February 19, 2008

All for One -- Part 1

Cat-lovers vs. Dog-lovers
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys
The Pack vs. Da’ Bears
Ohio State vs. Michigan
Mac vs. PC
Republicans vs. Democrats
Mars vs. Venus
Early birds vs. Night owls
Punk vs. Disco
Down the shore vs. Up the mountains

When I was younger, my best friend (a cat lover) and I (a dog lover) would often argue which made superior pets: cats or dogs. No matter how many times we went round and round, we always ended up exactly where we started—each of us firmly entrenched in our original positions, wondering how the other could be so blind to what was so obvious. We felt sure that the other was…well…wrong.

Rivalries seem to be built into the fibers of our beings. We love what we love and we’re not shy to tell others about it. We proclaim our passions on our clothes, cars, houses, yards and children. And in this day and age of permanent self-expression—even tattooed on a limb or torso for all to see. And when “rivals” encounter one another, the exchange might be good-natured or perhaps a bit more passionate (picture the Linc at an Eagles-Cowboys game!). Either way, we can’t help feeling that our views are “correct” and the other person is…well…wrong.

This is all well and good except when we bring this singular thinking and passion into the Church. Maybe it’s because I am more aware of these things now than I used to be, but it seems like there is a good bit of us vs. them among believers.

Evangelical vs. mainline denominations
Catholic vs. Protestant
“Happy clappy” vs. “Bells and smells”
Charismatic vs. intellectual
Traditional vs. contemporary
Literal vs. metaphorical

Shortly after Jesus ascended into heaven “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” (Acts 11:26b). What started out as one church, spreading like wildfire from city to city, has become thousands and thousands of denominations. A quick check on Wikipedia lists more denominations, branches and sects than I could count (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations). According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, within Christianity there are over 33,000 denominations worldwide. And over 6,000 in the United States alone. I’m no Bible scholar, but that’s a lot of denominations!

Each one exists because of disagreements or dissatisfaction with what existed. Sometimes branching off leads to further growth of the Church. Even Paul and Barnabas disagreed and parted ways, resulting in the Good News reaching places it might not have if they stayed together. Martin Luther started a revolution that brought the Bible to people in their own language and allowed people to connect with God in ways they hadn’t before.

But even Martin Luther probably never imagined over 6,000 Christian denominations in the U.S. alone?
Who is served by all of splintering? Us or God? Are we honoring Him or are we defining and thereby controlling God in a way that makes us comfortable? It certainly looks like a lot of believers think a lot of others are…well…wrong.

To be continued…

1 comment:

Sharon Sloan said...

Hi, Kelli. Happen to be studying John 17 right now. Jesus is praying for Himself, the disciples and then all believers. His heart is so beautifully evident throughout His prayer. One of His heart's desires is for UNITY....being one with He and the Father..and UNITY among believers...so the world will know Him! Such a great reminder to each of us personally to be one with Him, to walk intimately with Him, abiding in Him, so that we are in unity one with another to honor Him and so that the world may know Him! His heart for us is truly amazing and very humbling. My heart is quieted with His love. Thank YOU for sharing your heart about our Awesome God! :)