It all began by chance, if you believe in chance, over a year ago. I was in the print shop of our church and looked in the trash and saw a copy of The Examiner lying on the top of the heap. As I picked it up, I asked the printer what it was about and he said that it was a paper that some nut published. He said that you used to be an anti and that you had some particular axe to grind. I must say, that is some axe that you are grinding. The things that I read frightened me because I had been thinking them for some time but thought that I must be crazy because I had heard no one else saying anything even similar.
I grew up in what you call the "Church of Christ church." I learned all of the dogma of our denomination and even though I questioned some of those teachings (how could I be fortunate enough to be born in the one true church, etc.). I found that I could not allow myself to think, even for one moment, that my family had been wrong. I went to a Christian college, where I learned to drink and use drugs. I attended a school of preaching where I learned to defend the faith. And yet, in all of that I found myself feeling a certain amount of discomfort with the things that I had been taught to believe.
After finishing at the school of preaching, I got my first "preaching job" and being very naive, I was excited at the prospect of getting about the business of preaching the gospel to those who were lost. In my naivity, I began to pick up children on the bus to bring them to church who were not cute little white children. The elders (who controlled the church institution) told me to stop picking up "the little nigger kids." I was fired. I supported my family by working in a sawmill. I should have stayed there. Even though I stayed out of the full-time, supported ministry for a number of years, I felt the call (Southern Bell) again in 1984. That lasted all of two years.
Then I came to Gainesville, Florida to train for the ministry at the Crossroads Church of Christ in 1986. The thought that my failures of the past were a result of my lack of training prompted me to return to my hometown and received the promised training. What an empty promise it turned out to be. After three years, I can tell you that all of the horrors that you describe in institutional churches, were and are, personified in the discipling ministries. I suppose ! respect the Crossroads/Boston brothers, they only do what the main-line churches have always taught but never practiced. They are honest and will tell you that they expect others to submit to their authority. I appreciated that.
I love the brothers here, especially those who are to remain under the authority structure of the institutional church, but this is it. I have come to the point where I can no longer "speak the truth in love." The leaders, who are over me and sign my check, have made it plain that I can no longer speak my convictions and remain on the staff. I am not sure that I agree with your position that being supported by the church is wrong, but I am finding it increasingly difficult to think that I will ever again find it in my heart to be dependent on the "church" for my support. Few are willing to pay you for speaking the truth.
It is sad, that so many have bought into the idea that they are not permitted to think for themselves, that some authority figure has the responsibility to do that for them. It is said because most, if not all, will then cease to accept the responsibility for the direction of their own lives and their personal response to the gospel message. It is sad because I have personally been so busy being religious that I have not had time to be a Christian. I have suffered, as well as my wife and children, and I am just now beginning to see the folly of trusting and relying on men, rather than the crucified and risen Lord.
I repent! That is to say, that my letter of resignation will be handed to the elders tomorrow morning. That is not so noble, I would have been fired. I am not really bitter as much as I am hurt that I allowed myself to fall into the trap of institutionalism. The men who were "over" me are good men, I am trying to separate them from the institution. I even believe they love me and I certainly love them. But the thing about the institution is that it must be preserved AT ALL COSTS. I do not believe that there are any exceptions.
I am not feeling that I must now pick up the pieces and get on with my life, instead I feel as though my life is just now beginning. I am 36 years old and I finally feel free.
Thank you for being a nut with an axe to grind. Not to say that this letter is particularly enlightening, but if you decide to use it in print, use my name. I have no fear now! Gordon Dasher