I thought I was past this. I figured, hey, I’m a mature Christian. I know about grace & faith. Heck, I got saved over 25 years ago, got several passages of the Bible memorized, pray every day. I’m ready to try going back to church. I can handle it. There’s a new pastor at the local church, and my daughter says he’s nice. Going to give it one more shot.
Well, I found out I’m still too weak for church. I can’t ignore the crap that the pastor says, that I know is not true, without feeling guilty, unwelcome and out of place. They’re all the same. Why does every pastor in the world think they have to motivate the members? Why do they have to use guilt to manipulate them into giving money, time & effort? It’s like they think we’re all just sitting around, bored, watching football or throwing quarters in the fountain at the mall as we watch the shoppers go in & out of Victoria Secret.
It wasn’t even that bad. He said, If you haven’t talked to someone else about Jesus in the past week, I’ve got to say, I’d have to wonder if you’re really a Christian. <HUH?> So, if I’m not an evangelist like you are, I’m not a Christian? If I don’t have the exact same spiritual gift as you do, I must not be saved? In other words, if I’m not like you, I will go to Hell. Really? Are you serious?
There are many spiritual gifts. I believe that when you get saved, when you give up on trying to do good deeds to get to Heaven, when you realize the only way is through faith, when you trust Jesus as your savior, you immediately get transformed, and one of the things you receive is a spiritual gift. Evangelism is only one possible gift. There’s the gift of administration, encouraging, teaching, giving, mercy, preaching, faith, tongues, the interpretation of tongues; I happen to have the gift of giving. Probably why I only have $300 in my checking account right now. I did NOT get the gift of preaching. I’ve tried. My first pastor guilt-tripped me bad enough that I actually went out on visitation, where you cold-turkey knock on a stranger’s door and tell them about Jesus. I was so nervous I was actually shaking. I can’t do it. I’m shy. I don’t push my beliefs on other people, and I never discuss religion unless it happens to come up in conversation, and, well that’s it – I’m shy, so I must not be a Christian.
I’ve heard the line before, if you’re a Christian, you should be producing fruit; the fruit of a Christian is another Christian. Bullshit. The fruit of a Christian is the fruit of the Spirit that dwells within him: love, peace, joy, kindness, gentleness, meekness. Ever hear of that, preacher? It’s right there in the Bible you keep waving around. And by the way, the fruit of a tree is NOT another tree. Duh. What crazy person ever planted an apple tree to get more apple trees? Don’t you plant an apple tree to get APPLES?
That’s such a common pitch. It’s like all the multi-level marketing companies out there. The product is beside the point – what they really want you to do is recruit two friends, who will recruit two friends, who will recruit more, and so on, until the company is busting at the seams with fresh, new people who are all excited about having this wonderful new opportunity. Why can’t they just preach the Word? Isn’t that their job? It’s the Word expounded that makes believers. Yes, the world needs missionaries, it needs preachers, it needs people to go and tell the ignorant masses about Jesus, but it’s ridiculous to think that everyone in the church is supposed to reproduce. God has picked me, given me my place in life, saved me, and right now the best guess I have is that He wants me right here, providing for my family and doing the best I can to help others when the opportunity arises. If He wants me to preach, witness, or whatever, he’s going to have to miraculously give me that ability, because I don’t have it now.
And what’s this that they always say? Come as you are, totally accepted? That’s a lie. It’s just something they say to get you in the door; they don’t really mean it. Why do you think everyone dresses up for church? Because that’s the standard. You either look nice, or feel awkward in your cutoffs & flip-flops. And what about my drinking problem? I’ve struggled with alcoholism for years; sure I can join the church, but if they find out I drink, I’ll be kicked out of any leadership position I might be in, or I’ll turn in to their project; if I don’t get “healed” within a reasonable amount of time, then I’ll be shunned. Oh, I must not be a Christian because of that too – because I still sin, right? I’m not under the power of sin any more, so I must not be a Christian because I don’t have the same sin as you?
I know, it wasn’t that bad, but after a couple of decades of preaching, I’m sensitive. I believe that God loves me just as I am. I know, I should be going to church, I should be doing a lot of things. I used to have a long, long list of should’s and shouldn’ts. It drove me crazy. Look, when I got saved, I got a new heart; I’m still in this body, and I’m going to have temptations & struggles until the day I die. Go ahead & judge me, but remember, when Jesus came here his harshest words were for the hypocrites that judged people for sinning, rather than begging forgiveness for their own sins. Why can’t people figure out that unconditional love is just that: unconditional… you don’t have to DO ANYTHING to get saved, so why do preachers have to guilt-trip you to DO stuff AFTER you get saved? Is he saying I’m supposed to pay Jesus back for something I couldn’t afford in the first place?
I’m just a weak, flimsy man. I’m struggling with things that I never in my wildest dreams thought would be an issue for me. I’m getting older, fatter, drunker and ever more depressed when I thought I’d be fit, rich, successful and happy by now. And I don’t need someone to make me feel bad every Sunday morning, to remind me of my failures and shortcomings. I need love, acceptance, encouragement & forgiveness, that’s all, and the preacher can take all of that other crap and shove it up his ass, because I’m not buying shit today.