Sunday, August 28, 2016
Disclaimer: The following post was an email I sent to a lay leader at my former church a few months ago. Names have been removed. The interaction really helped me see why Christians sometimes get bad names for not living as Jesus commanded. He gave us two simple rules: Love the Lord your God and love one another. Simple words yet hard to sometimes live by. For anyone who has been hurt by the Christian church or a Christian, I am sorry.
I am coming to you in complete peace. I do feel the need to be fully transparent. In the event you respond to me as aggressively as you have earlier this week, I have no qualms about forwarding the complete interaction to Hosanna leadership. I tell you this not as a threat but I strongly feel that Hosanna leadership may need to be aware of how its lay leaders treats its flock.
Throughout this situation, I have felt incredibly judged and been treated absolutely without compassion. I mentioned I have been struggling spiritually and did not feel like I was getting a deeper connection through this group. In response to my spiritual struggle, you said you could not help me and there are thousands of people at Hosanna who could. I never asked you for help; I just shared how I currently feel. Based on how you have interacted with me, I would never come to you for help. I know [the other leader] gracefully spoke with you in regards to some of your responses. She told me that and did not share specifics as to what was discussed.
I wrote something to the effect of, 'Prayer? Interesting'. I just questioned your statement we needed to be at worship. The phrasing chosen in your email was not something God would say and that is why I responded as I did. Perhaps you meant to point out that fellowship is important to Christianity. I wholeheartedly agree. However, I interpreted it that you expected us at worship; that it is a requirement.
Instead of asking for clarification of what I meant or engaging in a civil conversation, you basically kicked me out of the group and said I could come back with you forgiving me.
Personal faith is simple, right, which is why I firmly believe God was not in your original phrasing regarding attendance. We are to come to Him by accepting His Son as our personal Savior. He also gave us, His Beloved, two simple commands: To love the Lord, your God with all your heart and to love one another. If we follow these two requests, things like the 10 commandments are easy to follow.
I also think worship is an outpouring of an individual’s love for Him, it is not a requirement for saving grace. This outpouring of worship can be shown through attending events at a Biblically sound church like Hosanna. That is not always possible, especially in Minnesota where we have weather in the winter that can make travel even short distances tricky. In the warmer months, people go to cabins, travel, run races, and enjoy His world in so many ways.
Thankfully, we live in the 21st Century and can experience worship in a myriad of ways. We can attend services online wherever we have internet access. We can listen to sermons via Podcast wherever we find ourselves. I personally love seeing fellow runners with Christian shirts during races and I have had some of the most wonderful and uplifting conversations with these people whom I may not see until we all arrive in Heaven. While training, I have some good prayer time.
That is worship; it does not have to be in a 1000+ seat auditorium in Lakeville, MN with a 3 to 4 song worship set followed by announcements and then a 25 to 30 minute sermon. Worship is definitely not a procedural!
If you are concerned about number of attendees on Saturdays, perhaps a better approach would be to say that people are missed. Or, reach out to individuals you have not seen in a awhile to let them know that you miss seeing them. The manner in which you worded your concern in your initial email sounded so judgmental and cold. I am sure that was not your intent but that is what I heard and I imagine others did as well.
You also stated you hoped I did not speak to others in the group. What reasonable adult, especially one who believes herself to be a Godly woman, would cause issues within a group by spreading such idle gossip?
Please allow me to tell you a little more about myself. I do not spread gossip, nor would I attempt to create dissension within a group. I might discuss my feelings with someone removed from the situation to ensure that I am not being unreasonable or sinful. For the record, I did discuss my feelings with a friend, whom you do not know and who is in no way connected to Hosanna.
In response to my statement that I felt that the group was mostly surface level, you did not once ask me to clarify what I meant. Instead, you also boldly pointed out that you and T[the other leader] worked hard to get this group started. Never once did I question that you both put a lot of effort into getting this group off the ground. I know starting and leading a group is not easy.
Let me give you an example of what I mean by this. Just over one month ago, I found myself in the ER due to a serious migraine. I spent the morning and afternoon nauseated and unable to keep nourishment and liquid down. It would have been nice to send out a group message via FaceBook, text, or email for prayer.
Unfortunately, I do not have access to a list of even the core group of attenders. Sure, I could email just you and have you send something out but honestly, it was my emergency and I want to share directly with people, not depend on another individual to do so. It was also not a life or death event. Therefore, calling the church crisis line would be inappropriate. I should be able to reach out for prayer from the 15 or so people I have gotten to know a little bit, not one of the thousands of other Hosanna attendees.
I am highly doubtful I will return to this group, much less Hosanna. [The other leader] has been so loving and gracious in her communication with me.
In conclusion, I would like to share with you the following quote from Sheldon Vanauken, which I have also shared previously with [the other leader]. As a leader, I implore you to take the words to heart.
"The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians--when they are sombre and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths. [...]"