I prefer to associate with people who believe like I do……….
It’s more comfortable to stay within the walls of my own church…..
My denomination has it ‘right’ and others…well… don’t.
We all have our justifications for why we worship with a particular denomination. And with good reason…..drums vs no drums, hymns vs praise & worship, eternal security vs not, wine vs grape juice, tongues vs interpretation, large vs small…the list goes on and on. All these variations of worship help us connect to God in ways that suits us best, and we find community within the Church with like-minded believers to support us in our journey.
Not a thing wrong with this!
But….how often do you engage in spiritual conversations with someone from a different part of the Body? I’m not talking about awkward holiday dinners with family members or debates with zealous co-workers or the uncomfortable avoidance of the nice, young men on bicycles. Rather, when was the last time you had a genuine conversation with someone from a different denomination and sought to understand why they believe the way they do?
Through my travels of different church experiences and meeting all kinds of people, I’ve discovered some valuable lessons along the way:
1) Discussing with others about how I interpret the Bible helps me understand better what I believe.
When I have to study, reflect , and intelligently articulate a doctrinal belief, I better understand what I believe and why I believe it. I often come away from the discussion encouraged and my faith is stronger than ever.
2) Talking and asking questions helps to clear up misconceptions.
Often what we think we know about a denomination is a bit skewed. We think we know all about a church by what is a stereotyped, limited idea such as “all Pentecostals handle snakes” or “all Catholics pray to Mary”, etc. Asking sincere, honest questions can make me realize my opinions may have been formed by cultural stereotypes or lack of information.
3) Realizing God works in lots of different ways helps me let God out of my box.
Sure, it feels a bit like my solid foundation is turning sideways and I’m slipping off hanging onto to my comfortable beliefs by my fingernails. Talking about other doctrines and interpretations just sometimes feels flat out wrong. But then, I realize God is WAY bigger than my predictable box and He can handle all the differences.
4) Discovering others’ journeys helps me realize how much they love Jesus.
Yes, there are fakers and pretenders in every brand of faith, but once I get to know how sincere a person is in their belief, I realize how much they actually love Jesus. Granted, it may look a lot different than how I love Jesus, and they may practice their worship differently than me. But, I still have to appreciate how God works uniquely in people’s lives, and He’ll use anything to draw people to Him.
5) Becoming a better Christian is the goal.
When I better appreciate other people’s perspectives, I am more understanding and less critical. I am more loving and less judgmental. Isn’t that what unity is all about? In this way, we all become more like Christ.
I am in no way suggesting “anything goes” in regards to doctrinal belief and Biblical interpretation. Nor, does it mean I will agree with everyone’s different perspective. I certainly have a clear view of what I believe and why I believe it. I definitely have my opinions about different denominations too. But I have come to learn that God has us all in the palm of His hand, and I trust that He’s got it all under control. And I am better off when I bother to share these conversations.
If you proclaim Jesus is Lord, then you are my sister!!
I invite you to share you experiences with Christians in other denominations. How has your box been stretched?