The Christian community is great. It’s with other Christians that I’m in one of those very few places where I can openly praise Jesus with other people without feeling judged, have active prayer, and recharge for the week ahead.
But what I feel like isn’t talked about enough is denominational prejudice. Let me give you my background: both my parents are PKs (Pastor’s kids, for those who don’t know) in two different denominations. And so for a lifetime, I’ve attended both the Anglican and Free Methodist church. And now that I’m a bit older, on Sunday evenings I also go to a “non-denominational” (I’ll get to that in a bit) church, because that’s where I’m going to find the most young adults my age.
Denominational prejudice can most certainly be based on the basic theologies of each denomination, that’s not what I’m focusing on today. Frankly, that’s not my area of expertise. But I do notice how people talk about each other.
In my Anglican church, I revel in the stained-glass windows and the formalities. Ministers wear robes, as so do the choir and servers. Communion is served as wine and small wafers from chalices. Our worship music is predominantly hymnal from the organ, but sometimes we sing more chorus music. We never repeat the chorus more than once, and if we’re feeling adventurous, twice. We often read from the book of common prayer. People will dress up to the nines for church service.
In the Free Methodist church, much of the doctrine is still the same. The church I attend sometimes is quite small, but homey. In this particular church we also sing mostly hymns out of the hymn book. The minister wears a white dress shirt with a clerical collar, and black dress pants, no robes. In other Free Methodist churches, a band may play at the front of the church. I’ve seen jeans and t-shirts here on the rare occasion, but I more often see people put in an effort to look nice for church.
The “non-denominational” church I attend is the most different, as it has a pentecostal influence. I put quotes around ‘non-denominational’ because when you have a number of “non-denominational” churches, you end up with another type of denomination. Hymns here are rare. Most worship music is repeated two or three times, the music is loud, people raise their hands during worship, and some of them (gasp!) dance. The attire here (on Sunday nights, at least) is fairly casual. Some dress up a bit, but think: university students.
As someone who hops around different church circles, I hear a number of different comments about each denomination. Anglicans are “staunchy, and get up and down too much”. Free Methodists are “boring and reserved”. Non-denominationals are “pentecostals under a different name”, and Pentecostals “raise their hands too much and party”. And whether or not these things are true, and regardless of how you feel, these comments are missing the entire point. They’re commenting about the stylistics of the service, not the meat and potatoes. It’s almost ad hominem – similar to hearing a political debate and having someone say “Yeah well you’re wrong because I don’t like you”.
It shouldn’t matter whether or not you disapprove of those who repeat the chorus loudly 25 times, or if you scoff at those who never raise their hands in worship. But it does, because it’s affecting our chance to connect with one another. As believers, we know we’re saved and that Jesus loves us, but sometimes we need to realize that our judgement might be from replacing Jesus on the pedestal with ourselves.
As Christians, we are meant to work together. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” Galatians 6:10. We must be good to each other, and we must work together as one cohesive unit. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” 1 Corinthians 12:27. Some may think that the body of Christ refers to the unity within one church – and it does. But it also refers to unity of Christians worldwide.
How can we possibly work together globally if we discount each other locally?
We can’t. There are elements from different denominations that I like, even though I may identify with one more than the other. I like the hymns from my Anglican church. I like the practical and reserved outlook of the Free Methodist church. I like that the non-denominational church allows for a time in the middle of the service to meet other people for more than two minutes.
But what I like about the services I attend isn’t what’s most important. What’s most important is that we believe that Jesus died for our sins, and that He will come again. And He will come again. Where do you want to be when He does? It’s not about the label we give ourselves. It’s about our hearts.