Anything Short of Sin: A Letter From The Editor

CULTURE | 8 mins

When I first started coming to Crossroads, I couldn’t believe some of the things that would come out of the senior pastor’s mouth. I thought he was just after shock value or trying to be the cool church (among many other judgments).

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But something compelled me to keep coming. I had been following Jesus for a long time, but something about Crossroads was different. After months of attending on my own and finding myself in tears during messages, I finally decided to get involved.

I attended an 11:45 service that day and planned to attend a first volunteer info session at 1pm afterward. During the message, Brian was promoting a Super Bowl service and how we’d be tailgating in the parking lot before and after. I came from (what I now know to be) a very conservative church. I never thought about it as conservative. All the rules seemed logical to me. For example, drunkenness was a sin, so Christians shouldn’t drink at all.

To hear Brian speak so flippantly about alcohol baffled me. I was mostly past judging Crossroads because my heart had been so softened by the rest of it that I loved, but I still just didn’t get it. So I decided to go up to Brian and ask him about it. After the 11:45 service, after he had already preached 5x plus a run through, my 20-year-old self waited in line to talk to him. I introduced myself (of course mentioning I went to Bible college) and said:

Hey, so I really like it here. I’m actually heading to volunteer for the first time in a few minutes. But a few things just really confuse me. Like today—when you spoke so flippantly about alcohol, I can’t help but wrestle with passages about drunkenness and how we’re not to be a stumbling block to others. I’m sure you know those verses too, so I’m just wondering how you reconcile them.

That was good, right?! I thought I approached it as humbly and genuinely as I knew how. And I’ll never forget his response. He looked at me and quickly, flatly replied, “I appreciate that you recognize those sorts of things, but this probably isn’t the church for you.”

And he walked away.

I think I was in shock. And let’s be honest, I was pretty pissed. Did he seriously just walk away? Not even answer me? Did I just get fired from my church?!

On autopilot, I headed to the volunteer session. I was late at this point, and the leader commented trying to be funny. To which I did not hold back: “Well, I tried talking to your senior pastor, but….”

He cut me off pretty quickly and empathically and said, “Let’s talk.”

So after the session, I explained what happened. I was close to some alcoholic friends, and I was just looking out for them, I thought. Those Bible verses are there for a reason, I explained.

As shocked as I was at what Brian said to me, I was certainly not prepared for what I heard next. That staff member shared that when he first started coming to Crossroads, he was an alcoholic who came in drunk or hungover every weekend. The fact that we would talk “flippantly” about alcohol made him believe for the first time that maybe he could fit in at church.

Over time, he met God, he became sober, got married, started a family, joined staff, and now led several ministries.

Including impromptu sessions of counseling millennials towards freedom from religious upbringings, apparently.

It was the first time I heard that Crossroads would do anything short of sin to get people in the door. At first, that phrase alone sounded too provocative, and I bristled. But then I broke it down. OK, if it’s short of sin, it’s not sinning. So, maybe it’s OK.

It began a huge unraveling of religious “hedges” I’d grown up with—the idea that we have to create new rules around God’s design for fear of getting too close to messing up. I’d always heard God wanted a relationship and not religion (read: rules). I’d even taught it myself, but I’d never felt it like this. I didn’t realize God was after oneness rooted in trust—not obedience driven by fear, control, or even good behavior.

Is there a time and place for caring that our freedom doesn’t cause others to sin? Of course.

But maybe the Church gets so worked up about the fear of sin that we build walls around anything close to it. Maybe we do it so much that we wall ourselves off from the world we were meant to reach.

Maybe we could talk about normal stuff in a normal way. Maybe we could let that authenticity create a bridge back to God. Maybe we could rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us into freedom instead of relying on our ability to follow the rules. Maybe we could be less afraid of sin and more aggressive about helping new people meet Jesus.

I realized Brian wasn’t firing me. Or at least I don’t think he was.

He was showing me what Crossroads exists for, and I’m so grateful he did.

But he might have been wrong about one thing—while Crossroads’ primary goal isn’t helping Bible college students relax and receive more freedom—it was the place for me. I started searching the Bible and saw with fresh eyes how “provocative” Jesus was. How many “inappropriate” places he hung out. How many “unnecessary” people he chose to be with. And most surprisingly, how many of the rules he didn’t seem to care that much about. Crazier still, I found how many of the rules I grew up believing were non-negotiable aren’t actually in the Bible at all.

Today, I’ve been on staff for over ten years. I launched our discipleship and group work for the last nine years, and now I’m the editor for all articles and other written teaching content. I approve topics and final content.

So, if you’re frustrated with a headline, photo, or position we’ve taken, I’m the one to blame.

You may share some of my original reactions. But I can promise you—we’re not after shock value. We’re not trying to be cool. And no, our website hasn’t been hacked when you see an article that feels “too provocative for a church.”

When we released an article with a photo that said “WTF,” we weren’t being irreverent. That was genuinely the most authentic, heartfelt expression we could find that represented the author’s vulnerable post about his confusion and anger with God while his baby girl suffers from a chronic illness. If you’ve ever felt abandoned by God or hurt that he hasn’t come through, maybe you can relate. Maybe you’ve genuinely prayed the same thing in your grief.

When we released an article about how many women feel pressure to compete with the pornography industry that floods cultural views about sex, we weren’t after a clickbait title. But we are committed to cutting through the clutter of everything else there is to read online so women can hear that their identity is far, far more precious than any comparison about their body they could ever make. We desperately want them to hear that they are worthy of actual love. We will aggressively take risks for them to hear that message.

Even if offends or confuses people like me. Like Brian said, that’s not who we’re after.

But if you are someone like me, even though our primary goal will always be your friends who are far from God, I hope you find something here too. I hope the shock breaks any misconceptions you have about who God is and how he wants to relate to us. I hope you find a deep, raw, life-changing connection with Him where no topic is off-limits. No sin is too provocative to discuss. No platform is too public or inappropriate to share the relentless love of Jesus to people who feel like church is not for them.

We are for them, and we’re for you too if you want to be here. You don’t have to get it. You don’t have to agree. But I hope you can see our heart. Because Crossroads was designed for people who had given up on church but not on God. Most of those people gave up because they felt judged. Or they felt isolated because the Church wasn’t addressing what they needed most. They didn’t know where else to go, so they left.

Written by Rachel Reider on Feb 14, 2019