Q & R: Stay or Go?

Here’s the Q:

I’m not sure that this is the right email address to be reaching you. Hopefully, through the magic of the internet this will somehow get onto your computer screen.
Today, or rather this evening, I am writing simply for advice—some sort of guidance in response to a few of your FAQs at the end of a NKOCy.
First, let me introduce myself. I’m XXX … I’m 20-something and from Los Angeles, California by way of [the midwest]. I’ll also begin this by saying that I’m a friend of Brian Murphy’s, who you just profiled in your blog re: his organization, Sanctuary Collective. I’m so excited that you are promoting what he’s doing. I love his mission and vision, and it’s incredible to see folk like yourself making his vision grow.
Secondly, I’d like to apologize for my rambling. I will try to make this poignant but concise, though I think I’m already anticipating my failure at being concise.
I digress. The past few months have been so strange—a new little bump on the road on a journey that’s been 3 years in the making now. Let me explain. I started attending a church in [so-cal] in 2007, right after I graduated from college. I had been off and on attending a very very pentecostal church for a few months, but my new roommate invited me to her church. Long story short, I fell in love with this church. The music. The people. The messages. It seemed as though every word was tailored to me. It was the perfect place for me, and so I started getting involved—really as much as I could. I joined a men’s small group. I started volunteering on the prayer team. I became a cabin leader for our retreats. This was all new to me, so I kind of just dived in. Three years later, I’m doing much of the same things. I’m singing on our music team. I’m helping put together promotional videos to invite people to serve across the city. I’m planning our outreach events. And now I’m leading a small group.
I’m sure you’ve heard this story before, so I won’t bore you with excessive details.
But that’s where I am now. At a great place. With great people. Who are doing, by and large, great things.
However, I’m finding I just don’t believe the same things that every one else does. And it’s driving me crazy (perhaps not literally, though sometimes).
In my journey, I’ve spanned the gamut of doctrinal beliefs. For a minute, I was very fundamentalist. Then, my friend introduced me to Catholicism. My family is more or less some flavor of Christian. I’ve, of course, had my fair share of Evangelical land, which is where I am now. I jumped over to Pentecostalism for awhile since music seems to speak to me more than anything else.
So that brings us to now. I’m at a place where my beliefs are in a very strange place. I’ve read. I’ve studied. I’ve prayed and (I think) been open to answers. I’m by no means a scholar, but I try. I took one class at [a local] seminary, but found it to be far too stuffy for my liking. And after those years of searching, I’ve arrived at a place that’s very different from friends of mine. I don’t know that I believe in a physical hell. I don’t know that I believe in the devil because the idea just doesn’t make sense. I have a wide-open, universalist view of salvation because I feel like I see God’s beauty in all sorts of different folks. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, but I don’t know how I feel about the idea of atonement.
I could go on and on.
So my question arises: how do I take this into my church? I’m faced with a church who has very staunch beliefs on certain things, and I’m called to lead people in those beliefs. I don’t feel like I can in my right mind or right conscience lead a group or even be involved with a church who believes a lot of these things. I know you have said be a good servant of the church and do your best there…and I’m doing that, but I feel like I don’t know that I can anymore. With each day, I disagree more and more. With each new sermon on generosity, I see the church buying new HD projectors. With each question that I ask, I get told to worry more about how I can serve my local church rather than understand these big questions better.
Again, I could go on and on.
Then, at the same time, I’m faced with the situation of burning a lot of bridges should I decide to leave. I have a lot of friends who I’ve made at this church. Pastors have, in some way, mentored me and helped me understand this world a little bit better. It really is one of my core foundations. They’ve been such a blessing to me in my life (I think) that it would be hard for me to say goodbye. Though I might not ever have to say “goodbye,” I sometimes worry that that’s the case.
There is obviously a lot of my story that I’m leaving out, and much of it probably informs where I am at now. But for time’s sake, I’m omitting it for now. I have great respect for you and your ideas. And right now, I’m asking and inviting you for your advice. Please help.

Reply after the jump.

R: Thanks for your note. As I explained in the book, I’d encourage you to stay and seek to be a blessing in your church if at all possible. Don’t make your different viewpoints an issue of contention; just hold them privately and share them appropriately with trusted friends who can handle them. There could come a point where a) you feel that ongoing participation is bad for your own spiritual health, b) you feel you can’t bring a friend there in good conscience, or c) you feel your presence could be disruptive to the congregation. If that happens, my general recommendation is to meet with the appropriate leaders and humbly, gently share your predicament. Let them know you don’t want to be a problem, and that you’ll be glad to move along if they think it’s best. If they suggest you move along, then be sure to say thank you for all they’ve meant to you, and leave with a blessing – not burning bridges. I go into this in some more detail in the book, but ultimately, I think this is one of those matters for spiritual discernment. It’s not just a question of staying or going, but of timing, and of holding a gracious spirit or attitude, and of making the most of each learning opportunity through the whole process. May God guide you, and may you know you are not alone.