Jill brought up a very good point during the sermon on Sunday—sometimes sharing your personal faith story can help people understand the Gospel and learn about Christ. I’ve shared this previously, but here’s the gist of my faith story.
As many of you know, my parents are originally from Romania. After they moved to the US, they attended a Romanian church to be able to keep in touch with friends and family from their native country. Though my family did not hold “fundamentalist” Christian beliefs, many people who attended that Romanian church did. This was the type of church where the preaching focused more about God’s wrath than God’s love, and where there were tons of rules that you were expected to follow, lest you burn in hell for all eternity. It seemed the reach of Christ’s saving embrace was fairly limited, and that one wrong step could lead to the loss of your salvation.
When that church split due to internal arguments and my parents (and I and my siblings by extension) stopped attending, I wasn’t exactly heartbroken. However, as time passed and I got older, I began to feel as if something in my life was lacking. I prayed by myself and with my family, but there was something in my faith life that was still missing. I wondered if I should try attending church again, but quickly dismissed that idea. I knew what churches were like, and I knew the things that they taught about God, and I thought those things were wrong more often than right. That was my experience and no one had ever told me that churches could be different….
…until I went to college. That was the first time I met people who were willing to talk about their faith (other than in the context of telling me I was going to hell if I didn’t go to THEIR church and ascribe to THEIR particular beliefs about God). Because of this, I was eventually able to find a new church that taught about God differently. A church founded on the teachings of scripture—the teachings of Christ, where the services were created and lead by people who had studied church history, theology, and scripture. A church that shared a common form of worship with churches across the country and the whole world. I found the Episcopal Church.
And I never would have found the Episcopal Church if it weren’t for people willing to share their faith stories with me. I would have never found a church in which I wasn’t expected to accept every word out of the preacher’s mouth as the direct word of God. A church that was rooted in tradition, and not based off of the personality of whatever particular minister happened to be serving. A church in which people are allowed to disagree with each other about matters of faith, yet still be able to worship together as part of the same church family. A church in which I was encouraged to learn and explore my beliefs and deepen my faith as part of a community.
I don’t share this story to endorse the Episcopal Church (though I do! It’s great!). I share this story to emphasize the importance of sharing our faith with others, so that people who have felt they are not able to worship Christ in community will know that there isn’t just one kind of church—that there is a church that exists that will help them grow spiritually and deepen their faith, even if that church isn’t the Episcopal Church.
As followers of Christ, we are to help bring others into the reach of his saving embrace, and to not just passively welcome, but actively invite others into the body of Christ. Who could benefit from hearing our faith stories? How many people in the world are longing to find a faith family in which they feel they can belong? What can we do to share Christ with others?
What’s YOUR faith story?