When Christians Confront

Alrighty, it's been awhile since I spoke evangelical as a language, but I have had enough biblical training to know why Christians confront each other about their beliefs and behavior. We feel obligated to do it. We feel we belong to each other and maybe even fear that others' behavior may make us look bad. We feel entitled to share our alternate (read: better) belief and to require a behavior change or else a judgment will be made, oftentimes an eternal one. We fear for the salvation of our loved ones and would rather trample them on earth than miss them in heaven. I'm serious. I've seen people completely reject their children because of their sexual orientation "in order to save them." And lastly, I think we confront because we want to feel like we tried. Like, we don't actually expect a humble reversal of behavior (especially if our confrontation is tacky and condescending) but we want to feel like we made an effort, possibly even to maintain good feelings about ourselves. 
Unfortunately, I used to issue these judgments for all of these reasons. It breaks my heart to acknowledge that truth. It can be so painful and damaging to be on the receiving end of bad Christian confrontation that I really wish I hadn't participated in it so often. Comes with the ministry baggage, sadly. I will say, anyone I can think of who I can apologize to for this behavior has come back with forgiveness and understanding. It's been affirmed that my methods may have been inconsiderate but my intentions were good. That is something. Sometimes intentions are not good and that makes this infinitely more dangerous behavior. 
As I've gotten further away from the evangelical box, I've been more of a target for such confrontation. I've been fortunate for the most part. Ask anyone LGBTQ who was raised in a conservative Christian home and their stories will take you to your knees. At least they should. I know becoming more of a progressive Christian is in no way comparable to coming out experiences. But now that I'm on the other side of these confrontations more often, I have a few tips for anyone wanting to find a kinder way to do this. 
1. If it can be avoided, avoid it. Meaning, please wield this sword as infrequently as possible. If this thing that bothers you about someone else's belief system is not something you consider a "salvation issue" don't even consider confronting them on it. The only exceptions to this is if this person is a very, very close friend or you work alongside each other in a church/ministry setting and it's creating a lot of conflict that needs to be addressed.
2. If you decide to confront, pray A LOT. Again, try to find a way around it. If there is no way around it, check your motives. What is your ideal outcome? How will your posturing (tone, approach, words) help you achieve your desired outcome? Humble yourself.
3. Confirm before God that YOU are the person who is best suited to confront this person. Is there someone better suited for this job? If it's not you, don't take it upon yourself to find the right person. God can take care of that himself if it's needed. I've been baffled by the lack of intimacy in relationships that are expected to bear intense confrontation. Oftentimes the most hurtful ones I've been a part of are with people who are in no way a part of my life currently and were never integral parts of my life even in the distant past. If you're concerned for someone's faith but are not CONFIDENT that you have that kind of rapport and intimacy with them, pray for someone more suited to come along. (They may have already come along, but you wouldn't know because you're not close enough to this person to be privy to that information).
4. Consider the possibility that you're wrong. Again, before confronting someone about their beliefs, consider that there may be space for disagreement in this area (not just in the church but in the world at large) or that they may have experiences or ideas you don't have that have influenced this conclusion. Is it possible that you need to consider their position? Have you ever truly considered their position?
5. Don't make assumptions. About anything. About their life, their motives, their feelings, their story. Unless you're living their story with them in an intimate relationship, know that you're walking into a situation you likely only see pieces of. Again, check your posture.
6. Assign positive intent. Without being condescending, assume that this person's beliefs and values are not intended for your harm. Assume that they aren't lost, that they may have gotten to this position deliberately, thoughtfully, dare I say, prayerfully.
7. Tread lightly or again, not at all. There's such a thing as religious trauma. If you didn't know that, log in a few Google searches to get an idea of the kind of damage unhealthy church confrontation has done to people's souls. We're confronting people about things that aren't critical and in the process, damaging them in sometimes irreparable ways. And for what? To prove a point? This should scare us all and cause us great or even permanent pause.
8. Again with posturing, assume that if you have the same background and they've changed, they already understand your position. Ask questions. Assume the position of interest and wanting to see how they got to this conclusion and see if they'd be willing to tell you (they may not be. It can be exhausting to feel like someone's liaison). Only do this if you mean it! But don't patronize someone with explaining ideology they were raised to hold. If anyone is encountering new ideas, it's probably you.
9. BE SURE that you're not doing this so you can "wash your hands of them." I have to say, I've picked up on this directed at me. It's really hurtful and selfish. Don't "witness" so you don't have to be held accountable for not saying anything. I believe we will be held accountable for all the things we say on behalf of Christ. BE SURE you know it's his posture or continue to humbly pray and offer peace. (And still do that anyway). If you're not sure, don't do it or don't drag him into it, at the very least.
10. Lastly, recognize that people just living their truth aren't looking for your feedback. It's not that they don't expect backlash if they're talking to an audience they know won't agree, but if you take people's posts hostage or seek them out to confront them while they go about their lives, you're being an ass. 

