Don't have an account? To participate in discussions consider signing up or signing in
facebook connect
Sign-up, its free! Close [x]

Benefits

  • okay Create lasting relationships with other like minded women.
  • okay Blogging, let your voice be heard!
  • okay Interact with other women through blogs,questions and groups.
  • okay Photo Album, upload your most recent vacation pictures.
  • okay Contests, Free weekly prize drawing.
  • okay Weekly Newsletter.


Now John answered Him, saying, "Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us." But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.--Mark 9:38-41

I grew up Episcopalian...in fact, the first 22 years of my life were shaped by the tenets of that denomination.  I was also a product of the Catholic school system, so I was very well versed in the stringent rules and regulations concerning how one was to express one's devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ.  I eventually grew tired of the "sameness" of each service, and in rebellion, I turned to African Methodist Episcopalian-ism (AME).

It was a big change for me, even though "Episcopalian" was still part of the denomination's name, and therefore, a basic part of the mode of worship.  The difference was immediately apparent however, in the freedom offered by this mode of worship.  Where I had been used to 50 minutes of cookie-cutter, quiet, "dull" service in the Episcopalian style of worship, AME was much more vibrant, "colorful."  There was more freedom to express one's devotion; there was encouragement to read the Holy Bible on one's own; there were Bible Studies that were in fact that, Bible studies, and not discussions of someone's commentary on the Bible; and there were "real" prayers being offered, prayers from the heart, prayers led by the Holy Spirit, not scripted repetitions by rote from a book that was written years ago by a stuffy old professor who probably had no idea about "real life" (I'm sorry, I fell into the "bitter memories pool" there for a moment, please forgive me...).

After 10 years though, I grew dissatisfied with the AME tradition.  The "Episcopalian red tape" began to show through again and wear on me, and the constant emphasis on the color of Jesus' skin caused such uneasiness in my spirit, it began to detract from the Word being preached.  So again, led by the Holy Spirit, I went seeking another "mode of worship."  Because I was so tired of "red tape," I knew that I didn't want to be a part of any "formal" denomination again.  I visited a few other denominations, but found them lacking what I was seeking, emphasizing my need to get away from denominational formality.  I eventually broke out of the box and started visiting "non-denominational" houses of worship.

Now this was more like it!  Services being led by the Holy Spirit and not a bulletin, no scripted anything, just "hear what the Spirit of the Living God" had to say and move by His instructions.  I was elated!

Although I had learned so much throughout my life in the Episcopalian, and then the AME, church, I was finally given the opportunity to dip into that storehouse of knowledge.  I was taught to evangelize, to actually go out and spread the "Good News."  I was no longer limited to a "doctrine;" my only limit was my own knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and my inexperience with listening to the complete instructions of the Holy Spirit when I was at the end of that "Book knowledge."  I was so happy.  I was finally freed from the bondage of tenets and doctrines and the red tape that came with them, and I was able to pursue after God according to the timetable He set up for me, and not what man wanted to meagerly dole out.

From that account, you would think that my perception of denominations is all negative – far from it.  In fact, if it wasn't for the Catholic/Episcopalian denomination, I may have never learned true reverence for the things of God, and how to reverently enter a house of worship (to this day, whenever I enter a church, and people are milling about, or talking above a whisper, my hackles are raised, but that's just me...).  If it wasn't for the AME traditions, I may never have realized the gifts that lay dormant inside of me, how to allow God to bring them to the forefront, and how to let His Holy Spirit train me in how to correctly use them.  I was also taught the discipline of listening without interruption, something so many of us are lacking these days.

Oh, there were so many lessons learned over the years that I cannot deride any denomination without also lifting praises to God for allowing me to sit under those valuable teachings.  But as Paul stated in his many letters to the various churches to which he traveled during his years of ministry, there was often something lacking.  Although those churches were without denominational divisions, there were already other divisions at work within them that would eventually grow into the denominational divisions within the church today.  This brings me to our focal scripture, where Jesus admonishes John for creating a barrier where there need not be one.

