Margin of Error

“Many of our churches, even though they feel they represent the truth, actually are upholding something that’s distorted and false.”Brian McLaren

We all know that there are not perfect churches.

How do we deal with the tensions that arise from differences in beliefs?
Is polarity necessary?

When I leave a belief system behind (a church or denomination), my actions make a statement about my rejection of that belief system. Some people will allow you to make that change, while others require complete agreement with them in order to maintain relationship.

An old friend from our former church got in touch with us recently. I wonder about the likelihood of re-establishing relationship with someone who believes we are deceived; while at the same time, we believe they are influenced by false teaching.

This is the state of many of our former relationships. It causes the relationship to be at a shallow level, which I find very unsatisfying.

What about people in a system that is distorted and false? What is the margin of error?

Like it or not, you will become influenced by whatever distorted teaching you are under. When there are things you disagree with, what is the tipping point of when you should leave?

Most people will put up with a great deal of distortion as long as they feel it is not directly damaging to them. The positive aspect of this is that it demonstrates commitment and a willingness to extend grace in the process of growth.

Rarely is it possible for a “lay person” to bring significant change. Attempting to is usually an experience of frustration and futility. In my opinion, if you are not at peace with where you are, it is best to either find a way to be happy there or to leave.

We have had people come to us with concerns about what they are being taught at our former church. Ultimately, how much distortion someone is willing to put up with is a very personal decision.

Having experienced the cost of “taking a stand for truth,” I do not want the responsibility of advising someone to make that choice. Even after weighing the price, you will not know the true cost until you have experienced it. I think it is important for anyone who decides to leave a church to know that they are following God.

Our story was much more involved than simply trying to be right. However, it required a difficult choice. Following what we believed cost way more than I expected.

Although I am grateful for all we learned, and we could never go back, knowing what we now know has not been gratifying.

Yesterday, my husband said, “Knowing truth that no one else wants to hear really sucks.” I have to agree.


12 thoughts on “Margin of Error

  1. Wow, your husband nailed it! My wife and I sometimes feel the same frustration. We often talk about the need for people to have “ears to hear”.

    Recently, I was having lunch with someone that I thought was really open to thinking “outside the box”, and I started to passionately share some of my discoveries and thoughts.

    He finally looked at me and said, “Man, I feel like you’re trying to sell me something.” ouch I felt deflated, dejected, and like I had really misrepresented my thoughts. :(

    But I’m trying to let go of that, learn from it, and move on. If I’m brutally honest, I’ll admit that I felt a nudging in my spirit not to say so much to him, but my passion ran right through that nudging. Lesson learned! ;)

    Thanks for your blog, and also for linking the other day to Brother Maynard’s blog. It was refreshing to find yet another voice on the same page with where we’re at!

    steve :)

  2. Until we are ready to admit that truth is always beyond us, a Voice Whom we attempt to follow, rather than a definition we have determined, we have not found Truth; we have merely walked down another road……..

  3. Steve,
    That is part of the frustration of walking in a different direction, the inability to share it with others who aren’t at the same place. It can be lonely at times.

    :) Happy Anniversary BTW, I meant to comment at your place and just didn’t get around to it. You guys look so cute.

    Great point. We should be in an ongoing pursuit of Truth and recognize that our understanding is always partial. In my post, I was referring more specifically to a particular truth, not Truth. Whichever path we find ourselves on, there will be a margin of error in our understanding of Truth.

  4. Were it not for my husband, I’d still be living contentedly (and cluelessly) inside the bubble of the established church. Things were so much easier then and I sometimes wish that my dearly beloved had never opened his big mouth! There’s a fine line between being proud of your spouse for taking a stand on what he believes and wishing he’d just shut up about it. I told him they didn’t want to hear the truth! Now, as a result, we have no job, but worse than that, we have no community. That’s okay…our heads are still above water (barely) and we’re clinging to the truth!

  5. Angela,
    Because we’ve had similar experience, I understand clearly what you are saying. Sometimes we end up in a lose/lose situation, where going forward costs too much, yet going backward is impossible. I pray that your future holds happier times.

    I’m sorry that I sound that way. It certainly wasn’t my intention.

  6. Jim,

    Spend some more time around here, and you’ll “know” Grace much better, and would realize that elitism is just not in her character.

    But thanks for reminding all of us that choosing our words carefully is very important for clear communication.

  7. robby,
    Thanks for defending me. To be honest, I wasn’t happy with the clarity of the post either. Sometimes it’s hard to get across what I’m wanting to say.

    But there’s always another day and another post to try it once again.

  8. Grace, whether you know it or not, you are part of an underground revolution/revival. Keep asking your questions. God is big enough to answer. You are on the right track. The blinders of religious rhetoric are coming off and you will have a much clearer view of Who God really is. Courage to you!!

  9. Grace,
    Sorry, I got off the bus late here….I can totally relate! Many friends within my denomination are put off by any attempts of mine to share something outside the doctrinal circle of influence. I don’t try to persuade them of anything, but just seek to engage them at a level where my spiritual maturity (what I view as truth) and intellectual discourse intersect happily. Some of these are dear friends… up to the point when religious discussion ensues and we each retreat to our corners. I’ve lost a couple of them because of what you described as their beliefs of me being deceived versus my belief of false teaching. Thanks for hitting the nail on the head. And blessings on your approach.

  10. trailady,
    It seems like so many people are examining church and rethinking some things.

    Nice to meet you.
    I’m grateful for the blogosphere where I’ve discovered many friends who are on the same journey.

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