Why My Faith Has Led Me Out of Church

I've hesitated to write this post for awhile, though I think my ministry posts elude to a lot of what I have to say already. In my former life, the church was a big part of my identity and my faith process. I knew that my love affair with ministry fueled my own issues (my need for approval, my comfort zone of only being with fellow Christians, my need to be above reproach [this is Bible-speak for looking like a good person all the time], my need to be on the top of the heap [church is a hierarchy], and more) but I also knew that those ugly truths were in bed with the good stuff too (I honest to goodness cannot fake anything, so all appearances of commitment, love of God, goodness, belief in others, boundless energy for service were real). I didn't know how to separate my love for God with my love for ministry. Many people cannot see the absolute need to do such. I think we want to justify good behavior that comes from our own sinking holes of need because we think good behavior leads to good things regardless of motive. There's even something in the Bible to that effect (something about Paul saying that preaching Christ has value even if it's coming from a bad source). Plus, when we put all our hopes (and more importantly, the church's future) into our ability to do good things, how else can we move forward, knowing that all of us have coexisting good and bad motives?
It's hard for me to admit publicly that I'm not going to church. I fear, as all of us with ministry baggage do, that my story may serve as a discouragement or may be used as endorsement for all choices remotely similar to mine. I have secret fears of how this will affect my children. (I also simultaneously fear what the church would teach my child if she were there). I expect that some (many) will write me off as someone who has fallen away (lost their faith) or who does not keep my commitments (something I really disrespect). I want to clarify that within myself, I am really proud of my choices and am open to telling my story to certain people who I trust and respect, knowing that it's largely possible that they will understand where I'm coming from. But to admit this publicly, ONLINE, is a totally different thing.
I've worked hard to protect my "sacred space" (which oddly, sounds sexual, but not what I'm referring to). I define this as my soul, my theology, my self-concept, my heart. I am impressionable. I cannot be a part of a group and not identify with its larger story. Some of the lessons I am working to undo from my lifetime in church are essential to my personal faith process (saying no, embracing my humanity, putting myself in the shoes of the downtrodden versus the saviors, listening to my voice, taking risks, focusing on what I have in common with "the world", relinquishing anything that reeks of entitlement or consumerism, refusing to believe that everything has a solution or one "right" answer and that I know those things). This makes the church environment a great source of temptation for me. I immediately fill my calendar, gain approval, show my niceness, and find incriminating things in my heart to feel guilty and shameful about and set to work on self-improvement.
I live in hope that one day, when I'm MUCH less bitter and able to set firm boundaries in said environment, I will be able to be a part of a church. I have no idea what my future church looks like. For the last 3 years, my church has looked like my living room and my fellow parishoners are my female friends. I am very selective about who I allow into that sacred space now. I look for women who are open, honest and actively struggling in some shape or form. I am a big fan of people who are "in process."
I imagine some people would read this and roll their eyes. Like, what is the big deal? So you don't go to church. Most people don't. Why is this shameful or embarrassing? But with my background, this is a big deal. Is it possible that the church sound system is so loud that we can't hear God? Could it be true that the group mentality is speaking in direct contradiction to what I personally need to be doing in my life? I'm learning to set better boundaries to where the church may one day be a safe place for me to share my soul again. But for now, this sojourner is keeping company with just a few.