Though I wholeheartedly agree that we all worship in different ways, there is no need to judge another's spirituality solely by denomination, or even worse, condemn another simply because 'they' don't worship in the same manner as yourself.  For example, although it rankles when I hear noise upon entering a sanctuary, I expect "noisy" praise and worship when the Spirit of the Living God moves upon the hearts of the people.  Someone from a traditional form of worship may feel uncomfortable with the level of activity in a "non-traditional" service and may judge that service as being simply "highly emotional."  However, that same person may come under similar scrutiny as not being "spiritual" enough because they aren't used to such freedom of expression and are not expressing themselves in a jubilant manner.  Their heart may be full to bursting with their devotion to Jesus Christ, but they are not used to openly showing that devotion so enthusiastically.

We, who profess to be Christians, serve the same God, so just sitting quietly by and only saying "Amen" at the end of a scripted prayer does not quite fit with the command to "make a joyful noise unto the Lord."  In the same vein, when a worship leader says, "Let's praise God," applause or shouts of 'Hallelujah' are not the only ways to offer praise.  There is a time and place for everything (see Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), so when a certain "reaction" becomes the only expected response, then the "praise" begins to turn into falsehood and it becomes Pharisaic.  

Although I have not visited every, or even most, types of denominational houses of worship, I have learned along the way a few of the tenets of other denominations that I have come to respect.  I firmly believe that because Paul set the example as an apostle by going out to establish churches, and admonishing each church to which a Word was to be delivered, so should we also reserve judgment until we have done as the Lord has commanded us within our own callings, giftings and anointings.  I also believe that because these churches were established by the teachings of Jesus Christ through his disciples, each one was given a part to play in building and knitting together the Body of Christ.  Don't stone me here, but even some of these "non-Christian" faiths have grabbed a hold of Godly principles and practice them in their ignorance.  I often say that I believe that each church was given a part, and when we all get together and bring it together without the infighting, we'll be well on the road to being that church without spot or wrinkle for which Jesus is returning.

I won't belabor the point of those tenets with which I do not agree (I have neither the time nor space), but I will give examples of the principles of the ones from which we could learn.

Evangelism – I tip my hat to the Moslems, Jehovah's Witness and Mormons (or followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).  We make jokes about them standing on corners, or knocking on doors at inconvenient hours, or always handing out tracts, but they're getting their word out there.  We are woefully behind.

Reverence – I give it to the Catholics.  Upon entering a cathedral, the sense of awe and wonder is often so overwhelming, tears flow; and talking, or even whispering, while entering is met with stern admonition.

Discipline – Moslems and Jews.  Of the faiths of which I am aware, their scripted times of prayer, modes of worship, attire for worship, teaching, admonition, etc. are to be admired and studied.

Meditation – Who more than the Buddhists?  So many of us now subscribe to so-called "Christian Yoga," which is nothing more than a bastardized form of worship within the Buddhist faith.

The above are just a few of the examples I have come across in which I see so many of our Christian houses of worship lacking.  We have strayed from serving God toward "catering to man's likes and dislikes."  We change service times to match work or play schedules.  We sing songs according to what's scripted for that week, or how we feel, instead of asking God how He wants us to sing, or what He wants us to sing, or if He wants us to sing.  We often gravitate toward like-minded or "like-skinned" people instead of "like-Spirited" people.  We employ the mob mentality when someone new comes into our midst instead of seeking God on how to greet this new person.  I could go on and on, but find yourself and your own church within the chapters of Revelation 1-3, and hear what the Lord has to say to you.

I haven't perfected it, but I will be planted where the Lord wants to plant me and when He wants to plant me, and I will move when and to where He moves me.  I have been torn down and I have been built up by the Lord's leading me to different houses.  I have seen great signs and wonders and I have seen woeful error.  All who profess to serve Jesus Christ do not, and there will be many cast into the outer darkness at the last day.  There are also great houses where humility and servant-hood reign, in unassuming buildings and neighborhoods, and they will receive jewel-encrusted crowns of glory.  I have been to places where manifold gifts are welcomed and trained, and I have seen gifts squelched and distorted.

Nevertheless in all things, we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us.  I truly believe, with all my heart, that we will get it right by eventually listening to each other and coming together, believing in the power of Jesus Christ’s Name, and I pray for God's grace until that time.  I mean, we‘re all going to have to acknowledge and bow anyway, so why not do it willingly now and enjoy eternity with Jesus Christ, instead of being forced to later, on the way to being punished for eternity by being apart from Him?



  •  

Member Comments

About this author View Blog » 
author