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Losing Hell and Losing the Church

Thomas Whitley

Many of you are probably aware of the swirl of controversy recently over the yet-to-be-released bok by Rob Bell, Love Wins. Rachel Held Evans points to a post by Chad Holtz in which he outlined "What I Lost Losing Hell," a very good read in its own right. What is troubling to me, though it seems to be less so to Holtz, is that after he shared his theological questions/thoughts/beliefs openly, honestly, and vulnerably he was fired:

In case you are not a friend of mine on FB (where this first appeared as a note last week) nor read Emergent Village, below is the final straw that precipitated my early release from my present position as pastor.   I hold no ill will towards those who feel it is best I shake the dust and move on.   In all actuality, my love for them has only increased along with my conviction that what I’ve written here is true – or rather, MUST be true!   For if our eternal fate is determined solely by our many choices here, as opposed to the choice already made for us in Christ, then we, most assuredly, are all damned.

I can speak in generalities about why "people" are losing faith in the church, but I'll be a bit more personal here. I have lost faith in much of what calls itself the "church." The church has long said they are a "safe" place yet they push out those who disagree with them or have questions. This is not just a "conservative" problem, "moderates" and "liberals" are guilty of this too. Why is it that the one place that is supposed to be a safe-haven for people to explore who they are and who God is has become nothing more than a factory turning out like-minded individuals?

As long as churches continue pushing out pastors who are actually honest with their congregations about their hurts, struggles, and doubts I continue to lack faith in the "church" to be the church; that is, the community that is supposed to be realizing the kingdom of God here on earth, that is supposed to be binding up the broken-hearted, comforting those in mourning, and showing the love of God to a world that has experienced far to little of that love.

Don't get me wrong, I still go to church (my wife is a minister, after all) and I often "get something out of it" and often see the people of God doing the work of God and join with them when I can. However, as long as the church feels the need to have the power and not allow those of differing opinions and beliefs to remain among them I will never fully trust the church. If I cannot be honest in the church, then what good is it?