I recently finished a book called “You Lost Me” by David Kinnaman, which explores the topic of 18-29 year olds leaving the church. In the last chapter, he lists “50 Ideas to Find a Generation” and the first one hit a nerve.
“When you’re honest with your story, when you share the truth about who you are and what you struggle with, you give others a tremendous gift: the gift of going second. It’s so much harder to go first. None of the rules have been set. The boundaries have not been drawn. The borders of the land have not been clearly marked, especially when it comes to Christian circles. But that’s what we’re called to do, to throw ourselves on the honesty grenade. To share and live the truth. When we do, we give everyone the gift of going second. It’s so much easier to go second. You don’t perform or shine up your mistakes to look like a “real Christian” or a “good Christian”. The monster of pretending to be perfect has already been laid to rest.” – John Acuff
I am a Christian, but I don’t speak what I call “Christianese”; as defined by me, the lingo one may hear in church or in Christian circles. I don’t speak that way because I often find myself thinking about the person coming to church or coming to my home who doesn’t know what it means to “be in the world, not of the world” or to “die to self”. I was that person. I’m thinking about the person who may have walked away from their faith and is coming back or the one who is just exploring. I was that person. I grew up Roman Catholic, married a Lutheran and ended up in a non-denominational church.
Coming from liturgical services, those first services in a non-denominational church back in 2005 were uncomfortable. We stood for what seemed like forever singing (it was actually only 15 minutes) and the teaching was 30 minutes long (but surprisingly life-applicable). However, since it was all foreign to me, my natural response was to try and find things that might not work for us at this church. I remember telling Tim if they said “born again” or “saved” one more time I was leaving. That was almost 12 years ago.
It was like God said, “Eh, not so fast. You didn’t end up here by chance.”
When I started reading the Bible and found this bothersome-to-me “born-again” Scripture in John 3:3 (John is my favorite Gospel, but I don’t know if it’s wrong to have a favorite Gospel?), I was intrigued. The non-stop questions started and Tim happened to be on the receiving end of the barrage. Why had I never heard this Scripture in the Catholic or Lutheran Church? If the Bible is the Word of God, why was this never taught? Why did I not know what it meant? Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention? Even though it’s right there in the Bible, this one line of Scripture makes people so uncomfortable that negative connotations are given to non-denominational churches. Interestingly enough if you read 13 verses later in the same chapter, you arrive at one of the most well-known verses used in all denominations, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever should die will not perish, but have eternal life.” -John 3:16
So, on Good Friday 2006, alone in my family room, I asked Jesus into my life. What does that mean? It means I fessed up. That’s a hard thing to do when you grow up thinking you’re always right and everyone else is wrong. It means I acknowledged who Christ is and that I need Him; also a hard thing to do when you grow up thinking you don’t need anyone’s help. I don’t go around telling people that I am born-again or that I’m saved. For me, my heart change, the way I react in situations now, the way I try to live, tells my story. Just the fact that the minute I do or say something wrong and am instantly convicted, tells me that the Holy Spirit is in me; and I am convicted daily! Honestly, things that I wouldn’t have questioned 12-15 years ago, things I would have done or said, I question all the time now. When you discover that you’re a sinner, it’s overwhelming to think about.
I don’t pretend to be versed in Scripture. I leave that to the theologians and teachers. I don’t have feel-good wisdom and words of encouragement to share. I leave that to my sanguine cohorts. It’s hard trying to keep up and I’m plain tired. After all, I’m still on the journey, stumbling and fumbling, praying that I trip less the older I get. I don’t want to be a hypocrite or a fake Christian, presenting airs of someone who has it all together, because I am flawed. My problems may be different than others, but flawed in God’s eyes, just the same. I’m just thankful He’s there with me on this journey and reminding me that He loves me in spite of my mess.