“What? You are attending a Bible study in a Methodist church?” My husband expressed his surprise when I first told him that I was joining this particular Bible study. It was 10 minutes’ walk from my office, and would be held just after work hours, which worked out perfectly for me.
I am currently involved in four different churches and Christian organizations, all from different denominational backgrounds. It is no surprise that my husband might worry about me becoming theologically confused. But I am increasingly learning that God’s love is not limited to any one denomination.
My home church is a Pentecostal church under the Assemblies of God denomination. I started attending the church because of the help and support leaders and church members offered me during a period of trials I faced early in our marriage. These were the people who helped me see God in my darkest moments. This was where my theological foundations were laid, through Bible studies led by my mentor and other leaders of the church.
We are a charismatic church. It is common to hear people speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:3-5) and raising up holy hands in adoration during worship. We unabashedly sing modern worship songs. I enjoy being involved in such lively worship.
My husband’s family, however, prefers that I attend church with them. So for now, I spend more Sundays at their Anglican church than I do at my home church.
Initially this was a difficult transition. The traditional hymns and music at the Anglican church, as well as how quiet and conservative worshippers were, stuck me as rigid. I missed the livelier worship at my home church, and I quietly criticized the leaders and worshippers for their style of worship. It felt like they were just following the weekly routine of worship, and were not at all led by the Spirit.
Despite my initial misgiving, every time I attended the church, the sermons ministered to me—just like the sermons I heard back at my home church. I began to realize that despite our difference in worship styles or our approach towards spiritual gifts, we both believe in the infallible Word of God. Pastors in both churches preach sound teaching. Both churches stand firm on the Bible. And God uses both churches to speak into my heart and convict me of my sins.
Instead of judging the leaders and worshippers at the new church for not being charismatic, I realized that I should repent of being a judge myself. After all, who am I to judge someone else’s servant (Romans 14:4)? The members of my husband’s church are true believers of God. They cling to the same blessed hope and assurance that I have in Christ. The Holy Spirit who inspires the preachers and leaders of both churches is the same Spirit that works in my life.
As for that Bible study that led to my husband’s surprised reaction—it meets in a Methodist church, but is a non-denominational gathering. My group leader comes from a Presbyterian background, while friends in my small group come from different churches as well. Though we all come from different backgrounds, we are brought together by the love of Christ, as well as our longing to see more of God in our lives. I have definitely benefited from the group discussions and lectures here. Alongside these sisters in Christ, I am learning more about God’s Word and being corrected in some of my erroneous ways.
Through this Bible study, I came to know that the Methodist church conducts a midweek lunch-time service for office workers nearby. I started attending the lunch time service, which are short but traditional. I am learning that whatever denomination or style individual Christians prefer, as long as sound doctrine is preached, we can benefit.
Of course, there are certain topics that are handled differently by each church or Bible studies—such as tongues and prophecies, or whether or not infants could be baptized. But as I spent more time in each of these settings, I increasingly realized that while these issues can be important, often they are not worth getting into a debate over. After all, we all worship the same God. And despite minor differences in church tradition and teachings, we preach the same gospel and share the common goal of glorifying God.
Therefore, it would be wrong for me to judge other denominations for their worship style or minor doctrinal differences. Judging other Christians and churches causes division and is not pleasing to God. Who am I to judge faithful and God-fearing servants whom God is well-pleased with?
Speaking in tongues, singing worship songs, and raising hands does not make me better than any other Christian. God looks at our hearts, and by this measure, I have fallen. I had carelessly allowed pride to creep into me instead of walking carefully in the ways of the Lord. Even if I speak in tongues, I would just be a resounding gong or clanging chamber. I would be nothing if I do not show love (1 Corinthians 13:1-2).
Instead of focusing on the differences which may cause disputes or stumbling, the Bible commands that we are to love God first with all that we are, and secondly to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). We can show love by offering encouragement or helping a fellow Christian friend in need—whatever their church background. My Bible study leader, for example, once called me out when I was feeling down and spoke words of encouragement to me. She reminded me of God’s love and truth, and in this way she lifted my spirit.
Having experienced several different denominations, I realize that our common love for God and longing for Him unites us as one body of Christ—as the bride of Christ—with the common goal of waiting for His coming and our entry to our common heavenly home (Ephesians 5:25-27). As we wait, we must stay alert and vigilant as one common body of Christ by fixing our sight on Jesus, sharing our common love for Christ with one another, and watching to see how Christ works in our individual lives despite our backgrounds. How beautiful is God’s love and hope! It knows no boundaries.