When you were born again the Church, consciously or unconsciously, began to mould you into its own image. The Bible states in Romans 12:2 (Phillips Version) “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God remould…” Please note: Let God remould – not the Church. So, in my Bible I have “added” those words (‘not the Church’) as a note to myself in the margin because over-and-over again I have seen well meaning believers attempt to do the remoulding.
Early in my walk as a born again believer I worked hard in sorting out who I was. As a priest in a main-line denomination who was not born again I knew who “the priest” was and what he was suppose to do according to the branch of the Church I belonged to. Now, as a follower of Jesus, I began the journey of discovering what was Bible and thus God and what was Church and thus often simply man’s idea. In the process of sorting out man’s expectations and teachings from God’s expectations and biblical truth I soon discovered that I had allowed the Church to squeeze me into its own mould.
Please, I don’t blame the Church. I allowed it to happen. I went into seminary a person and came out a priest. After encountering God and being born again and then walking with Him daily experiencing His love, acceptance and forgiveness I began this often painful process of turning the priest back into a person because God had created a person – a living and unique human being – me! A difficult journey of self-discovery. Difficult because “the Church” and individual members of the Church didn’t want this to happen.
You see when everyone looks the same, acts the same, talks the same, in going in the same direction and at the same pace then they feel safe and secure. However, when one or more of the herd breaks away and begins a journey of self-discovery – physical, mental, spiritual, relational, emotional – then that one becomes “diseased” and must be cured and brought back (squeezed back) into line. It is necessary for survival of the institution – of the local McChurch franchaise. However, it is death to the individual that Jesus loves and gave His life on the Cross to redeem.
After leaving the denomination and planting a Church I discovered that even born again Christians try to squeeze you into their mould. Have your devotions every morning, they should be an hour long, pray in tongues, gear your prayer life to the word A.C.T.S., tithe, give offerings, support the poor (alms), witness to people every day, attend church twice on Sunday and once mid-week, go to a small group, don’t drink, don’t smoke and on-and-on it goes. And, of course, there were others added to the list simply because I was ‘the pastor.’
People had expectations of their pastor – most not biblical and almost never expressed or agreed to. Some expectations were totally off-the-wall and impossible to fulfill even if one had wanted to (which I didn’t). So, once again I found myself fighting to be the unique (and thus different) individual that God had created. Setting boundaries, learning to say no to people, carving our “personal space,” further self-discovery, coming to love this “new me” and then loving my neighbor as I loved myself…. Learning that different and unique is okay – in fact, good because God created each and every one of us to be unique and thus different in some ways from everyone else around us. No clones in the Kingdom.
Now, years later, I find it is still something I need to be conscious of. Maybe as the Church becomes more of an organism and less of an organization this will be less of a conscious and daily necessity. That’s my hope. But meanwhile, it is worth the effort and the risk.