Tag Archives: Vineyard worship leader

My Deconversion

9 May

This is a slightly edited version of a post I did for The Wartburg Watch.  You can read the original post and comments here.  I wanted to include my deconversion on  Christianagnostic for those that might have missed it.

Before I tell you about how and why I deconverted from Christianity, let me give you a brief tour of my previous Christian life.  Ready, steady, go………

My Christian Life

I was raised in a Christian home in the Northeast, and attended an Evangelical Presbyterian church from age 7 until my mid teens.  It was at the age of eight that I responded to a Sunday school teacher’s presentation of the gospel and prayed to receive Christ into my heart.  I was involved with the church youth group and Boys Brigade up until High School.

In High School, I was involved with Young Life and became a student leader (Campaigner) and was actively involved with the Young Life club at my school. This also involved  trips to Saranac Lake and Lake Champion.  In college, I continued with Young Life as a volunteer leader.  I led clubs, led campaigner Bible studies, organized trips to Young Life camps, volunteered for work crew, and led worship on leadership retreats.  I also had some involvement with Campus Crusade, including a week at Daytona spring break, Intervarsity, and Chi-Alpha.  Not to mention that I also helped fund and promote a couple of Christian concerts at my school (it was a public University, not a Christian school).

After college, I worked full-time at my local Christian bookstore.  I worked there for 14 years as a store manager, music buyer, gift buyer, and staff trainer (did I mention that I also scrubbed some toilets in my time).  After the bookstore, I was hired by a Christian division of Warner Music.  I served as a sales rep. for the Northeast and then the entire West Coast.  I spent almost every waking hour in Christian bookstores, helping to market and promote the latest Christian music and DVD’s.  I worked in this role for almost 10 years , before changes in the industry forced Warner to lay off almost 90% of our division.

Personally, I had gotten married to a woman I met in college.  We had met at church, got married in a Calvary Chapel and soon began attending an SGM church.  I served in the worship band, was part of a church planting team where I also served in as a worship leader.  After leaving SGM, we helped with a local Vineyard church plant where again, I served on the worship team and became a small group leader.  I attended some pastoral training conferences with Vineyard and was on unpaid staff at another Vineyard church on the West Coast.  This is the brief version of my Christian life and involvement in the church….

I mention all these things in the hopes, that no one will come along and say that I must not have had enough information, or that maybe I had never really been a Christian.  It’s frustrating to have that thrown at me, considering that I was committed to Christ in both a personal and professional way.  I truly believed with all that was in me, and tried to be Christ like in all that I did.  I read the Bible as much as possible, and was reading books about the Bible or Christian life when I wasn’t reading the Bible.  I’m not sure what else I could say to convince someone, that  I had been a Christian.

The Circle Doesn’t Go Unbroken

There’s an old folk gospel song that asks the question, will the circle be unbroken?  For me, it would be broken, and I’ll try to describe some of the key issues that lead me from my faith to an agnostic point of view…

When I was involved with SGM churches, as some may know, there was a huge emphasis on gender roles.  The pastors of SGM preached often on the subject and it was hammered home in the small groups (called care groups) that men should lead their homes and women and children should submit to their husband’s authority.  They also preached that man, woman, and child should be submitted to the local church’s authority, in other words, the pastors.  I won’t repeat all the abuses that were rife in these churches, as they have been well documented….but it did lead me to a scriptural conundrum.  SGM and their teaching on pastoral/ marital authority roles were consistent with what was taught in the New Testament.  They took the face value teaching of Paul and Peter, applied to today, and followed it to its logical conclusions-which led to all sorts of abuse, neglect, and pain to all involved.

I began to wonder why God would have such confusing and hurtful passages in Scripture?   I tried desperately to find alternative views, that would allow me to see some sort of wisdom from those passages, but as much as some of the alternative views were attractive, I could not wipe away the fact that scripture spoke of women as a lower class of human than men.  Men, by accident of birth, were to be the leaders and rulers in home and the church, according to the plain reading of the Scriptures.  This bothered me because of the abuse I had seen up close…

I started to explore the early church, to see how they handled these scriptures.  What I found was even more diverse that I had imagined.  Some early church movements seemed to have women Apostles and deaconesses, even alluded to in the New Testament, while other early church movements saw women as a seed of the devil, only to be saved through childbirth, but not to be trusted in any other way.  Needless to say, the history of the early church provided little relief.

