At first glance, it may seem like Rahab and I have little in common. I grew up in church, have lived a fairly approvable lifestyle, and for the most part, follow the rules. What we know of Rahab indicates quite the opposite. Her people worshiped idols, she was a prostitute, and she cut ethical corners when she felt it was necessary. Even so, I love Rahab. She trusted her instincts, believed in the faithfulness of God, and acted on that belief.
I am in a place of internal tension right now with the universal church. For the most part, I have always focused on the good things about the church. The church gives us much to celebrate. But over the past few years, as my relationship with Jesus has grown stronger, my eyes have been opened to how far the church can stray from the example of love and truth Jesus was and is to His followers.
So I am in a season of questioning. Why do we, the church, do things the way we do them? Why the emphasis on property and facilities? Why the drive for programs and attendance? Why the requirements of denominational ordination and education? What drives us to cling tightly to rules and committees while too often neglecting our personal Bible study and intimacy with Christ?
The local church has been a constant in my life. Because I grew up in ministry and chose ministry as my work, I have been an active part of over twenty churches and preached in dozens more. There are so many things I love about churches. I love the smell of old buildings, singing hymns, and celebrating the seasons of the Christian calendar. I love praise bands and raising my hands in worship. I love preaching and rituals. I love praying at altar rails. I love the rustling of pages when people are looking for verses of scripture in their Bibles. I love the low roar of conversation during the passing of the peace. I love sitting in an empty sanctuary and hearing the silence that calls me to open my heart to God.
But something is changing inside me. The universal church, a place where I once felt accepted and celebrated has more recently felt like a place of disapproval. I was told some months ago by a person of church authority that there was no place for my ministry or leadership within their denomination. Another person in leadership said she questioned my relationship with God. Why?
Because, perhaps like Rahab, I am finding within me the courage to follow God regardless of how that is different from the traditions I had previously followed. I stumbled on this path accidentally. I recognized the risk I was taking only after I had already taken it. But I am grateful it is working out the way it is. Otherwise, I likely would have convinced myself to apologize and retreat. Instead, I am discovering a deeper connection with Who I worship and realizing in a new way that He is not restricted to a building, a denomination, or a statement of belief.
I do not doubt at times Rahab questioned her decision to take steps on the path she walked. I have questioned myself, too, as I continue to serve in pastoral ministry without the security of a denomination’s blessing. However, what I know is greater than what I feel. And I know obedience is honorable.
(Read the story of Rahab in Joshua 2.)