As mentioned Monday, my friend Melinda and I are starting a new series for those of us who always seem to be at odds with the established norms and accepted answers in the Christian community. Today I want to introduce you to Melinda. After you read her brief faith biography, take the opportunity to ask her some questions about her faith, her status as a church rebel, and her secret crush on Mark Driscoll. And after you read Melinda’s bio here, head on over to her blog to read mine!
BRIEFLY describe your church history.
Catholic church to Baptist church as a kid. Adolescence had the Christian Reformed high school, followed by the conservative Bible college… and now I’m back at the Baptist church, with the occasional Mass during Lent or Advent. My missions experiences have been with people who believe in and have seen a whole host of things my Bible College says don’t exist anymore. My attempt to make sense of it all is my stacks of books– the saints and the mystics and the emergent conversers and the theologians we’ve swept under our rugs.
What was the first time you questioned what you were told by a church leader?
Seventh grade. My pastor and I spent an hour debating prayer: does “prayer change things” or does prayer just change us? If the former, I needed a better definition of Sovereignty; if the latter (which he affirmed), I was confused by Bible stories that seemed to contradict that… and pissed because the bumper stickers had lied to me.
When did you first realize you were a church rebel?
13– it’s all the little things, right? I remember being 13 and my youth pastor reading some Bible passage that mentioned a word I didn’t know. I raised my hand and asked him what it was, and he said not to worry about it– that it wasn’t important. I told him that was crap, that if it was in the Bible and he wanted us to read the Bible, we had to know what it actually meant. He said not every single word was actually important. I was possibly a pain in the ass, but it was rooted in this “church rebel” idea (and my fellow youth group kids had the same question, but no one else was asking).
What is the most frustrating experience you have had as a church rebel?
In high school, a particular Bible teacher didn’t like me (my non-Reformed friends and I had organized a united front against 5 pt Calvinism and this “teaching students to question his authority” didn’t go over well)… upon seeing me in the hall one day, he left his class to holler to me that I was dangerous and at risk of becoming a false teacher, so I’d better be very careful. It was the only time he’d ever spoken to me (never even had him for class), and it was not the beginning of a friendship.
What is the most encouraging experience you’ve had as a church rebel?
There was this one time when a friend, who happened to be an authority figure, told me that I should see this innate call to question, not as some angsty desire to cause trouble, but as a tool for building better community and discarding systems we follow just “because we’ve always done it that way.” She told me it was ok and oftentimes quite necessary to look at things and ask “why”… and keep asking until there was an answer that satisfied. Hello, freedom from all sorts of guilt and crap I hadn’t realized I’d been carrying.
How has your current church handled your “rebel” personality?
My pastor and I disagree on doctrinal issues, but rather than trying to “fix me,” he invests his time and energy in helping me love Jesus better, even though that looks different in our respective lives. While our discussions can get passionate, I’ve never felt belittled, attacked (from the pulpit or in person), controlled or squelched at my church; on the contrary, my church leaders have been some of my biggest advocates, and have always encouraged me to pursue my questions. We have lots of honesty, lots of grace and lots of humility in our conversations