With the blogosphere exploding daily, it’s possible for me to read thoughts by Christians of every color and stripe. More than at any time in history, followers of Christ can understand the theology of various believers and denominations.
It shouldn’t take any regular readers by surprise to know that I am an evangelical Christian who believes the Bible is the written Word of God. Stealing the title of the biography about the Vineyard church movement, I am in "the radical middle." I believe reading, knowing, meditating on the Bible is an integral part of a believer’s life. I also believe in the miracles of God, that the gifts of the Spirit are still operating today. I believe we need both and that Scripture supports both. I understand that there are dangers of legalism on one side and dangers of emotionalism on the other side. As in all things, I believe we need balance in our Christian walk. If forced to label myself, I would say that I’m an evangelical Charismatic.
This past "school year" I completed a nine month systematic theology study. It was an awesome experience. I wish I had done it many years ago. What was particularly wonderful was observing how others in the study interacted. Calvinists and Arminians and all who fell in-between exchanging why they believed what they believed based on Scriptures. The spirit was one of brotherhood, of love, of a desire to understand.
So I was thinking this morning about how God blessed me early in my Christian walk, giving me a love for all of those who call Jesus Lord and Savior and accepting them as part of the family of God even if we disagree on points of doctrine. (I believe there are only a few doctrine that are "deal breakers," beliefs that would cause me to think we are not of the same faith; not all who call themselves "Christian" believe in the absolutes as I see them.)
I was a born-again believer of just a couple of years when a city-wide evangelical outreach campaign took place. Organizers grouped volunteers by neighborhood. I ended up working with a Pentecostal believer; a woman from a denomination that taught "no make up, no slacks, no birth control"; and a Quaker believer. So there I was with one woman who praised and prayed with lots of hopping around and arm raising and another who believed that all worship and all the sacraments were enjoyed internally, in the heart.
But you know what? We all loved the same Lord. We weren’t so very different. Not really. One was loud and exuberant. One was quiet and solitary. The other two (counting me) fell somewhere in-between. But our desire to please the Lord was the same. We loved Jesus. It was this experience that caused me to believe that God allows all of these different denominations in His church to fit our personalities, to meet our needs, not His.
I’m grateful for that foundational experience, because through the years, it has allowed me to worship with all believers. I won’t budge on the Trinity, that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, and a few other rock bottom Christian beliefs. But I don’t care if you aren’t comfortable with contemporary worship music or wearing make-up or dancing. If my sister or brother finds greater intimacy with Christ in a liturgical setting, praise God. I’ll read those words from the prayer book and let the truth of ages past touch my heart. Or if my sister or brother in Christ wants to jump around, waving flags, or fall face down on the floor, then praise God. I will observe their worship and delight and pray with them.
If you call Jesus your Lord and Savior, then you are part of my family. We may not always agree on every jot and tittle of doctrine, but I’ll love you. I’d better. I’m going to spend eternity with you.
In the grip of His grace,