I have a confession, however I only feel safe enough to share it with you, through this venue of anonymity, where I am but a stranger, nameless to the world, protected by the laissez faire structure of the internet.
I haven’t been to church.
I mean, it has been months, maybe even longer.
I have even given up looking. Perhaps even caring.
But when asked the question, and strangely enough I am asked this question more than what would seem ‘normal’ I respond with, “I am ‘visiting’ churches”. It’s easier that way – to draw on a truth that once was but has long since faded away.
It’s not enough now though. The people want more. Thus my feeling compelled to confess. I avoid the others – or at least try to so I won’t have to share my confession with them.
Recently, through work I have started back up providing professional counseling to the residents in our addiction program. Part of that process was to become a member of a professional association. I applied and began working through the process of membership with a Christian professional association – given that the organization I work for is also Christian it made sense to do it that way. One of the first requirements was letter’s of reference. I needed to supply them with three letters, one being from a pastor.
I hate that. I mean I really, really, despise this way of thinking – that only a pastor – “your pastor” has both the authority and the ability to speak to your ‘spiritual state’ – your ‘spiritual well-being’.
I don’t have a pastor so I contacted the organization and explained that I had recently left a church and was ‘in the process of finding another one’ – and then I explained that our organization was a Christian organization and would our Executive Director be able to fill out the recommendation. They agreed.
A few weeks goes by and I get an email from the association letting me know that everything is good to go except for the letter of recommendation from the Executive Director. Apparently the board did not think that would suffice and so the question was asked again whether I could get a pastor to fill it out – or (and they were compromising in order to cut me a break here) could I get the leader of a home bible study group that I was attending to fill it out.
I was appalled. How could a professional counseling organization still subscribe to such antiquated modernistic ways of thinking? It is an absurd idea to think that if someone was attending a church of, say more than 50 people, that the pastor would even know who the hell you were, let alone have enough of a relationship with you in order to write a reference letter attesting to the quality of your relationship with Jesus Christ. But then their compromise was some leader of a home bible study group? Really? That just spoke to the privileged, those who have conformed behaviorally within the confines of the church, those who were wealthy enough to open up their home each week to a group of strangers in order to bestow their presuppositional wisdom unto them, or worse, create the venue so one being groomed for church leadership, by way of experiential authority, could come and speak ‘truth’ into our lives about such topics like marriage and relationships, when they have neither, or some infantile substitution for one or the other.
When that option was presented to me I was shocked. I actually felt my body pull back from my desk and computer screen like I was hit with a blast of wind. I probably let out a gasp at the same time.
And then I got angry. So I wrote a response outlining a few facts that they ought to know. I explained that our non-profit charitable organization was recognized as a religious order under the authority of the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) and therefore our Executive Director was classified as a pastor, just the same as a church. I explained that our organization fell under the umbrella of a very large internationally inner-city mission’s organization, which provided a covering for our organization. We also were a part of a professional Canadian Christian legal association that performed audits on us on a regular basis to make sure that we were above reproach in all that we did. I went on to explain that each year I needed to sign a lifestyle document, attesting to my adherence to our mission statement, statement of faith, and purpose of the mission – in essence making a yearly declaration that I continue to believe in Jesus and will live accordingly. I stressed that this document was conditional of my employment and to not sign this document in my position meant to not work for this organization. I then went on to explain that each week the executive team meets for a devotion and prayer time – and that we take turns leading this every week. I concluded with the statement that in so many ways I am more qualified then most pastors would be.
I then pushed ‘send’.
It would be a few days before I heard back from the administrator who told me, “That makes sense”, before confirming that they would send it along. It would be a few more weeks before I suddenly received an email with the “congratulations, you have been accepted” message scrawled on it.
I don’t know what I will say when I have to renew my membership next year and I still don’t have a church to call home. Will they ask again? Will they want some sort of update as to my spiritual health? Because they sure are not interested in learning about the health of the church, carte blanche coming with the title ‘pastor’ apparently.