I liked my childhood church, whose wooden benches supplied on their underside, a landing place for my thoroughly-spent chewing gum.
Before entering I studied the odd word on the church’s sign-board. I practiced sounded it out well before I knew its meaning – Non-sec-tar-i-an.
It was a bold word – a statement declaring our religious identity – holding a prominent spot on the sign. The word was printed large, straight beneath our other self-defining label – Non-denominational.
It seemed important to the leadership that visitors and passersby knew we were somehow different from most churches. Quite different. The sign provided me an early sampling of complicated words. Later, I was introduced to others, like ‘oxymoron’.
If I had been old enough to be perplexed I would have maybe wondered, Why would such a warm, loving community as ours feel a need to persuade folks that we were not divisive, that we were safe?
Over time I grappled with the fact that religion, like politics, finds dividing up an easy thing. We separate, form new and more distinctive camps. It happens perhaps in spite of ourselves – despite the fact common beliefs can be more common among us than we might think. Erecting walls demands less energy than building bridges. So it seems.
I feel personally a sting of shame. At my own offense. Of labeling inferior or less righteous that gathering of the faithful the other side of town, or that community down the street. My own private ‘non-sectarian’ sign, adorning a shadowy wall in a corridor of my inner self.
Ann and I found our on-ramp into the world of Christian service marked, on the other hand, by complementing, not competing camps. Baptists and Pentecostals – polar opposites in expression and style – rejoicing, celebrating, even generously giving. To a thing bigger, a lot bigger than any of us might experience if left to ourselves. Amazed. We were amazed.
A.W. Tozer* suggests we’re best off tuning our hearts to Jesus. “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. . .”
We began encountering a curious cross-breed along the way. The hand of a new acquaintance would extend, a twinkle of mischievous warmth lighting their eyes. Their name. The handshake. .
“I call myself a Bapticostal”.
©2017 Jerry Lout *The Pursuit Of God