Changing My Religion (Processing Thoughts About Faith)
Last night, I attended a district gathering of our denominational leadership (i.e., pastors and church leaders). I realized while driving into the parking lot that it had been over 9 years since I last attended one of these Fall Leadership Conferences. Most of my participation in our denomination for the past decade had revolved around youth or college ministry along with an occasional project involvement in things like missions or cultural diversity [go figure :)]. Therefore, I really never got to sit in too many large scale leadership meetings with pastors, especially senior pastors.
When I came to this stark realization, I kind of got excited. At that moment, I began to anticipate what the evening might be like. My imagination stirred within me the possible scenarios of change (e.g., types of speakers, creativity of message using new communication tools, refined philosophy of ministry and culture, music, design elements, diversity and multi-generational presence, etc.). My curiosity was growing until I actually entered the space (in this case, a church).
To me, it felt like I had entered a time machine that sent me back to the 90’s. Everything from the music to the types of communal interaction/invitation to the spiritual praxis resembled much of what I remembered about this gathering from a decade ago. [Side Note: For those of you who do not know, I belong to a Pentecostal/Charismatic heritage.] Most of the prayers, prophetic words, and spiritual languages sounded really similar to what I heard growing up. In addition, I ended up standing near a guy who really worked the aisles during the worship for his fairly violent dance routine. I felt so out of place at so many different levels last night. The troubling part was that there was a time in my life where such experiences really inspired and moved me.
This really got me thinking a lot about the noticeable difference between my experience of this kind of Christianity growing up and the way I currently live out my faith. There was no doubt that something shifted deeply in me during the past 9 years. It was almost as if I had changed religions. I began to ask myself some of the following kinds of questions:
- Am I evolving in my faith or devolving and slipping away? Could I have fallen off the edge?
- If my current view of faith is closer to the truth, what in the world was I practicing years ago?
- Do I have the same religion as other standing next to me but with a different expression(s)?
- Are expressions totally distinct from doctrine? If not, has my theology changed that much?
- Am I really charismatic/pentecostal? If so, why (beyond just theology)?
- Is there a label that doesn’t draw such distinct lines of praxis in Christianity?
- Am I changing my religion or is my religion changing me? Both? Neither?
- Am I crazy? (Don’t answer this one.)
Please keep in mind that I love the people in our denomination [most of them :)]. This is not meant to be a criticism about them (my friends) or their practices. I am simply pointing out how much I have changed over the last decade in contrast to others present at the gathering last night. This knowledge is making me uneasy and yet I feel that it is necessary in my overall journey to process my thoughts about my faith.
People say that change is inevitable and should be expected…I know that this includes religion…It’s just difficult to distinguish evolution from compromise.
Any thoughts? Can you relate to my struggles?