So I know that I have a few series that I have stalled in the middle of, but since the writer’s block is keeping me from regular posting, I thought I would begin a new series telling my story and reflecting on my spiritual formation throughout various seasons of my life. Here’s the first post, in which I explore my foundations.
To say all that I have learned from my parents and how they have shaped me would require far more than a simple post like this. Their influence on my life has been inestimable; they loved me and raised me to know Jesus. This alone is worthy of my deepest thankfulness.
Whatever else my parents might have taught me, I learned one thing very early: God was a very important person. He was important enough that we asked him to bless our every meal; for many years we did family devotions every night. And we went to church all the time.
I was raised in a church that was proud to bear the Fundamentalist name. I realize that I have in my audience both people who call themselves fundamentalists, and those who think of jihad when I use the word. For us, it meant that we were in church every time the doors were open (twice on Sunday plus prayer meeting Wednesday nights). I can’t say that I minded this so much; after all, it was all I knew. Only in retrospect am I able to see how my church experience shaped me into the person I am today.
Fundamentalists do a good job of indoctrination. I’m not necessarily using the word pejoratively. Although I was often taught personal preferences as doctrine, I at least learned that doctrine is important. Although too much emphasis was placed on the KJV, ultimately I learned that Scripture is an authority upon which I can build my life. And while there was an unhelpful emphasis on what I would call “decisional regeneration”, what Christ had objectively done for my salvation was firmly established in my mind.
I am genuinely thankful for the church where I was learned basic Christianity. And I was spared from whatever scars lead some to form Fundamentalism-recovery groups.
What I was not spared from was performance-based Christianity.
From an early age I learned that you put your best foot forward when you go to church; you smile; you wear your Sunday best. As a natural born people-pleaser, I found that the way to please my parents and teachers was to know all of the right answers. So I memorized all the stories and won all of the Scripture memory contests.
Achievement became my identity, both at church and at school, where I received perfect marks, won spelling bees and strove to be regarded as the smartest kid in the class. It would be years before I would learn to live by grace rather than by performance; indeed, it is a lesson I must re-learn every day.
My tendency to people-pleasing and performance is a liability I will struggle with the rest of my life.
Question: Anyone else grow up in fundamentalism? What were the benefits/drawbacks?