and am in right relationships with those in the new church I am able to walk in freedom and to take communion without being burdened with guilt and shame over what happened. On one hand what he says makes sense because I don’t believe God wants me to live burdened by the brokenness I feel, however to read that verse and say it only applies to those in our own local church seems to go against Christ’s teachings of unity, a global church and family, and really being in unity. If we are not willing to be in unity with those who attend the church across the street, or a neighbor or co-worker because they attend a different church then the witness we have for Christ is going to be really limited. I have a lot of respect for that pastor and I truly believe he was giving me the best advice and counsel he knows how to give, however this time I have to say I disagree and need to seek God further.Member_Forgeing%20Iron

Is it okay to disagree with the counsel of your pastor? Does it show disrespect? I believe it is okay to disagree with the counsel when you find that scripture supports a different view, and it does not need to show disrespect to follow your heart and embrace your own personal walk with God. How you express your disagreement, how public you make it, and the heart attitude you carry toward your pastor is whether you walk in right or wrong ways. In this case I don’t think that pastor gave me counsel that is completely pleasing to God, but he did his best and as he is imperfect I see no fault in what he did. I will continue to work through these issues, and hopefully he and I will dialogue further about this and together we will grow and look more fully at what God’s word says about situations like this so that we both find truth, allow it to affect our hearts, and then we can share it with others and lead them toward right relationships that are pleasing toward God.

I love walking in community with others!