A friendly conservation between me and two pastor friends got awkward when one of them asked, “What happened to you?” No one spoke. We all knew what was behind that question. As an ordained Nazarene pastor, I used to be at the hub of all things Nazarene. The Church of the Nazarene was the center of my life. I’ve preached thousands of times and helped many churches. But that’s in the past. Now I’m an outlier. I attend no preacher meetings. I’ve been told by my district superintendent he cannot trust me to preach in any of his churches. So it’s a fair question. What has happened to me?
I’ll not bore you with the details of my journey. You can read the article I wrote HERE which started me down the outlier’s road. Since then I’ve been pretty open about being an affirming ally for the LGBTQ+ community. And in spite of pressure, I’ve not, and won’t back down from my position. Yes. What in the world has happened to me?
When I heard that question, my mind raced like a super computer searching for the best answer. And then, to my surprise, the answer appeared. I looked at my friend and replied, “When God told me He was bigger than my religion, I believed Him.”
I have a confession. That conversation took place at 4:00 AM this morning while I was sleeping. I awoke from my dream with a start and replayed it over in my mind. I was surprised at how perfectly my answer fit my heart.
I guess it should be no shock that my subconscious articulated the right answer. I clearly remember when God revealed Himself and His unfathomable love. It was a powerful, transforming moment for my own spiritual journey.
Saying that God and His love is bigger than my religion means that He’s:
- bigger than any church Manual.
- bigger than any official theology of the church.
- bigger than any church’s less-than-full inclusion position regarding the LGBTQ+ community.
- bigger than my understanding of the Bible.
- bigger than your understanding of the Bible.
- bigger than the Bible itself.
In 1953, the year I was born, J.B. Phillips wrote “Your God Is Too Small.” How big is your God? Is He bigger than your religion? Or must your God defer to church policy, theology, and politics? Be careful. Your answer might take you on a journey down Outlier Road.
What’s happening to me…
Thank you for giving words to the journey on which I find myself. I’m so thankful to see the Church beyond the pain of having been in church for so long. The courage and conviction with which you stand firm in love is in stark contrast to the staunch position of law that the denomination is holding… almost as if it’s a beautiful rainbow overlaying a stormy sky. I’ll proudly be an outlier if it means I get to love people.