I am posting these twelve confessions in response to the conversations on the blogosphere of the past week incited by Rachel Held Evans' post and others who have shared reasons why they have left and returned to the church.
Growing up in and now serving the church, I humbly offer these confessions as a self-proclaimed church chick. I am someone who has known God’s love in a local congregation and someone who has been both lost and found. I share these reflections from the inside looking out.
1. I believe the church is the Missio Dei, the community of the baptized, those who are reconciled to God through Christ by the Spirit who are now called to represent Christ to the world. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1.27). Mission is not a department in the church or an office down the hall, justice and evangelism are nature defined as the redeemed people of God. So it is impossible for us to be in Christ Jesus and turn our backs on the “least of these” (Matt. 25).
2. I confess, sometimes community is really hard work. The process of knowing and being known takes time. Love is messy and living authentically together occasionally requires hard conversations and always necessitates grace upon grace. Often it proves easier to just let things go, or to cover up what is most true. If we are to be the true communion of Christ then we must remove our masks and bear our scars and lean on each other as we struggle through; and let’s be clear, we are all struggling.
3. I believe in the “priesthood of all believers” and am saddened that we’ve tossed this notion aside to build churches around individual personalities and have come to rely too heavily upon our clergy. In the early church, Paul is clear that there are many gifts possessed in the body and all are needed for the building up of the kingdom. God’s work does not rest with our pastors alone and the pastoral office should be dedicated to equipping and empowering believers for service in the world.
4. I believe theology should address suffering and be honest about the gritty, hard questions of life. Easy answers won’t do because they don’t hold us up in the darkness and formulas fall apart in tragedy. Our theology should say what is true, life is hard, God loves us and God is with us. “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16.33).
5. I believe evangelism is not something you do to someone else, it is a way of being in the world, it is proclaiming the story of divine love with your life.
6. I believe sermons should cause people to think, not do all of the hard work for them. Preaching should be biblically sound and vulnerable; preachers should be prepared to exegete a text as well as exegete life and if you have three easy application points you have already lost me. Watch reality television and log on to face-book because this is where your flock lives.
7. I confess I am continually heart sick and angered that in many church traditions today women are not accepted into pastoral leadership. Even in my own tradition, where women in ministry are a long celebrated distinction the chasm between theory and practice is an ocean. Throughout the biblical witness God has used women, Jesus came into the world through God and a woman, Jesus and Paul shared ministry with women, Pentecost demonstrates the gift of the Spirit falling upon sons and daughters. Enough said.
8. I believe love is stronger than the grave; I believe love is the most excellent thing (Song of Solomon 8.6, I Cor. 13). Our time on this planet is well spent giving and receiving love, this is when we are most like Christ. Judgment and condemnation is not the work of fallen creatures such as we are. Jesus said the world would know us by our love (John.13).
9. I believe the kingdom of God is not what we eat or drink but how we live, how we love and how we celebrate the principles of this upside down kingdom in our hearts; a kingdom where the poor are rich and the weak are strong and the first are last; a table to which all are invited (Romans 14.17).
10. I believe the Sabbath is not the Sunday worship service but a ritual and routine time of rest observed by the Creator and intended for every creature under heaven. I believe the observance of Sabbath requires our trust in the providence of God which is why so few of us will ever know the gift of true rest (Hebrews 4).
11. I believe God is without gender and female and male are made in God’s image. I believe dropping the pronoun would go a long way to help all of God’s children know that we are all a part of God’s story.
12. I confess I have days when I doubt. I have walked into that valley where it did not seem possible that God could be good and at the same time, allow the events of my life be what they were. I confess for the largest part of my life I thought God existed to lift me out of pain rather than to stand with me in it. I believe God is bigger than our questions and faith without questions is no faith at all.
What do you believe? What are your confessions from the inside out?