Leonard: Do you have baggage from a past Church experience? | VailDaily.com

Leonard: Do you have baggage from a past Church experience?

Because of the nature of my role as a chaplain and pastor, once people find out what I do I get a variety of responses. Unfortunately, the responses are sometimes negative and the conversation goes like this:

“I went to church when I was growing up/ in college/ a few years ago but I couldn’t believe their stance on (fill in the blank).”

“The priest/pastor/minister/reverend got caught (fill in the blank).”

“The private Christian/Catholic school I went to had the meanest teachers who (fill in the blank).”

“Every time I went to church it seemed like they were asking for money for (fill in the blank).”

I’ve heard it all and it makes me sad when I end up being the one to try to defend a situation that I probably would’ve felt the same way about.  Sometimes, even with only one side of the story and a general understanding of the situation, I have a general idea of what happened and can help explain why the certain teacher/church/Christian said or did the particular things that left a bad taste in someone’s mouth.

What’s your baggage?

What about you?  Are you carrying any baggage from a past church experience? In all seriousness, I’d love to hear from you.

After talking with many friends about this I’ve come to find out that people want to learn more about God, want to reconnect with the lord, want to sing those songs they grew up singing with their parents, but they are understandably timid about walking into a church on Sunday morning for fear of what it will be like. 

And I get that. It makes total sense. If you’ve ever had a relationship go bad, you probably waited a good while before you felt ready to start dating again. 

Get a second opinion

I read a book called “The Jesus I Never Knew” by Philip Yancey many years ago. In it, he talked about how so many people get turned off to Christianity (by people or circumstances) before they ever meet Jesus. 

And while they have so many questions and are trying to figure life out, the very people who are in positions to answer those questions and walk through the issues with them, they avoid. Again, I get it. It makes total sense. 

What I want to do with this column is to encourage anyone in that position to not throw out the baby with the bath water. If you’ve ever had a doctor give you some significant bad news, you probably went and got a second opinion (and maybe even a third). 

You didn’t write off all doctors and tried to go it alone. Similarly, if you have some “baggage,” I’d love to encourage you to get a “second opinion” and re-open some of those doors that you have shut. 

I know it can be hard but also know it can be very refreshing. I’ve become friends with most of the pastors in the Vail Valley through the Vail Pastors Network and they are great men who would love to hear from you or reconnect with you.

While on a road trip a year or so ago I saw a billboard that said, “Come Home.” It was an advertisement for a church and it really struck a chord with me. 

I thought about the church I grew up going to in San Antonio in the ’80s.  While I disagree with a few things they teach/ believe, I remember the last time I was there, probably 8-10 years ago: faces I hadn’t seen in a decade or so, the rooms I went to Sunday school in, the gym I used to shoot baskets in (when I “went to the bathroom” during the service), the pipe organ (who has a pipe organ anymore?), and some of the traditional hymns that I hadn’t heard or sung in what seemed like forever. 

These were the walls that God used to shape me, to instill in me a desire to know him and make him known. I literally got tears in my eyes, something that my wife says isn’t that hard to do because I can tear up at a good commercial, just connecting with God in that church. 

So … what, if anything, is keeping you from coming home?

I’d truly love to hear and maybe even help you find your way past the issues and baggage. I can promise you that it’s worth it and promise to not judge you (which seems to bring a lot of baggage). 

If you ever saw the early ’90s movie “What About Bob?” with Bill Murray, you’ll remember that his counselor told him to take some baby steps. 

Go for it. Take some baby steps. The slogan for the organization where I work, Search, is “Helping adults take a next step towards God.” Holler at me if I can help.  I’d love to hear your story.

Scott Leonard is the area director for Search Vail Valley. You can reach him at scott.leonard@searchmail.org.