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Old 04-18-2003, 11:35 PM   #1
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opinions from different perspectives requested

hey. you know, in all my time on interference, this is my first time in this forum. i wish i would have found it sooner, but it came at a good time. i'd like to say a little about myself and situation and would greatly appreciate if those with different points of view would offer advice of any sort.

my life has been in a "christian reformed church" bubble. i live in the crc jerusalem. my parents raised me conservative crc. i had christian education, and now to go "calvin college." yes, john calvin. required courses here include those about the crc faith, and part of the college's goal is to integrate faith in all areas.

that's my superficial upbringing. now i'll say something about my personal religious upbringing. when i was young, i believed what my parents did, as most children do. the summer before my sophmore year of high school, i was very involved with a charismatic vineyard church. i went to conferences and church there almost every sunday. i mostly went because my best friend did, but i also became friends with a group of people from there. it was such a drastic change from my earlier years that i felt rebellious for going there. i loved it. when they discussed speaking in tongues and being "slain"...it made me uneasy, but i sort of ignored that sort of thing. school came and i forgot about vineyard.

now that i'm in college, the freedoms were the temptation, as they often are. i am not talking about partying or anything like that...rather in that i stopped going to church. i did not lose faith, rather i just sleep in. easy as that. now, in all my classes, i'm often the one to spark an argument about the crc religion simply because some people here are a bit closed minded. it bothers me. i have become close friends with people of very different religions for the first time in my life. this has given me the perspective to pause and think...suddenly it's not so easy to condemn those without my exact doctrine, or that of my parents.

i guess that's what bothers me the most about the crc church. they tend to emphasize theology to the point that they forget about praising god.

now, as to my inquiry:
like i said, i don't go to church. maybe once a month i go to a chapel here which consists of praise songs and a speaker. i love this time, but mostly i love the praising part. my faith is not yet firm, but my beliefs now are as follows: i believe that god is lord and father of all. he sent his son who died for us. my job in life is to live to the glory of god. all things i do should be in praise and thankfulness.

is it bad that i don't go to church? am i being a luke warm christian that christ so rebuked? where two people are gathered in the name of christ, there too god will be. is discussing faith enough? should i break down and go back to a crc church? it may be difficult to find a church in the area that embraces my beliefs. i'm beginning to distrust my emotional strength on the matter...i don't want to conform to believe what others believe, yet i don't want to be alone in faith.

i guess i'm just struggling. even if you don't respond, it feels good to get that out. i don't feel as if i have anyone here to discuss this with. sorry about the novel.
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Old 04-19-2003, 02:39 AM   #2
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I am totally going to come back and give you a more detailed response, but for now I just wanted to say hang in there, you're totally not alone. What you're describing is very close to my own story.
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Old 04-19-2003, 10:24 AM   #3
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Re: opinions from different perspectives requested

I'm glad you came around This place can be a big help

Now as to your situation, like Sula said, this situation sounds a lot like mine. Since about freshman year of high school I've been kind of disillusioned with the church (I grew up in and attended Baptist churches). This had to do mostly with the way the members of the church treated my mother when my mother and father got divorced. Basically, they kicked her out and told her she was a whore and didn't deserve God's love. Yet, I still kept attending, hoping that was just an isolated event. My senior year of high school I stopped going to church altogether. The petty little things hadn't stopped and I didn't believe that was an environment dedicated to praising God anymore. (Like you said, too)

So since then, I really haven't gone to church, but I actually feel that my faith and my Christianity has become stronger. I still read the Bible and I've actually started to read (in all my spare time) other books on theology and what it really means to be a Christian. And if it makes any sense, U2 has also helped... there's something incredibly worshipful about a lot of their songs...

So my opinion is this: It is not bad that you don't go to church. Sometimes church can be the problem. I sometimes get more discouraged going there than not going there. Like you, I go mostly for the praise (i.e. the music) but the sermon is often on that "baby Christian" level just to get people to believe in God. I have a problem hearing the same old thing every week. But usually on Wednesdays (or some other time during the week) there are smaller Bible study groups... if those interest you, I would definitely recommend finding one to suit you. Awhile ago I had attended a Bible study group that gave me some insights into what we were studying... I was also good fellowship with people. So maybe you could try something like that.

