An agnostic decides to maybe try the church to see if he can find answers to the problem of evil, and other doubts. This is the experience of Eagle in 2012 and 2013. Its his story of gathering his courage to walk into many churches in the Washington, D.C. area and hopefully find answers to the doubts which caused him to lose faith. As he would learn in time many churches would be incapable of helping. This is his journey in asking for help from McLean Presybterian, many non-denominational, an Evangelical Free, Methodist, and others. Along the way he discovers how un-healthy many churches are and he sees the tainted DNA from Mark Driscoll, Neo-Calvinism and Seeker Sensitive affect many places or worship in the 2012 until 2013 period.
“Be merciful to those who doubt“
Jude 1:22 NIV
“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent.”
“Going to church doesn’t make you any more a Christian than going to the garage makes you a car.”
Why does a church exist? What purpose does it serve? Often Christians are called to preach the Gospel and take it out to the nations (Matthew 28:19). Also Christians are called to be able to give an answer for when you are asked. (1 Peter 3:15) But is that what happens? Today’s post is a personal journey on what it was like to go from church to church in trying to get spiritual help. In this case the church didn’t need to go to the agnostic/atheist community instead the agnostic came to them and marched through the doors of the church, tried to meet with pastoral staff, or email them and ask if we could meet and talk. This post is not meant to flame the local church community in the Washington, D.C. area instead I write this as a means to challenge them to get better, and give them some perspective. How often is the local church actually graded and examined in the broader picture? Most of the churches will not be named however a couple will be, as people can figure them out.
Forcing Myself to Try “the Local Church”
My faith crisis felt like hell in so many ways. I tried to put the experience into words in this journal entry here. One of the hardest aspects about my faith crisis was how the tables had turned. In my prior evangelical days I had looked at people who left the evangelical faith as those who were never Christians to begin with, or were weak, and insincere. Then the unthinkable happened to me when my faith crisis roared leaving me in a desolate and difficult spot in my life. A faith crisis can really shake a person to the core and in my case I also had to contend with past spiritual activity that had burned me in addition to the doubts I wrestled with in my life. The problem of evil is a difficult topic alone by itself. I felt like I was drowning but I was now on the outside looking in and nervous about all that was in front of me. For the record I don’t think many evangelicals know how difficult it is for an atheist/agnostic to walk through the doors of a local church. When I decided to try to find answers to my questions in a church I was scared, frightened and consumed by doubt. I was afraid of getting stuck in a questionable church, or rejected with the questions I had to ask. Likewise I also didn’t want to stand out, I wanted to go in anonymous and leave anonymously. My deepest fear was going into a church and being recognized by someone I know. As a self proclaimed agnostic at the time honestly I would have preferred to be recognized in a porn store over being recognized in a local Presbyterian or Non-denominational church. I also wondered would I be loved, shown grace and taken seriously or would many people give me the cold shoulder and point to the door? I was afraid that many evangelicals have a deep fear of atheists, agnostics, and former Christians because they look at faith differently, or tend to be more intellectual, and come from outside the bubble. Or another possibility is that those agnostics, doubters, and atheists are in pain and evangelicals don’t want to deal with the pain of others.
So when I decided to go to church I had to do a couple of things. The first is I had to force myself to attend. The second is that I decided to be unusually careful and research, examine and look at places before I showed. Gone forever was me showing up uneducated and ill informed. But let me expand on both points in detail. Often I had to force myself to attend. That included dragging myself out of bed in the morning when I didn’t want to attend. It was hard for me to get out of the car and walk through the door. My fears about church and faith were pounding at the door. I often remember sitting in my Honda, my heart racing a million beats a minute and asking myself…”what the hell am I doing?” Sometimes as I sat in the car I shook from being nervous. Yes I was that conflicted and in knots about attending. As a result it took a profound amount of courage to walk through the door. And in all honesty I don’t think many of the places I showed up at realized how much courage it took. I don’t think a lot of evangelical Christians can comprehend how hard it is for someone to walk through the doors off the street. The other point is that if you want to see how to research a church you can read this post here. My focus was detailed and I asked a lot of questions of myself and pressed forward. I did this so as to know what I was going to be walking into, and what I would be dealing with theologically. It was a lot of work and exhausting but I also felt that it kept me safe and helped me as I navigated the spiritual carnage of my life.
