Recently I decided to go outside to my ‘swingy seat,’ coffee and bible in tow, and have my devotional time. Going through my mind was a recent discussion between myself and a couple of friends about the different denominations amongst the church. I recently read an article decrying the modern churches of today as being too “youth orientated, shallow in their beliefs” and possibly even deny the triune Godhead. And then there are the reciprocal bullets fired back at the “hymn-singing, organ-playing congregations” which surely must be boring God to sleep!
All in all, that’s a lot of ‘discerning’ based solely on the appearance of churches and their styles! And it made me recall my own attitude towards other churches over the years. Oh yes, I’ve done my fair share of conclusions-jumping.
Feeling quite uncertain, I prayed and asked God to show me if denominations were, in fact, a good thing or if we had, once again, gotten it wrong.
As I sat there, sipping my Nescafe and waiting on God, I began to notice a bird calling out in the early morning air. A single bird, calling out to whoever might be listening. Suddenly the little soloist was drowned out, and I became aware of a very large, very loud bunch of Galahs in the trees across the road. What a noise! They were screeching and flapping their wings as they jumped from one tree branch to another! There easily would have been 50 or more birds at that party, having a blast! And as I sat and listened, I became more and more aware of the variety of birds around me, and each type had their own way of celebrating the new day. Some perched atop a tree and quietly preened, whilst others were racing through the sky chasing each other! The party at tree No. 56 eventually moved down the street, and the quiet singing of the little bird could once again be heard.
And it suddenly became very clear that this was indeed God’s answer to my question about denominations. Birds are classified by scientists as being in one family and are then broken down into different species therein, based upon their appearance and habits, their similar characteristics and behaviours. And I believe that as Christians we are not that dissimilar.
We are all of the family of God, saved from sin and welcomed into His eternal kingdom. We do not all worship God the exact same way, but it does not matter! Some worship like the small, quiet bird, in relative quiet and with few spoken words. Others are just like the noisy Galahs who can’t seem to sit still for even a minute! Some are brought into the presence of God through hymns and the haunting sounds of the organ, others through brass band music, some through the loudness of an electric guitar and drums and bright, flashing lights. The key here, though, is that we are all brought into God’s presence! That is, or at least should be, the overriding factor, the one thing that makes all of the other traits obsolete!
Oh how wonderful it would be if we could stop criticising and judging the churches of God; they are, after all, His, and the people worshipping there are our brothers and sisters! Unity will not come from us all singing the same way or having the same style of worship service. No, unity - true, God-centred, God-pleasing unity - will only come when Christians stop tearing each other down and start loving one another. For in spite of our different styles, we are worshipping the same God!
And God, my dear friends, is the only person we should be aiming to please!