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February 11, 2010

Compartmentalized Faith

I know I've blogged before about growing up in pretty conservative settings. We were Independent Baptist - usually emphasized as Independent Fundamental Baptist - which meant very conservative. I remember a lot of guidelines/rules about things like not wearing your hair long as a guy, or not wearing pants as a girl. We also weren't really allowed to use a translation other than "God's Standard" King James Version. I'm not necessarily faulting it because there were a lot of benefits for me with that kind of structure. I always knew what I was allowed to do, and what was off limits. Especially for a young believer, it is helpful to have so much structure. The problem was that as I got older, it allowed me to compartmentalize my faith.

There were some significant periods of time in my teenage years where I wasn't really involved in church. If I wanted to "talk religion" it really meant I wanted to argue why my point was better than yours. I saw no issues at the time with sneaking to an abandoned house with my friends to smoke but had HUGE issues with someone who would dare to drink alcohol. It was okay that me and my friends tried weed, but not okay that for me to listen to music if it wasn't a Christian band. I would go "driving" or make out with some girl, and then in the next breath, I would talk about some other girl I liked, or about why they needed to be saved so they didn't go to hell.

There was just this major disconnect where I would say I believed certain things, and would place certain rules on people that I would completely ignore in my own life. There was a disconnect that allowed me to talk about and live two completely different lives. I've grown so much in the past seven-ish years through my marriage, my time at Emmaus as a member, and also serving on staff as a youth pastor. I learn that my life can't be separated out to where my Christian music is here, my regular music is there. My Christian friends hang out with me when I fill in the blank but when I'm with my non-Christian friends we _____. I'm called to be Jesus everywhere I go.
I finished a book yesterday called Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches from Growing by Geoff Surratt. Even though I'm not currently on staff with a church, I know that someday, God may place me back in that role. This book had so many amazing ideas of how a church is supposed to function and how a Christian should live. I highly recommend it to all of you. There was a fantastic paragraph about compartmentalized faith that helped me realize how far I've come. I hope you enjoy it.

The idea that life can be divided into a neat pyramid of priorities is a myth. This idea holds that if we simply arrange our lives according to the formula God first, family second, and ministry third, then everything will flow together smoothly. It's a great theory, but unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. First, God isn't a priority in life; He is life. He isn't more important than your family anymore than air is more important than your shoes. I don't prioritize breathing; I breathe so that I live. If I have to prioritize God, put God into some sort of hierarchical to-do list, I have missed the whole concept of what it means to walk with God. When the apostle Paul spoke to the Athenians on Mars Hill, he said that "in Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28)

I still don't have it right and probably mess up more often than I actually get it right. I am always learning on this journey and hope that we can learn together. It takes a lot of work to keep Jesus at the forefront of everything you do. How do you work to overcome these barriers? Let's keep working on this together!


Whitney said...

Very poignant, Jon. A timely word from the Lord indeed. Thanks for sharing :)

Melissa said...

Agreed - thanks for sharing.