I will probably continue posting some more of Earl's questions to the pastors because they resonate with some of the questions that I have. But before going on, I just wanted to explain that I now have more of an appreciation for the various expressions of church than I have ever had.
My church experience began with a conservative protestant background and has included a broad spectrum of the charismatic movement. It wasn't until leaving our last church that I realized how much elitism had crept into my beliefs. It was eye-opening to repent of that and to begin to appreciate God's work in many different churches.
I grew up learning to play piano from a hymnbook. Given a few chords, the words to many hymns suddenly flood back to my memory. There are many hymns that I still consider meaningful worship, like "How Great Thou Art?" and "It is Well with My Soul."
I am sure I learned some of the earliest praise choruses from the 70's and 80's. Remember "They'll Know We are Christians by Our Love" and "It Only Takes a Spark"? I had one of the first Living translations of the New Testament with a cover that said "The Greatest of These is Love."
During my charismatic days, I have sung "Shout to the Lord" for over half an hour, and I've been in services where the crowd worshipped in a frenzy to "Days of Elijah." I've been in warfare worship for hours until we "broke through" and also laid on the floor for hours "soaking" to Vineyard tunes.
When I visit my childhood protestant church, I see the kids I went to Sunday School with now as middle-aged parents. They are now the elders and the deacons, acting all responsible (which is weird when you remember what goof-offs they were). I appreciate the traditional feel of a church that has been attended by a family for many generations, families dedicated to raising their children to know the Lord.
When we attend our local community church, I appreciate that they have been able to reach many of the unchurched in our town. As we listen to the message, I appreciate the solid teaching and truth that is presented every week. Truth is truth, and I am fed when the word of God is taught. Whatever spiritual maturity level they are at, the people at this church can apply the truths being taught to their lives.
The majority of people in any church you attend are people who sincerely love God and are living their lives in the way that they understand best expresses that.
So why all the questions?
I don't have answers. I don't know a better way.
In fact, I suspect that some of the things we might try in reaction to our questions will be as ineffective as the thing we are questioning. I don't think simply changing structures and forms is necessarily the answer.
For me, much of the questioning is simply about identifying what I value. My idealism has worn thin, and I'm not sure that I will ever be a part of something that embodies the things I value. In the meantime, I am content to be part of what God is doing in our local community, appreciating His presence and those who desire to serve Him.
This is my place for questioning. As I express all those questions publicly, I guess I just wanted to clarify that I am not opposed to the things that I question.