Saturday, June 12, 2010

What Lies Behind

Every year around this time I think about my former denomination. My experience growing up in a denominational church was awesome. I learned a lot about the Bible, salvation and other foundations of my faith in God. The good thing about my upbringing was the emphasis of all my mentors and family on Jesus. I got the point that I am a Christian first who happens to serve Jesus in that particular body of believers. 

Four years ago my husband and I joined a new body of believers who is non-denominational. To be honest, it was difficult to leave the security of a denomination. I had strong ties there:  my father and uncle are Reverends, so is my sister and her husband. I have several other family members going to seminary and getting ready to become pastors in the denomination. Besides being part of it for 4 generations, I went as far as to accept my call to the ministry there and start the process of having my local church recommend me to go to seminary. Even my grandmothers led congregations, taught and worked for years as leaders. I can't think of many family members who are not involved in a major way. What a great example of love for the Kingdom of God.

Becoming a member of a non-denominational church was exciting because for the first time in my life I was able to see myself simply a follower of Jesus Christ. There were no deep traditions I needed to follow every Sunday, there wasn't a founder that was worshipped and adored. Jesus had way more room to be the center of my love, devotion and worship.

As I look back over all my church years, I sense many things about changing denominations:
Leaving was difficult because I no longer had that feeling of being part of a club. As in many organizations, you felt at home all over the world when you found that particular house of worship. My current church is part of a fellowship but not nearly as large as the one before.
Leaving was difficult because key people I respected laughed about my choice. They pretty much gave me the impression that I could not serve Jesus Christ apart from that denomination. All the international travel would dry up, all the opportunities, gone. That was hurtful and it was not true.
Leaving was easy when I saw that there is freedom to be what God wants me to be outside of a denomination. Every organization has limitations. There are traditions to be respected, styles of worship to be followed, institutional racism... I no longer have to deal with denominational limitations.
Leaving was easy because I don't see myself just as a member of a Christian denomination but as a Christian. It was easy because I can better distinguish among cultural traditions, religious traditions and the real teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Leaving has freed me to do something for God that could not be accomplish in the walls of my former denomination. I still feel called to minister, just not the way it's designed in my former denomination. What I really believe is that God has written my story and He's revealing it to me step-by-step. I have learned that we are all ministers whether we have the title or not.

The Bishop of my former denomination came to our area a few years ago and I took him and his wife on a tour of our local church. During our time together, I told them that I tried to stay connected. I visited many churches within that denomination and could not find a place for me. He must have sensed my struggled and told me not to feel guilty. He said the important thing is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. His wise words gave me so much relief and added to my healing. 

Every now and then I look back and reflect. At the end of the day, I don't repent leaving. I am thankful for my experience, I'm glad for my recent growth as a believer.
Thank God for my denominational experience. Thank God for the experiences I am yet to learn outside of their four walls.
Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer, 
Nor His mercy from me! Psalm 66:20

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