I’ve been a member of the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) since the early 1990’s. I have a fond memory of my Dad, who did not go to church himself, coming to the recognition service at the local Baptist church where I belonged where the church celebrated all of its graduating high school students. That was a long time ago, and I can still remember it like it was almost yesterday. I remember my mom at the high school graduation ceremony itself, and how happy I was to graduate and begin a new phase of my life. I was also very happy to be a Baptist as well, as I felt that of all the Christian denominations out there, Southern Baptist fitted me the best. I felt both happy and comfortable, and believed I truly fit in and always would.
God took all of that away.
I am still trying to figure out the how and the why. My life is vastly different now. My theological beliefs have changed. And though the struggle is sometimes difficult, I am grateful to God for removing hindrances to my personal walk with Christ. Don’t let anyone fool you; pruning is difficult! But I look forward to the blossoms of the flowers that will come in due time.
First, let me state what I am not. I am not an agnostic, or an atheist, or a heretic, or anything of that sort (as if you could not tell from my previous paragraph). My basic beliefs on the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, sinless life, resurrection from the dead, inerrancy of the Bible, and His certain return in judgment have not changed. My ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) has changed. So has my eschatology (doctrine of the end times and judgment). So has my pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit and spiritual relationship to God). Underneath all of these changes has been the foundational catalyst of a changing soteriology (doctrine of salvation) in how I view God’s salvation of unworthy mankind. To put it simply, I discovered that God really does save people, as He pleases to do so, and their very desires for Him, for His salvation, and prayers for mercy and grace all find themselves rooted in God in whom they originate. Salvation is of the Lord! (Jonah 2:9, partial quote).
A lot of things in my religious thinking have changed. Denominational constructs are primarily mental vanities. They exist only because true believers operate at differing levels and understandings of spiritual maturity, so that disagreements are not only a given, but unavoidable. I do not believe that denominations themselves are inherently wrong, but that without proper care such can be elevated above Christ, as an idol. I believe paper membership to a physical building for a fixed weekly schedule is mainly worthless. The Holy Spirit does not need it, and church secretaries accomplish nothing in the spiritual realm by producing, organizing, and approving of all the required religious paperwork it takes to properly attend to worship in physical buildings dedicated to the ongoing practice of human religion. I do not believe that tithing is mandated for the New Testament New Covenant church. And though I believe the Presbyterian paedobaptism (infant baptism) to be in serious error as opposed to the proper mode of credobaptism (believer’s baptism), I am pleased to count many as brothers and sisters in Christ, whom I honestly count as unintentionally disobedient to the commands of Christ in this regard but cheerfully obedient to His other commands beyond any mere sense of duty. Though I primarily vote Republican, I no longer have the confidence I once did in politics especially in the work of social redemption of our current American culture. Perhaps I still retain too much confidence here, and too little in Christ, and this should be my familiar self-rebuke to rely solely on Christ. So, I am no longer impressed with a paper pedigree to a physical building set aside purely for religious purposes perhaps two (one and a half?) days a week, and I feel neither should you, if you are truly a believer.
Sheep sanctification is far better than goat religion. Christ is our Redeemer, Savior, and Judge. Rather than offering up to Him empty religion, let us take up our cross daily, die to ourselves, and follow Him.
Help me, O God and Savior Jesus Christ!