As I sat there, tired from the previous two full days, I couldn’t help but let out a long unceasing laugh as the guest soloist belted out an exhaustive rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. With every overused vibrato I found myself more and more immersed in my uncontrollable laughter as the two young girls next to me struggled not to laugh with me. It was a mess—I was so embarrassed and I felt like such a poor example. It got worse from there. Every polished phrase that came out of the preacher’s mouth about how there is a “sweet spirit” in that church just made me think more and more, “Are you serious? Who could encounter God here?” I was beyond bored. The young men in bowties collecting the offering made me laugh (this time on the inside) and the well-dressed crowd just turned me off more and more to everything that was going on. To make matters worse, I kept finding my eyes closed! I didn’t even realize it until they were already shut. Not good. Funny thing is that according to the preacher, there have been many a lost souls who have noticed a sweet spirit in that place. There has been restoration in that place and people have encountered God.
You know why? Because God shows up when he is sought.
A couple weeks ago my friend and I were recalling the churches in which we got saved. He is a pretty conservative Baptist (conservative being a relative term, but in comparison to me, he is). I come from a non-denominational mindset and I like loud, energetic worship music. All that to say, we were looking back and realized that both of us got saved in churches that we would now consider “shady” or “weird.” I cannot remember sensing joy when I was saved. I was scared and confused, but I know that I did not go up because I was having an emotional moment. I know that God led me to the front of that altar. Some time after that “experience” I did end up moving to a different church where I experienced a lot of growth and encouragement. My friend got saved at an event type setting where one of the previous speakers had allegedly cast out a demon that looked like a flame leaving the building. Both places were ones that, when we look back, we probably would not go to now because we can see many things that just don’t seem right. However, those were the places where God in his love drew us to himself. They seemed shady, but he was there.
What I am getting at is that we tend to think know exactly what God and His church—the body of Christ—are supposed to look like. We all have a personal theology made up of our beliefs about God, but the amazing thing is that he often shows up even if that doctrine isn’t 100% accurate. Thank goodness for that! There are hundreds of combinations on what you could believe about Christianity today and if don’t think you’re wrong about something, then be careful.
Now, don’t misinterpret what I am saying here. I am not saying that you shouldn’t hammer out your theology. It is crucial to study the Word of God, to allow it to change you, and not stray from it. Realize, however, that there are many issues on which people use the Bible to defend completely opposite views. Are they both right? They can’t be. Is it worth dividing the body and disregarding other forms of worship? No.
I am also not saying that churches that don’t teach the fundamentals of our faith are okay. There is a definite need for discernment in our walk and care to be sure that it is Jesus who is indeed being worshipped. However, we can’t assume that because a church looks different from ours or our concept of what church should be, that it’s wrong. Some aspects may be wrong, but that is likely to true in every church.
Be open. Strive to know God above all things. Don’t assume that because a church is too traditional or too contemporary, structured liturgy or waving banners, that it is not of God or not effective. Again, it is not possible for God to completely back every theology and remain consistent. But he shows up anyway because the word of God says, “Draw close to God and he will draw close to you.” (James 4:8 NLT)
Do not limit God to what he can do or where he will work. Keep the big picture in mind and remember the greatest commandment Jesus gave us was to love God and to love others. Praise God that he continues to work despite our differences and that he will show up when he is sought.
As far as that church goes where I went up to the front years ago, I probably won’t go back because it’s not the way I prefer to worship now. But I will not blow it off either, because that is the place where I met my Savior. Praise God.
Note: If you are wondering if your church is a good place to worship, here are four core elements that we believe you should look for:
- The Word of God is taught, and is taught as inerrant and divinely inspired.
- They recognize that Christ was fully God and fully man.
- They believe that Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and that no one comes to God the Father except through him.
- They believe in the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
If you have any questions regarding these four elements please feel free to contact us. Also, if you have any questions regarding these elements in your church, ask your pastor or other leaders to have them provide you with your church’s doctrinal statement.