Churches are like shoes. Everybody has a favorite pair that goes with just about everything, and they are broken in just right. You feel comfortable and confident in your favorite pair. If you are like me, finding and buying a new pair may take quite a long time because it’s so hard to find the right fit. Even then, a new pair can take a while to get comfortable.
Churches can be the same way. You attend the church that is comfortable for you- the music fits, the preaching fits, the style of worship fits you just right. For some of you, you’ve attended the same church all your life like a pair of shoes that never wear out. For others, you’ve tried on several different churches like buying a new pair of shoes with the changing seasons.
We get so comfortable with the way we ‘do’ church, we might have a hard time understanding how someone else could possibly attend another kind of church. We are so familiar with our prefered style of worship that we can’t possibly see how any other kind of church could ever be useful to someone else. And, we may not say it out loud, but we think, “that kind of church is just not of God”.
Hear me out. I know we have our denominational beliefs for certain reasons. I, too, have strong theological convictions. I believe, just like you, that some doctrinal beliefs are simply unbiblical. However, some of our perceptions of other churches are unnecessarily negative because we have a limited view of why they worship the way they do.
You take a sliver of knowledge about a church and let it shape your whole thinking. It could be from a movie or tv show or from hearing family members talk about other churches. Maybe you’ve actually been taught from your church leadership that the worship and beliefs of other churches are wrong. Catholics worship Mary. Pentecostals speak in tongues. Churches of Christ don’t use instruments. It may or may not be true, but your limited understanding is skewed because you often don’t get the full context and reasoning behind a belief or practice. A little bit of misunderstanding disqualifies them from any possible common ground as fellow believers.
No matter how you formed your perceptions, this lack of understanding causes you to step back from the people who worship that way. And when you step back, that creates a divide. It’s this division that separates us from unity.
Ok, maybe you’ve fully studied other churches’ theological and doctrinal beliefs, and you simply believe they are wrong. Still, if your study has led you to disassociate with other believers, then division still exists and the fullness of unity is not expressed.
I believe now more than ever we need to be unified in building God’s Kingdom as the Body of Christ. This doesn’t mean we stop worshipping at our preferred churches, but rather take intentional steps to get to know and understand people from other churches to gain an appreciation for their particular style and mission.
Uniformity does not equate to conformity. We don’t have to conform to each other’s point of view in order to be unified. In God’s beautiful Body, we can be uniquely shaped for our specific mission, and yet be solidly unified in our purpose of Kingdom building and love for each other.
So if churches are like shoes, walk in someone else’s shoes for a change!
Seriously! This past Sunday I shared a Facebook Live video and challenged everyone to try this one thing this summer: go visit someone else’s church! You can check out that video here!
Also, I’ve made a special handout for some good ideas to interact with other believers. “How to be More Interdenominational” has lots of ways to make connections and get to know others from different kinds of churches. Check that out here.
When you have a conversation, you get to know the person. Then, you understand a little bit more of where they are coming from and why they do what they do. Their different ways don’t seem so mysterious, and you can appreciate their point of view. Understanding develops, division diminishes, and unity grows!!!
I know many of you already participate with other believers, and so many of you have a heart for the Body of Christ that I know I’m preaching to the choir! However, if any of those dividing thoughts have ever crossed your mind, won’t you consider trying on a different pair of shoes just to see what it’s like?
Try walking a mile….or just a Sunday….in someone else’s shoes!