We arrive on the West Side of Grand Rapids to Servants Community Church via The Other Way's Helen TerMaat. We settle in our current location because the house was beautiful and we couldn't afford to move closer to the zoo. In our thoughts we felt we could be used here. After all, we had pasts that were similar in some ways to our neighbors. We wouldn't be judgmental or critical because we had been there. And now we were changed by Jesus so we had something to offer. New Life. Or so we thought.
I'm sure others will disagree about our perceptions (because remember the first paragraph of my last blog-people's ideas and realities are byproducts of their background, reading, churching, etc.) but we were flabbergasted at the lack of emphasis on repentance. How can we offer New Life when people sinning obviously were at the church and no one cared. Don and I were saved out of some very sinful behaviors and there was no way people could be in good standing with God and doing what we came out of.
There was a big emphasis on love and reaching out to our neighbors but over the years we realized that we were critical even though we thought we wouldn't be. Almost a quarter century had passed since we had been converted so we really could not relate to our neighbors. Don could more than I could because he was raised in a poor area but I was raised around money - though my family was on the poor side of the affluent tracks.
I spend much of the next decade feeling unloving. I was asked twice what I was even doing in this neighborhood. My church's primary non-Sunday ministry is a meal to our neighbors that I have absolutely no interest in going to yet I want to support the church's mission. I step away from my schizophrenic brother at this time, increasing my feelings of being unloving. I bristle during prayer requests at church for loved ones in jail "unjustly". I am frustrated by people who have a problem with the system taking away their kids when most of the time I am thinking they should have never even had them and if I were Queen of the Mountain they wouldn't have. All these and many many other thoughts can make one feel like a pretty lousy Christian specimen.
As I look back over this past decade I do see that I have become more caring. I don't bristle much any more. I am more accepting of people. I have developed my listening skills and my open-mindedness to unorthodoxy has helped me be open to liberal thinking. I'm actually in the middle now and hope to be here forever. So I have done some changing over the years. But I still don't want to go to the mid-week meals and I really can't wrap my mind around saying and maybe even believing that all ways of behaving in life are equal and that it isn't our job to better people. I still have a hard time knowing that my liberal friends have not moved closer to my points of view, yet I have changed toward so many of their positions.
In spite of the fact that we cannot teach or be elders at our church because of our unorthodox beliefs, God has used us and continues to use us in significant ways on the West Side. It has been a painful journey of learning with great joy mingled in. Right now we are in a wondering stage. Should we take our long held beliefs about the Body of Christ into a home church environment where the litmus test for leadership is not orthodoxy? Or should we continue at Servants where we seem to be on the cusp of stepping into a new emphasis that we have 30 years experience in?
As per the last blog, this is the condensed version from my perspective.