Non Denominational & McLean Presbyterian
So with that being said, I decided to wade into and try different churches out. The first one I visited was at a Saturday afternoon service. I thought there would be less pressure to attend. I had driven by this place on the way to and from work. When I decided to attend for a service I researched it briefly online and saw no red flags. This church advertised itself as a non-denom Bible church in Fairfax, Virginia. When you drive into the parking lot they had a couple of reserved parking spots for first time visitors. They were right smack in front of the building. I was mortified by how they treated it, the last thing I wanted to do was get special attention, be recognized or singled out by the congregation. So instead I drove around and parked in the lot a little out and away from the building. All I wanted to do was blend in and consider things and peel away. The congregation was fairly small. When I walked into the building and took my seat, no one really introduced themselves to me at all. After the service one couple approached me and asked me if I was new to the church. Instead of saying that I was an agnostic I spoke Christianese and stated something along the lines that I was new to the area and looking for a new church. After loading the conversation with Christianese they stepped away. While I was there I paid attention to the sermon and the congregation like a hawk. The place didn’t have a good vibe with me and I left and decided not to return.
One Sunday morning I decided to attend a non-denominational church in Chantilly, Virginia that met in a school auditorium. Again I researched it online and scrutinized the website. I got there as worship was ongoing as I was a few minutes late. When I walked in I just wanted to blend into the crowd and take it in. As I took in the service I realized that the place is too seeker sensitive to me and didn’t have much in teaching. However, then they decided to have communion. Before they had communion they explained the rules – communion was only for believers who accepted Christ. And if you accepted Christ you can partake. So I sat there and slowly realized that the entire congregation was walking up to take communion and I was going to be the only one sticking around in the back. Then a guy saw my Marquette t-shirt and lit up. I thought to myself that I was going to be identified or about to interact with another former Wisconsinite. And at the same time I began to realize that I was going to be the only one who didn’t go up for communion. I thereby became frightened that I was going to have a lot of people who would corner me, approach, or evangelize me. So as an agnostic, I committed blasphemy, and I went up and took communion just so I can fit into the crowd. I left right after that and didn’t stay for the rest of the service. After the experience I drove away deeply disturbed and I felt awful. I was so concerned about being dishonest as that was a part of the reason why I pushed back from faith….I couldn’t honestly believe in God. I didn’t want to wear a mask or present a façade. That morning to fit in I did just that, and as I was driving away I stopped driving and sent a text message to Andrew White. I forget the exact wording but I said something to the effect of “I’m going to hell…I did something I shouldn’t have done. I took communion as an agnostic to fit in with the service.” I expected him to think that I was mocking him or that I took delight in it. A short time later Andrew texted me back and said, “Why don’t you journal about it?” A few days later I checked out the church website again and as I was struggling with the problem of evil as well as pain and suffering. I listened to a story dealing with pain and suffering and I found myself shaking my head. Too simplified and not every situation works out as well as I had heard.
