I am thinking about our commitment to specific fellowships, churches, communities etc. yes, it is important to be part of them but who is our allegiance to? I have always had a challenge when people fight over how one congregation does something that is different from them, yet it is a matter of no major consequence.
Growing up, I was raised in a hip urban church that had the hottest youth program and best music. We had the latest gospel musicians in our midst, and we were used to choreography in our concerts and all sorts on instruments. One day, we accompanied my grandparents to their Sunday service, and I had the shock of my life. The only instruments were the Afrikan drum, tambourine, and vocals. The choir wore long robes and only swayed a little as they sang and none clapped or danced as I was used to. My young mind rejected this experience as too backward for me and I dismissed that who denomination because of that. how could they say they were serving God and be so rigid? I totally judged them.
Fast forward ten years and the tables turned. I was part of a different urban church that was affiliated with a local denomination and now we were judged to be too liberal. We had a full band, concerts galore, Friday night fellowship, loud music, and no Kiswahili service. We really had a blast, yet some of the other congregations regarded us as too edgy and lost.
The truth is; it is two different expressions of the same Father based on our world view.
What strikes me as interesting today, is the reality that we align with doctrines, denominations, specific congregations and judge those who are different from us. It happened in the 70s, 80s and 90s, and is till happening today. We call each other ‘out’ for doing things that are inconsequential to the realities of our faith. I have heard some call calmer more sedate congregations backward of other call the more vibrant and engaged congregations lost. Why do we judge each other so? We judge wat we do not understand and call it heathen.
The other thing that bothers me is how we follow individuals. I was thinking about how some independent congregations have died when the lead minister dies or have fallen apart when a key leader loses their way, has a crisis of faith, or something significant changes. We are anchored around the key people so when they go down, we go down.
Many are also anchored around the teaching that when you walk with God life is great, easy, flowing etc. which isn’t all true so when trouble finds them, their faith fails completely. Why is this?
Hebrews 12: 18-24 speaks clearly to me…
18 For you have not come [g]to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and [h]darkness and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned [i]or shot with an arrow.” 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the [j]general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
Salvation has never been about preachers, pastors, easy lives, only good rather it is all about the transformative power of God to change us as individuals to such a degree that men will be drawn by our walk to this God…the Judge and Christ the mediator. It was never about who was better that the other or who has the hotter program or raises the most money to build the biggest, most up to date meeting venue. It is not about who drives the latest car, lives in the plushest neighbourhood, has the largest church or raises the largest offering.
Rather it is about whose lives were so radically transformed that we cannot dispute the work of God in them.
Do not wait for me at the door of a particular congregation because I go where my Father says even if it is just to sit alone with Him or with one other of His children. I am so tired of the expectation that I am aligned to only one congregation or group of people. My devotion is my Father who by His grace and mercy daily restores me to Himself and forgives me of my madness. My devotion is to He who can destroy both my body and spirit. My devotion is to Him who chose to lay His life for me that I may have the ability to represent Him fully here and then live with Him in eternity.
Look for me where people are honest, are seeking him, speak the truth no matter how hard, are growing and challenging patterns that do not make room for God. Look for me in places that challenge the status quo, have the difficult conversations, keep walking in the valley of the shadow of death, hold tighter to God when things seem hard and hold even tighter when things improve.
I am seeking a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. I am seeking to live out the reality of His kingdom come, His will be done on earth at it is heaven. I am seeking to be a full expression of brokenness and loss, translated into grace and strength for heaven.
How about you?