Another issue that began to creep up, was the history of the Scriptures themselves….some scholars on the Women’s issue (like Gordon Fee) argued that many of the texts about women being silent and submitting, were additions to the text, and that they should not be binding on the church, since they were of dubious origin.  At first I was relieved, and started to see that this indeed might have been a case of cultural bias being written in to the Scriptures.  But the relief was short-lived….

I began to realize that if these texts, had been possibly added, than there might be other texts that had been added or changed as well.   The more I researched the issue (among Evangelical scholars) I realized that the issue of contradicting manuscripts was a major issue.  One fact I came across that blew my inerrant mind, was the fact that over 7,000 copies exist of Paul’s letters, and every single one is different from the other-no two are the same.   The final blow came when I was reading a history of the persecution of women accused of witchcraft.  It was a terrible history of both Catholic and Protestant churches using the Bible to condemn and kill thousands of women on the flimsy charge of witchcraft.  It occurred to me, that so much of this pain, murder, torture and fear mongering could have been avoided except for the Bible’s teaching on women.  Why would God allow this to be so?  The more disturbing thought, if it was a result of someone adding or changing the text, then why didn’t God prevent it?  It’s a question I’ve yet to get an adequate answer…

I have many friends who are seminary trained, full-time clergy/ pastors.  I have summed it up for them this way, “If the Bible is the most important message that God could ever hope to say to mankind, and it is supposed to be reliable and without error in the original form, than why didn’t he bother to make sure it would be preserved without error?” It just seems unbelievable to me that God would not bother to keep the scriptures from being corrupted (or lost, as in the final chapter of Mark).  I’ve had a couple of my friends admit that this bothers them as well.  I’ve had others say they agree with my approach to textual criticism, yet they disagree with my conclusions.  But I can no longer put my faith in a book as the infallible word of God, when it obviously has been changed, let alone has contradictions within the text itself.  Once this house of cards fell, my faith was no more.

My Life, After Christianity

I am one of the lucky ones, when I finally built up the courage to tell my wife that I no longer believed, she listened, asked some questions, and then told me she never thought the Bible made much sense.  She was, in fact, a functional agnostic.  She had always been a Christian, because she had no choice as a child.  As a wife, she supported my faith and chose not to take issue with it.  It was a huge relief, I know of other instances where the believing spouse divorced the unbeliever or made life such a battle that the relationship suffered greatly.

As for my kids, after about a month, my wife and I decided to tell our kids that we were no longer Christians.  We let them ask questions, which were many and also told them that we would not be raising them as Christians.  We didn’t forbid them to have faith, we just let them know it would be their choice, not ours, what they chose to believe or not to believe about God.

The hardest part has been the reaction of friends and family.  For the most part, we are now viewed with suspicion by many in our family.  We recently received a letter from a family member, in which he describes us as deceived and followers of Satan….sigh….My wife couldn’t even read it.  This same rhetoric has been leveled at my children at school.  My one son came home confused, because a friend told him he was a Satanist if he didn’t believe in God.  My daughter had the threat of hell preached to her at a sleep over.  No fun, but that it is what the Bible Teaches, so I am not surprised.  It is still not fun to know that you are regarded as unintelligent, uninformed, deceived, and following the lies of Satan.

One Final Note                     

This is kind of my coming out to the Christian blog community….let me explain.  A few years ago I began blogging over at SGM Survivors under the handle of Musicman.  You can read my story at this link:

http://www.sgmsurvivors.com/2008/07/07/musicman-concludes-his-story/

If you read it, you will see that it is from a Christian point of view.  That’s because, I was still very much a Christian when I began to participate on SGM Survivors and the Refuge.  I have nothing but respect for Kris, Guy, Jim, and Carol and for the price they have paid to allow us Survivors to have a voice on the internet.

