You’d think that growing up in a Christian family meant I had it easy. I can’t ever remember a day that I didn’t believe in God. I rarely missed going to church on Sunday. I’ve read through the Bible numerous times. I attended a Christian school. I even spent 13 years as a missionary in Taiwan. You’d think that if anyone knew God, I did.
I don’t think I ever said those things out loud, but deep in my heart, that’s what I believed. I knew what to say, how to act, and even how to think about my life and the problems I (or others) faced. I had Christianity packaged in a nice little box all tied up with a bow.
That is also how I went about serving Christ for many years. When others had problems, I had answers, and so I would offer them my little box. It made sense. It worked for me.
Sadly, that is how VOICE (then known as CLEC) first began. I was 15 years younger with much less ministry experience but a whole lot of spiritual ego. I didn’t know what I was doing, but somehow, I helped create a month-long conference that offered Christianity in a box. But after just a few years, I burned out. I grew tired of enforcing rules, tired of trying to convince others that my version of Christianity was better than theirs.
God was merciful. He used what little I had to offer to touch a few lives—not the least of which was my own. In 2004, when we were asked to host a TESOL training for English teachers from Taiwan, we said yes as long as we could run a student conference at the same time. That marked a significant turning point for VOICE—one in which our focus went from selling a specific version of Christianity to deliberately finding ways to introduce the Gospel through various events. That was how the ever-popular holiday dinners were born.
Here we are 10 years later. If I could tell you what has changed, it is this—I may have more ministry experience, but a whole lot less spiritual superiority. God has since brought problems into my life that I couldn’t resolve. He has allowed me to wrestle with anger and bitterness—and find absolutely no way to “fix” myself. Through these hard situations, I began to understand—maybe for the first time—how utterly helpless I am in my sin, how very little I actually understand about my God, and how much I am in need of His grace. As He has been stripping away the things I once used to prop up my Christian faith, so He has been stripping VOICE of those things as well.
As we look ahead to VOICE 2014, we are facing yet another stripping—perhaps the deepest one yet. As I write this blog post, the IBLP board is investigating a number of serious allegations against Mr. Gothard and has placed him on administrative leave. We are deeply saddened by this news and concerned for Mr. Gothard and everyone involved. We don’t know how things will turn out, but here’s what we do know—
1) “God is real. Live like it.” This is true, even when the integrity of someone we respect is under fire. This is a time to allow God to strip away more of our misconceptions, so that we learn to place our faith solely in Him.
2) No matter the outcome of this investigation, those of us who serve on the VOICE staff team are committed to living and proclaiming the Gospel in its purest form to the best of our ability.
Christianity is not about Mr. Gothard. It’s not about VOICE. It’s not about any one of us. Christianity is about a God who loved a world of pathetic, helpless sinners so much that He left His glory to become like one of us, to suffer and die an unjust death at the hands of the sinners He came to save in order to give us life and hope that we don’t deserve. I can’t fathom a God like that. He doesn’t fit in any box.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus’ name.