1 Jan 2003

Stay at church that burdens with legalism?

Submitted by theshovel
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Yes, you have a tough situation with the whole family thing. I can remember similar dilemmas, but not quite as rooted since my family had moved down here in '71 and none of us was really satisfied with the church we began attending down here in Florida. Later, my sister and I joined a First Baptist Church (my parents had chosen another church) and we made some good close relationships with the youth group and choir and choir director. That was actually the most we had experienced in a close-knit group before, so it made for a difficult decision when I chose an independent Bible College instead of the local Baptist College, especially when I finally realized that I had to move on from there. It hurt, and I had repercussions for years concerning it. I mean, I was like one of their boys. Even though I was already 19 and was as tall and filled out as I was going to get for about the rest of my life there were some of the people who in later years would tell somebody else how they had known me since I was much smaller. LOL

In some of the other churches and groups since, there were mixed emotions and thoughts about me leaving since I became a problem for the leadership with my new grace views. Many of the people really didn't want to see my wife and I go, while others merely said they would miss us, though you could almost hear the sigh of relief behind our backs.

It seems to be implied, but does your wife sense the same burden of condemnation as yourself? I can imagine that she is feeling a lot of tension about it since it is her family, though I can also imagine that you are having to face the idea that you would be considered the bad guy who influenced their daughter away from her home church. Either way, it is not an easy decision.

Have you spoken to the preacher about any of your concerns? I don't say this as if suggesting you need to give him a chance to intimidate you into not leaving, I'm merely wondering what may have already taken place. Do you have any real connection with him? If you haven't talked to him, it would probably be a good idea to at least let him know sooner or later before actually taking off, if you do, otherwise you may kick yourself for it later that you didn't say something.

Other considerations. What kind of a body life is there? In other words, is there any real fellowship, real connection, real sharing of the life of Christ between the group, or is it mostly a go to Sunday School, come to the services to listen to the sermon kind of setting with a few minutes in between to catch up on a few things between people? This is mostly what I grew up thinking church was.

Believe me, I understand the whole condemnation feelings associated with "going to church". My wife used to get so mad at me because I'm a die-hard and will hang around beyond what she thought was worth it. :) Often, though, there was definitely something worth it as it gave me the chance to share real life in the midst of some condemnation. Once it became obvious enough to me that the leadership left no room for this freedom to be experienced, I was out the door. Truthfully, I came to see these churches as a mission field in desperate need of life than in gatherings where life was flowing.

However, the pastor often preaches condemnation and the church is more legalistic than I would like. Drew

It's a shame when it seems you have to take into consideration what degree of legalism you will tolerate.

I definitely feel more of a burden placed on me there instead of allowing me to be free in Christ.Drew

If you are not living as free, as a new creation in Christ within the confines of what is called "church" then what is it's worth? Is it just because that's where you've been going and are afraid to leave? Or does the true love and life of the Father keep you there?

I sometimes think they believe all the responsibility is on me to be holy. Drew

What a shame that this seems to be the norm in Christian circles!!

For example, making sure I am right with God when I pray to make sure my prayers are heard. I don't believe this is biblical at all.Drew

You are correct in saying that it is not biblical, but as true as this is I don't think it's the most important consideration. I only say this because not-biblical often implies a technical distinction that gives room for biblical argument. The fact is that this teaching of condemnation is against you, and against all those who are participating in this attempt to make themselves right. Yuck!!

My question is should my wife and I remain at the church even though we feel this burden? Drew

Of course, this I cannot answer for you, but I'm sure you will sense the life of the Spirit in this. Will it be tougher to merely remain and be squelched, or is there room for life to be ministered by you and your wife to others by staying?

