Verse by verse. Chapter by chapter. Book by book. –Calvary Chapel
I grew up in a church in rural California. What this means is every Sunday we went to church. We participated in a variety of “ministries” to support the church. I attended youth group Bible study and, later, college Bible study. I helped with worship team set up. My parents made copies of the services on audio tapes and sold shirts on behalf of the church (tape ministry and shirt ministry). For a number of years, we hosted home prayer meetings and Bible studies. We rubbed elbows with various church leaders and influencers. The church was an extension of my family to whom I was to go with every issue and question I had.
I grew up in the church.
It was very important to our community that we all live in a Christ-centered manner with our ears ever pressed upon the murmurs of the Holy Spirit. We asserted, if not so blatantly, that we were one of few truly Bible centered, Christ focused, and biblically sound churches left in the world. We were the Acts church! The church of the New Testament! Christ was our centerpiece, but Moses was our model.
Who we were in reality–in practice–was (and remains) far from any resemblance of a biblically centered or Christ centered church. It was our boast to proclaim that we studied the Bible “verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book” (Calvary Chapel), and we did go through the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, but to call it studying is only marginally true. For all our high mindedness of Scripture, we never really gave the bible an opportunity to speak. We were eisegetical in our approach. We read into scripture the things we wanted out of it. We threw out the entire literary approach to the Bible and approached it in the vein of Charles Finney–we approached the text as lawyers reading a law book. As a result, we became legalistic and insistent that our understanding of religious law be made the law of the land in order to save the world for Jesus. We walked with some of the earliest evangelicals to initiate the raging culture wars being fought today.
Our leadership, our pastor and his inner circle, asserted that we held the real and true, Holy Spirit inspired, understanding of the Bible, and as a child, I believed them. Right knowledge of the scriptures along with a prerequisite magical prayer inviting Jesus into one’s heart, assured our place in heaven and our superiority as God’s children on the earth.
Over the next few months, I am going to share my story. I am going to name names. I am going to share how divine intervention rescued me from a cult of personality and led me on a path to deconstruct the lies of my pastor and his church, spend over a decade in deep theological study that was both spiritual and scholarly, and how I came to save myself from becoming what they meant for me to be.
This project will not just be a work of essays but will incorporate various forms of art and media to convey my story. This work will be linked together using the “Valley of Shadows” category and tag.
I don’t expect this project to go smoothly, but after nearly twenty years, it is time to tell my story.
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