Friday, January 25, 2008

Part II of the Unplanned Series: Finding a Church to Call Home

A History of my “Churched”-ness

Based on the research of observation, I elect that many people practice the religion they were taught as children. Traditions and values instilled in us since childhood are hard to break, especially if one is unmoved to do so by any care or catalyst.

Thus I am a Lutheran.

I don’t know if I believe in that particular Christian doctrine because I was taught it from birth, or if I took to the teaching because I intrinsically believed in the doctrine at the onset. I don’t know if I enjoy the traditional service because that’s all I’ve known from my childhood LCMS church, or if I enjoyed those services because I liked the style to begin with. These are the age-old “chicken or the egg” questions, and I leave them to you to ponder.

What I do know is that, by going to college and exposing myself to other types of Christian doctrine and styles of worship, I’ve come to appreciate the nuances. I’ve come to change my views so that they better reflect what I truly believe, not just what I’ve been taught to believe.

I still have a great fondness for the LCMS church, as displayed by my tenure as an LCMS missionary. However, some of my beliefs and opinions have changed toward the doctrinal truths preached by the synod, as I spent time learning about other Christian denominations. This caused some, shall we say, friction during missionary training. Bygones.

It is my personal feeling that one must continually question and challenge one’s beliefs in order to get to the heart of the truth. At Campus Crusade for Christ I met a man who spent his life learning about other religions for the simple goal of making sure that Christianity was his truth. How was he to know, he argued, if Christianity were true, and Christ the only savior, if he didn’t first research the matter from all angles? He was of an analytical mind, you see.

Much like the book The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, this man’s research turned out to be an enormous benefit when he later served as a missionary. He was able to build relationships and share Christ in a most informed way – truly an advantage when reaching the lost.

Another friend of mine attended a church in Minneapolis lead by a Christian author. My friend loved this church and eagerly received everything the pastor taught. At one point, my friend pulled back and said, “I think I need to stop going to this church for awhile. I find myself blindly following every word [the pastor] says.”

My friend was not saying that his pastor was incorrect, or that the teachings were of no value. What he was saying is that to blindly follow can be a dangerous practice, and that one must learn, research, and find the truth in the teaching for themselves.

Call me skeptical. You can even call me cynical, but I constantly question what I’m told. If I receive a chain email that says a certain drug causes cancer, I Google that topic and make sure it’s not a hoax before supporting it and forwarding the message. If a supervisor tells me to do something without thought or reason, I usually do it, but not before wondering why or if there may be a more effective or efficient way. If a church leader makes a statement regarding faith, I want to know his or her Biblical foundations for saying so.

I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m giving the impression that I think my way is the only way. But I do believe in the benefits of self-education – that you can support something whole-heartedly (and defend it) if you’ve truly made an informed decision.

More to come.

No comments: