To answer this question, it would perhaps be most appropriate for me to narrow down two types of Christians. First, I will recognize those who are content with the traditional form of Christianity. Their idea of “church” is influenced by the image that modern society has painted. They strongly believe that being a Christian is reflected by their commitment to a denomination or the weekly routine of attending a Sunday service. Although I do not mean this derogatorily, I call these types “cookie cutter” Christians. At one time, I fell under this category. I was a traditionalist among the commercial church setting.
The second category consists of those who desire something deeper, despite how they may appear to the cookie cutters. They do not blindly follow along with the other sheep. Rather, they ask where the sheep are going and why. Simply stated, they are nonconformists who demand to know answers. This is how I would describe myself.
However, this was not always the case. To arrive where I currently stand has required many theological adjustments. Earlier in my ministry, when I was more affiliated with the denominational mainstream, I was considered an anointed minister with the gift of teaching. I remember hearing the following statements (and similar comments) from the leadership:
- “God has anointed you with the office of a teacher.”
- “God has placed a mantle over you to teach.”
- “God has gifted you with the ability to write.”
- “God will use you your insight to bring others closer to truth.”
- “Writing Bible studies is your ministry.”
During this time, it was common for members of the congregation to approach me with questions about the Bible. The leadership of the church even referred others to me for this reason, because they were aware that I devoted more time in study than others. I was often asked to teach classes and write Bible studies for discipleship courses. Multiple ministers, pastors, bishops, and elders encouraged me to continue to write and teach whatever God revealed to me. That is, until some of the things God revealed began to challenge the traditional views of the organization I was a part of.
After the leadership noticed that I was questioning our fundamental views, I was instructed, “Never question what has already been settled,” and “Don’t look for new revelations when we already have the truth.” Despite the opposition, I could not ignore the findings of my research. The evidence was overwhelming. There were undeniable flaws in the theology of this denomination. And to me this was a serious charge since this theological community claimed to be the true church while suggesting that all others were false.
Although it was suggested that I was not being submissive to my superiors, I felt like I was doing the right thing. As author Rory Moore once stated, “I realized I could not be in rebellion if I was not persuaded of something.” This was my story. I found several inconsistencies in doctrine, and I was not silent about it. My second book was intended to resolve many of those flaws. And it was designed with an honest approach, in efforts to convince the leadership that we have either overlooked or simply misunderstood certain details. Unfortunately, my book was confused as a theological diatribe, a polemic against the organization.
For someone whose ministry was highly regarded by the leadership, I was now considered someone who had “dabbled around with strange fire.” The same leaders who previously confirmed spiritual gifting in my life were now going back on their words. I was no longer considered a credible source for teaching. My relationship with God was no longer relevant. My character and lifestyle did not matter.
Much to my dismay, I noticed that their judgment about my character only changed when they realized that I no longer observed their core doctrines. And because I questioned and challenged what I found inconsistent, to them it was considered a sign that I was ill-spirited. Therefore, I was accused of being combative. Regardless of the fruits manifested in my life, there was no honor. From their perspective, I could no longer be a suitable representation of the organization. To them, I was now “dangerous.”
I would imagine, from their position, it was a legitimate effort to keep unity among the body, by setting boundaries in our relationship. But from my position, I found comfort knowing that I could identify with Peter in the Book of Acts. “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). Despite the outcome with my former affiliations, God worked in my life by opening the door to further opportunities, including my newest book release, Crushing Conceptualism in Modern Christianity.
Looking back, I can now see it. These were the results of it. My story demonstrated its effects. It was some type of perceptual element, an influence that said, “There’s nothing closer to the truth outside of these four walls.” It attempted to place boundaries around everything God was trying to accomplish through me. Its intention was to prevent me from thinking outside the box. This “it” to which I refer, is compartmentalization.
It was one of those situations where you cannot see it while you are in it; not until you begin to tear away and separate yourself from it. And once you come out of it, you have a clearer understanding of what you were a part of. And that is the purpose of my book, as well as this platform; to look at some of our beliefs from an outside view; to get away from the conceptual church mindset; to break away from the limited compartments of Christianity and draw closer to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is who Andrew Michael Denny is.