In The News

Aptos pastor reroutes his faith to focus on “grace”

October 16, 2010

By Joel Hersch

APTOS &emdash; In some ways, Christianity has drifted into a realm of “us versus them,” said René Schlaepfer, pastor at the nondenominational Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, which he adds differs completely from the church’s teachings.

“Many Christians in American culture are anti-a lot of things,” said Schlaepfer, 49. “They’re anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-this, anti-that, and I’m not saying we don’t have a certain morality, but it has become this supercharged morality. Christian leaders end up defining how to be a good Christian with a list of rules, and the problem with that is that you’re only able produce two things, rule keepers and rule breakers, and that comes from a place of fear, not a place of real confidence in the grace of God.”

To help his own parishioners recover a positive focus, Schlaepfer has written a book, “Grace Immersion,” about his own “re-conversion” from a guilt-centered practice of Christianity to a more grace-focused faith, he said. The book intertwines Scripture and his personal experiences and discoveries.

Schlaepfer said he grew up with strong religious values that ultimately led him to become senior pastor at Twin Lakes. He said he can’t remember a time when he didn’t feel strongly connected with God, but almost 20 years ago, not long after he began preaching, he found himself in an emotional and spiritual struggle about what it meant to have a trusting relationship with God.

“I found I was trying to earn God’s approval by trying to be a good person and doing religious things. I became super religious,” said Schlaepfer, who lives with wife Laurie and three children in Santa Cruz. “I even became a pastor thinking it would please God in a way. My life was about my performance. It was becoming dry, and I realized that I’d completely missed the point.”

Then Schlaepfer experienced what he calls his own “re-conversion.”

“There are so many facets to God’s grace that you can’t define in one sentence,” he said. “It’s God’s undeserved kindness; his love for us. We don’t have to attend church, or do Bible readings or do good deeds in order to get brownie points from an unconditionally loving God. Those should be our responses to his love.”

The book is Schlaepfer’s third. His first, “Thrill Ride,” and second, “The Hope Experience,” also delve into religious experience.

Another component of Schlaepfer’s ministry is rekindling an understanding of God’s grace through what he calls “grace projects.”

The projects involve “practicing grace,” or doing something good for others simply because it’s fulfilling spiritually, he said.

To celebrate grace, Twin Lakes Church is holding what it calls The World’s Biggest Garage Sale today.

More than 40 groups and families across the county will hold garage sales, with proceeds going to Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County.

Original article: Aptos pastor reroutes his faith to focus on “grace”