Paul Derengowski, ThM
Recently, I have been conversing with a pastor friend of mine about returning to the church that he pastors.
My wife and I always enjoyed him as a person, and his preaching, in my opinion, is the best we had ever heard.
Having attended Bible college and seminary for years, we have both heard many preachers, or at least those who thought they were.
So, to be placing him upon a pedestal is quite the compliment, at least for me, given that what I have seen and experienced both in the halls of academia and the final product standing in the pulpit has left me with the understanding that there is a whole lot of pretentiousness going on and most "Christians" believe it is with God's approval.
They could not be more wrong.
Anyway, during our exchange he made a good point about going somewhere, when it comes to church, rather than nowhere.
On the face of it, I would have to agree. We would like to be going somewhere, but not just to be going.
That is where a sticking point comes in. We had attended his particular church for years, on two different occasions, and basically did nothing.
I was working on my PhD, flying to the east coast attending seminars, teaching college courses, and umpiring college and High School softball, the latter of which, when I had the time.
The first few years there really was not a whole lot of time left to do anything at church. There was certainly no one knocking down my door asking for my services.
When there was a life change in all of the aforementioned, with the result that I did have the time to serve at the church in a capacity that fit my gifts and talents, there was nothing to do or at least that is what was communicated to me.
We sat in multiple Bible Study classes being led by those who seemed to have at least a passing interest in what they were doing, but were woefully unprepared to teach or simply heretical in what they were teaching.
During one particular class period, I actually had an elderly gentleman who was regularly teaching the Bible Study confess to everyone in the class that he believed the Bible was erroneous!
To make a long story short, we left the church, meaning we quit attending.
A couple of years later, after searching around and making a few visits elsewhere, we went back, at my pastor friend's invitation, and started attending again—but, not until I put the pastor on notice that I was not coming to "sit, soak, and sour." I wanted to do something.
While that was understood, the notice was basically ignored and we sat around for another couple of years before leaving a second time.
That was not before I was "interviewed," for lack of a better word, to possibly teach a Sunday School class.
The interview was conducted by the Sunday School Administrator, who was more or less a jack-of-all-trades at the church, and knew next to nothing about Sunday School Administration, much less could he teach his way out of a wet paper bag.
Needless to say, the "interview" did not go well and then came the excuse-making, whether it was there were no openings or that so-and-so has been teaching such-and-such class, and they really planned on combining it with another class, and so on and so forth.
It was the usual run-around, in other words.
We left the church, again, and have not been back since. That was a couple of years ago.
We have looked and did some visiting, again, and thought we had found a place to finally attend, only to find out, through the worst of circumstances, what it was really all about: stone-cold, dead, orthodoxy.
So, we are homeless. My wife and I are without a church to attend, and given that no one has visited our home, whether from our previous church home, the churches we have visited, or even those we have not, no one seems to really care.
It is not that we do not want to be a part of a local, Bible-believing, doctrinally sound, church that cares about people. We do.
It is that for all intents and purposes, we do not fit the mold that many churches have taken today, which seems to be more about pretense than reality; entertainment than worship; feelings than the truth.
What makes it worse is that both I and the church leaders know these things to be true, I am not willing to compromise, and they, once again, could not care less.
In fact, at the last church we visited—not my pastor friend's church—a time of personal crisis came up, and the pastoral leadership did nothing!
A contact at the church, who was in charge of keeping potential new members in touch with the membership process (and yes, it was quite a process), informed me after the crisis was over that they had dropped the ball concerning my wife and I.
She admitted that they did not "love" us, as they should have. I could not have agreed with her more.
When I told her that she really ought to share her observations with the pastoral leadership, along with the suggestion that repentance was in order, I never heard from her again.
Oh well. Who needs to be biblical, when we are talking about church praxis?
While some have argued that there really is no such thing as a homeless Christian, that all Christians should be sitting in a pew somewhere, every Sunday, I will simply retort that in an ideal world that is probably true.
In the real world, though, it happens more often than most Christians and pastors wish to recognize.
I would venture to guess that there are literally millions of disenfranchised Christians spread out across the land, with no place to attend a conventional church service, with a whole bunch of Christians who do not care.
And when Christians do not care, then why should anyone desire to be in their presence, whether they are Christian or not?
So, we are still at an impasse with my pastoral friend.
I still think he is one of best preachers I have ever heard and we still occasionally have some pretty interesting personal and theological conversations, whether face-to-face or on the phone.
But, friendship aside, I see no benefit of attending a place where I am nothing more than a bump on the pew.
I see no benefit of sitting underneath the teaching of someone (not speaking of the pastor) who either does not believe God's Word to be true or has the commitment to preparation that barely rivals a hobo down at the train yards.
Moreover, I do not see any benefit in competing with someone who sits across a desk and calls my commitment into question, when he was not even prepared enough conduct the "interview" over something he is being paid to do, and yet does not have a clue what he is doing.
Therefore, my wife and I would rather remain homeless.