Another church I checked out was a Presbyterian Church in the McLean, Virginia area. I was sitting in the car beforehand when either I called Andrew or he called me. I explained to him that I was going to try another church out and he told me that he was going to pray for me, and he wanted me to get into a church. We hung up, and I walked through the maze, as this place was pretty big and saw their young career program. They had a table at a door where people were filling out name tags, etc… The person asked me if I was new and I told them I had never been there before. She said I showed up at a good night as they were introducing a new pastor and the greeter explained to me that this would be a great opportunity to meet the new pastor. The place had snacks and coffee galore so that was impressive. Eventually by myself I migrated to a table left center from the stage up front. So the service started and they announced they were going to introduce the new pastor for this program at this Presbyterian Church. People were encouraged to send in questions by text and I was listening to all the questions being asked and I thought many were fluff. For example they were asking questions like, “How did you met your wife?”, “What was the most embarrassing moment in high school?”,”Are you a Washington Redskins fan?” Meanwhile I started to text questions myself, my questions were “How would you explain the problem of evil?”, “Who are the top 5 theologians who influence you”, “How do you view women and teaching?” None of my questions were taken. Afterward as I sat at the table someone across the way from me introduced themselves to me and asked me if I was new. I took a huge gamble and I explained that I was an agnostic. She asked if I wanted to speak with someone and I said that was fine. She then went and grabbed another pastor and connected us. In about 5 minutes I told this guy my story and his jaw dropped when he learned that I gave my Mom who suffered through pancreatic cancer John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Cancer”. The guy was like “Can we talk?” and made a comment about how John Piper’s followers caused him harm in his faith journey. He actually told me that he could hook me up with a Seminary Professor and have some long detailed discussions on the problem of evil. It looked really promising, it really did, and he gave me his email. I walked out of there and was very optimistic. I was looking for a place that had some substance to it and intellectually could tackle things like the problem of evil. The next time I saw Andrew I told him, and I was deeply encouraged. So I took the email I was given and I reached out again to the pastor. I emailed the pastor a number of times over the next couple of weeks. The pastor at this Presbyterian Church never responded to an email, and despite several more attempts I was perplexed because I thought this place had potential. When I realized that they were not going to respond, I was disappointed and decided to move on.
Back to Non Denominational & Evangelical Free Church Situation
The longest time I spent at a church was at another non-denom church in Fairfax. I interacted with the Senior Pastor several times. I examined the website before showing up. When I showed up for my first service at the end of the service someone came up and introduced himself to me, his name was Jay and he recognized me from work. Andrew wanted to encourage me to attend this church so one day Andrew and I both agreed to attend. During the service Andrew journaled, as he was big into journaling. We also attended the Sunday School as well. I took in the service and processed it. In the course of time Jay asked me to meet with the pastor and have some of these discussions with him. I agreed to do so. The night I had my meeting with this pastor I got a text from Andrew saying that he was praying for the meeting. The meeting with the pastor went well. I personally liked the pastor, and found him to be intelligent, and personally knowledgeable. I was exploding with questions. We discussed and covered some ground, things like problems with John Piper’s disaster theology, prosperity theology, charismaticism, etc… The Pastor thought that God had brought Andrew into my life to help with this journey, and he wanted to meet a couple of more times. I really wanted to tackle the roblem of evil and the issue of God’s omniscience. The problem was that I was exploding with so many doubts. That night after the meeting I texted to Andrew that it went well. Andrew responded by saying, that he was proud of me for continuing to pursue faith, and that he loved me. That night over dinner I chewed (pardon the pun!) on some of what the pastor said.
When I tried to make a follow up appointment to see the Pastor to discuss the problem of evil he told me that he didn’t know if he would be able to help and commented that I probably read more about the problem of evil than he did. Once the Pastor expressed a concern to me that I was labeling him, I was confused because he described himself as a simple Calvinist, yet on the website there was stuff from John MacArthur. I discussed the church with Scott in Kansas City, and he examined their doctrinal statement (I actually ran a lot of things by Scott to get a second viewpoint. Everything from this to SGM Survivors which he looked at and read, etc…). In gauging this church there was one time that I showed up late to the service deliberately, I wanted to know would they be happy to see me? Or would they be upset that I was late?. This pastor actually visited me in the hospital which really meant a lot to me, I can’t fully express how I feel about that today. Then when I went back after getting out of the hospital he closed a talk by talking about how they were going to evangelize and engage the community and reach the world. I asked him if we could meet and talk about the issue of omniscience in the problem of evil. He looked at me and said until I realized God was good there wouldn’t be much benefit to the conversation. (I can’t remember word for word what was said) I realized that further conversations were probably not going to be fruitful, or possible and that it was time to move on and try at another church.
