“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
rev 4:11 (niv)
Before you get the wrong idea, let me tell you that I am a Christian and a strong believer of Christ. In no way, shape, or form am I judging others for their actions or opinions. I am not judging any church or denomination off of the people I crossed paths with. I am simply sharing what I have experienced in my recent search for salvation and how the experience has shaped my life.
Let’s take it back to my sophomore year in high school. I’m sitting on a bus, on the next to the last seat, talking to my tennis coach (who’s also a youth minister). He has come from the front of the bus, stopping periodically to speak with my teammates and has made his way to me. This isn’t just a pep talk before our tennis match against Ocean Springs – this is some serious, deep and personal talking that leads to the questioning of my salvation. How did we let is get that far? Don’t ask me. But in many ways, I’m glad we did. This “talk” became our thing. Every bus ride to Ocean Springs from then on out was spent sitting in the back of the school bus talking to my coach about Jesus. During the school year, I went to a few Wednesday night services at his church and other times I stopped by his office to simply sit down and talk to him about life. These small talks, that I am forever grateful for, were the beginning of my search for salvation.
Now, bear in mind that I had grown up in church all my life. Yes, I read along in the Bible during service. I prayed. I worshipped. I believed that Christ is our Savior and that He died for our sins. But I wasn’t saved – And until my coach sat down with me, salvation had never crossed my mind.
Let’s fast forward to last semester, Fall 2016. The first semester of my freshman year at MSU. (hail state!) I got involved in the Student Association at the beginning of September and met some of the most awesome people ever (s/o to my forum fam!) I remember towards the end of September asking in our group chat where everyone went to church. I hadn’t been to church since May (June & July I was training with the National Guard & literally 2 days after I left there, I was at State moving into my dorm ((talk about a culture shock))). So after a couple months of watching my roommate get ready for church on Sunday mornings while I slept in, I finally said to myself “It’s time to get up and do something with your life, Cynda”. (… so that wasn’t it word for word but it was something like that.) I got all kinds of responses from the group chat and I was so excited to visit each church my friends had recommended and to find one to finally call home. I had no idea which church to visit first. I wasn’t looking for any particular type of church. I was just seeking salvation, forgiveness, and acceptance. One of my friends from the group chat sent me a message outside of the chat inviting me to a service that they had going on right then. Being me, I insisted I not come right then because of how I was dressed and how I was looking (although I know I would’ve been accepted). So, that Thursday I went to a devo (devotion) they were holding on campus in the Student Union. And just as I imagined, everyone was so nice and welcoming. I was invited to church service that Sunday and also to the Student Christian Center, where they all hung out, had other devos, worshipped, and so much more. I was very thankful for everyone and how comfortable they made me feel. Next thing I knew, I was participating in almost all the services they had throughout the week: prayer groups, devos, bible class, sexual purity classes – I was there for it all. I even began having one-on-one bible studies with the guy who first invited me there. Everything was going well. I got baptized spring semester, I continued to have one-on-one bible studies and even began a couple more with a few others from church. The more I studied, the more things made sense. But just as things began to clear up, other things became not so clear to me. A big question I had: “If we all read the same Bible, why are there so many denominations? Shouldn’t it be easy for us all to agree?” I struggled with this topic. And I learned that the more I asked, the more defensive people got.
Now all my life, I had attended a Baptist church and grown up in a Baptist family, but I never really knew what it meant to “be Baptist” until I had someone who wasn’t Baptist tell me what Baptists believed and what made Baptists wrong. (did that sentence throw you for a loop? haha me too). I really didn’t know that this hostility amongst different denominations existed until I began attending the Church of Christ while still continuing to carry the title of Baptist. (Now keep in mind this isn’t a blog on the battle of denominations. I’m about to get to the point about the scary Christians, I promise.)
And so my bible studies eventually all became about why denominations existed and why the Church of Christ was right. As time passed, my curiosity grew and I had more and more questions. I started to ask Christians who considered themselves Baptist why they believed Baptist was right and why they believed the Church of Christ was wrong. Eventually I became overwhelmed with so many opinions and scriptures that I started to give up. Yes, in the midst of my salvation, I began to give up. Why? Because of man. Because what I once thought to be a safe haven (Christianity), had been revealed to me as a world of brothers and sisters in Christ who lived to judge one another. And in no way am I choosing sides here. To me both sides were in the wrong. I had someone from the Church of Christ tell me if I ever began to minister to others and invited someone to a Baptist church, that I was leading them down the wrong road and away from the Truth and their salvation. The Baptists told me the Church of Christ went by weak doctrine. The Church of Christ told me Baptists went by man made doctrine. My old tennis coach told me to stop going to the Church of Christ. A member of the Church of Christ told me to stop talking to my tennis coach. (Y’all… it got so crazy. I ’bout lost my mind.) I honesty didn’t know who was right and who was wrong. I started to attend both services throughout the week – praying with the Church of Christ on Mondays, worshipping with the Baptists on Tuesdays, studying with the Church of Christ on Wednesdays, etc.
One Saturday night, I reached my limit of strength and patience. While speaking with a friend of mine about church service the next morning, I told him I wouldn’t be there for service because I was still exploring and visiting churches and that tomorrow I was planning on visiting somewhere different. (I didn’t mean any harm.) And he looked at me and asked “What’s the point of visiting other churches when you know the Church of Christ is the right one?” And at this point, I was so over it. First I was told that I had to study on my own and pray for clarity. Then I got judged for wanting to visit other churches. I just shrugged and got my things and left. I drove around that night for nearly an hour crying and praying that God saw the good in my actions. I was honestly trying so hard to please God and man made me feel like even when I thought I was doing right, I was doing wrong. I was so fed up. This wasn’t what I was seeking during the beginning of the fall semester. I didn’t want to become a part of this denominational war.
I wanted to be saved.
I wanted to be loved by God.
I wanted to be forgiven for my sins.
Was this what salvation was all about? Was I not a Christian just because I considered myself “Baptist”?
I believed in the Gospel.
I believed Jesus died for our sins and rose on the third day.
I got baptized.
I didn’t understand. Regardless of which denomination followed the right belief, were they not still wrong for judging one another? That’s what I saw most. As a newly reborn Christian, the judgement and hostility was what stood out about each denomination.
The comfort I felt during fall semester was no longer there. I felt that either way, I would just be judged by one or the other. I was scared that no matter what I did, I would never have God’s approval and it was my fellow Christians that led me to feel this way. I didn’t even go to church that next day. And I honestly do wish I had. But eventually I realized that I had given too much attention to man and not enough attention to God.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
mark 8:33 (niv)
By seeking God through man, I had ventured off from the original goal. No longer was my salvation and following of Christ my priority. My priority had become figuring out which man made denomination was right.
So where am I now?
Well, I haven’t quite boggled down to the bottom of the denomination thing but in all honestly, I don’t worry about it much. I’m reading scripture, I’m listening to sermons, going to church, and worshipping God. And most importantly:
I’m saved by the blood of Christ.
If that right there isn’t the most important thing, I don’t know what is.
I know this one got personal and might’ve hit close to home. Like I said in the beginning, I’m not judging either. I feel like if you believe in God and you believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose the third day, then you’re a friend of mine and my brother/sister in Christ. (If you don’t believe you are still a friend of mine and I would be more than happy to sit down with you and listen to your beliefs and share mine with you as well.) I love you guys. As always, thanks a million for reading:)
live happy. pray daily. ring cowbells. drink joe.
until next time