A Religious Drifter Experiencing God?

For church last Sunday, I revisited an evangelical church.  I visited this church a few weeks ago, and it is close to where I live.  It’s about a fifteen minute walk.  It was raining outside last Sunday, and I did not want to make a huge trek searching for a church in the rain, so I decided to revisit this evangelical church.

The praise songs were about how God’s love is huge, obvious, and overwhelming.  But what about God’s still, small voice (I Kings 19:12)?  What about the argument of Christian apologists that God refrains from making himself too obvious to the world because God does not want to impose himself on people and desires for them to choose him freely, out of love?  And yet, there are passages in Scripture about God acting publicly, and people then knowing that he is the LORD.  There is Romans 1:20’s statement about God’s existence being evident to people on account of the things that are made.  God is aloof, yet God is public.  Maybe the songs were saying that God’s love is huge and obvious to the Christians singing them—-the people who have tasted that God is good.

The sermon was delivered by a youth pastor.  He was talking about how we do not serve an ordinary God, and, since we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, we are not ordinary people.  This was Pentecost, which commemorates God baptizing Christians with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.  The preacher was lamenting that there are many young people who leave or drift out of the faith because they believe that God is ordinary.  They want results without process, and they do not think that God is worth the process.  But God is worth it, since God thought they were worth it—-enough to send God’s Son to die for them.

In what way is God not ordinary?  The preacher talked about God’s provision for a youth conference: he was not sure he would have enough money for it, but God provided.  I think that what he may have been getting at was that the Christian life is supposed to be one of adventure, of experiencing God and seeing that God is real.  After he spoke, the church’s pastor shared how God uses him to bless people’s lives.  He prayed for pain to leave the body of a man’s wife, and it left.  The pastor was saying that God can use us that way, too.

The preacher during his sermon was critical of people who drift from one church to another.  He was saying that we should consider sacrificing by becoming part of one church.  That relates to me, since I am in the process of visiting various churches right now, as opposed to settling in one place.  Was God telling me in this sermon to do otherwise?  I have no idea.  I still plan to visit various churches, in this season of my life.

Some may say my attitude here is why I do not experience God as tangibly as other Christians supposedly do.  But I didn’t experience God that tangibly when I was doing what those evangelical types said I should do, either!  Maybe I am like those young people the preacher was mildly criticizing: the ones who doubt that the process is worth the effort.  Or maybe the way that evangelicals want me to be is 180 degrees from the way that I am, and I have grown jaded beating myself up over that.

I do like this church, though, in that the sermons make me think.  I may visit it more than once, but I doubt that I will join.  What the pastor says is intriguing to me, even though I do not experience what he is talking about, and I doubt that I will any time soon.

Of course, there is the factor of visiting a church, and people recognizing me from the last visit.  Part of me prefers more anonymity.  Yet, anonymity can be lonely, and I don’t want that.  I don’t know what I want.  Maybe that’s why I’m drifting when it comes to going to church, in this season of my life.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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