In the course of time I decided to try another church in Arlington, Virginia. This one had sent me a mailer and I was intrigued, I studied the website and didn’t find the information I was looking for. No denominational reference, really no bios of the Pastors or staff at the time.I was perplexed for more information. I decided that one service won’t hurt and maybe I could get my answers to my questions about the place. The one concern I did have is that due to the name, I was worried that it was affiliated with John MacArthur, and I had deep concerns about the legalism and fundamentalism of John MacArthur and wanted to avoid a church that had ties to his organization. This church met in a middle school auditorium. When I showed up, I listened to the worship, and then I listened to the sermon. The sermon I thought was good. The bulk of the talk dealt with Matthew 21:12 and in a dramatic display of force the Pastor preaching overturned a couple of tables on the stage to make his point about Jesus’s disgust with the money changers in the temple. After the sermon I asked someone on the prayer team if the church was affiliated with John MacArthur. She had no idea, and said to ask a pastor in the “lobby” or the hallway in front of the auditorium. I found the Pastor and in almost a good cop bad cop interrogation I showered a lot of questions. The Pastor was stunned and caught off guard. He told me “no” that it wasn’t affiliated with John MacArthur’s network. Then I proceeded to interrogate him further. I asked the following questions, “What seminary did you go to?”, “Who influences you theologically?” , “Are you affiliated with The Gospel Coalition?” etc… Given how corrupt The Gospel Coalition has become I decided I wanted to avoid any church that affiliates or identifies with the Gospel Coalition. Again the Pastor was caught off guard, and I got the vibe that he wasn’t used to someone asking these kinds of questions. I learned that the pastor had been trained in an Assembly of God seminary. His main theological influence was Tim Keller. He asked me to listen to a particular sermon series online. In this case I never went back but this place became a strong contender, the best so far in my search. I wondered if they could intellectually handle questions like the problem of evil, or other difficult discussions. I wanted to consider it further.
My first church experience when I was brand new to evangelical Christianity was Fresno Evangelical Free (today known as the Bridge) back in 1999. If I could have a preference the Evangelical Free denomination would be it. However, the Evangelical Free Church is really going the way of the Southern Baptists. Its being split by Neo-Calvinism with some churches being theologically hijacked due to Neo-Calvinist graduates of Trinity. One of Trinity’s most renowned professors is DA Carson. And in an act of unbelievable church corruption he signed his name in a statement of support to CJ Mahaney when part of the lawsuit was thrown out due to statute of limitation issues, and before Susan Burke filed an appeal in the SGM legal wars. It was sickening, and one of the most stomach churning things I witnessed in Christiandom. DA Carson’s behavior made me wonder why the Protestant Reformation even occurred. However, that act of corruption would be but the beginning. Then it became known that Mark Driscoll had plagiarized from DA Carson’s edited “New Bible Commentary”. After all DA Carson believes that a pastor who plagiarizes should resign or be fired. You can read DA Carson’s own words here. Plus Trinity Evangelical Divinity school has a tough stance on plagiarism as well. So what was Carson’s response to Mark Drisocll’s plagiarism of his own personal material? The official reaction was really to do nothing, and I had wondered at all if Carson had been involved in disciplinary action on any of his students at Trinity for plagiarism or cheating. If Carson is going to give a pass to Driscoll on plagiarism while participating on the discipline of a MD student from Waukesha, Wisconsin (for example) then I’d say that Carson has compromised the school’s academic integrity. But there is much more when it comes to the Evangelical Free church, as I had read and heard that former SGM Pastors had left SGM and joined the Evangelical Free network, the best example is none other than Dave Harvey joining Four Oakes Evangelical Free in Florida, after all you can see his
mugshot I mean picture here. Plus there are some Evangelical Free churches that were practicing heavy 1970 SGM style shepherding. In the Washington, D.C. area I became especially in tune with some of the these issues as I looked into the Evangelical Free denomination. On the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) website I noticed that one EFCA church plant in the D.C. area was being done in conjunction with Acts 29. When I realized that was the church I considered looking into, I decided I wanted nothing to do with it. Why? I thought of how Mark Driscoll’s DNA was all over the Acts 29 network and I was disgusted. Then there is Cornerstone Evangelical Free in the DC suburb of Annandale which is led by Bill Kynes which is another Neo-Calvinist church that I decided not to look into.
