One man’s perspective on what it means to be the church
By Josh Paulus
My name is Joshua Paulus, and I am 25 years old. I believe in Jesus Christ. I am prone to sin. I prefer coffee over tea. I don’t like going to church.
Friends, acquaintances and family members have expressed that there is a bit of a paradox in claiming to be a Christian while having objections to the church. They are 100 percent accurate; however, the church that they are speaking of and the church that I have experienced are two different places. To qualify, this is based on my experiences. I do not claim to know the exact state of all churches in existence. This is only one man’s perspective based on experiences within a church building and church-based communities.
My opinions are based on three things that I believe about humanity and Christianity. First, I believe that we are called to love one another. Two, we will sin. Three, sin does not want to be discovered. Sin does not want to be seen, acknowledged or found.
I don’t like to talk about the things I have done. It’s usually embarrassing. I have had two responses from people when trying to express my doubt, struggles, sin, etc. The first response usually results in a long discussion over coffee where the other person asks a lot of questions. The second usually results in a short conversation where the other person makes a lot of statements about me, my future and my post-death lodging situation.
We are prone to tell people black and white statements regarding current issues, personal struggles and their thoughts and activities. Why? It’s easy. It’s quick. You don’t need to invest anything into the situation. Your hands are clean.
Some very amazing men that I knew when I was in high school invited me to spend an evening with them. They had discovered that I had been physically abusing myself. When I came to the house, I was led to the living room where a chair sat in the middle of the room. They asked me to sit down. They sat in a circle around me.
Two things happened. First, each person took turns speaking truth and affirmation. They told me what they saw in me as a person, things they enjoyed about me, etc. The second thing that happened was they asked me if I would be willing to vocalize why this was happening. Not once did they tell me to stop. Not once did I feel judged. This was the beginning of a long process, but it was pivotal.
This was church. This was healing. This was love.
My experiences post-high school have not been as welcoming. We have fostered a church experience that makes a mold for how Christians should act, and we have no problem telling people that they don’t fit. Why don’t I like going to church? Because people have no problem telling me why I don’t belong and why others don’t belong.
Here is my conclusion. Every last human being on Earth is unique. We all have a very interesting story. Our stories are personal, and the church has done a marvelous job of telling people that their story is wrong, sinful and not welcome. If we are sheep being led by the shepherd, then I am as fearful of the sheep that acts like a wolf as the wolf in sheep’s clothes.
Joshua Paulus lives in Newton, Kan, and received his bachelor’s degree from Tabor College, the Mennonite Brethren college in Hillsboro, Kan, and his master’s at Emporia State Univeristy.