What Christianity means to me has changed dramatically over time. I’ve considered myself a Christian my entire life—baptized at three months old, prayed a prayer asking Jesus into my heart around preschool age, never really had a time when I didn’t go to church.
But what Christian faith and practice looks like in my life now is radically different from five years ago, ten years ago, twenty years ago. There are so many things I think about differently.
This is part of what I mean when I say we are always forming and re-forming. And this is good. It’s good to change our minds.
Starting With the Personal
I want to spend some time in this column reflecting on what all I’ve changed my mind about, and why.
I hope you know, though, that I don’t see this self-reflection as a disconnected, individualist thing. We are formed and re-formed in the contexts of our communities and our world.
And as we are formed and re-formed as individual selves, every relationship and community we’re a part of is formed and re-formed as well. I start with my own thinking just because it gives us a handle, something to hold onto, a place to start.
I certainly want to talk about re-forming churches, communities, institutions, structures, systems, theologies. But none of this is not also personal. It’s all connected.
Repentance as Changing Our Minds
When I think of changing my mind, I think of repentance. The idea of repentance is central to Christian faith. Repent and believe the good news, Jesus went around saying (Mark 1:15). Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near (Matt 4:17).
Christians often think of repentance as feeling sorry for something we’ve done wrong, asking for forgiveness, and trying not to do that thing again. But the New Testament Greek word for repentance is a little different. It’s a word that has to do with changing our minds.
If the call to Christian faith is a call to repentance—and most Christians I know believe that repentance isn’t just a one-time thing at conversion but an ongoing part of our relationship with God—then it’s a call to change our minds. To change our minds not just once, but to keep changing them as need be. To be open to change.
When I reflect on the ways my faith has changed, I’m not saying I’m right about everything. I am saying, though, that change is often good. It’s often necessary. It can involve loss, and we can process and mourn those losses. But it doesn’t have to be threatening.
Change Is Not Unfaithfulness
Sometimes Christians assume that change is unfaithfulness. But this is far from the case. Changing our minds is often the best possible response when we come across new information, hear perspectives we hadn’t considered, or see something we didn’t see before.
As Sarah Bessey writes in Out of Sorts, “If our theology doesn’t shift and change over our lifetimes, then I have to wonder if we’re paying attention.”
This open, curious posture is a way of being fully alive. It’s a way of being open to God’s Spirit moving unpredictably, as she tends to do. It makes life interesting. It’s also the only thing that makes sense to me, given that we all experience the world from our own limited perspectives, and there is so much we do not know.
Being open to change is a way of saying:
- I am not omniscient.
- I am not omnipresent.
- I am not omnipotent.
My vision, perspective, and knowledge is limited. And that is okay. That is part of what it means to be human.
On a Journey Together
It’s going to take some time—probably the next few months—to explore some of the things I’ve changed my mind about and why. I want to reflect on faith, beliefs, spirituality, and theology. I want to reflect on some of the Big Important Issues that feel very Big and Important in our world and in many of our churches.
I hope my journey sparks reflection on your own experiences, too. Your journey might be very similar to mine or very different. You might find yourself nodding along enthusiastically with some things and scratching your head about others. You might find yourself shaking your head at times, thinking, she’s really gone off the deep end now. That’s all okay.
I don’t think everyone needs to go on the exact same journey with the exact same result. God is not like that. And that is a beautiful thing.
I’m just here to share my journey. I hope it encourages you on yours. I would love for you to feel like we’re walking together. Even over the distance of the internet. Even and especially if the places we’re in are mind-boggling-ly different.
For me, the point is that we’re walking, we’re moving, we’re open to change. The point is that we want God; we want transformation.
Things I’ve Changed My Mind About
To give a sense of where we’re going, these are some of the things I plan to reflect on:
- What authority looks like, where we find it, and how we engage with it
- Women in church leadership
- LGBTQ+ identities and relationships
- Racial reconciliation and racial justice
- Church unity & leaving churches
- Evangelism, conversion, and other faith traditions
- Introverts & church
- Work, rest, and capitalism
This is probably not an exact list. I welcome your input on which topics to focus on.
To be clear, not all of these things are a simple “I used to be against this, now I’m for it,” or anything like that. Regarding women in church leadership, for example, I have always been for it, but there was a time when I didn’t think it was a terribly big deal either way. Now I think it absolutely is.
All of these topics are so complex. I hope to honor this complexity.
I also welcome your suggestions of other topics that aren’t on this list. What have you changed your mind about? I’d love to open up a conversation in that direction.
I hope you find freedom here. I hope this corner of the web is a breath of fresh air, especially for those who don’t feel all that comfortable in church. I hope it’s a space for those who have changed their minds about some things. I hope it’s a place for those who have questions people around them don’t seem to have.
This is a place for questions. This is a place for openness. This is a place for honesty. I will do my best to bring mine.