I didn’t even know about the exvangelical movement until about a week ago, when I read about this former pastor’s leaving of the faith. I have now read enough to have some context for the term exvangelical. I have enough compassion to want to hear every story of every person who has entered into it. And I have enough history with evangelicalism to leave it for good.
When I was a little girl of ten, someone I loved and respected very much, told me I should think about whether or not I ought to be praying out loud during our weekly prayer meetings, since I was a girl. It hurt so badly and felt so confusing. But my Dad, a prayer warrior who loved his little girl, told me to not listen to this–I needed to pray. And I needed to love the Church.
And I have. Even when I sought a job as a youth director at the church where I was a youth intern and was told I couldn’t fill the position because I was a woman. I kept praying and kept loving the Church.
When, in genuine love and concern, many of my conservative friends and family thought it was wrong for me to pursue a Master of Divinity as a woman, I understood where they were coming from, forgave and kept loving the Church.
In recent years, I have experienced marginalization, even mistreatment, and much misunderstanding as someone who is diagnosed with the mental illness, bipolar disorder.
Why? For all that is good and right, would I keep loving the Church?
Because it is the Church with a capital ‘C’. It’s the distinction I make, from church with a lowercase ‘c’. The church is the one which has acted so imperfectly it’s hard to find Jesus in it. But the Church is the one I will always love. She calls forth the undying love of the Great Bridegroom as He names her Bride. This Church is the One Jesus laid down His life for, and the One He promises to claim for His very own at the end of all things.
This Church cannot ever be confused with the all-too-often societal, political and misguided world of evangelicalism. Yet much that is beautiful and true of the coming Bride is found within the faithful hearts of evangelicals, and the lovers of Jesus worldwide.
I truly find it sad many exvangelicals have fully detached themselves not only from evangelicalism but the faith itself. It is my weeping heart desire that, till all is said and done, many final chapters of Homecoming to the arms of Jesus will be written.
Knowing that many are leaving evangelicalism marked by deep pain, how can I keep loving the Church? Because She is God’s covenant people. You see, evangelicalism is not the Church and the Church is not evangelicalism. Like Israel of old, evangelicalism is a whore who runs after false gods. Power. Materialism. Superiority. But there is a blueprint even for this. The Bridegroom betroths her to Himself forever, naming her His Bride, the one He owns and will perfect even at the height of her chasing after the idols, the Baals.
As a part of the Church, I am also a spiritual whore. I have loved many other things, often above God. I have craved power, prestige, position. I have wanted to be served rather than to serve. I have denied the heart of my Savior, my Bridegroom, who freely gave His own spotless life for His Bride. Yet, He promises to forever bring me Home and all who are His own, the Church.
This is where I find those who leave the Church, and too the faith, lose their way. It is a meta-narrative, a grand story, of which we are all a part. History repeats itself and we are either the true worshiper or the idolater. We can become the very thing we promised to never be if we forget where we’ve been and where we’re going.
We’ve all been there. I cannot imagine even one person who has grown up in a church not being wounded deeply by it. I can’t imagine someone who hasn’t been pierced by a loved one who believed differently and held up the Bible, full or righteousness, to prove it. And not for one teeny, tiny moment do I want to imply that there is someone who hasn’t been truly beaten up where they should have been loved, cared for and protected.
Yet, the Church.
I don’t know what has come first for exvangelicals. Is it the wounding, trauma and subsequent disillusionment, or a rejection of the person and truth of Jesus? I want to know, so if you are reading this, please tell me.
It’s so hard for me to believe that the rejection of Jesus comes first. I think the tainting of the church that is full of evangelicalism precedes all other things. Then, there is simply sifting fingers through a lot of sandy ‘truths’, ‘values’, ‘positions’ and yes, people, and wondering what possibly can be kept?
I don’t have a lot of answers, but I do have one. Jesus is Faithful and True. He is the rider on the white horse coming for His very own Church, His Bride, soon. He promises this on the basis of his life, death and resurrection–completing the fullness of redemption for this whole fallen world. I can no sooner reject this than reject everything he says and everything the Bible says about Him.
I proudly stake my all on this truth–He is coming for his very own and so very soon. It is the worst time in history to give up on His Church, when all is coming together–the fulfillment of all things.
So take my hand. Let’s join together and love His Church. Let’s recognize we are His Bride and be the ones awake, the ones making ourselves ready. Let’s stay strong amid all of the complexities, the issues, the evangelical imperfect construct, and never, ever stop loving.