I'm a Naz-been

A few weeks ago, my cousin and friend, Karissa wrote a very insightful blog post regarding being a "Naz-been," or a former (recovering?) member of the Nazarene denomination.  She specifically spoke of the guilt associated with her growing up in the Nazarene church.  I agree with both her fondness of the church and her feelings of guilt.  However, I would say that my association with the church growing up was primarily one of fear.

I do not think that this atmosphere of fear was intentional, but it was there (at least for me) nevertheless. Because the Nazarene church theologically opposes the "Once Saved, Always Saved" doctrine taught by Calvinist churches, there was a lot of talk about "losing" your salvation.  Because of this, there was a great deal of fear that I might sin and not be saved anymore.  I was so fearful that I might die or Jesus might come back before I had asked for forgiveness for something and then I would go to hell.

I do not think that is the intent of Nazarene theology, nor do I think it was the intent of the Sunday School teachers and leaders at my church.  It was, however, a side effect.  I now understand theology more fully and I realize that the Nazarene theology does not imply that you can lose your salvation like you lose your keys.  But that is a big concept for a little kid.

And then it got worse - enter "End Times" teaching.  Be still, my anxious heart!  A Sunday School teacher decided that young children (about 4th grade) were ready to learn about Eschatology.  (Note to those wondering - children are NOT ready for that kind of stuff!)  This only increased my anxiety and fear as I worried that I might have to live through a "tribulation."  It affected me so greatly that one of my strongest memories of childhood is the inability to sleep.  My parents had many long nights with me, too anxious and fearful to go to sleep.

Legalistic teaching only further added to the anxiety.  Things that aren't actually sins (I realized as I got older) were taught as being sinful, which meant that I became a very good little Pharisee.  I shudder to think of the things I said to my friends and non-friends in high school thinking I was being a good "witness."  But I digress.

I think it was several things that led me away from the Nazarene church.  The fear + legalism was definitely a part of it, but it was also my theology classes at the Nazarene university that I attended.  (Let me explain.)  In these theology classes, I learned that the Church (big C) was much bigger than the little church (little C) that I grew up in.  I began to see the Church on a more grand scale.  I, along with many that I went to college with, became drawn to the liturgy and seriousness of non-evangelical denominations such as Catholic and Episcopal churches.  Since then I've attended a variety of churches, including some Nazarene churches and some "rock-n-roll" churches and I've found that God can be found at all of them.  Well-meaning Christian people are at every type of church, doing their best to serve God to the best of their ability and understanding.

I now attend a church whose focus is on Biblical teaching and making a difference in the community.  I'm praying I can balance teaching my child Biblical truth without creating an atmosphere of fear or anxiety.  Thankfully I have a godly husband who will take the lead on that one!


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