As an ex-Fundamentalist, there are some things that make my jaw drop at my new church. Here is the latest: I am currently a part of a book club. We read one Christian selection per month and gather to discuss everything from favorite quotes, themes, and applications of the book. My first meeting had me in awe. Those of you that are ex-Fundamentalist will understand that the following would NEVER happen in a Fundamentalist church:
1. All are welcome. This included any age and gender, both members and non-members. There were absolutely no rules about attending, including no dress code.
2. The pastor leads the discussion but this is not an opportunity for him to teach or preach to us. I would say that he was speaking maybe 30% of the time with every other person chiming in as they felt they should. No one had to contribute but everyone was welcome. We sat in a circle and the pastor had no pulpit and was seated as well.
3. We discussed some hard topics. Some particular issues, Fundamentalist would never talk about period. Other issues, Fundamentalist would become so divided over that friendships would be at stake if you were to discuss them. Everyone in our book club was very respectful. In fact, there were a number of issues that the pastor agreed to disagree on or he admitted he didn’t have the answer to. I have never heard a Fundamentalist say “I don’t know”.
4. The youngest in the group was girl around 13 or 14. She was very respectful and mannerly. She wasn’t afraid to contribute ideas and she was obviously well educated for her age. She presented an idea that most adult Christians would consider theologically invalid and incorrect. An elderly man gently questioned her line of thinking and she came to the conclusion that perhaps her idea was flawed. Both parties were very respectful. No one else, including the pastor, jumped in to tell her that “children should be seen, not heard” or that she was silly or stupid for presenting that thought. It didn’t appear that she was ashamed to be questioned or found incorrect. She was confident and secure, something rarely seen among Fundamentalist girls.
5. Many of the group were well educated and well traveled, especially the pastor. There were others in the group that were small town folks. Everyone’s ideas were listened to and respected.
It was truly what I felt a Christian gathering should be. Everyone was valued just the same as everyone else. If you walked into that discussion, I am not sure that you would know who the pastor of the church even was. Not because he was “acting like the world” but because he was valuing others and not presenting himself as something different or something special than anyone else.
The pastor did conclude the meeting by suggesting more books to read. These books came from a variety of authors and I don’t know that all of them were even Baptist (gasp!). Again, something that would NEVER happen in a Fundamentalist church.