Pastor's Blog

In my journey back from the brink of unbelief, I wrestled with three key things:  difficult Christian doctrines, making sense of tragedy, and making sense of evangelical Christians that expressed anything but love for me as a pastor.

According to evangelicalism, the Christian Church is a body of people who have tasted the patient, kind, and loving forgiveness of God when they believe in Jesus.  Each is given the Holy Spirit who empowers all of us together to show the same forgiveness, patience, kindness, love, and understanding, with one another.  The Church is the first taste of heaven itself, a little glimpse of the full inheritance that is coming.  This is what the Bible calls “the new testament” (or the new covenant).  It is God’s promise of blessing, His most powerful work in a dark and evil world.

When I trusted Christ, I believed God’s Word that this is what He is doing in the world and in people.  I trusted that He would do what He promised.  That’s what I expected to experience and lead as an evangelical pastor.  That was my vision – a growing community that would hear God’s truth from the Bible and respond to it – a community that was continually learning to practice selflessness, forgiveness, and mutual care for one another. 

But over the first twenty years of pastoral service I grew more and more disillusioned every year, shocked at the amount of abuse directed at me – not by atheists, secularists, and unbelievers – but by evangelical believers. 

I'm not talking about little tiffs or annoyances.
I’m talking about receiving verbal and emotional abuse.  I'm talking about extremely angry people yelling uncontrollably at me, sending me hostile emails, and leaving voice mails threatening to do me harm.
I’m talking about people refusing to try to reason things out, refusing to try to understand misunderstandings, refusing to hear two sides of a story, and insisting on believing the worst about me and the church I was called to serve.
I’m talking about people who smiled and feigned friendship and support to my face who then turned around, stabbed me in the back, and slandered me to others.  I would rather be threatened with bodily harm a hundred times than betrayed once by a friend.  Judas is the worst of the worst.

You may say I was naïve not to expect treatment like this.  I did expect it – but not from believers, and most certainly not from people who had been evangelical Christians for many years.  The more I experienced mistreatment, the more I questioned and doubted God’s promises or the reality of His new covenant “plan”.  If His Spirit wasn’t powerful enough to change hearts like He said He would, how could I (or why should I) believe in the promise of the new covenant?  And if the promise of the new covenant wasn’t true – what is left of Christianity?  What is there to believe in?

That thinking had led me toward unbelief and atheism.  When I started the trek back from the brink of unbelief, I knew that if I was going to be a Christian (and a pastor) I had to develop a different understanding of the new covenant, of the work of the Holy Spirit, and of the church.  If I didn’t, it would be just a matter of time before I headed once again down the road of disillusionment, disappointment, and unbelief.  You have to be able to believe what you believe, right?

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