Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a different type of church than I normally go to. I normally attend a church that is very little liturgy. It has a certain structure, yet most would consider it free-flowing. But what am I missing going to a church like that? I was curious as to what a liturgical church would feel like so I took a Sunday off and visited a local church nearby. I must admit I was bit nervous going inside there, but quickly I realized that there was a sweet spirit in the place. These people loved the Lord and were earnest in seeking Him.
I didn’t know what to think when I saw processional and the pastor in robes. I’ve never seen that before. The church I go to might quickly say that robes are unnecessary traditions and perhaps even distracting. But yet, as I watched the pastor conduct the service, I realized that the robes signify the special calling to which the pastor was called to. He did not lord over the service, but instead, chose to speak to the people with joy and humility. It seemed that it was his highest honor to serve the people. How many times leaders do we think about serving the people versus fulfilling calling or doing the things we feel led to do as a leader? Jesus rightly painted the picture in the Gospels of the pastor as a shepherd. The shepherd guides the flock into the safety of where he is calling them to.
When the singing began, I relaxed as I felt the spirit flow. True, I did not know the songs but that did not matter so much. What mattered was that the people were drawing closer to God through this time. Too many times we feel that our preferred styles in the way God would prefer worship. But I believe God allows for many different styles. He is looking at the heart.
As the speaker spoke, I was on alert for differences of doctrine or something that would be a negative of this church. Perhaps that’s a natural human tendency, to look for fault in new experiences and justify old ways. But as he spoke, the words he spoke lined up in Scripture, although the tone was different. But then again, what does tone matter if the people are receiving the message?
As I received communion that they, I felt happy that I was with brothers and sisters in Christ that I had not met yet. Though we may have grown up with different experiences, we worshipped the same Lord with differences of style. True, there are some elements dealing with the filling of the Holy Spirit in which we may differ, but on the majority of things, we share common ground. If we are to reach the world with the gospel, we must look beyond our differences. That does not mean you give up a firmly held belief; what that means is you agree to disagree in love.
Leaving the church that day, I felt happy. Will I change denominations? Maybe not, but I gained a greater appreciation for diversity. We as Christians need to understand the people from different denominations bring to the table that can enhance our Christian experience. I recommend that every Christian three times a year visit a different church of a different style. Maybe the first church they visit is quite similar to their own style with slight differences. The second church can be a church that has moderate differences and the third church could be a church that is very different from your own whether you have liturgy or not. Only when we understand that we’re on the same team can we effectively reach the world for Christ.
Each group or denomination brings a strength along with some weaknesses. What we need to do is to help each other in our weaknesses and to build on our strengths. For me, I sometimes struggle with discipline and Bible study. The liturgical church holds very strongly to daily Bible study through the use of common prayer or daily offices. What if I used that structure to help me in my Bible study? I might not change my core beliefs in certain areas but I develop a strength in discipline that I didn’t have before. And in my case, when I bring to the liturgical church is even more freedom of expression. We both benefit.
So before you criticize another denomination, think about what you can learn from that denomination. What heritage do they come from? Can anything they do increase my faith or help me develop a deeper relationship with God? I believe the best days of the Church lie ahead of us, but only if we are willing to embrace the beauty that comes with our diversity.