I went to a Congregational church for the first
17 years of my life... and I never saw myself as a Congregational...
I went to a Baptist church for the next 10
years of my life... and I never saw myself as a Baptist...
I have now been going to a Vineyard church
for about the last years of my life and I really don't see myself
as a grape or Vineyardtist or whatever the terminology is supposed
The subject of this week's thort is a bit of
a play on words as it is really all about denominations but it is
amazing how close that can be to what I actually put in the subject
line and how I sometimes think of them...
Let me begin by saying that I personally see
the need or understand the reason behind having different denominations
(denomination being the name of a group of like churches such as
Methodist, Anglican, Catholic etc plus the ones mentioned above)
- different people have different way of doing things and prefer
different styles (of service, of music, of meeting etc) and so I
think there probably is a case for having different types of congregations
with different names... but I NEVER think there is the case for
promoting one specific name (especially above another one)
The thing that used to irritate me more than
most stuff when I was at the Baptist church (and this would be the
same at any church that does this) was every now and then (and it
didn't happen often so probably usually a guest preacher) the preacher
would preach a sermon about 'how to be a good Baptist' and I was
like 'who cares?'... Preach to me how to be a good Christian or
an effective follower of Christ, but I never need to know how to
be a Baptist or Presbyterian or His Peoplian... if the lesson being
taught does not make me a better/more effective Christian then why
are you preaching it... and if it does then preach about being a
better/more effective Christian - don't bog it down with the denominational
You may think that this is a bit of an arb
Thort but I disagree - I really believe that God has laid this on
my heart as something to share BECAUSE the moment I start focusing
on the denomination as opposed to general Christianity then I am
setting it apart from other denominations and as such saying that
my denomination is better than others in some way or other. This
is the kind of pride that causes disunity in the body and I really
don't think that is it very helpful and this is the bottom line
reason why not - as far as I understand from my reading of the Bible
and my interaction with renowned theologians in the church:
WHEN JESUS CHRIST RETURNS TO EARTH, HE IS COMING
TO CLAIM HIS BRIDE! [singular] Jesus is not coming for His brideS!
There is only one bride and I believe in God's eyes there is only
one church - one body of believers... and the sooner we realise
that and believe that and start living that, the more effective
we are going to be.
I don't think that unity of believers has ever
not been on God's heart but over the last couple of years in particular
I have really felt that God has been emphasising church unity as
something that He is wanting to see more and more of.
Imagine how effective the church in South Africa
would be (or in any country where you're reading this) if we all
got together and worked on one unified project. We could maybe say
goodbye to unemployment... we could seriously hamper the spread
of AIDS... we could deal a decisive blow to poverty... we could
send racism running... and why don't we?
Because we all have our little project in the
corner that we cover fiercely so that the oppostion (that should
read 'other members of our family in Christ') can't see what we're
upto and we work on it independently and maybe look down on other
churches or point fingers at the way they dress or worship or do
liturgy or whatever... and so the lack of unity, and in some places
disunity, reduce the effectiveness of each little project and so
we continue making small impacts instead of joining up for one huge
Now maybe this is sounding a little bit idealistic
- I'm really not sure that it is (especially when we start looking
to growing the Kingdom of Heaven and not the Kingdom of my church)
- and it is definitely a generalisation (as there are some major
united church actions happening with fraternals in certain places,
events like the big Connected youth event in Cape Town - that are
signficantly successful) but for the most part one that a lot of
us need to address.
Probably the first thing we need to realise
is that there is no such thing as the perfect church - I had a buddy
at a large church in the area seriously tell me a couple of years
ago that each generation has one main church that is like God's
chosen church (surprisingly he was attending this church at the
time and I wasn't!) and I was like 'and what about my church?' and
he said - no, your church is good too but there is one church that
God really anoints or chooses to use or something to that effect...
Blew me away! That is the kind of attitude that
there is no space for in the Kingdom of heaven.
In Revelation 2-3 God gives John a message for
7 different churches in different areas and each one gets a different
rebuke for some stuff that has been allowed to happen within their
congregation - one church has forsaken their first love, another
tolerates Jezebel and a third is neither hot nor cold.... now each
one of them could have probably chosen the area the other church
was weak in and pointed fingers and said 'you suck in that area'
but in the same way in a different area it could be turned around
The same with our churches today - none of us
have it totally right and there are probably some things in each
of our denominations that need to be challenged (as opposed to gossiped
about you will notice!) but none of us are above another church.
We are all strong in some areas and weak in some areas and if we
are not going to physically work together then the least we can
do is stop working against each other, whether by what we say or
what we do.
I could go on but I will try end it here. I
really believe that we need to align ourself with Jesus and not
with a denomination. What good is there in being a Baptist? Be a
Christian that goes to a Baptist church. What good is there in being
a Catholic? Be a Christian that goes to a Catholic church? And so
on... Look for ways of working together as churches and as Christians
in the neighborhood - there should be enough stuff that unites us
(Jesus and what He did for each one of us on the cross will go a
long way for starters) to alloow us to work together and overlook
the things that don't...
Let's work together in building one Kingdom
and one bride for Christ...
I will end with an ad for those in my area
- as an example of this, on the first Friday of every month (next
one Friday ) 5 March - a bunch of us youth leaders (although it
is open to anyone but specifically those working with young people
for relating's sake) get together at Seattle coffee shop in Century
City for something we call a non-meeting as in no agenda/no minutes/no
rsvp etc - Come if you want to - don't if you don't - just an opportunity
to chill and hang out together and find out what God is doing in
each other's churches - if you would like to be added to the email
list of people reminded about these happenings please let me have
your email address and maybe tell the youth leader in your church
about it if they don't get these... it has been awesome to meet
with people from different denominations and hear what God has been
doing in their lives and in their churches... just a small example
of a way this can work...
I am a Christian and I proudly belong to the
church that is the body of Christ and itself belongs to Jesus...
join me and let's get involved in the process of world domination