I sat in a membership class at a church–not planning to become a member, but it’s a good way to figure out what they are really thinking. A lot comes out in membership classes that aren’t discussed on Sunday mornings.

And this class was on church community… and church discipline. I was expecting to be guarded. I wasn’t expecting the leader to begin by making a list of all the things we hold dear (family, friends, God, etc) and then reordering them so that there was a cross (to represent Jesus) in the middle and all the other things (family, friends, etc) around it. And I realized what went most terribly wrong: when Jesus and a church group or doctrine are too closely combined and Jesus/church becomes the nucleus of your life and most of your friends, family, etc, are in that church too… when something goes wrong in that church it doesn’t just make you redirect and refocus on Jesus. It blows your world apart.

I started shaking. I couldn’t stop. I don’t think I was shaking had enough for others to notice… at least I hope. But then there was the second ‘hit’… church discipline. And I started shaking harder. Nothing was said that raised any red flags; there were actually things said that were surprisingly healthy. I also suspect that there were things not said, but that could be more my lack of trust in anyone or any entity that says those words.

Everyone disappeared afterward, so I am OK. But the idea that it wasn’t just that church fell apart, but that my world was shattered when I left… that is both helpful and frightening. Too many churches end up being the center of people’s lives along with Jesus. And that’s not good. Not good at all.