As I sit in this coffee shop staring at a blank computer page, I'm not sure where to begin with my story. It's funny how one minute you can be in your late teens, full of life & an eager hunger to learn then BAM! You're in your late 20's struggling with cynicism, apathy, & doubt. The process of deconstruction is one that you rarely seek out. But one that can be just as liberating and refreshing as it is terrifying.
It was 2008, I had just graduated from high school the year before.
In my idealistic mind, life was going to consist of making music and playing shows for a living. But first, I would go to Teen Mania Ministries' Honor Academy. My sister had gone four years prior and the change I saw in her life was monumental enough to make me want to go down to the humid regions of Texas and experience the change for myself. So, come August I made the trek down to Garden Valley, Texas. In hindsight, I can see now where the religiosity & legalism of the ministry came into play; forcing us into a sort of hive mind. But at the time, I was thankful to be there. And indeed, I believe God used the Honor Academy to bring me to a knowledge of Jesus. I also met people down there that set the path of my life into motion. One person in particular, that was from Montana.
**An important side note of my journey... It was towards the end of my internship that I began to devour the teachings of reformed theology. Mark Driscoll being one teacher in particular that I drew on heavily. I was so enthralled with him that I would show anyone who seemed interested, including my Montanan friend. I look back at that moment with regret. I think this was the catalyst where I unknowingly set my friend on a course of legalism that eventually unraveled our friendship.
After the Honor Academy, I went back to Utah. An equipped, capable young leader who was going back to dry and barren land and to come and fix the church! I hope you catch my sarcasm here, because truth is, I was (and probably still am) an immature, prideful, selfish kid who didn't know a damn thing. Theology and "right" doctrine had taken place of actually knowing God and walking in Love. I am thankful that during this time I had amazing mentors. One of whom was a pastor who, even through the times I was being a pompous jackass, he put up with me. He continually showed me grace, and directed me. Now that I think of it, I look back at this time with nothing short of affection. I was itching to leave Utah, and even though it had it's challenges, I think God put so many amazing mentors and teachers in that season of life. Although I was too blind at the time to see them. Throughout my two years in Utah prior to Honor Academy, I kept in touch with my Montanan friend; it was also during this period we decided that we would go into church planting together.
I wish I had seen the signs... the pride, the problems that went unaddressed until it was too late to salvage. But how could I? I was neck deep in a theology which was in itself, rooted in pride. A knowledge that puffed up, but with no love to build up.
In late 2012, I decided to make the move to Western Montana. I won't go into the boring details of what it was like, but I will mention one thing, it all felt fake. As if we were just "playing church"; most times it would just be myself, the pastor and his wife. We were vastly unprepared. I think we all began to realize this. Thus around Easter of 2013, we decided we would take a bit of a break in meeting up for "services" and see how other churches were doing their ministry. It was shortly after that when things began to go awry.
In the midst off all of these challenges, I confessed a struggle that I had been dealing with to the Pastor. Porn is a struggle that has shadowed my life since I was 13. Anyone who has dealt with that shit knows the loneliness and guilt associated with it all.
It was my hope that in confessing, I was gaining a brother that would walk through this battle with me. What happened instead was I was told to read a few books and let him know "when I messed up."
Around the same time, the children's deacon, along with her brother and I, met up to discuss a few things we had noticed in the pastor's demeanor and attitude. Mainly that he had this sense of "my way or the highway" when it came to any sort of discussion or decision. We both saw this and felt it needed to be addressed.
I'm not proud of the way things went down after that. It was all through text message.
I know now that this is no way to handle confrontation.
Here's the gist of what that day. He shot me a text saying that he wanted to meet up soon. I said yes, but the children's deacon needed to be there as well. When I told him why that was to be the case, he flipped. Accused us of not following Matthew 18 and what not. By the end of the night, I was kicked off the leadership team. A month later, he made it clear (also through text message) that our 5 year friendship was over. I haven't spoken to him since.
The death of this friendship has loomed over me throughout these past few years. I've had to work through a lot of bitterness towards him, forgiving him any time the memory comes up. There has also been a constant, nagging fear that if I ever get close to someone again, the friendship will end in fiery ruin like before. I think it was the conclusion of this friendship that set in motion the process of deconstruction.
I stopped listening to dominantly reformed teachers, for the reason that it seemed like every follower of this particular "franchise" of Christianity became so wrapped up in their doctrine, they forgot that the greatest of these is Love.
I started listening to people's stories, realized that this world is so much bigger than my own little perception of reality.
I started listening to a ton of different podcasts, broadening my perception of truth; finding that sometimes it doesn't all fit into a neat and tidy box.
I found a church that seemed to genuinely care about others; the pastors making a visible effort to build friendships with the people they serve.
It’s been eight years into my journey with Jesus, and there are more questions, uncertainty, and doubt than I've ever had in my life. This whole thing could be a pile of shit, but if it helps me love people like Jesus did in the Gospels, I'm okay with that. I know that doesn't sound very "theologically correct" and some of you reading this will doubt my salvation. That's fine. That's not really my point in writing this. Come to think of it, there's not even really a point I was trying to make in this post. You can find your bullet points if you want to.
I just hope that in sharing this story of mine, someone is able to relate and see that, even through loss and doubt, there's life on the other side.
I hope you find peace in the doubt.