Despite all this knowledge I hoped that the Evangelical Free Church in Manassas would be different, and not tainted by these problems of Neo-Calvinism. In a rude awakening that one Sunday morning I would learn that I was wrong. I would also learn that this church had some serious issues. In planning my visit I emailed the Senior Pastor with my story and a list of questions about my doubts and theological problems. That Sunday morning I parked the car and walked in. One of the first things I saw is that this Evangelical Free was helping to plant another hybrid Evangelical Free/Acts 29. It was the same Evangelical Free that I decided not to attend a couple of days prior. I thought of all the problems with Driscoll and already felt sick to my stomach. Already in my mind this Evangelical Free in Manassas, Crossway Fellowship, was not going to be a place where I could get spiritual help. That Sunday morning during the service I also left follow up information but they never contacted me. Honestly I have to say that given the theological shift this Evangelical Free is undergoing I was grateful they never did contact me. The sermon left me unimpressed. When I attended one of the budget battles was playing out in Washington, D.C. and the government was on the verge of a shutdown with government workers being furloughed. The Pastor commented how this pain and suffering could be good, and I sat there and wondered if he would still believe that if tithing drops further because members of Crossway Fellowship are being furloughed due to the government shutdown? I also wondered what is this evangelical fascination with “suffering” and “persecution?” Honestly many evangelicals in a first world country like the United States have no idea what persecution is, and when they claim and talk about suffering and persecution its just mocking and insulting to those in North Korea internment camps for their faith, or those being arrested in Saudi Arabia for their faith. Really many evangelicals who think they can endure persecution would probably break in a second. As I sat, the sermon continued I noticed the pastor quoting John Calvin often and that was the final straw. With all the constant references to John Calvin I wanted to ask, “Where is the alter where I can bow down, prostrate myself and pay my respect?” Honestly I wish I didn’t know as much information as I did, or about what John Calvin did to Michael Servetus. After the service I went to the “Welcome” desk and the woman manning it gave me a mug and a pen. She asked a couple of questions and I told her that I noticed that Crossway Fellowship was partnering with Mark Driscoll’s ministry – Acts 29. And she asked me, ‘Who is Mark Driscoll?’ and I looked at her and said, “He’s that Pastor from Seattle that has talked about the Biblical basis for blow jobs…”. I also told her what his views on anal sex was. Very first time I had such a conversation with a female in a church lobby. Her jaw dropped and her eyes popped open. It was awkward, but such is the state of evangelicalism today. When you have a pastor speaking about oral sex and people hold him up as the model and use his material….what do you expect? Keep in mind this was before it was learned that Mark Driscoll spoke about a “pussyified nation”. After leaving this Evangelical Free I was deeply disappointed. Since other Evangelical Free Churches in the DC area joined the Gospel Coalition, I wondered if the remaining ones would eventually be theologically hijacked. I decided it wasn’t worth finding out. And despite my old history with the Evangelical Free Church denomination I decided to kiss the Evangelical Free church denomination good-bye and not explore faith there. Until it cleans itself up I won’t explore faith there at all.
Sample Email Communication…
When I went to church to church I often did is email the Pastor or someone in a position of authority before showing up or afterward my story and asked questions. This email below was the running email I often sent. In this case it was tweaked it and played with it for a follow up meeting with a pastor. Its largely in its original format the only thing I wish I would have clarified looking back is expand upon the differing view of eschatology. In this case one church I showed up at was doing a series on gender roles.
Bob….here is a running list of questions that I have which has consumed and torn me apart. And a concern I have about xxxxxx. I hope this doesn’t rub you the wrong way.
- Can a Christian be disappointed in God? Is it a sin to be disappointed in God? Why do so many Christians always attribute answered prayers to God while not holding God to account for unanswered prayers? Why do they always attribute negative acts to Satan? (This plays to questions about prayer….I’ll get into later on) Why aren’t more Christians expressive about their disappointments with God?
