Denominations and Divisions: A Rethink

This post has been an interesting one to write. I started it months ago, raging and being angry at the divisions that have appeared in the church. There are hundreds of different denominations, and this annoyed me. Yet I believe God has shown me something else recently.

Jesus had to deal with sectarianism with his disciples:

“‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us…’” (Mark 9:38-40).

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25). 

Now, division in the church has been a problem. There are too many times that the church has divided over something ridiculous. We can be too busy, debating the finer points of Calvinism, what colour the church-door should be, whether we should have pews or not; lost in ‘meaningless talk’ (2 Timothy 2:16). To be honest, Brothers and sisters, we should focus on what we have in common: Christ is everything. The Gospel is everything. Hymnbooks or projectors, Baptist or Presbyterian, AV or NIV are all irrelevant.

Nonetheless, we will disagree; we are, after all, human, but there is a blessing in these denominations. We have found comfort in those who believe the same we do — in how we sing a song, or how the service should be structured. It does help us to focus our lives on Christ more when these divisions are removed. Denominations aren’t necessarily bad! We just shouldn’t take pride in the one we belong to, and should always be willing to talk to other churches, and to share and pool resources together too for evangelism, children’s work, financial needs, etc.

We will always think differently on secondary issues, but they should never get in the way of communion with one another and NEVER should one church think it is better than the rest. That is just pride. As believers, let us build bridges; let us be that spark that cuts through these divisions. If we disagree on a secondary issue then let us deal with it in love and humility. But let us focus on Jesus and the cross more than ever!

Richard Motte once declared that, ‘There is not a single Quaker, Presbyterian, Methodist or Baptist in heaven.’ Pausing before his no-doubt stunned listeners to add, ‘For in heaven God knows no such distinctions.’ We will be one singing glory to God always. Let that start now, on earth, not later, not tomorrow, but now. Let us be bold in prayer and ask God for strength that this may be achieved.

So, I don’t care about your church background, if you know Jesus died for your sins and that He rose again on the third day, if you believe that grace covers all your sins, then I will call you brother or sister and let us celebrate together what He has done for us all!

Unity, brothers and sisters, unity. Dear God, I pray that for those who read this have a flame set in their hearts for unity. May Your will be done and may we see the church following You, may we see a church actually living for You and not for itself. May You lead all Your people, regardless of background to Your kingdom, and may You use us to bring men and women into Your kingdom. Amen.

Being a Balance

I was just chatting to Josh, literally a minute ago and this post came to me. Being a balance!   What do I mean by this? It all relates to me and my role in church. Confused? Well I intend to explain.

Being the contemporary Christian

When I find myself in a church that is a bit old school in how it does things, I tend to find myself being the ‘contemporary Christian’. Loving all the new modern songs, loving the new technology and all that. I tend to be defending the contemporary scene, and pushing for the church to embrace aspects of the contemporary scene. A church that stubbornly sticks to its old ways is at danger of putting tradition before the Bible, before God and before its community; a church can only be healthier with someone acting as a modern spokesman!

Being the old school Christian

When I am in a more contemporary church, singing the latest Matt Redman song, with lights and smoke machines, I tend to find I become the ‘old school Christian’, loving the hymns, the old school preaching in a suit and the like. I’m the one who likes to keep going on about how good the doctrine in hymns can be. A church is always at danger in putting the latest gadget or device or technique before God, before the Bible and before its faithful walk. A church can only be healthier if it remembers the lessons learnt by our forefathers and remember the key truths always.

Doesn’t that get frustrating for you and those round you?

Perhaps, you may have to ask them! In seriousness, if you approach these matters with a humble heart and don’t slam it all in everyone’s’ faces every time something is brought up; then I see no reason why it should prove frustrating. When we think of the church, we must be humble, ready to learn, happy to be corrected. Who knows, maybe by being the opposite it engages others with a conversation they may never had had!

What’s the point in this post?

Balance is the point. The church needs a balance. Going too far one way is always dangerous and not something I like to see, ‘only blockheads go to extremes’ C.H. Spurgeon wrote. The blog is all about balance and I guess it has kind of rubbed off on me. I love debating with Josh or whoever about scripture or church issues, I love seeing other view points, and I like to see balance in everything that is said.

