The phrase “belong before you believe” is a phrase that I don’t get.
If you’re a Christian, then you’ve thought about how to get others to know Christ. If you haven’t, then perhaps you’ve thought about why others don’t know or what’s going to happen to the people you know who don’t submit themselves to Christ. It’s a part of being a new creature in Christ. You have new desires, new passions, and a new way of thinking. All of this newness comes at odds with the world and you will feel those odds.
Which is why I don’t get it.
Actually, I’m not being completely honest. I do get it. I get it because that’s how I was treated for eighteen years of my life. I was a kid brought up in a Mormon home, who loved Christ, turned non-denominational Christian, but was never brought to understand the gospel. I grew up thinking I was “in” because everyone told me I was. I read my bible. Prayed. Went to Church. Didn’t curse. That’s what defined a Christian by cultural standards set up by the culture. I belonged. I was in. And I even held to the beliefs of my church.
Jesus was God. There was the trinity. And Jesus died for me. I had sinned. But now all was better and God loved me.
It was the “belong before you believe” mentality I grew up in. And it deceived me.
It wasn’t until God broke in and revealed who He was and what I was, that I realized I had not known, loved or followed Jesus. And that’s when my life was transformed.
In one sense, before my conversion, I believed in God. But in another sense, I didn’t.
I believed in the way that kids believe in evolution. You’re just told it’s true. They interpret data for you. They get you to color and draw and read books about it. And then you take tests. And you know it because everyone knew it.
I knew Jesus was God. I knew Jesus died for my sins. I knew God made everything. That was the extent of my theology. Now, I had to figure out life and live it. But mere accepting fact isn’t what Jesus meant by belief. In fact, believe isn’t the only word used to describe what we have with God. The New Testament uses the words like- know, covenant, body, believe, faith, and others to hit at all the ways we have been reconciled with God. I don’t merely “believe,” nor do I merely have “faith.” When we are told to believe, it’s a command.
The other sense in which I didn’t believe is the Biblical sense. I didn’t believe God. I didn’t believe the Bible.
The Bible, when I was belonging, was a good moral book that taught me how to live and had many good lessons for me. It was a guide book for life.
Now, I affirm that this is all true. It has great lessons. It is a guide book for all of life. It teaches morals. However, the problem with this thinking is that it’s devoid of God. I don’t believe the book because God wrote it and gave it. I don’t believe the book because it’s God testament of Himself. I don’t believe the book because God revealed Himself through it. I believed it because it was useful. And useful things must be true.
Little did I know the God of the Bible is the God of everything. To belong before I believed was to redefine what it meant to be the church, be apart of a church, and to make disciples. It is false and damaging and I know of many who are deceived by it.
But that’s what happens when you grow up in a church that emphasizes getting more people and not listening to and obeying God.