I know that many Christians find a place within various denominations and sects of Christianity, and I do not want to insult any who do. Many are my brethren. However, as a Christian who spent the last several years seeking Jesus outside of the confines of these systems, I sympathize a great deal with believers who feel as though they do not fit in with any particular Christian denomination or sect.
I want to share some about the challenges I faced as an outlier Christian, because I know many believers deal with this.
We all have differing experiences, so I can only speak to my own experience.
I was not part of any church when Jesus began to take over my life. I prayed that He would show me the truth, even if I did not like it. I prayed this because I was confused by the contradicting ideas about the Christian faith and the contradicting ideas about our Lord, Jesus. I wanted to know which denomination was right. I wanted to live a Christian life, but I didn’t know where I should go for proper instruction and support.
Jesus answered by leading me to a series of Online bible studies. These challenged my doctrinal views, encouraged the need for living righteously as a Christian, and instructed that Jesus would transform me so that I could live more uprightly by the power of the Holy Spirit. These studies inspired me to study the scripture for myself, because although the teachings made sense to me and provided answers for things that severely challenged my faith, I could not simply change my views so easily.
So, I studied. I made a list of all the core doctrines that I was struggling with, and I assigned each a color. I went through the New Testament twice and highlighted all passages related to these teachings, then I grouped them together in a spreadsheet and considered the doctrinal issues further. I know this is a very nerdy approach, but it was all I knew to do. It did help me to become more familiar with the scriptures, so I am glad that I did this.
When we are new to the faith, we need instruction in the scriptures. We need someone who can take us through the word honestly and help us understand what the Christian life is about.
However, I know from first-hand experience that there is great value in taking the time to prayerfully consider the scriptures for yourself.
We know that there are matters Christians disagree on. So, aside from the core issues of the faith pertaining to the Son of God who died for our sins, there is value in laying aside the doctrines we have be taught and considering these matters for ourselves.
The person I was led to study under is not a trained pastor. This is another outlier Christian. Although I do not want to insult or accuse any pastor or those who go the route of traditional Christian education, I appreciate this important fact: you cannot institutionalize the Spirit of God.
We don’t have to be very smart or scholarly. We don’t have to overly rely on our pastors or other forms of religious authority or our Christian educational systems. Jesus can open His understanding to anyone, and in-fact, I believe that being very knowledgeable and loyal to our traditions hardens us to hearing His instruction, and it is those who are hungry for His word who are filled.
However, as with all things that are worth doing, there is no fast-track way. It takes time to go through the scriptures and to consider what is being taught apart from what other people say. It also takes a lot of desire for the word of God, and Jesus can provide us with that.
For many years I did not care one bit about studying the bible. It felt like a chore. It was something I felt I should do as a Christian, but I could not stay focused for long. I know what it is like to have that zeal placed in you. It is insatiable. You cannot resist it. So, if you want to study but feel ashamed because you lack motivation, pray about it. Keep praying about it. Maybe you lack motivation because the Lord is leading you away from your comfort zone first so that He can instruct you.
There are good teachers out there who help, and they can speed the learning and growth process up for us a great deal. I certainly benefited from this, and I want to instruct others also so they find support and maybe bypass some of the troubles I faced. However, there is no substitute for living our own life and seeking Jesus for ourselves.
So, if you feel confused about Christianity or if you want to sharpen your understanding and walk with Jesus, I encourage you to take some time to consider the word of God for yourself. Don’t ignore the doctrines that you have been questioning. Don’t ignore those scriptures that are conveniently skipped over or explained away without sufficient care. See what the Lord will do when you rely on Him to teach you.