July 17th 2011

“It is denominations, building walls, that are dividing Christianity”
“Jon Stop, it is not denominations that are dividing Christianity it is people like you that are dividing us.”

It was in the first few months of school that I had this conversation with my (at that time) new friend *Carrie. We were sitting in her room talking to her and her roommate. Here I was a freshmen in college, but I was still a legalist who hated denominations and organized religion. This was the first time that anyone ever challenged me outside of my family, it was also the first time I took the time to stop and listen to anyone. After all *Carrie had a point, and she said with the authority that only she could say it with.

See up until this point I was “non-denominational” but in the sense that I claimed I would only go to a church that preached the word no matter what denomination. What I really meant at the time was “I’ll only go to a church that teaches my version of the word, isn’t Catholic and fits into my version of church. Coming from a big church with a big band and a legalistic pastor despite what I may have told people that’s what I was looking for. Where God led me was completely opposite, a small(er) Presbyterian Church with a young pastor, a hint of modern worship and the old Hymns. Today I see the conservative theology as a bonus considering how happy I have become with the church Family God put me in.

This summer (those of us taking these classes for credit) were required to visit five churches from five different  faith backgrounds. I visited a modern conservative church, a catholic church, a conservative African American church, a liberal African American Church and tonight I visited a back to basics, good ole conservative bible believing church comprised of the homeless.

If anything else has challenged my former beliefs more than *Carrie it’s been this summer. Every place I visited I found a united church, people who wanted nothing more than to hear the gospel. They all had their different ways about doing it but all except one (and it wasn’t the Catholic one) preached an underlying message of “Love God, Love People.” They all preached that we should be united as Christians, none preached against the others.

Reflecting on who I was with the knowledge I’ve gained through people like *Carrie and experiences like this summer I wonder how I could have held these beliefs. They seem pretty foolish, but then again back then I said and did some pretty foolish things. The truth is though, no matter how it’s said these churches are right, we do need to be united but it’s not our denominations that divide us, it’s our own hearts.

We debate over who should teach and who shouldn’t, what music is “holy” and what isn’t. We get into toughs over minor theological issues and whether we should evangelize. The more I think about the more I think my good friend the Youth Director at Joshua Station is right when he says “I wish we could have a conversation about these things, that would bring us together” to which I responded “Over coffee maybe” Instead of fighting about these things and then thinking “The Baptists or the Presbyterians are wrong”

Downhere sings “It’s less our houses, it’s our hearts, a thousand miles apart” If we all are really serious about what the church is preaching maybe we should look into this more. Maybe then we wouldn’t be so quick to call Rob Bell a “Heretic” without reading his book or listening to his viewpoint. We’re never gonna get it right, we need to stop trying and just live under the same banner that unites the denominations “Loving God and Loving People” and then maybe we can sit down and have a conversation about these things even though we might not agree with the other viewpoints.

Of course this isn’t easy, I’ll probably still get heated over some things, so will you, don’t worry, we’re human too, but we’re all worth Jesus time!

Jon Faulkner