- Why does God allow evil? For me this is more complicated by God being omniscient. Why does a loving God who is omniscient allow a child to be molested or abused…and why do Christians proclaim this God to be good? Why do Christians make excuses for God when evil happens?
- If God in his omniscience knows how a situation will turn out…I must ask..why pray? If you are praying for someone who is dealing with cancer and God knows that the situation is terminal and how the situation is going to end is God just stringing along a person? Isn’t that cruel?
- How do Christians know they are using the Bible correctly? Do they take into account the cultural and historical climate of which it was written? Do they also take into account the many languages it’s gone through? I can understand and see the need for some baseline..however Palestine in 40 AD is quite different from our post-modern civilization.
- The Bible is pretty clear about needing Jesus for salvation. However, what happens to those who never heard the gospel due to the historical or geographic period in which they lived? For example does someone who lived in Wuhan, China in 100 BC go to hell because he/she never professed a personal faith in Christ? How can he/she be held accountable for a gospel or a message that hasn’t been created yet?
- What is your take on the genocide stories in the Bible? There are multiple situations that bother me deeply and are a barrier to me. Many societies were corrupt including the Jewish…while they may not have been as bad as the Canaanites why were the Canaanites ordered to be destroyed? What about other historical cultures that were just as corrupt as the Canaanites who were allowed to live? When you look at the story of the death of the firstborns in Egypt…what did a 2 or 3 week old infant do to deserve being killed? Is genocide in the Bible okay because God defines morality? If in the Bible God called for the molestation or abuse of children…would Christians say it would be okay because God ordered it? Why doesn’t the genocide stories bother more Christians? And last but not least…I’m confused. In the OT you have this wrath filled God who destroyed, orders genocides, etc.. then he comes in the NT as the incarnate and proclaims himself to be a friend of sinners and teaching the good news. Why the 180 turn around by God in the Bible?And I’m not trying to be provocative as I say this…but I wonder. When you look at some of the genocides God has ordered or done in the OT and the incredible loss of life..it makes me wonder. Is God any different that Hitler or Joseph Stalin?
- I used to struggle with the concept of original sin..but that was resolved, and I have no problem with concept of sin today, and how its linked to Adam.
- I spoke with you about disasters for example John Piper and tornadoes. That is one side of the coin. The other aspect of disasters that I noticed that troubled me deeply is this… Why do many Christians view natural disasters, war, etc.. through an End Times perspective? In many ways I’m kind of burned out became from 1999 until 2009 I heard so regularly that many conflicts were indications or the coming rapture or God’s judgement for sin. It goes beyond John Piper and tornadoes to include September 11, the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Iraq War, Russia invading Georgia, etc… And even while outside the faith I noticed on Facebook how some Christians would attribute acts like the Washington, D.C. earthquake as an End Times event? I actually wrote an essay that was featured on a couple of different theological blogs.http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/23947 The thing that bothers me is two fold.
- Why are so many Christians obsessed with End Times theology? And why can’t many grieve and show remorse in response to disasters, just like in the Book of the Psalms?
- When many Christians put disasters or wars in the context of End Times theology and nothing happens (ie Iraq War being a sign of troops massing in the Middle East in preparation for the final battle as the Bible discusses…) How is this any different than the false prophecies of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young? I feel like I encountered some of this in Mormonism earlier in my life and I see parallels at times between Evangelicalism and Mormonism in this regard.
