An Open Letter To Our Children About Denominations & Church Membership
In this world, you will have trouble. That is not an “if”. In fact, God promises you will have trouble. More than anything, we want you to know the truth that you are daughters and sons of the King and loved unconditionally. God loved you so much that He gave His only son for YOU and overcame this world. You are His, not ours. He entrusted us with you. We cannot parent you alone. We need Him and we surrender you daily to Him. We must. We never want to get in the way of His plan for your life.
Years ago, He revealed to us that we needed a written out plan for our family – A mission statement of sorts. Some families make “rules”; we felt led to make a mission. As you already know because you hear us say it and see it on the walls of our home, our mission is this:
God. People. Eternity.
God: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. There is no commandment greater than this. (Matthew 12:30)
People: The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than this. (Matthew 12:31) I have to stop right there to add that it goes on to say “Well said, teacher…you are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him. To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “you are not far from the kingdom of God.” I think it’s safe to say that these two are most important and acknowledgement and living the most important will make you not far from your Heavenly Father, who knows the number of hairs on your head and has the greatest plan for your life to prosper — A plan to not harm you, but to give you hope and a future. Trust us; you want to know the importance of these. Better yet, trust Him. Your Heavenly Father…for His ways are higher than ours.
Eternity: You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14) Our hope is that our family can live with an eternal perspective, focusing on eternity. And that the sufferings in this time and this world are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us! We have a fill in the blank that we live by, you know this. When we are faced with ANYTHING, we can look through our eternal lens saying: “How important is _______________ in light of eternity?” “In light of eternity, how can I handle/respond/think/speak about ________?” There is ALWAYS a different way of looking at everything when you look through your eternal lens.
With this being said, we want to encourage you when you’re faced in life with the decision of denominations and church membership. We aren’t so much going to discuss theology with you, giving you a blog to read on doctrine or a 5,000 page book on historic Christian faith or Wikipedia links on *our* certain denomination and *why* it is our certain denomination….that is important and all, but here is the thing:
In our family, We believe the bible. The WHOLE bible – from Genesis to the maps in the back. We don’t just focus on certain parts of the bible and we certainly don’t waste time arguing why that part is the most important because here is the other thing. It’s all important. Even the parts we’re uncomfortable with. God isn’t concerned with our comfort dear child. Obviously! He’s concerned with your character and He is FOR YOU and how you will spend your eternity. Even the parts that we can’t wrap our minds around. That’s why it’s called “faith”. Faith is believing what we can’t see. How can we say we are Christians and have faith to believe in a God we can’t see, but don’t believe in a certain part of the bible because it just does’t make sense?! I’m sure it’s obvious to you by now living in our home all these years that God’s way does NOT make sense. Believing that by God’s grace and promises of His truth that by now you’ve felt the reaping of blessings from sowing the seeds of a mind that is set apart. Don’t take our word for it. Here is what your Heavenly Father has to say about denominations:
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement. (1 Corinthians 1:10) What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” IS Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:12-13) There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism…. (Ephesians 4:4-5) I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to what you have been taught. Avoid them! (Romans 16:17)
We include these to confirm what you will already see – pastors ripping other pastors apart for “negative” gospel teaching, for “positive” gospel teaching. Fellow believers standing around arguing about Joe Smith falling away from the church and why. This, children, is why it is easy for us to see why the hurting and lost don’t want to be part of the body of Christ. THINK DIFFERENT.
God. People. Eternity.
God – God loves us. Our sins are forgiven. God has something special for EVERY person. Even Joe Smith.
People – Joe Smith is hurting. In fact, everyone is hurting.
Eternity – What is Joe Smith’s eternity going to be like when he walks away from the “church” because the truth is so snuffed out?
Children! Go after Joe Smith! Leave the 99 (or the 99,000) and go after the 1. Show Joe Smith some love. You love so well, dear children. Your hearts are for the hurting, I know they are. You don’t have to know theology to love Joe. You just have to get in Joe’s life a little bit. Fill in the blank “How important are those arguments in light of Joe’s eternity?! Go ahead and buy Joe a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and just listen. And when the Holy Spirit prompts you, tell Joe about what God has done in your life through the bible – the one and only authoritative Word of God. It’s God’s economy and when you live and walk in God’s economy, hurting people like Joe will not have to be told, he’ll see. He’ll feel His presence. He’ll wonder what’s up in your life to makes you so peaceful with all the noise…all the darts being thrown your way. And one day, Joe will ask and you can share of the love of Christ, that redemption is in Christ , that regeneration by His Spirit is essential, that you were saved by His grace and it’s by nothing you do in your own efforts. You can share with Joe that he too can be sanctified and Christ can dwell in him. That he can have peace that surpasses all understanding. That he too can walk by His Spirit and not by his flesh and watch God work miracles in his life. He’ll see something different in you. It will be that you are part of the church that is the body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit, with divine appointments (like yours with Joe) for the fulfillment of Jesus’ Great commission. That every person (Yes, even you, Joe!) who is born of the Spirit is a VITAL part of the church as a member of the body of believers!!!! Joe WILL discover his unique spiritual gift that your father gave him and he WILL walk in his God ordained purpose! This is the life we’re choosing to speak over Joe, child. In Jesus’ name, Joe will see that it isn’t about Church membership. No, it’s not at all about walking down front and filling out a card. It’s about a real relationship with the one true and living God.
Dear children, religion will tell you that you need to conform to be spiritually enough. A relationship with Jesus says “Come to me and I will transform you”. Religion says “do”. Jesus says “it’s already done.” Religion says “God will love if…”, a relationship says “God so loved…”. Children, the world will tell you that your style of worship is too “contemporary”. By now, you have felt God’s presence when you worship the way the bible speaks of. You’ve felt how it flips your situation around and makes God bigger than your problem. Keep your hearts set on His truth and you knowledge of the ancient words written in God’s Holy Word when describing worship and praise:
HALEL : to rave, boas, celebrate
YADAH : to acknowledge in public
BARAK : to bless by kneeling or bowing
ZAMAR : making music to God with strings
SHABACH : to address in a loud tone
TOWDAH : to lift hands in adoration
TEHILAH : exuberant singing
Dear children, as you see…this makes your style of worship actually the more traditional style. That your style of worship is not about you, it’s about Him…That your act of worship is not about what song you like and how it makes you feel, but about giving to Him. After all, it’s the only thing you can actually give to him from yourself…that’s why it’s so important! It’s God’s ‘love language’. Worship is love expressed and it can’t be based on what WE want, but what HE wants. Keep giving your all to Him, not your left-overs after you scream your heart out foolishly at the football game on Saturday night. Keep loosing yourself in Him. He WILL bless that.
Theology is a good thing. After all, it’s of God. But remember the truth that there is an enemy that comes to kill, steal, and destroy. It is obvious to us at the writing of this letter that the enemy will use it to divide the church. And sometimes it’s just a matter of people in the church being misinformed. Take heart though, God has overcome this world. You’re fighting from victory, not to it. And He came so that you may have LIFE and have it to the fullest.
Love God. Love people. And gaze at God and eternity, not at the world. And for real Heaven’s sake (yours and his), chase after all the Joe’s!