We cannot be afraid of having different opinions, but we must always have a humble heart when we look at other people and other churches. We aren’t always necessarily right and it is always good to have a conversation in the right spirit.

So remember, try and maintain a balance and always try to have a humble heart!

How do we achieve this balance?

Let’s be frank, we can’t get it on our own, we need God’s help. Our ‘balances’ are ‘unbalanced balances’. ‘Balance’ is very often the buzzword of my discussions with Josh, yet a real balance is unachievable whilst we’re trying to do it alone. We always veer towards extremes, we’re too human. Our balance is too much of a pendulum; a brief moment in the middle when we’re swinging from one extreme to the other. We need a ‘divine balance’, we need God’s Holy Spirit to come down and take charge of our minds and senses — only then can we get that true balance.

The words of Jesus promise:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks fora fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:9-13 (NIV).

It feels like the church in our day is just running around in circles, trying this, trying that, without looking upwards, to heaven, to God.

“A false balance is a abomination to the Lord, a just weight is his delight” Proverbs 11:1 (ESV).

The Number Game

Do you ever feel that sometimes church is a number game? I often get the question, ‘How big is your church?’ As if it’s the most important question going. Sometimes I just want to answer ‘Why does it matter?’ or ‘How big is God?’ But it is always asked and one you just have to answer politely and accurately. Why? Because even if we hate to say we come from a small church or whatever, it is in fact the truth.

Big Church vs Small church

Do you ever feel as though we are in a competition? Do you feel as though big churches like to think they triumph over the smaller churches? Or are you ashamed of your little church? If you come from a small church then you know where I am coming from, sometimes we feel that we are looked down upon, or that we aren’t blessed like our brothers and sisters. We feel as though numbers matter.

Numbers do not matter.

Controversial statement perhaps. I can imagine some of you reading this are thinking, ‘Doesn’t this guy wanna see people saved or what?’ The answer to that question is yes, a thousand times yes! But that being said, a church should not count its blessings by its headcount. Sometimes, the most faithful churches are those where only a few people meet, always in prayer and in love. Sometimes they are those who are struggling to make ends meet, and sometimes they are those that everyone looks down upon because they are unable to increase the attendance of their church. Perhaps they are the ageing church down the road.
On the other hand, just because your church is big or growing, does not mean that it is necessarily faithful (which I fear is the case in many churches in our day). It could be that the preachers there are speaking what men want to hear, it is after all what the Bible says in 2 Timothy 4:3:

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

Surely they are doing something wrong! They are small for a reason! Perhaps not, the gospel after all offends, and we can do all we can, but if people do not want to listen, they won’t. Sometimes God won’t melt the hearts of stone, and that is the truth. Nevertheless, that small church should always be crying out for revival, for new people, for growth and for people to be saved. A small church that does this, constantly in prayer with our Father, one that desires revival and one that remains faithful is more powerful than a church that is huge but has no word, greater than one that attracts crowds but has none of the Lord’s saving power in its preaching.

This is not against Big Churches

Don’t get me wrong here, big churches are not bad; indeed there are many which God has blessed massively and are true to his word. But what I am attacking is our attitude. Judging our faithfulness by our membership. Big churches have a responsibility, to help those small churches, to encourage them and in some cases support them, always in prayer! I know our attitude can be sometimes, ‘well they are small because they are ‘old fashioned’ or that they are all ‘old’’. Do not forget God can use anything and anyone. Support them in prayer rather than boast about your own situation.

Encouragement for the small church

For the small church, what we should always focus on is prayer, living close to our God. The church does need to be an active church even if it is only something small. It has to be involved with its community in any means it can be. But we in a way, cannot do anything about it, if we can do all that we can do, then the only thing left to do is to give it all to God. Remember He remains faithful to us, even when we are not faithful to Him. Remember that He will NEVER forsake us or leave us. Know that our God is with us, and just believe that God will use you, whoever you are, to do amazing things for His kingdom.

To Conclude

Numbers do not matter. I don’t care if your church has 1 person, 10 people, 100 people, and 1000 people, so what? What matters more is how faithful is the church? What is more important is how many live close to the Lord, what is your church’s prayer meeting like? Small and big churches alike, these questions address us all. So stop asking us small churches how big we are and why we think we are such a size, instead greet us like brothers, like sisters and join with us in prayer. Pray for revival, and pray for his kingdom to come!