The Rev. Nate Rovenstine, pastor, Lawrence Wesleyan Church, 3705 Clinton Parkway:
At its worst, the Christian religion seeks to fulfill the expectations of a God we feel we can never please. This leads to a life of legalism or hypocrisy. At its best, the Christian religion is a response to the expansive love of a God who gave his very best to us. This leads to a life of integrity and humility as we receive and distribute truth and grace.
Ten years ago, two of my daughters were beginning their journey into adolescence, and one was in first grade. Today, two of them are young adults, and one is navigating the demands of adolescence with maturity and dignity. I have watched them mature through life’s challenges to become beautiful young women who love God and influence others. A lot has changed in my girls’ perspective on life, but the most satisfying change I’ve seen in them is maturity.
My hope is that my heavenly father can say the same for me. When I started on my journey with God, I realized two basic facts: one, I was a mess; two, through his son, Jesus, he can help me. By acknowledging my sin, and depending on his grace, I opened my heart and life to his powerful influence in me. My faith in the love of God the Father, the grace of Jesus, his son, and the profound presence of his Holy Spirit strengthen and sustain my life.
My hope is that the past 10 years have brought a deeper understanding of my weakness, combined with a deeper appreciation for his strength. In that sense, it is my hope that my religious views have changed by becoming more mature, not by moving away from the foundational truths that brought me into relationship with God in the first place.
— Send e-mail to Nate Rovenstine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Pam Morrison, pastor, Amazing Grace Community Church 820 High St., Baldwin City:
I’ve heard the saying, “In essentials, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; and in all things, love,” attributed to various authors, but I will claim it as an aid to answer this question.
In the last 10 years, I’ve become increasingly immovable on core Christian beliefs (essentials). Every Christian might say, “Well, my perspectives are the ‘essentials.’” I simply mean I will not budge off classic Christian doctrines like the Trinity, the incarnation of Christ, the forgiveness of sin through him, etc. The passage of time has made me more “conservative” rather than less even if others modify doctrine or there is hurt encountered for holding firm. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in “The Cost of Discipleship” about a relentless courage present in those who have deep conviction. “Neither failure nor hostility can weaken the messenger’s conviction that he has been sent by Jesus.”
But differing views on spiritual matters have put us into sometimes unnecessary conflicts not only with those inside the Christian faith, but with those outside. So, though my beliefs have grown more resolute, my desire to be gracious has ironically, also increased. Billy Graham came under much fire from the right and the left. He responded in 1958 in Eternity magazine by saying, “It seems to me that the entire weight of Scripture lies in the direction of fellowship rather than separation. … What is the great overwhelming evidence that we have passed from death unto life? Orthodoxy? Morality? Evangelistic passion? No! It is love!”
My own change, then, has been to soften, feel compassion, listen, long to connect with those different from myself whether in doctrine or life experience even while “defending the faith.” Additionally has grown an ever increasing concern to serve the poor in real and tangible ways.
— Send email to Pam Morrison at email@example.com.