The alternative is finding a new church Drew

Just make sure you don't trade one bondage for another. Also, don't count out the possibility of taking a temporary rest from an organized church. There ARE other things going on in some places, like maybe a grace-based study or something.

but causing much grief within her family and the many friends she has at the church. She and I often leave Sunday services feeling less than uplifted. Drew

Is this grief greater than the overall grief caused by the expectations laid upon you and upon her family? Have you two discussed any of this stuff with her family? What do they think? Are they satisfied with the guilt motivations and lack of freedom? If they don't see the difference in what you describe to them then would your remaining possibly allow you to minister this life and freedom to them or could it possibly cause them to think that it can't be that big of a deal for you since you stay and simply put up with it. Just thoughts.

Thank you in advance for any insight on this.Drew

You are welcome. :)

Jim Minker

Hello again, Drew!

For however long you stay with this church group make sure you going there prepared to stand in freedom against the condemnation that will be thrown at you. Know who He is to you and you to Him. As tough as things might get this can still be a fantastic time of seeing His grace revealed in very real ways as you see the obvious preaching of self in the messages of condemnation. I think this is the awareness that I have been so blessed to realize because I have come to see grace not as a teaching, but as the reality of our life in Christ simply by the contrast of seeing the desperation found in the religious mind (you know, like MINE!).

Always, always know that the life is going on behind the illusion displayed by the fleshly perceptions. When you listen to people, hear what they say, but don't be side-tracked by the bogus religious rabbit trails and smoke screens, because you KNOW how often we disguise our fears, our guilt or our shame into godly sounding religious phrases or teachings. We have reacted just like the Pharisees did for the same reasons. And you probably remember how often Jesus did NOT answer their bogus questions and riddles but would usually ask them more questions. He was addressing the real stuff that was going on. You have HIS mind and HIS ears, trust what you are REALLY hearing through all the words thrown at you. Christ Himself is the answer to whatever it is, because He is LIFE itself. :)

So, yes...I feel that all the blame would be placed on my head, especially since I have only been at the church for a little over a year now. That scares me, yet at the same time it makes me want to leave all the more. Is this weird thinking?? Drew

I think I understand this completely!! In a movie I watched yesterday (Bounce), the guy tells the girl, You are so brave! She replies by saying, No, I was scared. He then responds, It's not bravery if you're not scared. Good point. The more you realize your important part in this situation the more it will scare you because you're becoming more aware of the ramifications of your choices. But then, you are realizing through all this that your thoughts are well-founded, and that many of the most important decisions are not easy to make. I have felt this often. Yep, somewhat scared, but somehow energized to do what needs to be done.

But that is beside the point and only shows more of the bondage we feel. Drew

Sounds like you're seeing through things that desire to pull you into non-important arguments and discussion. :)

The services are definitely a go to sunday school, hear the sermon, catch up, and go home type of services. The life in the church seems to be lacking majorly. Drew

Years ago I went to a church that met in a clubhouse. It was one of the many off-shoots of the Bible College I attended. For me, it was one of the churches that defined me and influenced me at the time. It was during the few years at this group that I began to see some of the gut-level, living grace of God in a real way. I was so taken with the sad lack of some kind of living relationships, but I had no one to truly communicate with at this time.

I wanted to experience some real Christianity after the meetings. I tried to start conversations with some of the people (other than the youth group I led) but was often received with the blank looks and questionings as to what I really wanted. I came up with a few questions something like, So, what did you think of what the preacher was saying? or What have your thoughts been about God lately? (I can't remember exactly what I said, but I was trying anything to stir thoughts in a God-ward direction). Even amongst the other leaders the most they wanted to pursue was a Biblical concept or something like that. I had more good communication with the kids. It hit me how strange it was that our Christianity didn't seem to exist outside the rigid forms we had constructed for it.

Hey, keep writing those newsletters!! I'm sure you'll catch a lot of flack for what you do and don't include, but it will most certainly give some people the wild idea that there is more than shallow and lifeless religion.

Love to you and yours, Jim

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Random Shovelquote: Positional Truth (view all shovelquotes)

Positional was simply a theological way (as in Systematic Theology) to hold to the teaching of our new life in Christ without actually believing it. Source