I visited a church on Sunday, and since then I’ve been thinking — yet again — about church in general.
Anyone who’s followed KindlingTruth knows that I’ve had some reservations about church. I’ve tended to go back and forth between supporting church for the sake of fellow Christians and speaking strongly against some of the things commonly taught.
I suppose it is vanity, but this is one of my greatest obsessions, and I often reason that if I just keep considering it all and praying, then the truth of “church” will be made clear. Is this something to support or not? Should I go to church or not? Why can’t I find a church that I fit in with?
I don’t know if I’ll ever find the “perfect” church or one that teaches all things in accordance with my personal beliefs. I don’t even know if I’ll find a church that teaches the gospel in the same way that I do. The latter troubles me, for sure. Maybe this too is vanity.
I’ve also been thinking about the authoritative tone of some of my writings. Do I have that right? The more I learn, the more I realize I know nothing as I should, so I should write as one who is learning — not as one who is learned.
Yet, there is one thing I feel confident in writing authoritatively, and that is the gospel. Everything that proceeds from the gospel, whether matters of doctrine or Christian living, are things I strive to learn. All things that relate to the gospel are important — and in some way — all things do relate to the gospel because all things were created for the gospel’s sake. There is no end to striving in understanding, and as someone who wants to have this clear vision of it all, that’s exasperating. My mind gets so tired. This is also vanity, I suppose.
Even so, the Lord made me this way. For this reason, I will keep pushing the boundaries and trying to understand, though I realize more and more that with knowledge of good comes knowledge of evil. To be grounded in the things of the Lord with all soundness of mind and heart is so important, otherwise we can fall into the dark abyss of “understanding” that has no profit it it.
Sorry, this is not a planned article whatsoever. More of a rambling of thoughts. Thanks for bearing with me! Getting back on track…
My last experience with church, I feel, has helped bring things into perspective. Maybe not, but since I’ve been openly against most traditions and have said in the past that I cannot find a church, I want to share my current state of mind.
The reason I went to church this past Sunday is because I was invited. I considered for a few days then I went, and it was an interesting experience. It was a very solemn service. There were things about it that I did not particularly agree with concerning the preaching and how the minister was praised. However, the family that invited me was so kind.
I’ve had similar experiences in all the churches I have visited. I usually disagree with the preaching eventually, yet there are warm people who are welcoming and seem so sincere.
I’ve also had the privilege of talking with Christians online of differing beliefs, and when combined with my visits at various churches of differing denominations, something occurs to me.
There are sincere, Holy Spirit filled and fruitful people in every church. Maybe not every single church building, but every Christian group or denomination. And guess what? There are differences in belief about doctrine, worship, and even how we overcome sin during our present lifetimes.
Some might be persuaded of free will or determinism, one of eternal conscious torment, one of annihilation, and one of universal reconciliation. One might worship on Sunday or Saturday, one with music or one without. One might approach modest dress with outward rules that are more strict, while another might take more liberty. One might favor quiet and conservative sermons, and one might get loud and encourage much participation from the congregants.
Through it all, the seemingly sincere people I have met have the most important things in common, and that is love for Jesus and for others.
I would love to see unity among all believers. I would love us to all be of one mind concerning all doctrine and ways of Christian life. I do not know if division will end before Jesus returns, yet, I know the Lord is in control of all of this.
The true body of Christ is not contained in a single Christian denomination, but from all kinds there are sincere believers who are growing in the things of the kingdom of heaven. From all there are also those who are not in it for the right reasons and those who do harm. Yet, we are all growing so it is never our place to judge any Christian as untrue.
As for preaching, that is tricky matter. Those who act in the name of Jesus with any measure of authority should be held accountable. I am in some ways concerned that I disagree with most of them. I understand how vain that sounds, but it is what it is. Yet, I know I have made mistakes, and the Lord keeps teaching me. I don’t know how much mercy he extends to bad teaching, yet, I do know that if we seek him then we will grow and there is a barrier when you are constrained by a certain denomination. I feel sorry for them in ways.
Even so, teachings that pervert the gospel should be avoided, and as I mentioned, I’ve yet to find any preaching that seems to really get it. As strange as that might sound. I know of one pastor who comes the closest I’ve seen — a fellow WordPress blogger. I know of others, though they are not pastors. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough.
I am so amazed at how the Lord can cause the gospel to take root and become fruitful in people despite the terrible preaching out there. If we love the Lord sincerely, nothing can separate us from his blessings! It’s kind of funny to me, because I see people who are growing and will even say that they are not the same person as they were before Jesus, yet, they do not believe that the gospel heals from sin literally. They are conditioned by tradition, and still, the Lord works. He is so merciful, and his mercy gives me much hope!
Although I cannot claim to have it all together, not by a long shot, I have been very fortunate in not being overly tied down to any set of beliefs aside from my understanding of the gospel itself. Not too sternly, anyway. I stand by my beliefs because they were considered carefully, yet, I try to remain loosely flexible in a few areas. This allows the Lord to work and to teach.
All this being said, I think there is a reason why I do not fit into any single church or denomination.
As I’ve considered before, I think all Christian churches and denominations have some things that are true and some that are not true. All have some areas of strength in the things of the kingdom of heaven and some areas of weakness. Should I toss them all out because the system is corrupt, even though within there are God-fearing believers and soundness in the faith?
Would you say that Jesus is only found in one Christian denomination? Would you say that Jesus excludes himself from one denomination? I think the answer to both is no. I believe that the Lord is in the midst of them all, because in all are those who love him.
For this simple reason, I will love them all also, and I cannot love one over the other — and I can no longer find it in my heart to condemn any of them.
As it pertains to Christianity, there are only two types in truth. The Great Whore and The Faithful Bride. Both exist in every single church under the sun. These are spiritual bodies, not physical. One is alive, and the other is dead. One brings forth fruits of life, one deceives and destroys. Eventually, the Lord will unite his people and purge away those who deceive and destroy. Until that day comes, I will not condemn any church or Christian, and I will not wholly side with any either.
Yet, I do not want to be joined with the dead body of Christ, that whore who honors God with her lips yet her heart is wickedness and corruption. I will encourage people to “come out of her.” This is not a future-event only. She has been since the beginning, and she will take a very distinct form in the last days. She “was, and is not, and yet is.”
I will do my best to, in faith, continue seeking the truth in all things — especially things pertaining to godly living. I will do my best to share what I learn and try to be careful to keep my tone in check and seek the Spirit to know whether the things I write have any authority or are just a matter of my personal learning process.
I will visit all churches and befriend many as the Lord leads, but I doubt I will join any. Who knows? Maye one day. It looks like I’m going back to church!