Someone asked me to write 1000 words on what I wish my pastor had told me. First, I should give you some context. It matters.
I moved around a lot. My dad's job moved us constantly, and I managed to move even more within the moves. So I was in my 10th school by the 10th grade (this one in Switzerland), attended 5 or 6 universities, I've lived in 26 cities or villages, and I'm living in my 42nd home - I lived in 29 cities or villages 6 months or longer, 13 or so places for less than 6 months. I've lived in 19 normal (-ish) houses, 1 Swiss chalet (below), 1 traditional Japanese home, 17 apartments, 1 long-term hotel (2 months), 1 series of hotels (5 months) and 2 dormitories. I was kind of homeless for awhile - not really, but I lived with three sets of friends on and off, while owning two cars. I've owned one house. The one we're in now.
So I've been to a crap-load of churches, and I've had an army of pastors. Baptist ones, Bible ones, Presbyterian ones, non-denominational ones, missionary ones. I've visited jillions more churches, all over the world. I've preached at some of them. Lutheran, Methodist, Church of Christ, Catholic, Chinese 3-self, a Chinese house church of sorts, a charismatic church in the YWCA in Hong Kong, Pentecostal, Anglican, Episcopalian, a church or two in Africa. Churches in beautiful buildings, churches in living rooms, movie theaters, cowboy revivals in tents, churches without walls, churches in warehouses. Churches in French, Chinese, Amharic, Swissgerman, German, Japanese, and tongues. It's a long list. It would be hard to ask all of those pastors to have told me something useful. Eventually, though, I expect that I heard something useful from some of them. That many preachers, sooner or later, someone's gonna say something good. Here's some good stuff. BTW, I'm older. I've got more than most.
Rules are easy. Grace is hard. Don't hear that much.
Salvation for teenagers is not reached by not having sex and not drinking. Neither is salvation manifested by teens who don't have sex and don't drink. Never really hear that one.
Nobody really understands salvation. Now that one, I never heard from anyone.
Everyone understands God and faith through each his own cultural filter. Thus, nobody really understands God or faith. Every now and then, you might hear that one.
Everybody's got some bad theology somewhere that they don't know about, and would get really hacked off about if you were to point it out. Everybody's wrong about something that really matters.
America is not God's chosen nation, and Americans are not God's chosen people. Once or twice, I heard that.
Fighting for our right to be Christian is not very Christian.
God is as upset over the deaths and tragedies that don't make the papers as we are over those that do. 9/11 was as great a tragedy for God as any other tragedy in all of history. No greater. Never heard that one, at least not in the US.
9/11 was not the moment when the rules all changed and everybody in the towers went straight to heaven just because they came to work on the wrong day in the wrong building.
The 10 Commandments are Jewish. The 2 Commandments are Christian. Those are ours. Nothing wrong with the Big 10, but Jesus changed all that.
There are things we believers are supposed to do to manifest our faith. They include believing (duh), and as an outgrowth of that belief, they include loving God, loving others, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and so on. They do not include being right about everything, protesting loudly to protect our rights, finding others to hate (like Muslims, Jews, liberals, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, and so on), and fighting about evolution, Big Bang, abortion, homosexuality, drug use, immorality, pornography, stuff like that. It does include loving those who believe in evolution and Big Bang, those who've had abortions, who are gay, who use drugs or pornography, who are immoral, stuff like that. They include grace, forgiveness, mercy. They don't include revenge, anger, bitterness, lying, destroying reputations, hating. It includes sharing our faith, but not like people selling cars or insurance, but more like people loving other people and finding a way in that context to share one's faith. It includes loving people even when they reject that faith.
Church is supposed to be inclusive. Tends to be exclusive. That's not good. The people we don't feel comfortable seeing at church are the ones God walked in with.
Real, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians have done terrible things. Racism. Slavery. Genocide. Anti-immigration. Consumerism and materialism. Nationalism. Patriotism. Xenophobia. Lynchings. Putting people in camps. Killing people in camps. Exploiting workers. Under-tipping. We try to change them into not-really-Christians retroactively. Tragic. Keeps us from recognizing ourselves in them, which in turn prevents us from seeing the terrible things we might be doing right now as real, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians.
God does not have a wonderful plan for your life. He has a wonderful plan. Get on board, if you want.
It's not about you. It's about God. Your salvation and walk in faith are not your story. It's part of God's story.
God has no interest in keeping you healthy, wealthy, happy and wise. God is not about your comfort. God is not about protecting you from suffering. God is about building the kingdom on earth. Get on board, if you dare.
God does not offer you salvation. He offers us salvation. There's a difference.
It is entirely possible to find God just by looking at his universe. Not all of him. Just the parts he wants us to know about. We'll never have access to all of God.
Once you get ahold of Big Bang, evolution is just details.
There might be more. I forget. This will have to do, even if I might be a few words short.