After years of ministering in a wide variety of situations, I have observed that the initial environment in which a person comes to faith often remains their primary preferred religious experience. For example, I have a friend who came to faith in a house church. He was drawn to the close knit fellowship and the sense of family. Though he no longer attends a house church, he is still active in a small congregation that has a close knit family feel. At least one time since I have known him, he switched churches because the church he was active in got too big. I have several friends who came to know the Lord during the Jesus Movement. That movement was known for its distrust in organized religion and a more organic approach to faith. That movement also tended to like folk music. Most of my friends who came to know Christ in that movement still prefer a folk sound to their worship and often refuse to officially join a church even though they may attend it for years and be very active in it. Then there is this older couple I know that came to faith in a highly structured church that used a strong liturgy. Though they have changed denominations because the church they grew up in has abandoned biblical theology, they still sought out a church that recites the Lord’s Prayer every week and celebrates communion at most services. In their minds, it just is not church if a service does not have those things.
In each case, my friends have pretty much remained in the same type of environment in which they came to faith. Though this was often not the church of their childhood, it normally is the church in which they found real faith in Christ. Those early days of Christian discipleship are important in forming our spiritual DNA. And when various groups come together for a larger worship experience, they bring these aspects of faith with them.
I am enriched by seeing all the various ways in which people can worship and still relate to each other as Christians. Though the Gospel never changes and biblical truth is the same for all, the various aspects of church, such as liturgy, music style and local church polity are different. Instead of being fearful of those differences, we should celebrate them. The person who prefers the high church can learn something from the close knit house church. The house church can learn something from the liturgical church. The 60 year old Christian hippie can teach something to the 20 year old Christian hipster and the hipster can teach something to the 60 year old man at church who still sports a pony tail.
If we keep our focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and we keep our learning based on the Bible instead of man-made distinctives, we can worship, fellowship and serve with those who look at things from a different perspective than we do and be enriched by it.
Lord, help us keep our eyes on You and learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ who approach spirituality in different ways that we do. Amen.