Three Creeks Church
This week was The Big One, I checked out Three Creeks Church in Gahanna. This church is very new to Gahanna, launching only four weeks ago, and is a plant of the Movement Church in Hilliard. Two of my best friends in the world (Jenny and Aaron Haeberle) were part of the launch team, so I am going to start this post with a disclaimer: I am biased about Three Creeks for a myriad of reasons. I have heard about this church for a long time, well before it launched. I have seen my friends work very hard to create a welcoming place of worship for the people of Gahanna. I attended church today with those friends, and standing in a church you are familiar with next to your best friends is a very different experience than standing in a new church alone.
One of the things this journey has forced me to miss out on is the community experience of being a part of a church. Moving church-to-church like a spiritual vagabond means I can’t put down roots in a church, or dig in, or know the community in any meaningful way beyond the one service I attend. I did this purposefully, the reasons for which are detailed in my How to Read This Blog post, but it is an unfortunate consequence. Today felt like the closest I might come to getting the feel of having a church community. Jenny and Aaron introduced me to their friends from community group. The pastor, Joel, introduced himself to me and, since Jenny had told him about my project, expressed his interest in my blog. It was really welcoming, and I definitely see the appeal of having a church community.
I’m in a weird spot, I know this blog is not private and anyone with an internet connection can access it, but before now I haven’t gone into composing a post while definitively knowing that members of a church team will be reading what I write. Being open and vulnerable is scary, but even more so when you know people you care about are invested in the topic about which you’re expressing vulnerable opinions.
Luckily, being honest today won’t be too hard. Three Creeks was a wonderful church experience for the reasons I expressed above and for others. I attended the 4th part of their 4-part launch series, where each service focused on one of the uncompromising beliefs of Three Creeks as a church. They asked themselves “what defines a healthy church?” and implemented the things they considered essential. Those things are:
Love means loving one another, gather means gathering together (both inside of church and outside), serve means a life of service is the best life you can live, and truth was the topic of today’s service, which I will get to in a moment.
In preparation for today I had listened to Three Creeks’ podcast recording of the last three services. Again, this is a unique experience for me. I don’t usually have context for a sermon like this one. Normally I’m popping in and trying to catch up to speed on whatever topic the church might be covering that Sunday.
Joel acknowledged at the beginning of his sermon that it’s hard to argue with the first three tenets of Three Creeks – who doesn’t want to love, gather and serve? But truth is the one that can cause division among the listeners, truth in this case meaning using the Bible as the word and truth of God.
If you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time you know I struggle with the Bible. Like, I really really struggle. I’ve only read Genesis and part of Exodus so far, but the old testament contains some stories that contain, to me, both moral truth and some really problematic bits. (See: my musings on Eve, Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob and Esau.)
Joel at Three Creeks said the Bible is the truth. Every word is from God. They may have been penned by man, but they are from God. And because they are from God, the Bible is the ultimate guide on how to live.
Ok, so let’s operate under the premise that every word of the Bible is from God. In that case, sure. He’s The Creator! He made everything! It’s his mercy that saves us. We should do whatever He says because He literally gave us life and forgives our sins. I get it.
But, at this point in my faith journey, I can’t yet accept the Bible as infallible. It’s hard for me to accept that the Bible is straight from God without any human intervention. Using the Bible as proof of the Bible’s validity gets my brain in a tizzy, it’s like when I think too hard about time travel.
I think power can be dangerous. And, giving humans the power to say “trust me, this is all from God and therefore you have to follow it” seems like a huge amount of trust. Furthermore, in even my few spiritual explorations so far, I have heard different interpretations of the Bible. One man’s truth directly from God =/= another man’s truth directly from God based on the way they read or interpret a passage. Then you layer on the trickiness of the Bible being translated into English in various ways with words that have varying contexts. It gets messy.
But Joel acknowledged this, too. He said believing the Bible as the truth from God doesn’t mean he hasn’t doubted it. I really appreciated his vulnerability in expressing that opinion. To lead a congregation and to say “you know what, I struggle with this, too” is bold. It’s something Jenny has said to me many times as well. I think that openness is what makes Three Creeks so great. I have opinions that don’t fit the mainstream, Evangelical Christianity framework. I can question if the Bible is direct from God, or simply divinely inspired, but that doesn’t exclude me from this church. It doesn’t mean I am not invited to the table to have a conversation about it.
Last week, when I checked out Unitarian Universalism, I wondered what are we doing here? They asserted no creed, no particular faith, and that meant everyone was welcome. But by asserting nothing they were saying nothing that had impact or carried any weight. Three Creeks is being very truthful in their beliefs, and the basis of those beliefs is the Bible. There is no trickery. This is what they believe, you never have to worry they are going to pull a fast one on you. It’s all in the Bible.
As always, I have my doubts and worries about faith still. One service can’t erase decades of questions, but it can make me comfortable enough to ask those questions, and Three Creeks did that today.