A common trait of members of the Apo movement is the desire to gauge where fellow churchgoers are spiritually. Some would say that our “holiness standards” do a good job of creating criteria by which to grade fellow apo’s. While this may not be the goal of such standards, it has become an implicit secondary function.
However, I do not wish to discuss the role of standards in this post (as we are not there yet as a community), but the grading scale by which church patrons are measured.
There are two ends of the grading scale:
a.) ----In Church
The criteria for being considered “in church” entails that said patron regularly attends all scheduled church meeting times, astutely holds all standards of their local assembly, has an upstanding reputation and abstains from all social taboo’s.
The criteria for being backslidden entails that said patron irregularly attends church, or not at all, holds to a small percentage or none of the standards of the local assembly, whose reputation is questionable and sometimes engages in social taboo’s.
Apo’s are usually quite quick to be able to gauge where on the spectrum an individual falls. If one were to illustrate the scale it would probably look like this:
Backslidden--------Backsliding----------On the fence-----------In church
Undoubtedly most of us could walk into our church on Sunday and grade the majority of the congregants on this linear scale.
An evaluation may go something like this:
“Christy usually comes once every other week nowadays, she’s been trimming her hair and wearing make up. I saw a picture she put on Facebook and I think she was holding a drink. I don’t know what it was but it looked alcoholic. It’s safe to say she’s backsliding.”
“Jacob comes to church every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He’s in bible quizzing, he wears long pants, even in the summer, he has TV Guardian and accountability software on his computer. He’s definitely in church.”
The criteria seems so cut and dry, and explanations for any breaks in the criteria are not usually sought out. If one misses church for school or work it doesn’t really matter, as church should be the priority over education and supporting ones self.
The other interesting thing to note about the grading scale is that the term “backslid” is the Apo equivalent of a derogatory slur. Being backslidden is the only thing worse than being charismatic (although most Apo’s call former Apo’s who “go charismatic” to be “backslidden”).
The irony about this scale is that it has nothing to do with God. There is no in and out with God. We’re all children of God, He loves us, He’s watching us, and in the end we’ll either be saved or lost. But right now we’re just people on a journey. We’re not saved or lost yet so these terms are for nothing more than our gossipy indulgence. They are our living soap opera.
Who’s “in” and who’s “out” this week. Who broke what standard? Who had a moment of indiscretion? Who failed? Who slipped up?
These degrading terms turn the sons and daughters of God into gossiping children in a giant lunch room, whispering and giggling, all the while reducing someone’s soul to a conversation piece.
A while back in Detroit there was a funeral held for the “n word”, in which abusers of the word swore to never use it again, and it’s use became unacceptable. I think “backslider” needs to be thrown in the tomb with it, along with anyone who thinks they can determine the status of an individuals walk with God based on the length of their hair or the tint of their make-up.