- I’m weary Bob of Christianity because from what I saw from 1999 until 2009 it seemed to me as if Christianity is choking on secondary issues I hinted at this above in question 8. But I saw so much teaching and references to End Times theology, Creationism, etc…it bothered me as how to some issues can be divisive. One thing that has me nervous Bob…is that I haven’t gone to a church regularly in over 3 years due to doubts, uncertainty, outright skepticism, and a desire not to repeat prior evangelical experiences. When I saw the series at compliementarism I don’t know if I could necessarily agree with all that I heard. I’m not trying to be difficult but I can easily comprehend how an issue like compliemtarism can become divisive and divide people within a congregation. And I’ve encountered that kind of divisiveness earlier on…and I never thought I would encounter that division. So I’m weary and have butterflies in my stomach because I don’t know if I can see things from that perspective and the last thing I want to do is slowly wade in the water,get wet, become more involved and then have this erupt, or be told, “If you’re going to be a Christian you must believe this…” and then find myself in a situation where a majority of what I may believe now hinges on a minor issue. From where I see it Christianity is already polarized and I don’t want to be in a situation where it’s an all or nothing approach. That is what makes me have second thoughts about xxxxxx. Again I’m not trying to be difficult I just want to learn from my past…and not repeat it.
- What is grace? Why is grace hard to encounter? Why is it easier to find outside Christianity than within? What is a grace filled life like?
I think that encounters all my doubts as I think about them in this writing. We touched on the prosperity gospel. I wouldn’t mind discussing that, especially in the context of what it means to be blessed. Where does one draw the line. I haven’t read as much atheist material lately. I did finish Philip Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace” and found that to be provocative, and challenging in a healthy way.
Let me know what you schedule is like and I’ll be happy to come in.
Then I decided to try online and watched a mega church service occasionally. This mega church, Central Christian, was based out of Las Vegas. They were not too helpful either. When I asked them my questions about the problem of evil, etc… they sent me an email about reading Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. I told them in response I read that, knew the book already but that my questions are related to a lot of things. They never responded, and I stopped watching Central Christian. I also decided to attend a service at a Methodist church in Fairfax, Virginia. The church attendance that morning was too tilted towards women. It also seemed like there were some hippies present, and the message was just too liberal for me. As I listened it didn’t seem like the church really stood for anything and I walked away kind of puzzled, and decided to keep searching. In my search I decided that there would be a number of churches that I would not look into, and that included mega churches, Calvary Chapels, Hyper-Reformed, Evangelical Free, or Extreme Charismatic. It was a frustrating experience for me….I was a guy who gathered the courage to ask questions. The church didn’t have to go out into the world, the world walked through the doors and tried to ask questions. What bothered me is that none of the places I went to could really help. Many churches never followed up, never offered to help, and those that I did meet with didn’t have the patience or capability to discuss something like the problem of evil. It was vexing and it was frustrating. I often couldn’t understand what was happening. I know that many parts of evangelical Christianity are sick and diseased today. Some parts of hooked on Neo-Calvinism, authority, membership covenants, and what does a person who is not Neo-Calvinist do? Then on the flip side you have places that are extreme Arminian and charismatic. The other issue is that there are many places that are “seeker sensitive” that have little to no substance to them. There is no intellectual depth. Is a seeker sensitive going to be able to discuss the problem of evil in great detail? My contention is no, they will not be able to. As I likewise witnessed in McLean Presbyterian I couldn’t believe that people in a church would be asking about so many playful questions about a pastor’s favorite sports team and not it the pastor could explain the problem of evil or address difficult topics. I couldn’t believe how many churches were into entertainment and elaborate staging but lacked good theological teaching.
I wondered over to Fairfax Community Church which is where I would be for a while. I exited agnosticism there choosing to get baptized. But Fairfax Community Church has deep problems as well. Chief among them were a surprising authoritarian situation I ran into with a pastor, and the church being silent on the Navy yard shootings which happened in their own backyard. I wrote a post comparing how the church reacted to both the Newtown, and Navy yard shootings which you can read here. Plus I was disturbed that Fairfax Community would pursue growth and a church plant when they had people falling through the cracks at their Fairfax location on Braddock Road. I plan to address the issue of evangelical church growth using Fairfax Community Church as an example. I believe its a modern idol in todays evangelicalism.
During my faith crisis all I was doing was looking for answers…but many places couldn’t really offer much help. I want to leave you with Robin Mark singing “Be Unto Your Name” God help the church in this country…its sick, diseased and needs help.