I become a sermon illustration
A little while back I found out I had been used as a sermon illustration by a pastor I had recently become friends with (a pastor at a different church than the one I attended). Quite a surprise ! I was able to download the sermon to see what it was about.
His sermon generally spoke of being friends with someone who questions the bible, being gracious and understanding, really listening and respecting. It was a good message. I had previously met with this person while still in the process of leaving my old church and had spoken about some of the difficulties I had working through things there. The part where I came in was to illustrate how someone can be ostracized by Christians when they voice their questions.
The illustration needed a bit of clarification about how people treated me at the old church. I was afraid the pastor (at the new church) believed people had treated me badly at our old church (they had not). I tried to clear things up by sending the email below (minimally edited, and names have been changed):
I heard through the grapevine that I was an illustration in a recent sermon of yours, which I just downloaded. On one hand, it is a bit embarrassing to be a sermon illustration, but on the other hand I’m honored, and deeply appreciate the way you care about these issues. And to be sure I have no objection with what you said in the sermon, you did an excellent job of conveying the need for compassion and care.
But after listening to your sermon, I do want to clear up something which I believe I miscommunicated to you, because I don’t want to misrepresent the church I just am leaving (Conservative Evangelical Church) by making it seem I was ostracized by them. The members of Conservative Evangelical Church do respect believers who question the faith, just as you taught in your sermon, and showed me nothing but love and charity. Working through my understanding of the bible there was difficult for me because in general the people there lack a framework to deal with those who question the bible.
I recently had a conversation with my pastor [at my old church]. He didn’t seem to be able to engage the questions I had, though I think tried to. For whatever reason, he couldn’t answer a question I thought was straightforward with a “yes” or “no,” it seemed to me he was dancing around the issue.
So while *feeling* ostracized, it has been more of a functional separation than an unwillingness of people to want to care for me. I wasn’t kicked out, but there doesn’t seem to be room there theologically for questions about the inerrancy of the bible. I see it as something built in to the fundamentalist/inerrantist view of the bible that prevents people from engaging in those kinds of questions, other than to seek to reinforce their own perspective. On top of that, there were certain dynamics in my relationship with my wife, and her relationship with the church, which certainly compounded those problems. And on top of that, I am sure my own anxiety and discomfort working though this whole process has contributed significantly.
Again, I have no problem with the sermon illustration personally. I just want to clear up any misconception I may have caused about Conservative Evangelical Church. Thanks for taking the time to read all this.