I saw a sign the other day on a church just down the street from us. It sort of broke my heart. It read, "Four churches call this building home". Now you might not find this very heart-breaking, but let me explain why it tugged at the my heart-strings. The sad thing is four groups of people have to see things so differently as to need to be four different churches all meeting in the same building. I wonder how strong the church could be if ALL the members of each of these churches would lay down their "style" or "uniqueness" and just embrace everyone from the "other" congregations as Christ intended?
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1 KJV)
You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. (Ephesians 4:4-6 MSG)
Paul says it well to the Ephesian church - "You were called to travel on the SAME road and in the SAME direction..." Yet, we have chosen so many "directions" in which we will travel this journey of faith, haven't we? We "divide" ourselves in something called "denominations". Do you know how the dictionary describes a "denomination"? It is simply a group having a "distinctive" interpretation of faith. Somehow, I think we missed the mark of what David described back in the Old Testament and what Paul describes as the mission of the church of the New Testament. We are CALLED to live in unity. Now, I don't know about you, but a "calling" is something I take pretty seriously. It is not a "choosing", but a calling. Do you know the other word for "calling"? It is simple: MISSION.
We "divide" over the silliest of things, really not so significant in the scheme of things. Things like what we should wear to church, or how we should wear our hair. Some focus on whether the music should be loud, or melodious. Others think a strong outreach to the community is the ticket. NONE of these is really the focus of the church! In fact, the focus of the church is really being "ON MISSION" with Jesus. In order to accomplish that mission, we use all kinds of tools along the way. We use music to minister - some like it loud, others like it softer. So have both - and learn to "tolerate" the other's taste!
Here is the crux of what Paul was saying - stay together! Dividing over the small stuff is really not going to do much for our inward growth and it will be evident in our outward growth, as well. I suspect such is the case of the "four churches who call one building their home". We have one Master - Jesus Christ. No other prophet, teacher, or great leader. Jesus is central to the Christian faith. If we believe in Jesus as the only true Son of God, given to be the sacrifice for our sins - we believe the SAME. We have one God and Father of all - Jehovah, The Almighty, Father God - we call him all kinds of things, but he is the same. If we believe there is one true God, creator of all things, all-knowing, ever-present, and and all-powerful, we believe the SAME.
So, why do we divide? Do you know the other definition of "denomination"? It is a "group bigger than a sect". Back in Jesus' day, there were a few "sects" in Jerusalem. The Pharisees (religious leaders well-studied in the Law) were one; the Sadducees (religious leaders who were responsible for keeping the Temple) were another; the Essenes (Jews who lived at the waterfront of the Dead Sea as isolationists) were yet another. I could go on and on about these various sects, but the point is they have existed for a long, long time. In the New Testament, first century church, the goal was to break down these walls of "separation" and begin to come together in unity. I wonder what power could be evident if we'd just heed this one instruction?
So, now you understand why I am a little distressed by the "four church in one building" sign. I guess I am grateful all four congregations have a place to meet. I just know it grieves God's heart for man to live with such division. If you were to ask me my "denomination", I'd tell you I don't have one! I am a Christian - a believer in Christ who chooses to fellowship with other believers in Christ. The church is not the four walls I go into - it is the life I live each and every day while being on mission with Jesus. Just sayin!