“One church. One faith. One Lord. Not Baptist, not Methodist, not Adventist. Just Christians. No denominations. No hierarchies. No traditions. Just Christ.”
Max Lucado’s devotional for August 17 in Grace for the Moment poses this question. Would this be impossible to achieve? One church in Christ with no denomination. Instead of groups of two thousand or two hundred, one church. One faith.
He says it’s not impossible. He bases his premise on John 17:11 when Jesus prays “Holy Father, keep through Your name those who You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.”
As someone who grew up in the Methodist Church and has belonged to the same UMC in my adopted hometown for more than 20 years, this is a fascinating thought. What would this look like? What would we have to give up? What would we gain?
If the Baptists, and the Lutherans, and the Methodists, and the Nazarenes and the Church of Christ, we all got together and decided to hop into one big melting pot.
Can you imagine? I have this vision of two pastors standing at the altar trying to decide whether to “dunk” or “sprinkle” for baptism. We’d be fighting over who got to sit in the back pew. And how would the Methodists beat the Baptists to Luby’s for lunch after the last service?
Will we have a guitar, drums and a trumpet in the band? Will we have musical instruments? Will we have music at all?
Do we pass the peace? Or do we just say ‘hey, y’all.” Do we shout “amen” or “wahoo?” Is the music displayed on a big screen or do we use hymnals? Do some of us raise our hands in worship, while others keep theirs tucked behind their backs. Jeans or dress-up?
Is there a reading of the Word? Do we recite the Lord’s Prayer? Does the pastor wear a robe?
Are there stain glass windows? Is there an education wing and gym? The questions–and the divisions they often cause–seem endless and sometimes insurmountable. The real question is: does Jesus care about any of this?
It’s the rules and the rituals that get in the way. When my son, who grew up and joined the Methodist church at 13, reached adulthood, he stopped coming to church. He informed me he is a deist. He believes in God, but doesn’t believe in churches because “they make up a bunch of rules that don’t have anything to do with what’s in the Bible.”
I can understand that. I pray he changes his mind and comes back to church, but I understand the frustration. It makes me think of the Todd Agnew song, “My Jesus,” that says, “My Jesus would never be accepted in your church because the blood and dirt on his feet might stain the carpet.”
Ouch. Hurts, doesn’t it?
Sometimes it may appear we’re more concerned about the building campaigns, fund-raisers, the administrative meetings, and about the constructs of the worship than we are about worship itself. The way we worship isn’t important. It’s that we keep Jesus at the heart of our worship. Michael W. Smith’s “The Heart of Worship” should be sung more often in many churches as that reminder.
I’m not going to argue about whose doctrines are right or wrong when it comes to musical instruments, dancing, alcohol, and so on. Do we worship on Sunday morning or Saturday evening? Do we use grape juice or wine? Do we believe the bread is Jesus’s body when we take communion? Literally. Do we baptize babies or adults?
I’m no religious scholar. Nor a biblical scholar, either. But I understand enough when I read about Jesus and the Pharisees and how frustrated Jesus was with their legalism. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the story is recorded in which Jesus heals a man with a deformed hand in the synagogue on the sabbath. The story is a little different each time, but the essence is the same. In Mark 3:1-6, Jesus asks, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or destroy it?” But they would not answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, ‘Hold out your hand.’ So the man held out his hand and it was restored. At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.”
He was angry and deeply saddened. Not a good report. Are we so in love with our rules and regulations and doctrines we could not set them aside to be truly united in our faith as one church? How much stronger would we be in our fight to save souls if we could say to those nonbelievers, we stand united in our love of you as a child of God? Come, join us in worship of Jesus Christ.”
What if we united in one Christian Church and rose up together to love this broken, hurting world the way Christ first loved us? What would that look like? Wouldn’t that be an awesome sight to see?
Join me in praying for wisdom, discernment, diplomacy, tact, and love for not only the leaders of the world, but also the people of this country and the world. Let us love each other as Christ first loved us. Godspeed.