I know it might surprise some that I left a conservative church for what might look like another conservative church. The majority of my life, I have been part of a Church of Christ. Churches of Christ are known for having some similarities overall, such as using no instrumental music and typically adhering to a complementarian theology, but each congregation is its own. Because each church has full autonomy, some might allow clapping while others might consider this to be a form of percussion instrument. Women may have places of leadership in some Churches of Christ, such as deaconess over a womens’ ministry, while others have entirely male leadership. There is not a hierarchy, no larger corporate church determining what is required. When asked, a person who is a member of a Church of Christ will usually say they’re “Christian” and profess to have no denomination. Ironically, despite calling themselves non-denominational, there are universities associated with Churches of Christ, just as there are with Baptist, Methodist, and others, and efforts made to reduce behaviors associated with other Christian denominations. Some choose not to say the Apostles’ creed because they don’t want anyone to believe the word catholic in the creed means they are Catholic. Still others refrain from saying the Lord’s Prayer because it may appear liturgical. In their attempt to be non-denominational, Churches of Christ have become just what they were striving not to be while also having no real identifiable characteristics consistent from one congregation to another. This non-denominational denomination has members leaving as all other denominations do currently. They may not have a good estimate of how many people are leaving because they don’t have a larger body collecting data, but I’m positive people are leaving. I know this to be true, because I’m among the unknown number of people who have left. I have not left Jesus or my life as a Christian, though some say and will continue to say I have. I left a church, one group of people, for reasons I might, with time, share. I absolutely did not leave my faith. I followed it to a place with more rules, more structure, and more demands, but also one with more liberties, more choice, and more opportunities. Because Churches of Christ are self-governed, a person can make friends, find a home, feel loved, while never truly knowing what their church leaders confess to believe. Even if a church offers a statement of beliefs on its website, there isn’t much transparency in that regarding the actual inner workings of the church itself. It’s unbelievably painful to learn that you’ve misunderstood the intentions of those in power, or that you’ve been intentionally misled. It hurts when trust is broken. I’m not so dewy-eyed as to believe my new church home won’t hurt me. It’s made of humans, and humans are made of light and dark. But, I do know what I can hope for from my fellow members and from our leaders, including myself. I know what the larger church expresses that I can and should expect. In other words, I know what I signed up for this time.
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