The religious climate in Nashville is uncannily different from the Northwest. Here, in what some people refer to as “the Buckle of the Bible Belt,” all stores open after church (which is acceptable as saying at noon), unless, of course, they’re closed to observe the Lord’s day. It seems to not even be a closure out of zealousness, but out of practically – people will simply not be shopping Sunday morning, because everyone will be at church. It’s so interesting.
I was at Frothy Monkey this morning (a local favorite coffee shop) with a friend of mine who has lived here many years, and he mentioned that it can be assumed that everyone in the packed coffee shop would have some sort of experience, history, or involvement with a faith community. This area is saturated with churches and Christians. Many times you’ll see steeples on all four corners of a major intersection, or a ratio of six or seven churches to one local grocery store, showing how commonplace these meeting places are. Church is everywhere, yet the Gospel is not.
After speaking with a lot of acquaintances and friends from around town, it has appeared to me how absent the love of Christ is here. I’ve heard so many people talk about their childhood growing up in a Christian home. These homes were places that should have been models of love, acceptance, and forgiveness, but I’m told instead that they were the reasons why my friends have abandoned conventional Christian gatherings and choose to no longer follow a doctrine that has caused so much hurt in their life. They have not abandoned the concept of a loving and compassionate God, but certainly the notion that HIs followers would look the same.
Not only are these experiences occurring in Christian homes, but also in the church itself. I’ve heard stories mostly of people being abused, taken advantage of, or experiencing degrading relationships inside the church, among other disciples of Christ.
I’m so thankful for the church experience I’ve had the last few years at Evergreen, back in Oregon. What a unique place of healing and restoration – truly aiming to fulfill what I perceive to be the calling of the Church. It’s heartbreaking to hear how others have been turned away by the people who are called to bring others nearer to God.
Anyways, that’s a brief glimpse of the religious atmosphere here. It’s not comprehensive by any means, but my purpose of explaining is this: I'm pumped to have the opportunity to show Christ’s genuine and unwavering love to people. I’m excited to have the chance to alter the poor perceptions of Christians, and show the nature of the gospel. I’m certainly nervous, because it’s no trite thing to carry His name, but I’m excited to see God work through me for His kingdom.