When we view different denominations of the Christian Church as separate from whatever denomination we attend, we do ourselves, our fellow Christians, and Christianity a disservice. We also rob ourselves of the joy of interacting with fellow believers with different perspectives than our own. A different denomination is not a different tree, it is simply a different branch of the same tree. We all have our roots in Christ, and we are each grafted into the tree bringing our own types of fruit.
In fact, one of the biggest things I treasure about the multi-denomination experiences I have had is that they have pushed me to step beyond my own limited mindset and have allowed me to see and appreciate the Church as a whole.
I have left churches, transitioned through churches, spent extend periods at churches, and visited many other people’s churches. As a result, I’ve come to have a wide range of church experiences. I know what it’s like to listen to a mega church pastor and what it’s like to listen to a small town preacher. I know what it’s like to sit in a church that passes the offering plate versus one that leaves it by the back door. I know what it’s like to recite scripture with the church versus having the pastor simply read it aloud. I’ve sung with instruments and without. I’ve received communion in my pew and by going forward. I’ve been greeted when I’ve walked in a church’s doors, and I’ve been ignored. I’ve attended churches where only hymns were sung, and I’ve attended churches where only praise music was sung. I’ve been in churches with a pastor, and churches that had only preaching elders. I’ve worn jeans to one church and a dress to another. I’ve gone to churches in the U.S. and outside the U.S. I’ve attended everything from a Catholic church service to a Cowboy church service. Such experiences are definitely at times stretching and can have their awkward moments, but I take joy in having had the experiences because it has expanded my understanding of the Christian world.
To me the concept of Church has been made broad by my experiences. The Church is not my specific church denomination or my specific style of worship. The Church is the greater community of believers that I have encountered in so many different forms. I may not fellowship with a certain church on an ongoing bases, but I can appreciate how they fellowship and are fellow Christians who love and worship God. Their convictions are perhaps quite different from my own, but my encounter with their convictions helps me better understand my own and how to respect them in theirs. Knowing the greater Church and experiencing so many different mindsets and perspectives has rounded off the sharpness of my own positions and helped me become a more gracious member of the Church as a whole.
When we get stuck in one mindset, different mindsets can become a point of division, but where we have experienced by choice or circumstances other people’s mindsets, it can open the doors to a more true unity within the Church community.
In the midst of our own uncertainties, we need to remember that we are not here to promote our own church but rather to promote God’s Church. And the thing about God is that He can handle more than one mindset. He loves and enjoys the people who love hymns and the people who love praise music. He enjoys and loves the pastors who wax eloquently and those that just say it as it is. He created each of us the way we are for a reason, and when we take joy in learning from our differences rather than letting them drive us apart, we learn how to truly love each other and to truly seek God and His righteousness.
I sincerely wish we had more multi-denominational church events, because I think we have a lot to learn from each other. In fact, I think if we could find better ways to get along within the Family of Christ, we would probably also be far more effective speaking His grace to the world.
Challenge: If you have never before attended a church service of a different denomination, I would encourage you to do so. Note the differences, but spend your time looking for the similarities. We are after all family. Uncle Jo might not pray the same way as you are use to and Cousin Tom might feel a little liturgical, but there are things to learn from each of them.