It is always a pleasure to answer the question “where do you worship?” or ” which church do you attend?” With this question, I can give my naughty answer. “I do not do denominations; I am in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” I was baptized an Anglican, confirmed a Methodist, went to a Catholic school and married a Pentecostal. Come to think of it, my answer may be annoying but borne out of my experience with different denominations verses the condition of the heart. When I married my husband who is Pentecostal, well-meaning friends were more interested in the scarf that would cover my hair than my spiritual growth. They would tease me by saying “so you are now going to wear “duku” which refers to an unfashionable scarf.” Fortunately, I have been one to feel comfortable wherever Christians gather so far as Jesus is at the center of the service.
Did I choose to be baptized a Methodist? No! I was still a baby, but I have been to the Methodist church several times and love their style of worship. Did I choose to be confirmed an Anglican? Yes! But I was too young to understand what I was doing. However, I absolutely love the Anglican Church and the opportunity to serve as a Sunday school teacher for close to a decade. Did I love going to a Catholic school? Certainly! But I hated waking up so early to go for mass! But boy did I love the hymns. And yes, I love the Pentecost church with all the loud clapping and wild dancing. Am I afraid to speak against any of these churches? No! I just love the diversity in worshiping the same God. In both denominations, I have witnessed sinful behavior in full glare. And the reason is simple; both denominations are filled with human beings; all of whom have sinned and fallen short of the glory as written in Romans 3:23.
“It is very interesting to witness Christians engaging in Orthodox and Charismatic wars when the real target should be winning of souls. Last Christmas, I had the privilege of visiting both an Orthodox and a Charismatic priest. During the conversation with the Orthodox priest, he felt strongly that Orthodox was the way to go since in his opinion Charismatics are too noisy and mystical. The Charismatic priest on the other hand was of the view that Orthodox Christians were too ritualistic and lacked the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. And the list of the differences goes on and on; but are we not missing the point as Christians? These self-righteous legalities are not important in these last days when souls are perishing.
Who cares about being a Catholic, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Methodist or Anglican? Who cares about whether our worship services are filled with hymns or modern day worship? Who cares about the jumping, clapping, humming or shouting in the church auditorium when souls thirst for the living water ? As for me, I can enjoy a good old hymn as well as a Pentecostal dance with loud musical instrument so far as it is all meant to praise the Lord. After all, our God is a God of diversity who can enjoy serenity as well as earth shacking music. If one pastor prefers to shout whilst the other prefers to deliver his sermon methodically, who cares? The most important thing is that there is an audience for the one who shouts as well as the one who calmly delivers his sermon. Even more important is the fact that it is the same word of God that is being preached. At the end of the day, our personal relationship with Jesus Christ supersedes whatever denomination we are affiliated to.
In Matthew 9: 37 and 38 Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Suffice it to say, God in his own wisdom has created diversity in the workers just as much as there are considerable differences in the harvest. You sometimes hear Christians firmly defending their stance whilst belittling other believers. These personal convictions are very dangerous and can lead others astray as elaborated in Romans Chapter 18. When we read the bible for ourselves, we begin to realize that it is not about the Orthodox or the Charismatic Church. It is all about receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and personal Saviour. It is about serving him in our unique ways with our diverse gifts which draws others to him.
Isn’t it interesting that receiving Jesus Christ into our hearts can take place in the Orthodox Church as much as it can take place in the Charismatic church? Even more interesting is the fact that it can take place in the Brothel, the drinking bar, the office of the tax collector and other unusual places. Did Jesus not say in Matthew Chapter 2: 17 that “he came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance?” So why do we continue to place so much emphasis on church diversity and divisions while neglecting our core mandate as Christians? In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus said “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” This is our core mandate as Christians!
The first day I witnessed a tremendous miracle of healing, it was not in the Orthodox or Charismatic Church. It was not even in the church auditorium; it was in the family living room! There were no hymns or recitation of psalms, there were no harps or tambourines. But present was the word of God that came to pass as found in the following verses. Matthew 18: 20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Romans 10: 13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved and Isaiah 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.”
God is not a respecter of persons; after all he created every person from the greatest to the lowest. He is not interested in religious idiosyncrasies or personal convictions that people seek to impose on others with no biblical basis. He makes it clear in Galatians 3: 28 that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. Every time we engage in these denominational wars, we make it impossible for others to freely come to Christ just as they are. Let us remove our personal convictions from the way so they do not become stumbling blocks to people’s salvation. Let us rather speak the unadulterated word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to do his work.