I hope you will visit my ministry website: http://ajourneyoffaith.net .
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Why Aren't Christians Unified in Christ?
Today's post in my Looking Back series is from April 2009 ...
I often find myself frustrated with the doctrinal roadblocks that people put up ... the "I believe this, and if anyone believes differently than they aren't really Christians."
I am NOT talking about the differences between different religions. As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that any religion that contradicts the Word of God is a false religion, that does not believe the Truth. I do NOT believe that anyone from any religion can "get to heaven" in their "own way". I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that NO ONE can come to the Father, except through Jesus Christ.
However, what frustrates me is the Christian churches that believe that "their way is the only way" ...
The churches that say, "If you speak in tongues that is from the devil himself." and the churches that say, "only those who speak in tongues have the Holy Spirit in their lives".
The churches that say, "Our pastor preaches ENTIRELY from scripture, and any pastor that preaches topically is not doing it RIGHT." or the churches that say, "To really meet the needs of today's society, we must speak topically."
The churches that say, "All babies must be baptized." and the churches that say, "All adults must be baptized."
The churches that say, "Every Believer must ...
... read the King James Version.
... only listen to hymns.
... require all women to only wear dresses.
and, the churches that say, "All churches should ...
... use the Living Bible.
... have worship that sounds like a rock band.
... encourage their congregation to "come as you are",
even if it is completely immodest.
I do not believe that the Lord intended for us to all be "cookie cutter" Christians. I do not believe that He wants us to all fit into some little box of "this is what a Christian looks like".
On the flip side, I believe that many churches are getting so casual in their beliefs that they are ignoring scripture (such as when Worship Team members are wearing completely immodest clothing and their young adult groups are focusing their "fellowship" time on drinking alcohol together).
What I have found over the years is that most Christians put themselves in one box or the other, the "Conservative Christian" box or the "Modern Christian" box.
The "Conservative Christian" churches tend to have so many rules and regulations, that they miss out on encouraging the development of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The "Modern Christian" churches tend to throw out all rules and regulations, and work to be so "Seeker Friendly" that they miss out on the blessing of living by the rules that God has set out for us in His Word.
Our family has been involved in both kinds of churches over the years, and we are sad that we can't find a church that offers a middle road ... a balance ... a place that says, "We can all look a little different than each other (with slightly different beliefs), but we need to be living a radically different life than "the world", as we seek to truly follow God's Word." (This is definitely our Pastor's belief, but I don't believe that the majority of the congregation are seeking to be radically different than the world.)
Twelve years ago, we joined a "Conservative Christian" ministry for homeschoolers, and even attended a "home church" with fellow members for a year. Before we joined, we were drawn to what the families "looked like". Their children "looked good" ... obedient, well-behaved, modestly dressed, etc... The organization encouraged families to have lots of children, contrary to the "Modern Christian" belief of "IF you have enough money, you might want to have more than a couple of children."
However, once we had joined this group, it became clear very quickly that we were the "rebellious ones". We read the NIV, rather than the King James. We listened to Michael W. Smith, rather than hymns exclusively. While we encouraged our girls to dress modestly, we did allow them to wear jeans. They even required my husband to shave off his beard because "it was a sign of rebelliousness". What?!! So, while attending our past church we had been considered the "very conservative homeschooling family with all the kids" ... suddenly were were the "rebellious ones". It just didn't make sense.
The saddest thing we discovered, though, is that while many of the families "looked good" on the outside, many of them were not truly happy. They were tired of having more children, but they were told that "birth control is from the devil". They were tired of homeschooling, but they were told that "public schools are from the devil". They were tired of all of the rules, but they were told that they must "follow the rules in order to honor God". And, actually, even sadder than the many joyless moms that I met, is that the results of the rules-oriented parenting style actually resulted in many of the teens and young adults rebelling from their parents in the end. So, while they looked good during the time that they could still control their children, in the end many of their children rejected the lifestyle of "looking good".
After a year, we realized that we would much rather be the "ultra-conservative" family in a "Modern Church", than the "rebellious" family in a "Conservative Church". However, that is not always easy either ...
... While many families allow their children to dress however they want (even to church), we have clothing guidelines for our children whether they are headed to church or to the beach for the day.
