I struggled in the evangelical wilderness. Although in my part of the county it seems there are churches on every corner, most of them fall into two categories. Either they are promising an abundant life or they teach a variant of fundamentalism. The first teaches a monotheistic supreme and sovereign God who promises me an abundant life if I do the litany of items the pastor lists each week, while the other teaches that God is an evil God who will judge me and America if we do not turn to him. One tries to teach me how to be a better husband, while the other teaches me that everything I do as a husband is evil.
I spent years going back and forth, trying both, constantly getting discouraged. I tried to do the things listed by the abundant life pastors, yet I never achieved the abundant life they taught about each week . I avoided the things the fundamentalist taught me to avoid, yet I struggled to achieve the promised Christian life.
In the midst of my struggles, I remembered studying the Bible during my teenage years. I remembered believing that the Bible wasn’t a book about rules to life by, but rather a story of a people being chosen by God and ultimately leading to the story of Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and future return. I remembered believing that the Bible actually had very little instructions for how to live, but rather consisted of a story about redemption.
After years of struggling in the wilderness, I started over. I marked off my list of churches any group which might be teaching either abundant life or fundamentalism. I opened my heart and my mind. I got rid of preconceptions about liberals and conservatives. I looked, not for the church following one of the two extremes, but for a church that still had ingrained in its traditions the death, burial, resurrection, and future return of Christ.
I finally left the wilderness and settled in a local church. I found a church not too far from my home which still serves the bread and the cup each week. I found a church that promises neither abundant living nor chastises for the evil in my life or in our country. I found a church with simple, perhaps even boring, messages of personal struggles. I found a church with vestiges of the church calendar, preaching Christ’s arrival and return during Christmas and the resurrection during the Easter season.
I have not found the perfect church. It is imperfect, even as I am imperfect. But, I have found a place to settle, to receive communion, and to rest my feet at the foot of the cross.