I walked out of church today.
My friend and I got fed up, collected our belongings and left in the middle of a sermon. At the time, I was completely terrified. Everyone was staring, questioning looks on their faces as to why we would just get up and leave. As we were walking out, my mind was racing. “Will I ever be able to show my face at this church again? What is everyone thinking? What are WE thinking? Is this wrong? Is God angry?”
So, as I’ve mentioned before, my friend and I found an awesome church in Tempe that we have attended for about four weeks. The pastor is amazing. His approach to us is that our church is like a hospital; we are all sick and we are at church to get better. We are all sinners and we all fall short, so our church is a church of grace. He’s been teaching us about Jesus’s last days, the history behind it and how we can apply Jesus’s life and teachings to our lives. I love it and I leave each week feeling pretty spiritually fed.
Our pastor was sent to our church because it’s struggling spiritually. He is mentoring the current pastoral staff so that they can be better leaders. Well…he was out today. We got a taste of why he was called there in the first place.
I got a slow start this morning, so my friend and I ended up being ten minutes late to service. Usually we love being late because after our two worship songs, we are instructed to greet our neighbors before we sit. If we time it just right, we can avoid this awkward exchange. Yes, I know it’s terrible, and yes, I am working on it.
So after the awkward meet and greet, we sat in our seats eagerly awaiting our pastor to approach the pulpit and continue with John 19. I was really excited for this Sundays teaching because we would be going over Jesus’s crucifixion. I knew our pastor would cover it well and we would learn a lot. To our disapointment, another pastor approached the pulpit.
When I realized that our regular pastor was out, my first instinct was to get up and leave. But, I knew that I had to be fair and at least give this unknown pastor a chance to teach before completely writing him off. He started off kinda shaky and I could tell that he was nervous, which was totally fine. I can’t imagine how nerve-wracking it must be to be a shepherd of God and lead his flock each week. But as he continued, I began to feel…sick. Each word that he spoke was filled with guilt and condemnation. There was no hope, humility or love in his words. There was no grace. He told us that we weren’t christian enough. He told us that we weren’t doing enough for Jesus. We weren’t deserving of Jesus’s love. He painted being a liberal as being a sin ( yes I know this is a stupid thing to get mad about…but that was a stupid thing to say). He basically painted Christianity as a burden and that there was no hope of ever getting better.
As he continued to tell us how sick and sinful we were, I kept waiting for him to to tie it back to the cross. I kept waiting for that grace. Doesn’t he know that we have grace? Doesn’t he know that we are washed clean by the blood? I waited and waited for him to discuss God’s grace. I waited for him to remind us that although Jesus knows the darkness of our hearts, he still loves us. It never came.
Next to me, my friend was visibly upset. She leaned over to me and asked if we could leave. She wanted to stay out of the respect of the pastor, but his teaching was hurting her. If she were to stay, it would get ugly. I immediately began to freak out. The thought of leaving was terrifying, but I knew that what he was teaching was having the same effect on me. So, I agreed. We walked out. My friend said he got louder as we were walking out of the church, but I was so terrified that I didn’t really notice. The funniest part about this whole thing was that his sermon was about Christians missing the point of Christ. I don’t know about y’all, but I feel he TOTALLY missed the point.
Thirty minutes later I was angry and kicking (gently) display cases in Goodwill. I don’t know why it took me so long to react, but all I could feel was anger. Why, WHY must pastors use the guilt method?! Why, WHY do they think using guilt will make us effective as Christians? Because this method infuriates me, I decided to look up the word guilt so that I can really understand what it means, why it makes me so angry and hopefully explain why I feel it is so harmful as a method of teaching.
According to Wikipedia, guilt is the state of being responsible for the commission of an offense. It is also a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation. It is closely related to the concept of remorse.
So, guilt can be a good thing. It is our moral compass that leads us when we do something wrong and convicts us to remedy that situation. It causes us to apologize and ask for forgiveness when we’ve hurt another. It causes us to ask for repentance from God when we’ve sinned.
Guilt becomes dangerous when we dwell in it. It immobilizes us and keeps us from moving forward. For example, I screwed up with a friend a while back…like several months back. I apologized, received forgiveness and we are totally fine now. But, because I feel guilty about what I did from time to time, I have a really hard time talking to this friend which hinders our friendship. It’s sad, because I need to remember I am forgiven and move forward.
The same thing goes with our walk with Christ. Yes, we are sinners. Yes, we all fall short of the glory of God. We will never be perfect. But…we have grace. God’s grace erases guilt and sin. What did Jesus tell the woman caught in adultery once all the Pharisees left after not a one could throw a stone? Go, and sin no more. Did he continue to harp on her sin? No. Did he use freaking guilt to get her to follow him? NO!!!! He showed her grace, compassion and forgiveness.
As Christians, Jesus extends the same love for us. When we forget that, and buy into this guilt crap once we have repented…it hinders our faith. We forget that we are forgiven. We walked around convicted and hopeless. What kind of relationship with God is that? I’ve been there and I can tell you that it sucks. I had three years of this teaching and didn’t know how harmful it was until it was almost too late. I nearly lost my life over it and it seriously damaged my walk for over three years. It’s a scary place to be and I promise to never go back.
If you are a pastor, youth leader, parent, or Christian… please for the love of God…STOP USING THE GUILT METHOD!!!! Seriously. It is so dangerous and harmful. It causes anxiety, depression and hopelessness. There is no love, grace or hope in the guilt method. Using this method erases all the things that Christ is about.
My rant is over. Please feel free to give me feedback on this; maybe I am overeacting over the guilt thing, but it really gets under my skin. It just feels so wrong to me.
Anyway, thanks for reading; I’m out.