Discover more from Perspective Shift by Colby Martin
When you don't have a faith community that accepts or encourages questions and growth.
Twelve years ago I worked for a church where I couldn't be honest about my shifting beliefs.
Twelve years ago I posted a status on Facebook that, when I read it now, breaks my heart.
Out of context, I imagine for you it probably just looks like a random declaration of my (now antiquated) beliefs about Jesus. But here’s the context.
At the time I was working for an evangelical megachurch and in the midst of some rather significant shifts around my religious beliefs, very much outgrowing my old clothes of conservative Christianity. It was a season of far more questions than answers, where many of the ideas I used to cherish and propagate felt more and more foreign.
Yet it was happening in a context that wasn’t safe for theological exploration.
Prior to above post, I recall sharing a different status in which I inadvertently stirred up the church’s most outspoken theological watchdogs. In it, I mentioned that “penal substitutionary atonement” was just one of a handful of theories over the past 2000 years that theologians have suggested as a way to try and wrap our heads around what happened on the cross and why.
Of course, for most evangelical Christians (read that again: evangelical Christians. Not MOST Christians) there is only ONE way to think about the cross, the aforementioned theory of penal substation. Which means for them, to even suggest that Christians throughout time have believed differently about the cross is tantamount to heresy.
Which brings us back to the above post in which (if memory serves me) I was attempting to appease (which rarely/ever works) those in the church who were literally calling the lead pastor with “concerns that the church no longer believed Jesus died for our sins.”
As I read it now, in my efforts to pacify the angry congregants I can see how I was overstating what I actually believed, but I was scared and felt stuck between telling people what they wanted to hear and being true to my own self.
And that’s why reading this post today breaks my heart.
Because it reminds me of that season in my life when I couldn’t breathe. For a couple years I was suffocating under the external pressure to conform, to toe the line and make the donors happy, all the while bursting on the inside with new ideas and questions and curiosities.
Yet I could’t talk to a soul about it without the gatekeeper’s claws coming out.
As I mentioned in my first book, such a misalignment of my internal convictions with my external reality was killing me.
During that time in my life I wish I had a community that welcomed questions and doubts.
During that time in my life I wish I had a community open to inquiry and not threatened by study.
During that time in my life I wish I had the safety of my supervisors to allow me to grow.
During that time in my life I wish I had a church that loved me for me, not for how my talents helped them feel good by reinforcing what they already believed.
During that time in my life I wish I didn’t feel so alone. (I also wish I had the maturity to know what was wise to post online and what wasn’t... I’m still sorting through that!)
And if I couldn’t have all that in person, twelve years ago I wish I had a book like The Shift. #shamelessplug
Because then I might’ve felt lighter about the fact that my beliefs were evolving.
Because then I might’ve felt less stupid for admitting I don’t believe what I used to.
Because then I might’ve felt seen, understood, and okay.
During my time pastoring Sojourn Grace Collective I was so, SO grateful for a faith community that welcomed and expected my ongoing growth and transformation.
They enjoyed (or at least tolerated, ;) my questions and wonderings.
They give me space for my uncertainties, while I give them space for theirs.
I didn’t need to dance around major donor’s panic that I’m not theologically aligned with them on every
The freedom and lightness I felt during years at Sojourn Grace?
Twelve years ago I didn’t think it was possible.
One of the reasons I wrote The Shift was to try and reach those who’ve either experienced what I described above or are experiencing it right now. Because when you feel suffocated and alone, you end up Vaguebooking to try and calm down the anxieties of the “concerned” Christians around you.
And that’s not good for anybody.
Perspective Shift by Colby Martin is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Returning to Austin this Sunday!
Hey Texas, my dear friends at Austin New Church are bringing me back this Sunday, September 17th, to be their guest preacher!
You may recall that ANC was one of my stops earlier this year for The Re-SHIFT Tour, and I had such a great time that I practically begged them to bring me back 😜
If you’re in the area, come on by Sunday for service at 10:30,
or catch the LiveStream here!