A wise friend of mine once told me that every church offers something different. Some churches are “praying” churches, others are “singing” churches, others are “doctrinally solid” churches. Well, church here is a “we love Jesus” church.
Imagine a room (fancy ball-room style with diamond chandeliers and all hanging from the ceiling) filled with over 300 people from more than 150 different countries. You heard me. 150 different countries. There are people from Germany and Namibia, Hong Kong and Lesotho. Name an African country–and there’s probably someone who’s from there.
But it’s not just the multi-cultural aspect that’s amazing. What’s truly amazing–almost miraculous, you might say–is that anyone is welcome at this church. It’s not restricted to the 12-kids-and-a-15-passenger-van crowd (thankfully, because few expats actually own a vehicle here), nor is it restricted to those who only believe a certain way about “tolerance.” Whether you’re white or black, married or single, have many children or no children, certain of your faith or seeking to understand it, this church will welcome you, because it’s focused on something far more important than outward appearances: Jesus Christ.
This church truly loves Jesus. Its focus is not on convincing everyone that infant baptism should always or never be practiced or that Catholics are always wrong about everything or that homeschooling is bad or homeschooling is good. Because really, those things don’t truly matter in light of who Jesus Christ is and the message he came to bring the world. When so many different nations and cultures and people are represented, it’s impossible to fit them all into one small box. “Reformed” or “Baptist” or “Pentecostal” or “Presbyterian” are simply ways of showing how we’re different from all the other Christians out there. Before we’ve even noticed, we’ve formed an “in-group out-group” mentality.
Christianity in America is full of fears. Fear of the unknown, of the liberal, of the world–and even of fellow Christians.
Yet Christianity in America has nothing real to fear. No one knocks on our doors in the middle of the night to take us away; no one breaks up our worship services or requires us to be ID’d at the door. Here in China, those things still happen (though, thankfully, with ever-decreasing frequency). Native Chinese cannot attend this international church, by order of the government. And that’s hard, and that’s wrong.
Yet Americans act as if those things exist for them. As if one person saying “Happy Holidays” is going to change Christianity to dust. As if everything that is different is also wrong, no matter how insignificant. As if every difference will eat away at their personal foundation. They affirm truth, but are the first to doubt their own truth.
Truth is powerful. Truth speaks. Instead of worrying whether we’ll be subverted into wearing skirts that go 1/2 an inch above the knee or believing that maybe public schools really aren’t the worst things ever, maybe we as Christians should be bold. It’s time to start believing in the unity of the body of Christ, time to see that Christ’s death and resurrection is far more important than some artificial point about theology. Yes, theology matters. But love for your fellow Christians matters more. This, after all, is what St. Paul was telling the Corinthians: knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1st Corinthians 8:1).
Christians, among all others, need to be open to other people, to actually hear what they have to say. If you know you have the truth, why not be open to hearing someone else’s viewpoint? Truth isn’t fragile. It won’t crumble at the first sign of attack. It won’t disappear if it hears a falsehood.
So I’m thankful that this church is free from fear that someone will walk in the door who will subvert the church by eating out on a Sunday. I’m thankful that I get this opportunity to worship with so many from different backgrounds and cultures and denominations. And most of all, I’m thankful that I’m given this chance to love my Savior more.