I promise you, you will NEVER be alone in faith... you can always come talk to me or anyone else here! No one is ever alone in faith. Second, is there a Unitarian Universalist church in your area? I attended a couple of services at one of those churches and I found that they had a lot of the same beliefs and views that I did. They take a more holistic approach to religion and often encompass many religions in one church. I guess they just try to teach more life lessons than "this is what the Bible says"

And you're welcome to write as many novels here as you want You should see some of the things I've posted

I hope you feel better, Laura. This is something you're DEFINITELY not alone in
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Old 04-19-2003, 02:49 PM   #4
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I'm sort of surprised you felt so comfortable at a Unitarian church hippy - at least from what I know about how most of those churches are. Generally they don't believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, performed miracles, or was resurrected. They believe that people are inherently good, that there is not a need for salvation. These are in gross contradiction to what a traditional 'Christian' believes.......I guess I'm just curious as to what you mean when you speak of your Christianity (I do not mean to sound sarcastic at all, just really wondering what your definition is I guess)

Laura - it's hard that you've been in kind of a bubble for much of your life, and I think it might be good to see what else is out there besides CRC - but are you firm in what you believe so that you can discern whether a church is in line with what you believe? Every church is different and you have to look at them individually. For me, when I have sought out a new church, I always look at their Statement of Faith (or their mission statement, something like that) - and look for red flags (LOTS of bells go off for me with UU churches or Scientology for example).

I have not been attending church regularly over the past few months, mostly because of the school excuse. Not a great one - but what can you do when you have to be at school on Sundays to take care of patients? I think fellowship with other Christians is very important, but it doesn't necessarily have to be in a church at 10am on a Sunday morning. We do need to do things, however, to be growing in our relationship with Christ, and a church can help with that growth. You just might have to branch out a little bit from Grand Rapids to find something that fits.
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Old 04-19-2003, 06:29 PM   #5
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hmmm.... well, now that you say those things, Beth. I wasn't aware of all that... I was merely speaking from my few services... they just seemed to be more joyful in celebrating faith than the church I had been attending. They seemed to embrace a larger world view... but I definitely don't agree with some of the things you brought up...

but I still wouldn't call myself a "traditional Christian" lol

Thanks for bringing that to my attention... I'll have to do some research

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Old 04-19-2003, 07:39 PM   #6
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Re: opinions from different perspectives requested

Quote:
Originally posted by Stories for Boys
is it bad that i don't go to church?
IMO, no. God doesn't live in a building. That's not to say you can't or shouldn't go. Some people find comfort in a church. Some people like the sense of community. Some feel that they are in God's presence. Others yet do not. We don't fit a mold.

Quote:
am i being a luke warm christian that christ so rebuked?
I gues the question is what is lukewarm? There are a lot of Christian denominations nowadays filled with zeal, and frankly, they scare me and I would never in a million years fit in. My family is Catholic, but we have always been quietly spiritual and we all believe that Christianity is not the only way to salvation. Certainly we would be considered lukewarm, but I don't care. Who gets to set that standard?

Quote:
is discussing faith enough? should i break down and go back to a crc church?
I routinely discuss different faiths. I find them fascinating and I find some truth and goodness in them all. IMO, going to church is just a one hour a week thing, but you have 167 other hours in the week in which you show what sort of person you are. Those 167 speak louder to me than the 1.

Quote:
i guess i'm just struggling. even if you don't respond, it feels good to get that out. i don't feel as if i have anyone here to discuss this with. sorry about the novel.
I can honestly say I sympathize because I am in a sort of similar position. I look around at my religion (Christianity) and I see it being hijacked by the fundamentalists and it scares me. I see less and less tolerance each passing day. There are some beautiful teachings in other religions which I have taken to heart, and they have made me a better and more open person, I feel. I am starting to feel that maybe learning from these ancient traditions acts to augment my faith, and I don't have much patience for people who criticize that and start yelling things about Jesus and hell to me.

Good luck, you're still young, you've got your whole life and it will shape who you are and who you will become. You just have to find the way that is right for you, and you'll know it.
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Old 04-20-2003, 10:45 PM   #7
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I agree with anitram


let me say it his way though. YOU are the only person who can judge if your progressing spiritually...a church cannot do that. Your relationship with god should be between you and god...no middle men.


Now...perhaps how that your in college you dont' feel the need to be part of a community in that way. Perhaps when your older you may want to....I think that perhaps you should look at it as more of a phase of life issue as opposed to a crisis of faith issue.
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Old 04-21-2003, 12:43 PM   #8
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Laura,

Some thoughts on your questions.

Quote:
1. Is it bad that I don’t go to church?
There are two meanings to the concept of “bad” in your question. There are those who would have you believe that God will judge you for not going to church – a legalistic approach to church. I do not see this supported by Scripture.

