Yesterday I got to Pennsylvania and found this note in my inbox from a â€˜Senior Pastorâ€™ in North Carolina:
So tragic that heresy can look repectable (sic)* on the web. Your thots (sic) disagree with scripture, church history, the expression of the church on any continent of the world, and the thots (sic) of any great Christian thinker thru the ages. Wake up Wayne, your (sic) deluded – I pity you.
Such emails make me incredibly sad. No doubt, something Iâ€™ve written has caused him some pain. I donâ€™t know how in his case, but often when I get letters like this, it is because those that pastors like him feel responsible for are passing out some of my articles to others that are creating some disaffection from the institution he manages. Sometimes people do that innocently and with Godâ€™s leading, at other times people do it in a way that is divisive.
Either way, I never rejoice in the pain my words cause others, unless it leads them to a greater joy and freedom. I know how threatening my thoughts can be to those who think they have the only expression of church life that God sanctions in the world. Theirs is a darker prison, unfortunately, and I always hope to write something that might put a crack in the door to a brighter world. Hereâ€™s how I responded to this one:
“Iâ€™m so blessed you had the courage to write me with things you are obviously very passionate about. And believe me, I understand your concerns. A number of years ago I would have even shared some of them. Iâ€™m not exactly sure what your labeling as â€˜heresyâ€™ from my site. I doubt it is Fatherâ€™s great affection for his children and his desire to transform us into the image of his Son. Could it be the fact that I embrace many expressions of church life as the Spirit would lead people? I do have a shelf full of books that suggest many others have struggled with similar concerns down through the centuries, and I have visited Christians in many countries where they live in a relational demonstration of community that expresses the truth and the power of the Scriptures. You could look at China alone to see what God can do in alternative expressions of congregational life.
So, I know we see this differently. And if my deluded soul needs to awaken, youâ€™re welcome to pray to that end. I think Jesus is quite capable of taking care of that, if need be. But I already feel as if I have awaken from the rigidity of human effort to the reality of abiding in the vine that has significantly transformed me in ways I only pretended in the past. In every way I have more life in him, more shared life with other believers and more engagement with a lost world than I ever thought possible in this age. Iâ€™m not about to go back on that…”
*sic – thus or so, used within brackets to indicate that what precedes is written intentionally or is copied verbatim from the original, even if it appears to be a mistake.