I am a member of the United Methodist Church. If you are not familiar with the recent proposed division, you can read more about that here.
As I consider the ongoing divisions and denominations of Christ’s church I recall the words of Peter at the end of John 6. The title of the section is “Many Disciples Desert Jesus.” The Savior addressed a disgruntled crowd with the essential truths that His body and blood would become an offering for which they all needed to partake. I want to acknowledge it is
possible LIKELY that most turned away to seemingly greener pastures of baked lamb over roasted Nazarene (seems like an easy choice at first glance, no?). Jesus asked them “You do not want to leave too, do you?” and Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
That is the basis on which I make the following claim: If you are a Christian, your place is in the church. What church looks like can be different for everyone, but hopefully it is in part a small group where you are able to discuss your heart and your struggles. There is no other long-term sustainable way to live out the Christian life. It involves many commands on how to treat one another and also outlines forming a living witness to the truth of the Gospel. The former is impossible and the latter is implausible without Christian community.
Some of my dearest church family members hold political views directly opposing mine. Still, we stand together, praise together and cry together. This is community. This is what Jesus does: He takes people who would normally be shouting at each other from different sides of the aisle and He makes them care so deeply for one another. Apart from Christ, where else does this happen?
- Where else will people of different political beliefs be joined together for a common purpose?
- Where else will people of different races be joined together, supporting one another and praying for each other?
- Where else will people of different economic statuses be joined together, investing in each others’ lives and raising their children alongside one another?
Church is not the problem. Church is the solution.
The problem with Christian community develops when it becomes homogenous. Christians should be consistent in main doctrinal tenants such as the life, death and resurrection of Christ. However the congregational goal should be to vary in diversity according to every other category.
When churches are homogeneous the “other” becomes objectified and extra-biblical cultural norms develop, such as standards what is an acceptable outfit to wear to church or which political party is socially acceptable. Diversity in church ensures that we focus on the one thing that brings us together: God! It also makes us more empathetic toward those who are different.
I’ve mentioned on my blog before that some of my more conservative friends have called me their “favorite liberal.” In some ways I hold conservative views, and in some ways moderate views. Nevertheless, the fact that I am their “favorite liberal” implies they do not like liberals very much in general. This puts me in an interesting spot in two ways.
1) They can ask me questions they may not be able to ask anyone else with whom they’re on less than close terms without erupting into a huge argument.
2) They may second-guess what they’ve thought about liberals before.. and because they know my heart, they might think twice before dismissing them as entitled lunatics.
Now let’s try something. What makes you different from your current (or former) congregation? What about you is holding you back from entering into Christian community? God has given you a unique perspective on something, a position you specifically are meant to use to minister, break down boundaries, and point to Him. Unsurprisingly, He will take some of your views and challenge them within Christian community. Be teachable. Let Him. Church is the essential place to wrestle with those challenging ideas. Don’t be intimidated by a difference in thought and assume there is not a place for you in God’s house. After all, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Apart from him we will not be able to find truth.
I echo Peter’s words in saying, “Where else would we go?”
In the Trinity’s Diversity,