One of the first such conversations happened in pub. Yes, it is an established designed exclusively for the consumption of alcohol and simple food. However the music is great and I enjoy chatting with my friends on Trivia night.
This particular trivia night (some weeks past) I had been chatting up a friend I've never spent any significant time with. Out of the blue, the conversation turned to the topic of religious preferences. So right off you know it was an innocuous affair because bringing up religion with someone you fancy would otherwise be just foolish. Indeed we plunged headlong into church attendance (or lack thereof) and then to belief systems, and with no fanfare crashed headlong into. . . faith. Such a comfortably ambiguous place to be.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
-- Hebrews 10:23,24
It seems that every time someone wants to avoid the questions of religious preferences, myself included, we hide behind this notion of being Faithful Not Religious. Has organized religion so let me down that it is now unacceptable to be associated with any particular variety? For myself, the answer is yes. Which will probably be a disappointment to many of you, and no surprise to others, but my writing demands unabashed honesty and full disclosure.
Days later, I was meeting with a friend with whom I routinely share accountability. As we discussed church attendance and I mumbled my way through excuses he simply asked what my father thought. Ouch. Bringing my dad into discussions about my religious discipline is like choosing the nuclear option. From him you can truly learn the meaning of commitment, devotion, apologetics, and servanthood. His questioning of my heart is always intense, direct, and non-judgmental while still leaving me exposed and transparently self-aware.
My friend easily let me off the hook, but for my own heart I couldn't stop thinking of how easily in more than one conversation I'd so neatly dispatched any question of my place in organized religion. Not only have a distanced myself from any formal commitments I've fabricated a ration and reason for the disconnect. In the span of weeks I'd polished my avoidance to where I could deliver my excuses without any remorse. Except I did have remorse. In my heart I knew what my excuses would sound like under the scrutiny of my father. And once I know that I'm deluding myself, I can't do it anymore. Just a curse of the search for transparency and self-awareness, I guess.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
-- Hebrews 10:25
So I know I need to reconcile with organized religion. I'm just not sure how. Maybe I've not felt all the pain completely yet. Maybe I've not embraced the forgiveness yet. Maybe I still have trust issues? Maybe. For sure.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.Now having written all this I want to encourage those who think I don't attend church. I do. I visit several churches regularly. I just don't belong to any of them. I don't may commitments with any of them. In many ways I deliberately remain an outsider, a visitor, a guest. I need to worship, and covet the companionship of believers, but am still cautious. So don't get the wrong idea. Worship is important as well as being disciplined about your faith. For me, this is about reconciling with organized religions, denominations if you will.
-- Hebrews 10:26,27