Which God is Calling, Please?
Last week I received a letter from the Methodist church I attended with my family when I was a child. The letter was apologetic in nature. It gently explained that my number was up. My name was about to be “submitted for removal from our discipleship rolls.”
I was getting kicked out.
How did it come to this? What did I do?
The real question is what didn’t I do? “In reviewing our records over the past two years,” the letter explains, “we have noted your consistent absence from worship and your lack of support for the ministries of this church.”
It’s true. I have not attended a worship service in years, nor have I supported the ministries by writing a check and mailing it in the special envelope they send every year for that very purpose. Despite my deviant behavior, they were remorseful about the action they were about to take.
“We do not take this action lightly,” the letter insisted, “but with deep concern. We regret that we failed to provide for your spiritual well-being in a meaningful way.”
This failure was not their fault. I had set them up to fail from the very beginning. I remember the summer I joined the church. I was 12 years old. They handed me a book one Sunday and told me to study it in preparation for a house call my pastor would make. I treated this challenge the same way I treated many of my homework assignments. I ignored it until the day before the visit.
“Do you really want to join this church?” the pastor asked with a sigh when my lack of preparation became clear.
“Yes,” I lied.
What else could I say? My parents were watching! I was confirmed the following Sunday – a mere formality in the endless childhood task of doing what is expected.
I was a member in name only, but I never bothered to tell the church. I allowed them to send me yearly contribution envelopes and monthly newsletters. For what it’s worth, I did read the newsletters. They listed birthdays and helped me remember when to send cards to my parents. I did not regret my decision to join the church. I simply didn’t think about it. Then the letter came.
I have always known in my heart that I am not a Methodist. In fact, I’m pretty sure I am not even among the 78% of Americans who are Christian. But if I’m not a Christian, what am I? I made an impulsive decision. I will devote the next year of my life to finding out.
To be continued…