... While many families automatically allow and encourage their children to attend Youth Group, we have often not allowed our children because of the lack of standards for the volunteer leaders at Youth Group.
... While many families allow any type of music to be listened to, or at least any type of Christian music, we have music guidelines also, and we don't allow just any music that happens to be purchased at the Christian Bookstore.
So, who are we ... where do we fit ???
We are "Conservative" since we ...
... have LOTS of kids.
... wear modest clothes
(but not exclusively dresses)
... don't allow our boys to have long hair
... don't watch television
... don't have xBox, PlayStation, wii, etc...
... don't drink alcohol
... don't allow our children to date until they're 18
Yet, we are "Modern Christians" because we ...
... listen to contemporary Christian music
... read the NIV
... allow our children to watch movies
... allow our girls to wear jeans and shorts
... allow our children to participate in the
"evil" public school programs (sports, drama, etc...)
Even in the areas that we do have "rules and regulations", we know that those are the guidelines that the Lord has called our family to, and we don't say that anyone else must live by the same standards. We don't try to find friends that only fit into our little "box" of Christianity. We have friends that ...
... have their kids in public school
... have large families
... have small families
... attend "Conservative" churches
... attend "Modern" churches
... don't watch t.v.
... watch a LOT of t.v.
... don't drink alcohol
... enjoy a drink with dinner
... require their boys to get regular haircuts
... have boys with very cute long hair
The truth is ... none of those things really matter in our friendships. What matters is that each of our families are loving and serving the Lord Jesus Christ ... IN OUR OWN WAY. Each of our families love and respect the guidelines that we have set for our own families. We can even laugh at each other and say, "Boy, I don't understand why you do it that way?" And, sometimes, after those types of discussion ... we may relax our guidelines a bit, or other families may tighten their guidelines a bit. When we enter these friendships without judgement, the Lord can use us to teach each other. None of us have the "red phone", a "hotline" to the Lord that is only available to us. No ... we each have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and we each are daily seeking Him for what He wants for our individual family. Wouldn't it be boring if God had created each person and each family and each church, to look and believe exactly the same?
While we often feel like the "odd family" at church, we do love our church.
We LOVE ...
... our Senior Pastor, and his AMAZING messages
(or sermons, as the conservatives would call it)
... our Worship Director,
and the contemporary worship teams
(we even sing hymns ... with a twist)
... the Children's Pastor that just left after 7 years
(sooo... sad to see her move across the country)
... our Youth Pastor and the GREAT work
that he is doing with youth
... the focus on Missions, all over the world
... the focus on Outreach to the Community
... the passion to reach out to
Single Mothers and Orphans
... the vision to plant churches
in other parts of our county
(just this week, our church paid cash
to buy an old tavern to turn it into a church)
Now ... I realize that I may have just offended each and every one of you, because you probably fit quite comfortably into either the "Conservative Christian" box or the "Modern Christian" box. Please forgive me if I've offended you; that was not at all my intent.
What I hope that we can all learn from today's ponderings is that ...
... NONE of us have it all "right".
... NONE of our churches are perfect.
... rules and regulations WON'T get us to heaven.
... ONLY a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ
will bring us the gift of eternal life.
I hope that we can each look into our lives and see if there are ...
... areas that we have been judging others
... areas that we are putting much further up on the list
of importance than maybe God intended them to be
... areas that we might actually be able to learn
from those that fit into the "other box"
My dream ... my passion ... is to have Christians throw out all of the "boxes" and just learn to love and serve the Lord, side-by-side.
... Conservative and Modern Believers
going on a mission trip together.
... Homeschoolers and Public Schoolers
seeking the BEST education for their children,
and supporting each other in the choices they make
... Hymn Singers enjoying a little bit of a modern beat
... Contemporary Worshipers enjoying the hymns
... Women in dresses fellowshipping
with women in modest shorts
... Adults who don't drink alcohol,
enjoying dinner with those that are drinking a beer
... Young men with pony tails and tattoos
praying for boys with crewcuts
Won't you join me???
I hope that you have all enjoyed this weeks Looking Back posts. I'll be back tomorrow, from my little road trip across the state; and I look forward to touching base with my Bloggy Friends again.