To illustrate the other concept of “bad,” consider a person’s diet. Is it bad to eat a cheeseburger and fries? No. But ask yourself how healthy will you be if that is all you eat? I would say that regular meeting with other believers for worship, fellowship and study is equivalent to eating right and exercising for a healthy body. It leads to a more vibrant Christian life.

But as with any diet, sometimes you need to “go off” just for the change of pace. There are plenty of healthy reasons for this, and soon enough you will want to get back on track.

Bear in mind the purpose of church attendance – worship, fellowship and study. I think you can see the balance between these aspects when you attended the Vineyard church. Worship and fellowship were good, study (teaching) was off.

Quote:
2. Am I being a lukewarm Christian by not attending church?
No. As I see it, God does not take attendance. He looks at the heart. I would say that God values your searching heart more than He would your body being inside a building once a week.

There are plenty of regular churchgoers who are lukewarm Christians. My own church is full of them, who treat the church community like a country club. They come to feel good and socialize – and their Christian walk ends when they leave every Sunday.

Quote:
3. Is discussing faith enough?
Search your heart and you will know the answer to this question. Do you find your worship of God the same when you attend monthly chapel or when you attended the Vineyard church as when you discuss faith with another? Meaningful discussion is incredibly valuable. I hope you will always have someone with whom you can share matters of faith (in addition to any future spouse).

Quote:
4. Should I go back to a CRC church?
Invest the time and investigate many different congregations. IMO, it is better to look hard and stay with one place than to keep shifting from church to church. Needless to say, God will answer your prayers and direct you to the right place – you will know it when you are there. Frequently, my wife and I ask ourselves “why are we still at St. Andrews (our church)?” We stay because (i) we feel God has a reason for us being there and (ii) we do not feel called to go elsewhere.

Overall, I would say there is nothing unusual or “wrong” with your current situation. God will call you to the right place where He needs you.

Peace and God’s love.
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Old 04-21-2003, 05:38 PM   #9
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thanks anatram, beth, nbc, and arun...i really do appreciate your input.

kim, we'll have to talk sometime when we get a chance. i think it might benefit us both to have someone else who's struggling to rant to. drop me a pm sometime...or i'll bug you...
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Old 04-21-2003, 11:11 PM   #10
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Faith accomplished!! This was so uplifting and helpful. So many suggestions here, noted, and to be followed up on. I think one note I would like to add, is that it isn't, really about which religion- but about truly realizing what you don't want in a worship family. Seems everyone is on a spiritual journey and God knows this also. He will continue to lead in the right direction. I'm so glad I came here tonight.
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Old 05-12-2003, 06:58 PM   #11
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Going to church dosen't make you Christian
No more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

Worship and celebrate your higher power in any way you see fit as long as it harms no one else.

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Old 05-12-2003, 09:26 PM   #12
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I dont think that you are "bad" for not going to church and I dont think anyone should feel bad about not going to church. I have been going through some tough times when it comes to my religion and I am still struggling bc I have many questions and few answers. Laura, just know that you are not alone and if you ever need to vent to someone like Hippy, I am always here.
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Old 05-14-2003, 07:59 AM   #13
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Re: opinions from different perspectives requested

I haven't read anyone else's responses, because I want to try and reply honestly from my perspective alone.

Stories, your spiritual journey reminds me a lot of mine. Growing up with parents belief, church every sunday, etc. Enjoying it, too (as much as a child can). In high school I met some born-again Christians and started going to their church, exploring a more spiritual aspect of faith that the catholic religion tended to overlook- the personal aspect. I criticized the Catholic religion a lot then (their conformity) and developed a more intimate relationship w/ God during this time. My parents were none too pleased (about me attending this zealous church) and arguments ensued. Luckily college was right around the corner. I didn't go to Catholic mass anymore but instead attended a Baptist church. Still, some of the legalistics bothered me. I found things to be too exclusionary. Too much black and white- we live in a world of color. Personally people i knew involved were condemning pl of different faiths (even if the faiths were still based in Christianity!) this was confusing and soon infuriating to me. So for various reasons I stopped going to church (although I did attend the weekly nighttime meditation services my college held).

A year later, I felt the need to attend and did. Now I go on certain Sundays, I don't go every week. I do feel it's important to go to continue a Christian community and to revive yourself. I think going to church is *easy* b/c you have so many pl doing stuff for you, like leading prayers. But what I value more than church is having a personal relationship with God. To keep the communication open. To have Him in mind when making decisions. To pray for guidance and help. Do you need a church for this? Not necessarily. I think it can help and can be a beautiful retreat for people. It's something my (future) children will grow up with. But I don't think not going to Church makes anyone a bad person. And i think people find and talk to God in their own ways, and what's important is that they DO talk to Him, not how or necessarily why.

