Surveying the Carnage

I’ve been thinking a lot about the carnage that has come out of evangelicalism. More specifically, Reformed theology, Calvinism, the homeschooling movement, the purity culture, and complimentarianism.

Who has suffered the most?  I believe without hesitation, that the children raised in these systems have been and continue to be, its greatest casualties.  We continue to receive emails from parents who have been broken by the system and who have grown children who have walked away from the faith and sometimes into atheism or agnosticism. Some of these children cut their parents off for a season.  Some, permanently. It’s painful, but I think necessary for the child to figure out who they are apart from how they were raised.  Some feel as though they have been brain washed their whole lives.  And maybe so.  Did we present one set of beliefs and hold them hostage to those beliefs, living in fear that they would somehow be corrupted by the world or even worse, another church with different theology?

I’m thinking too of the many who homeschooled like we did.  Many believed they were raising up little warriors for God.  Girls were taught that their value before God hinged on their presenting themselves as virgins to a man.  And if they weren’t virgins on their wedding day, they were damaged goods, considered less than.  They were also taught that their entire identity as women was gauged by their constant submission to a man, regardless of how abusive the relationship might become. They were compelled to follow that man, helping him to achieve all of his hopes and dreams while she stayed home and had babies.  I’m not saying that staying home and having babies is bad, I’m thankful I was able to stay home with my children.  But what if I had a choice to pursue my dreams too?

So not only were they held hostage to our theology, but to our worldview and political agendas as well.  We presented a life and a God that fit neatly in a box. Our children lost their identity, if they had ever known it to begin with.  I see one of the biggest results of being raised like this is anxiety and sometimes depression along with it.  They don’t know who they are.  They don’t know what it’s like to be belong to something, only how to fit in so they can be accepted.

So they leave.  Leave the church and sometimes their families.  And many leave their faith and sometimes stop believing there’s a God.

I came from a broken home.  Deserted by my dad.  Raised by an abusive alcoholic.  I was a shattered human when I met Jesus.  So why was I able to have an adult relationship with my parents and care for them when they died?  What’s the difference?  Why are kids who were raised in homes where divorce didn’t happen, where mom stayed home to cook and clean for them and sometimes homeschooled them, walking away from it all?

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Rethinking Religion, Part 5: Formal Church Membership

“Bring up church membership and watch people squirm.” –Ed Stetzer

Isn’t that the truth? I squirmed just typing that and you probably did too as you read it. Formal church membership can be an explosive subject because people either see no need for it or they have a deep-seated emotional investment with it. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who is truly neutral to the idea of formal church membership. We seem to either run from it as an unnecessary burden that can in some instances be abusive, or we run to it with robust fervor because we’ve convinced ourselves those who aren’t a formal member in an institutional church are either sinning or fringe Christians who don’t really get it, or both.

In this post, I want to talk to you about formal church membership. It’s a subject that keeps presenting itself to me on this journey God has me on, so I want to address it. My views on formal church membership haven’t changed much in the last 44+ years but more recently, I’m seeing a trend in many institutional churches that is alarming. Allow me to say at the outset that I’ve pastored churches that have formal church membership and I’ve pastored churches that don’t. I’ve been on the inside of both systems and I’ve seen the positives and the negatives of each. I’ll talk more about that in a minute. First, let’s review where we’ve been in this Rethinking Religion series.

Review and Rewind

This is part five of a multi-part series I’ve called Rethinking Religion. If you haven’t read parts one thru four yet, you can use the links below to do so. In this post, we’re going to continue building on what I introduced in parts one thru four as we tackle the subject of formal church membership. What is formal church membership? Is formal church membership required of me? Is formal church membership a Biblical mandate that I am compelled to obey? If I choose not to become a formal member in a local church, am I sinning? Should I feel guilty? To refresh your memory, I’m presenting this multi-part series in the following order and there is more on the way:

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