It was in the beginning of the fall of 1972, I had graduated high school; my best friend and I decided to enlist in the military. I hadn’t turn 18 years of age yet, so I needed my parents signature to allow me to enlist.
There was a place on one of the forms that I needed to fill out, marked “Religious Preference” and I really didn’t know what to put there. So I asked my mom what to put there, and her response was, “Put Non-Denominational.”
Not really knowing what that meant, I went ahead and wrote Non-Denominational.
Since I had no idea what was meant by denominational or non-denominational, I could have put anything there; Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or some other title.
Unfortunately, many people are in the same place I was at, they really don’t know what they are or what makes them what they are. I’ve meet other people who don’t know why they go to church or why they attend a peculiar church. Many go to church, because their parents go to church, their whole family is Catholic or they were born into a family that is Catholic, so they think that makes them a Catholic or Christian.
Some go to a peculiar Church because that’s the Church that their great-grandparents attended, but they have no idea why their great-grandparents started going there; so they only attend that church out of tradition.
Many people are leaving the Church (or their different assemblies), because they never really made the connections of why someone goes to Church. My parents called themselves Christian, so in our way of thinking that made us children Christians. We were taught to believe in a God that we never really knew or that Jesus was Lord, but we had no idea who this Jesus was or why he was supposed to be so important.
So I was non-denominational, it seemed important to my parents that we not to be called denominational, put I had no clue as to why. We were Christian, but we didn’t go to Church. We were taught to believe there is a God, but had no experiential knowledge that would have made God a realization or real to us.
Like so many, my being a Christian wasn’t based on me be drawn to God by the Holy Spirit or an actual choice of my will to receive God into my life or something that was based on a religious experience where God made himself real to me.
Many Muslims are Muslims because their community is Muslim, so by rote they become Muslim; or they become Muslim by threat of death, not because it was an actual personal decision, based on some revelation that made God real to them.
Many people are starting to leave their religious world, because it’s not real to them or they can’t find a connection to keep them grounded in these belief systems. Like me they are asking, “What am I?” In all reality I was pretty much an Atheist, being told that I believe in a God or at best I was an Agnostic not really trying to find out if I really believed in a God or not. In either case I was pretty much like a fish out of water, I was dying inside, but didn’t know why.
Since there was a small part of me that believed there might be a God, I didn’t know how to make him real enough to follow him and I was pretty much left to my own imagination as to what he was or what was expected of me. He was for the most part a fairytale and I was forming him into my way of thinking. See my other post, “A god of my own making”: https://called2teachublog.wordpress.com/2015/12/27/a-god-of-my-own-making-2/.
“They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (1 John 2:19)”
Why are people leaving the Church? I guess there can be several reasons, but the biggest is as John writes, “They were not of us”; in other words, “They never were true believers in the first place”. Not all Church growth is true growth. It is said and rightly so, “God has no Grandchildren!” My faith may inspire or encourage others to believe, but my faith does not place anyone into the Kingdom of God, they must have their own faith to enter into God’s Kingdom.
You can’t force someone to believe in God, not by bribery (promises to escape hell or any other type of promise) or though threat of death, nor can you physically be born into the things of God, it takes a true spiritual conversion or a work of God himself to create true believers. You must be born of/by the Spirit of God. As Jesus said, “What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of the Spirit is spirit! ( John 3:6)” This is why he said, “You must be born again!” You must be born of the Spirit of God or God’s Kingdom will never become a reality to you. Without this reality, you can’t truly believe in God or have the passion to suffer through the things that try to rob you of your faith.
People are being told, “Say this prayer…….. and you will go heaven, or you will be born again or what ever the promise is.” Though the things of God can be as easy as saying a prayer, it’s not about praying some form of prayer. It’s about God putting his reality in you and you living out from that reality (faith).
l can still remember 31 years ago how my fairytale god was turned to nothingness as the reality of the true God started dealing with my heart. My eyes were opened to the truth and there was no denying it; the god I believed in was proven false, now my choice was, which God was I going to now follow after?
Since that day, I’ve never had to turn to someone else and ask or question myself, “What am I?” I know why I believe and what I believe in. That day God became more than just an idea or some intellectual argument, he became an undeniable reality to me.