“It’s nothing to split a church over.”
Have you ever stopped to think about how many different churches there are? This saying, while agonizing and heartbreaking in its flippancy, reflects a climate of disunity deeply felt in our culture today.
Coming up on two years ago, my family moved across the country necessitating the search for a new church family. As I’ve documented before, it was very hard for me. We had a very strong church family in Austin, and we knew exactly 4 people in the Bay Area. It was a very lonely feeling.
One of the beautiful things about being a believer is the Church. A continual solace my husband and I had upon our move was knowing that we weren’t really moving to a place without family because there are believers in the Bay Area. We already had a connection. We already had commonality. We already had community. Through Christ.
Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6, CSB, emphasis added)
We visited a church that resembled our Austin church. It was a small church plant that met in an elementary school cafeteria/auditorium. It was an Acts 29 church. It was made up of young families and had about 45 regular attenders.
We visited a church whose Sunday meeting felt a lot like a Catholic mass with group Scripture reading. We recited a prayer out loud while holding hands. We worshipped from a hymnal. The congregation had members of all walks of life. There were maybe 150 people there.
We visited a church you could say catered to a “younger” maybe even “hipster” crowd. It’s dark auditorium was lit with black lights, and it’s worship service resembled a Hillsong concert; it was loud. The service incorporated technology. The congregation was large.
We visited churches that took communion every week and some that did once a month. We visited churches with sermons ranging from 20 minutes to an hour. We visited churches that encouraged whole families to worship together and churches that had specialized children’s ministries.
When we were looking for our church home, there were churches we left thinking “definitely not.” It wasn’t because they are “bad” or “wrong” churches. It wasn’t because they love Jesus any less than we do. It wasn’t because they believe in some heresy contrary to the Bible. It was simply because we did not feel we could serve them or they could serve us.
God has created me to love breaking down the implications of one word in a sentence and “geeking out” over the social and historical significance of a passage in the Old Testament (my current obsession – Thanks, The Bible Project) . I have a sister in my Bible study who creates gorgeous pieces of artwork she uses to bless those around her. We have writers here who make and appreciate music in ways I can’t. Or compose gorgeous poems of lament and worship I can only dream of. Or care about the hearts of women so deeply, they aren’t afraid of saying hard things. Are any of us greater than the other? More valuable? Have better gifts? Of course not! We are all created in God’s image and reflect different aspects of His character. We all point back to the Lord albeit in different ways.
This may seem like a digression, but it speaks to the vast nature of our Lord. None of the churches we visited were the same, but they served the same God. I basked in the beauty of standing united, holding hands, and praying The Lord’s Prayer. I savored the intensity of worshipping with music I could feel in my bones. I appreciated sitting next to a family in the same stage of life as me and a family who already went through it all. I hungered for adults who loved Jesus pouring into my kids in the next room. All these churches were uniquely placed by God to serve their communities in different ways, reflecting all aspects of His character and heart.
Why does it matter if our church resembles a cathedral versus a stadium, school cafeteria, or someone’s living room? Why does it matter if we wear our “Sunday best” or jeans and a t-shirt? Why does it matter if we sing with voices only or use electric guitars, with dancing or stillness? Why does it matter if we are KJV only or never consume alcohol or meet on Sunday evenings instead of mornings? Why does it matter if we are a body of 3000 or 300 or 30 or 10?
It’s nothing to split a church over. Why? Because there is only one Church.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. (Philippians 2:1-2, CSB, emphasis added)