I’m really frustrated right now. I promised myself that I wouldn’t use this blog as a place to vent or post my “whatever” stuff (you can read those posts at my BLAHG!) and I’m going to do all I can to make sure that this isn’t a “venting” post. What? I’m two sentences in and already rambling? Let me explain.
I am a Christian (if I really have to explain that, then you forgot what blog this is). For me, that’s really the end of it. When people ask, “what are you?”, I get that they are really asking “what denomination are you?”, and I’m fine with that. I simply answer that I am a Christian. I’m not a Baptist, though there are aspects of my worldview that are reflective of that denomination’s teachings and policies. I’m not a Pentecostal, though… yeah, what I said in the last sentence. I’m not a Methodist, but John Wesley is probably my favorite preacher of all time. I’m just a Christian. HOWEVER…
I once followed a girl to Lee University, THE Church of God university. Recently, I had a phone interview with a local Baptist church, and I was told that “[the search committee] probably won’t want you because you went to Lee University.” (Not even kidding about the quote. The guy actually said that.) I wish it stopped there.
I once worked as an Associate Pastor at a rather large SBC church. I was ordained there. Yes, ordained into the SBC. There’s a catch. This SBC church believes in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the continuing gifts of the Spirit. This makes the pastor and the church, 1) anomalies in the denomination, and 2) shunned by many (most???) therein. What’s the point?
When I send resumes out to SBC churches (in the past six months, over 50) it is not unusual for me to hear nothing back from them, and, in the past week alone, it has been confirmed to me by almost a dozen different sources in different parts of the country, that it is a combination of my education at Lee University along with my connection to the aforementioned SBC church (yes, it goes nameless for a reason), that has hindered my progress in “vocational ministry.” Apparently, the assumption is made that I am just a crazy, tongue-talking, oil-pouring, hands-laying-on, (snake-handling?) charismatic who has no real connection with the SBC at all.
But, do you want to know what’s funny? I don’t even have a prayer language. Yes, I have spoken in tongues before (it’s happened twice in my life, and I believe that on both occasions it happened as a sign for me to confirm the veracity and correctness of particular things that were happening in my life at the time), but I don’t have what is commonly referred to as a “prayer language.” I do believe that the gifts are in existence, but I don’t think they started up again in the late 19th/early 20th century. I believe they never ceased. But that’s not even a focus of my teaching ministry. I have rarely taught on tongues or the gifts.
I share all of this, because these experiences have helped to put a fine point on my ministry. Over the past couple of years the focus of my teaching has really come to be about two things: 1) Restoration, and 2) Transparency. Let’s talk about transparency first.
We are, each one of us, called to do and be certain things. As each of us are unique, and have individual callings, it follows that our callings are as individual as we each are. You can’t do the things I can do, and vice versa. As this is the case, then the sad attempts at emulation and mimicry of the lives and ministries of other Christians must cease, and our masks must come off! Very often I have heard from both Christians and non-Christians alike that they wish preachers would be more real with them. “It seems like their life is so perfect and mine is so completely messed up!” (Again, actual quote.) As anyone in ministry knows, our lives are not perfect by a LONGSHOT! TAKE THE MASKS OFF!!!
The idea of restoration is simple (in theory). We have to stop clinging to the unbiblical idea of denominations and embrace the truth that, as Christians, we are one Church, one People and one Body. We might believe different things in terms of our broader theologies, and that’s OK. What unites us is the belief that we are saved by the atoning work of Jesus. He alone is our Savior. We are not saved by the things we do, or the doctrines we do or do not embrace. Do I think a Christian who believes that speaking in tongues and the other gifts of the Spirit are still active is, in fact, not saved? Absolutely not! Do I think a Christian who believes that speaking in tongues and the other gifts of the Spirit ceased with the death of the Apostle John is, in fact, not saved? Absolutely not! These things do not determine our salvation. Only our acceptance of God’s free gift through Christ and our submitting to the Lordship of Jesus affects that issue. Everything beyond that is interpretation and fodder for discussion. (I just offended most of the Body of Christ just now…)
I’m going to leave the rest of that alone, for now, and direct you to this site: Between Love and Doctrine. This is the kickstarter site for my friend Michael Raburn. He has a bead on what I’m talking about better than anyone I’ve ever heard.
Also, I want to be clear that I have no ill will whatsoever toward the SBC, any SBC church or churches of any other denomination. If that’s what you got from this article, please read it again.
So, in closing, yes I’m frustrated. But my success (or yours, for that matter) in vocational ministry or any other endeavor has nothing to do with denominations or people who stereotype or pigeonhole me (or you). Because “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29) So, whatever is going on, you can be sure that God is not done with me (or you) yet.