I look at myself as a refugee from the thought system of fundamentalism. That world included the rapture and a heavy dose of fear that I have happily left behind and sometimes mocked.
However, there’s an important distinction that God has impressed on my heart over the years. Though I may give up on certain beliefs and practices from my fundamentalist days, I should never give up on the people from my fundamentalist days.
Because they haven’t given up on me.
I can look back to three women in particular who did a heck of a lot more for my walk with Jesus than anything that has come out of the emerging church and its related books and blog posts. That’s not a dig at the emerging church. It’s a statement about the power of God working through these women in fundamentalist churches with hymns-only, KJV-only, suits and dresses-only, and sermons so long they would have killed Eutychus beyond Paul’s healing touch.
I’ve been shaped by what people, even if I’ve left some of their beliefs behind:
- I have written off the rapture.
- I never look at the KJV.
- My suits are shoved in a corner of my closet.
- I zone out during sermons with remarkable predictability.
And yet, God’s mark has been made on my life because of these women.
My VBS teacher welcomed a lonely, confused Catholic kid who wandered in and had no idea what to make of the songs, games, and crafts. She singled me out and taught me that the church could be a welcoming place that feels like home.
My Sunday School teacher patiently endured the distracted boys and nurtured my curiosity and questions. She committed to pray for me every day for the rest of her life. Who does something like that? Who can dismiss a woman who loves so freely and generously like that? Who cares if she believes in the rapture or doesn’t have as robust a notion of the Kingdom of God as we’d prefer?
Another Sunday School teacher taught me how to pray, to sit in the presence of Jesus and to expect that he’ll show up. She taught me that the Holy Spirit is not only alive and well. The Holy Spirit breaks through our doubts and failures to bring God’s life to us.
We could pick apart some of what these women believe. They may not understand who I’ve become today. Who knows if they’d even doubt my salvation. Few of us would darken the doors of the churches where I met these women.
For all of the brokenness in the church, there are people who have become wells of God’s love and power. They refresh and bless, even if others wear out and condemn.
Even among those who wear out and condemn, I could tell stories of support, acceptance, and joy. The horrible points of fundamentalism make salacious headlines. Who can resist a dig at fundamentalist theology?
There are days when I look at the stuff Christians write and say to one another and spend their time on, and I am filled with despair. I wonder if God’s people really are capable of bearing good news. I wonder why the hope of the word seems so hopeless.
I spend my time pointing at the brokenness of the church, and invariably, I stumble into someone who changes my mind. The longer I look, the more I find people who are faithfully following Jesus and loving others in all kinds of churches. Even if the sermons they hear on Sundays are anything but good news, their lives preach something far more powerful.
When I’m done pointing out every problem I see around me, I’m reminded that my life is far from squeaky clean. That’s when I realize that the marvel of the church isn’t so much God can use a fundamentalist. That’s nothing.
The marvel of the church is that God burns through our clever profile pictures, witty blog posts, and sharp outfits in order to see who we truly are. He sees our hidden moments, where our minds wander, and what our true motives are.
He sees you and me without any explanations or excuses.
He sees you and me, and wonder of wonders, he says that he loves us and we need to go and tell the world that Jesus is here. He’s alive. He’s powerful. He’s ready to change lives.
In his infinite wisdom, God knows that the only way to give hope to a broken world is to cobble together an assortment of broken people, letting their lives testify that his new life is here and it’s able to help anyone.
I know that a broken church is the hope of the world because I’m a broken person who relies daily on the mercies of God and his inexplicable love that has reached me through three perfect women.