In light of The Nashville Statement, in which a group of Southern Baptist preachers (men, of course) reiterated their deeply held beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman, and sex is determined at birth, I thought it would be helpful to understand a bit more about Southern Evangelical churches and how they operate.
When you “sign up”, make sure you are committed to tithing ten percent of your income to the church. You cannot prosper if you are not following the teachings of the Bible and turning over this large portion of your money to the general fund. (This does not include raising money for the new sanctuary, missions, or any other extras.)
My grandfather founded a small, Independent Baptist Church many years ago. My grandmother was the church’s treasurer for fifty years – until she was removed from her post by a pastor who could not handle having a woman in the position. Women are not valued, not allowed, to be contributors to the church in higher capacities; they are only allowed to be Sunday School teachers, childcare givers, and decorators.
Most evangelical churches are run by a board of white men (Board of Elders) rather than by the church as a whole. These men are usually referred to as “deacons”, and they make all the decisions, voting on business issues, salaries, the state of the church, etc. They form special committees for pastoral searches and other unusual circumstances.
If something bad happens to you, the reaction to it will depend upon your status within the church. A regular person with bad health or a death in the family is being tested by God. She should trust in Him to see her through it. If things do not improve, she may be called upon to reaffirm her faith, because that is the only reason things would not be getting better. If you sin, but in an acceptable manner (think Coach Hugh Freeze), other Christians will make a big deal about not judging you or your situation, but will pray for you; Satan is trying to battle for your soul, but God will win in the end. Finally, if you are gay, have had an abortion, or committed any other “irredeemable” act, God is just punishing you, so you are out of luck and most likely will be pushed out.
The bigger evangelical mega-churches have become all inclusive and encompassing. The church family becomes all of your friends. They have childcare, schools, homeschooling resources, sports, and encourage all activities through the church, even Halloween and other holiday celebrations. This is to avoid the temptations of the world.
Unfortunately all of this has led to a complete flip of the original intent of Christianity – to spread the gospel – and become an isolation from the rest of the world. It is viewed as fighting a war against Satan in the world. These people cannot evangelize. Or when they do, it’s completely overt and uncomfortable. They don’t “live among the people” like Jesus did. The people they are constantly around have become fake and put on airs. It’s like the Facebook version of Jesus and Christianity.
The mindset is all wrapped up within the church. When people ask me how I could have received all of my guidance through the church, and not really thought for myself…well, maybe this will help that to make sense. There is very little life outside it. The church IS life for these people, and once they are in, it is almost impossible for them to escape it. It is almost like…a…cult.