I become a sermon illustration

September 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm 15 comments

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):

Hi N.,

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.



Entry filed under: doubt, evangelicalism, friendships, fundamentalism, leaving.

rending conservative people supernatural beliefs

15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sabio Lantz  |  September 2, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    @attr — Just curious — Why did you write this post? Is this to cover your tracts because some of those people who heard the sermon are reading this blog? Who is this addressed to? Sorry if I am a bit dense. Thanx.

  • 2. LeavingReligion  |  September 2, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Wow… that would definitely be strange to be used in a sermon (as you put it, embarrassing and yet, feeling honored). I remember years ago when my youth pastor used examples such as this, and I’d think… who is this person he’s talking about, and how could they have questioned it all AND left.

    Now, I’m one of those people.

    Nice to find your blog… really enjoying it!

  • 3. atimetorend  |  September 2, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Sabio, I edited up the post a bit for clarification. The letter was addressed to a pastor at a different church than the one I attended. Could you please re-read to check for clarity? No tracks being covered, honest! :^)

    LR: Thanks! Funny how we change, and how foreign our beliefs can seem looking back.

  • 4. atimetorend  |  September 2, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    @Sabio: The point of the post is to show I was treated well by those I left behind, because sometimes people think the difficulty I have had with faith and the church means inherently that I look down on those I left at the church. As well as to show people why I left. And to show that there are Christians out there that are very respectful and honest about working through difficulties with the bible, no matter what you believe. And also because of the oddity of being a sermon illustration.

    Is there any questionable motive you see in posting it? Seriously, feel free to tell me if you do. Just wondering at your question.

  • 5. Temaskian  |  September 2, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s healthy to be able to see things from both sides of the fence. I envy people who see from only one side of the fence; they get to be themselves one hundred percent.

  • 6. Sabio Lantz  |  September 2, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    In my view of self, there is not “real you” — thus, “being yourself” only means being a certain self. But I get what you mean. But I guess one could see both sides of a position but not be worried about what others think to a high degree and be free in that sense. But being worried about non-redemptive pain or attacking is different about worrying about being judged. Oh how complicated it gets !

  • 7. Temaskian  |  September 2, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    I’m probably used as a sermon illustration too. I know it. I’m just good material. A wonderful anecdote. I think preaching a sermon is a little something like blogging. You have to find something to talk about in order to connect with the audience.

  • 8. Temaskian  |  September 2, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    It’s indeed complicated. The truth is more complicated than fiction. Life used to be so easy when it was all just about love and Jesus.

    “But being worried about non-redemptive pain or attacking is different about worrying about being judged.”

    Don’t really understand this phrase. Perhaps you could expand a little.

    I like the idea that there is no “real you”, and seeing both sides and yet not being worried. If only I could acheive that.

  • 9. Sabio Lantz  |  September 2, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    I agree with you Temaskian.

    Some people brag, “I don’t care what others think” — as if to show they have enough self-worth they can act as they please and not worry about belittlement. But on the other hand, our actions can outright hurt others in an aggressive, unsolicited way and without being any benefit whatsoever to that person. For instance, sometimes I could tell someone their zipper is down, it may embarrass them for a moment (a little hurt) but it saves them greater embarrassment in the long run for which they are thankful in fairly short order.

    So, don’t use “I don’t care what others think, I want to be myself” as an excuse to hurt others who don’t deserve it.

    Is that clearer — kind of common sense and boring, sorry.

  • 10. Temaskian  |  September 2, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Ok, thanks. I get what you were trying to say.

  • 11. Lorena  |  September 3, 2009 at 12:33 am

    I totally understand why you wrote the post, ATTR. I recently wrote a post explaining that people aren’t the real reason why I left, and I am sure that’s what you were trying to convey, business-like and politely so.

    it is important that Christians know and understand that. That our issues with the faith are much more profound than just the fallible humans who attend the church.

    Nice letter. Excellent letter.

  • 12. Zedge  |  September 15, 2009 at 11:13 am

    I have a short post called Tangled Web, that goes to the question of why the the church could not answer your questions. I would not presume to post it in your comments but, if you would like to read it, you can find it here:


  • 13. Zedge  |  September 15, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Sorry but the post page says I can use an href HTML tag then, dropped the hypertext completely! I guess you will have to copy and paste:
    I wonder why it doesn’t work. has anyone ever used any markup language in their comments on your site; that you know of?

  • 14. atimetorend  |  September 15, 2009 at 11:28 am

    thanks zedge, I’ll check it out.

    The href thing seems to be a wordpress problem as best as I can tell, the other tags seem to work.

  • 15. Zedge  |  September 15, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Never mind! It seems that it is a WYSYWIG compiler; you don’t have to type out the code. You just type the address and it compiles the code for you! cool! I think they should explain that. It’s like they assume that you don’t know HTML. People that do, would automatically type the code and that doesn’t even show up. ;p

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