I’m going to be very frank about something. The whole idea of picking a church bothers me. I mean, from a Christ-follower perspective anyhow, and when we look at scripture, there is no “picking a church.” You’re either a member of “the Church” or you’re not. You’re either a member of the community of believers, or you’re not. The idea of “picking a church” is something that we’ve come up with along the way, and quite honestly, it’s not how things are supposed to work.
When you look at the world around us, there are Catholics and Baptists and Methodists and Pentecostals and Presbyterians and Episcopalians and Lutherans, and and and and … And even within “denominations,” there are multiple churches, sometimes right next to one another. Don’t like the music at this church? Try the one down the street. Pastor’s breath smells funny? Go next door. Think the color of the carpet is hideous? Well, the one across town matches your eyes. And if someone says something to offend you? Well, march yourself right out the door, cause there are plenty of churches to choose from.
Only, it’s not supposed to be that way. When we look at scripture, we don’t see the “United Methodist Church of Rome,” the “First Baptist Church of Jerusalem,” or the “Saint Bartholomew Church of Athens.” We see one thing – The Church. One group, working together, for a common goal, for the common good. Scripture refers to The Church as a family, as a body, as a united group of individuals with one purpose, one goal, one focus: to love the world around them in such a radical way that it turns heads – and makes people want to know more.
And that love includes other Christ-followers.
In a family, people have different tastes and experiences. Some may like classical music, while others only listen to acid rock. I might like blue carpets, but the guy next to me may hate them. You’re comfortable at 83 degrees, but I’m roasting at anything over 75. My cousin knows everything about football, but I just built a new linux server. I’ve only been to eight states, but my uncle has been around the world. And you know what? Even though we might not always agree about everything, as we live life together, experiencing things together, that diversity of personalities, of preferences, of histories is enriching, enlightening, and sometimes rather entertaining. After all, who wants to be surrounded by people exactly like themself? Not very many folks.
The question is, why can’t we do the same thing as Christ-followers?
The state of the body of Christ is really sad today, and we’re missing out on a lot as a result. In insisting that everything be tailored to our likes and preferences, we fail to experience a great diversity of others who have the potential to add a tremendous richness and depth to our faith. The problem is, they’re different from us, and that difference makes us uncomfortable. As a result, when things don’t go as we expect, we walk out the door, searching for some place where we “fit in,” where others are just like us. Instead of embracing our differences and learning from each other, we instead desire only our comfortable, familiar little bubble. When we fail to allow ourselves to see the world through the eyes of others whose lives, personalities, backgrounds, and experiences are different from us, we also lose the vast richness that comes from with them.
Conflict causes this as well. More than once in my life, I’ve heard of a church that split because of the color of the carpet, or some other insignificant, pointless disagreement. Instead of acting like a family, we allow clashes and division and differences of opinion to split and destroy, rather than working together to find resolutions for problems, and ultimately, growing as a result.
And the world around us notices.
I’m not saying that there aren’t things that should cause us to walk out the doors of a church, because there very much are. But when people decide to leave a church, or start a new church, simply as a result of a difference of opinion or tastes or preferences or likes, that is where we fail miserably. The only way to truly to be a part of a body, to be a tight-knit family, is to allow our preferences to fall by the wayside in the best interest of others around us. I’m not saying we should become opinionless groups of mindless clones, but instead that we need to acknowledge that others’ opinions and preferences are just as valid as ours, and stop insisting on our own way.
In reality, until we learn to get over ourselves and work together as one group of Christ-followers, rather than little groups of people each demanding their own way, there isn’t a way that we can effectively reach out to the world that surrounds us.