So, that's my two cents. Continue doing what you do and maybe one day you will wake up at the right time in your life with the desire to return to that community; hopefully you will find a Church you love that brings you peace and offers you a place. I don't think it's easy to find a Church like that, but you can be change you want to see, as well. So stay vigilant, keep communicaiton open, and listen to your heart. If you get that curiosity or tug, check out a local service, or perhaps a youth group that you could be more involved in. Life is different for everyone and pl have different ways of expressing and staying in touch with their faith. The answers come if we listen. The key is to listen.

I hope that made some sense.
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Old 05-18-2003, 10:07 AM   #14
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Stories, I dont think, like many others have said, that not going to church is "bad". I do think however, that God calls us to have fellowship with other beleivers on a regular basis. It just depends on how you do that.
My father is the pastor of a Vineyard church here in our area, and for the past 2 years I dont regularly attend.
I have found a community of beleivers that I meet with (about 20) a couple times a week. Sometimes its on Sundays, sometimes its not. We really like how small and personal things are, and how..with no staff or building, all of our tithes and any finances, can go towards ministry rather than paying off some huge building.
Its a little different way to do things, alot like the first church started.......So, dont get discouraged, just find some others who feel the way you do and develop relationships, remember, everything counts. Ordinary stuff too! By the way, I love The Vineyard, I was raised in that church for the most part, from the early Southern Calif roots to present. Its just not what Im doing now.....


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Old 05-20-2003, 06:09 AM   #15
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I don't think it's necessarily "bad" that you don't go to church, particularly if it's not working out for you. If you don't feel comfortable with the church itself, why would you feel comfortable and be able to know that you are getting the most out of your Christian experience that you can?

I am Catholic, but I have a lot of friends of different denominations and I've attended a couple of different churches, just to cure my curiosity! I have never seriously considered giving up my own church, because I "fit" right with it. But I have found it immensely helpful for me to experience some different ways of doing things ~ inasmuch as it's made me appreciate what I've got in my church. If you are not feeling right with going to church every Sunday, there's plenty of other options for worship and fellowship. They might not conform to what you are used to, but you never know, they just might provide a spark for you!

You're never alone in your faith! It may seem like it sometimes, but rest assured there are plenty of people around willing to help you out. And I'll bet there's some people who would benefit from knowing about your own experience! So don't give up, and don't feel bad about yourself because God loves you!
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Old 05-20-2003, 04:20 PM   #16
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Stories for Boys:

everyone has to find his own way to god, a good church can help you on that way, a bad one will be counterproductive.
So i can't judge from the outside if it's good or bad.
Even if you have to find your way you won't be alone during this journey.

Discussing faith is interesting - but somehow meaningless. It's like talking about sex, it's interesting but you can't compare it to doing it (or in your case "living up your faith")

Maybe you should start to read the bible yourself to make up your mind about god.

Klaus

p.s. sorry that it's so short, more in 2 weeks when i'm back and you're still interested in this topic
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Old 08-27-2003, 10:59 PM   #17
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I happened to stumble on this topic, and had to respond becasue of the similarities in my life. I have posted here in over a year, and dont usually have the time.

I was taken by your questions, and the fact that you attend Calvin. I have several friend that graduated from Calvin, and I was very close to going there myself.

I understand the reformed theology can be a bit overwhelming (as a church home setting) . Almost all Five point calvinists I know are extremely intense on keeping any conversation concerning their Christianity solely on reformed theology. I can certainly understand the need to look elswhere for a church home or feel like not going at all.

I went a sort of backwards approach from you. Not really growing up in a reformed church but know later in life coming to it, and for the first time really understanding it. It simplifies my Christian faith, and make things much more clear.

As you said all you can be is thankful. It all begins and end with God, and His choosing you. I think wherever you faith lead you as far a a church home goes, keep that heart of thankfulness, and the God centered theology that it ends and begins with Him. There will be time in your faith where you have ups and downs, but you must persevere by faith. There is know one answer as to how you are to worship or where, but stay in touch with God through the reading his word, prayer and as you said with discussions of other believers whether in the boundaries of a physical chruch building or not.

Hope this helps.

ps i go through hard time spiritually quite often, and it helps me to read favorite passages, or read certain authors etc. i realize its different for everyone but my favorite being, Hebrews 11 and 12:1-3. It gets me very excited about my faith.
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