My friend Elizabeth writes a very provocative blog. She muses on things like relationships, parenting and religion. Her thoughts on religion come from a background that unfortunately is not too foreign to many people. An upbringing in a “fundamentalist cult,” as she puts it, has caused her much grief and anxiety to say the very least.
Elizabeth is not alone.
Many people whether coming from cults or even legitimate churches have experienced wounds from poor leadership, misused doctrine and practices that are not consistent with scripture.
In the 9 years I’ve been on staff at our church I’ve watched as we have become a triage for many who are like Elizabeth. We haven’t done this on purpose, but I’m thankful people feel they can come to our church for refuge and healing. Not to say we are perfect either. Unfortunately, there are people who have left us feeling wounded as well. Like every other organization, King’s Harbor is full of people. People who are imperfect, human, and sinful. Yet I believe our leadership, flawed as we may be, desire to lead with a commitment to the Gospel speaking for itself and for people to come in as they are while trusting in a great God who will not leave them there.
The thing about Elizabeth is although right now she doesn’t want to go to church any more, she still loves God. She still desires healing. She wants to hear the word of God without anxiety because I think she still believes it’s true. Many people with good reason, have given up on the Church. Given up on the possibility that there can be a “good” church. One where they can be who they are and still feel safe enough to trust the people there, trust what is being taught and allow God to work in them through a body of believers.
Because of this, I have become a contender.
I love the Church. The Church is what Jesus had in mind when He was talking to Peter that day on the beach (John 21). It’s what He intended to bring hope and joy to a lost a dying world after He ascended to the Father. The Church ought to be a place where people can worship God, serve others, and hear and understand scripture without having panic attacks because those very words were once used to bring them shame and condemnation.
When I read stories like my friend Elizabeth’s my heart breaks. I mourn for what has been robbed from loving and gracious people like her. I’m saddened for what some local church is missing out on by having someone like her be a part of them.
Jesus did not come to condemn. He came to love. He left behind generations of disciples who are to do the same so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known (Ephesians 3:10).
This is why I contend.