As I began having doubts, I also began reading the Wartburg Watch.  When I started to post, I would do so as doubtful.  I began this blog, as my way of beginning to think out loud about many of the issues I dealt with as a Christian.

Thanks for reading!

Tithing and The Last Easter Service I’ll ever attend….

11 Apr

I was in the middle of my brief tenure as a Vineyard worship leader, at the last church I would ever attend as a member.  We were a few weeks into the new year and my pastor called me to discuss the church.  We agreed to meet at Starbucks to go over the upcoming schedule and events.

Later that day, we met up for an overpriced cup of joe and some conversation.  After talking kids and politics, we finally begin talking about the new year for our church.  I had some minor suggestions for developing the worship team, but beyond that, I was interested in hearing what my pastor had in mind.

He began talking about the current crunch financially that the church was facing.  It was before the housing bust and stock crash, but the pinch was beginning to hit a lot of families and giving was down, the church was in the red most months and was beginning to dip into savings just to cover it’s weekly expenses for pastors and facility costs.  I asked how the church had gotten so far behind in the budget.  He told me that they recently had moved locations (a move instigated by my pastor) and that it increased their expenses  by 20%.  I gulped when he told me that number.

“You committed the church to a twenty percent increase in expenses?” I asked.

“We did…I figured our new location would bring in more families and giving would go up to cover the costs” he said.

“If my boss told me I needed to increase my sales 20% with only the same customers, I would have told him he was crazy.” I replied. “Unless God specifically told you to do this, how could you have done this without letting the congregation know?  It just lacks wisdom..” I continued.

It was at this point that he pulled out the silver bullet from his bag of pastoral tricks and told me “Well, I think we just need to teach people to give…I’m planning on a 6 week series on giving and tithing.”

Now, for those of you who don’t know, the Old Testament tithe was an offering of 10% of all sorts of grains and foods that were given to the Levitical priesthood to provide for offerings, feast days, and for consumption by the priests and sometimes the poor.  But the one thing tithes were not, was money.  But this hasn’t stopped many a Christian pastor from insisting that his congregation tithe (give 10%) of all their money to the church.  Even using ominous verses from Malachi, which warns that those who do not tithe are robbing God.

And now my pastor was suggesting he needed to hit our little congregation over the head about tithing, because HE had decided to obligate the church for 20% more money than was typically given to the church.  I wasn’t buying it.

He asked what I thought about the idea for his upcoming sermon series…I flat out told him that I HATED the idea.  First off, because tithing is not even taught as a requirement for Christians and that secondly, it seemed to me that he was using tithing to guilt trip people into giving more money for a decision in which they had no say.

I literally thought he was going to jump out of his skin.  He looked both angry and panicked that I was not going to have his back on this.  He began to desperately try and convince me that Jesus mentioning the tithe in Matthew was justification for teaching it to the church.  I countered that Jesus mentions it in passing to those still under the law and that he used it as a negative example.  Hardly the wringing endorsement that justifies using it to cover up his own financial follies.

I don’t remember all the specifics of our conversation after this point, but I do remember that it was tense and that my pastor decided he was still going to teach on giving, but maybe do a little research on tithing.  But there was one more thing he wanted to discuss….two services.

Even though we didn’t fill out the church with one service, he figured more people would come if we had two services.  Again, it seems that the decision to go to 2 services was based on the hope of growing the church quick, to help cover the bills.  It seemed that very little thought was given to the fact that the worship team and many other volunteers would now be doing double time on Sunday morning.  I didn’t like the idea, but I held my tongue.  I had frustrated him enough already and two services was not a given at this point…

I am sad to report, that he did go ahead and beat the sheep with his tithing and giving series.  He also laid out the church financial crisis without ever taking any responsibility for the decision, and he did finally get his wish of two services.

He decided to begin two services on Easter Sunday.  So, he fished his wish.  But he also lost a worship leader that Sunday….it also happened to be my last Sunday as an active church member.  It will probably be the Last Easter Service I’ll ever attend….