It’s funny, but as an Evangelical, Charismatic, Fundamentalist Christian, I believed that the Sabbath (in my ‘denomination’, that was a Sunday) was supposed to be ‘kept holy’ – whatever that’s supposed to mean (nobody ever really explored the concept, after all!) – but at the very least it should be a day of rest, because that’s what God did on the Sabbath day. Whether it was a Friday, Saturday or Sunday didn’t matter, as long as we had one day a week where we rested.
For me, my Sabbath had to be Saturday, because I was working at Church things all Sunday, what with being a Church musician, worship leader and all. And my leadership didn’t like that; I kept my Saturdays clear rigorously, and of course if that clashed with their timetable (if they wanted something done on a Saturday) they weren’t keen. But I held fast to my principle; after all, as a lead musician, and bloody good at what I did at the keyboard, there was no way they were going to ‘fire’ me (unless I dropped some doctrinal clanger, of course, which I never did).
But I have to be fair to them. My Church’s meetings were usually filled with the Presence of God, and I have seen people break down in tears just by the sheer sense of that Presence. The people were friendly and helpful, and genuinely cared and ministered to each other and to those outside the Church too. Underneath that surface, yes, there were all the harsh doctrines like hell and judgement, and most of the people there felt entitled to challenge complete strangers if they said something out of line*. And remember that just because God graces a church with His Presence, does not mean that He is affirming all their beliefs. Far from it; usually, He actually turns up despite our beliefs. But for the most part (and probably because I kept to all the doctrinal tenets), the church was a pretty safe place for me and my family.
This isn’t always the case, sadly. Some churches can be traumatic places to be, and to be honest I don’t know why people carry on going to them**. Until I read this piece by legendary Christian musician Don Francisco, in which he describes very clearly why he felt he had to be there every week, and to keep going back to the trauma factory. Over to Don:
“Monday… church recovery day. That’s how it used to be for me, except sometimes it was worse: It could take most of the week for me to heal after hearing what was taught in song and sermon on Sunday.
“Why would I keep going back? Because I’d been taught that going to church was necessary to please God; I’d attended since I was born. The Bible commanded it: “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together…”
“So, what exactly did I need to heal from? Fear, guilt, and self-hate… just to name the Big Three. Fear of a god who punished in ways that would appall a sociopath; guilt from every real and imagined sin in recent memory; and knowing that my heart was untrustworthy and “desperately wicked”…
“It didn’t really matter what denomination the church was, or if the preacher was a kind person or not; the bottom line was still this: God was angry at sin, and my only hope was to hide my sinful self behind Jesus.
“For those in varying degrees of recovery today, I have some advice for you: Like Paul the apostle did, consider all that religious stuff dung. Yep, that’s right: Bullshit.
“God is not angry with you; He is love. He became a human to prove it, calling us brothers and friends, forgiving us at our worst when we murdered Him. Today, we can each hear the Spirit speak words of love and support if we’ll listen.
” ‘Come to me, all of you who struggle beneath religion’s heavy load, and I will give you rest. Walk with me and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls.’ And freedom from fear, guilt, and self-hate…”
– Don Francisco
Need I add more? If you’re at a church like that, well, my first action would be to get out of there, but that depends on what Father is calling you to do. The loving Heavenly Father, of couse, not the nasty, radgy god that your church may be preaching. But the main thing is to seek Jesus, in whatever way works for you, and find your comfort and acceptance there.
Don’t get me wrong: not all churches are ‘tramua factories’. Far from it. Most of them are places of healing, friendship and, above all, the Presence of God. But the purpose of this blog post is to highlight, for people in such a harmful church, that there are churches out there where good is done, rather than horror. Churches where Jesus is preached, rather than conformity to the leadership’s whims.
Concerning matters of faith, I used to say ‘one size doesn’t fit all’. But in the case of Jesus, it actually does. Jesus does indeed fit all, even if His Chirch doesn’t. He loves you right where you are, right as you are, and does not ask you to change except where you want to change.
I think that’s marvellous, don’t you? Now that’s a God I can love!
*For me, many of the people were complete strangers, except for my group of closer friends. This is the way friendship groups work, of course. But the thing with being at the front is that everyone feels they already actually do ‘know’ you, even if they don’t. And in a church of 300 people, most people fall into that latter category 😉
**Go to YouTube and search for ‘Mark Driscoll God Hates You’. I will not stain my blog with a link to that lethal rubbish. Even thinking about that makes my blood boil, and injures my gentle pastor’s heart.