I am going to be totally frank right now: I have not gone to church in quite a while. In fact, due to the complications surrounding my wife’s recent pregnancy, it has simply not been feasible to do so. And I feel very uncomfortable going without her. It just makes me feel weird.
But we want to start going again. We want to raise our daughter in the church, and I want to have a career in the church. And part of that is going to probably require my voluntary involvement in a local congregation in some capacity. I’m okay with that. I always have been. It’s just been a matter of finding the right place.
We’ve attended off and on a church that, I believe, is associated with the Assembly of God church. Great church. Great people. Right on preaching. Everything about it is just good. But I have never felt that it was a good fit for me. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable with any of the doctrines that this church teaches or anything like that. I just didn’t feel like there was the opportunity for me to be involved in a manner that suited my gifts and experience.
My wife got pregnant, so we stopped going to church.
But this past Sunday, I visited a church for the first time in those 9 months. And it just so happened to be a Southern Baptist Church.
If you’re a follower of me or my blog or are a friend of mine, you know that I had some severe issues with the direction that the denomination was headed. The leadership seemed blatantly out of touch with the realities of our changing, postmodern, post-Christian world. There was more concern over the fact that there was a resurgence of Calvinism than that there were pastors leading congregations in the denomination who had been abusing children. It was more important to maintain local church autonomy than to protect those children. They dropped the line from their statement of faith that made Jesus the lens through which Scripture was interpreted. I felt betrayed and so I wanted to break free. I joined a group on Facebook for “Recovering Southern Baptists” and, in my mind at least, wrote them off as apostate and a lost cause.
But I’ve had some time to grow and to think and rethink and then the 2009 convention took place. I heard that there was a resolution being presented against Mark Driscoll and calling for the banning of his books from Lifeway stores. So, I followed the Tweets from the convention to see what would transpire. It turns out, the denomination has some backbone afterall. They, in their own way, defended Mark Driscoll and called the proposal out of line and uncalled for.
And I was filled with hope.
The SBC seems to be headed in the right direction. The young leaders of the denomination are seeking God’s will and are, overall, bringing changes to the group that are drastically needed. They are, overall, conservative in doctrine and progressive in practice. And this is the way that it should be.
I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of a group that is trying to find their way through a time when denominations are viewed as a dying breed. In a way, it is exactly what we need.
Denominations are not a bad thing in and of themselves. In fact, they can be a great source of clarity in a world foggy with reletavism. We need those distinctives. In fact, it is those distinctives that bring us together.
According to Paul, “God has put the body together.” And He has done so in such a way that “there should be no division in the body.” But God didn’t make every part the same. Each part is different and has its own function and purpose, which is exactly what He has done with the church. He has been guiding the church since it’s conception to divide and grow as He saw fit. The unfruitful branches have been pruned, leaving only those who are viable. Groups have sprouted and died. Movements have come and gone. Prophets have spoken and then been silenced. And while we look fragmented at times, ultimately we are all a part of the same tree and followers of the same God.
So I am connecting again, at least locally, with the Southern Baptist denomination because I think this is the place God wants us at the time being. He may send us somewhere else later, and that is perfectly okay. We will be ready. In the mean time, we’re going to love the group we find ourselves in and serve alongside them faithfully.