Churches

There is an old Scots story that reflects the situation in Scots churches once upon a time.

Two men, Jimmy and Bob, and found trapped on a desert island and after some considerable time a ship arrives to rescue them.  The captain looks around the island and discovers that while there are only two men there are five huts.

He asks Jimmy, “Why so?”

“Well,” says Jimmy, “This here is the hut I live in, and over there is the hut Bob lives in.

“So what are the three other huts for?”

“Well,” says Jimmy,”That hut there is the church I go to.  Over there is the church Bob goes to.”

“Aye,” says the ships captain, but that is all very well, what about the other hit then?”

“Oh that,” says Jimmy and Bob together,”That’s the church neither of us goes to.”

Sadly in some areas this remains still the same situation.  Now here I call ‘church’ something that accepts the bible as the Word of God and a people who seek to know God and follow Jesus the Messiah as Lord. Anything outside of this concerns me not.

I mention this because I sat in a church this morning that is a combined effort of Methodist and United Reformed.  These two churches merged some years ago working the various outlooks on Christian discipleship well together.  Too me many of their ideas are a bit needless but that is irrelevant as that is their business and they are what I call secondary things.  All churches have their own little foibles and we must leave them up to the members to decide whether they are good or bad.

Apart from theological reasons, you either follow scripture or you don’t, there are human preferences in choice of churches.  Some are loud others quiet, some frankly boring, others dozy.  This comes down to people, personal preferences and there is little you can do with this.  We are all different and each church of whatever denomination will reflect this.  Some have formal criteria which must be covered at all times, others follow a pattern found in several like minded places, we choose the one we fell happy with.  This is not wrong.

However some people put up barriers between denominations.  To attend some churches outside of your own could lead to a request to leave, this is unfortunate.  Attempts in some places to get churches to work together often fail as ‘theological reasons’ deter this, often this is an excuse and the desire to run things your way comes first.

Our pattern must come from the New Testament churches and there we see all churches united in love and unity at all times, except when they argue of course.  The church at Colosse was a bit out of the way and I suspect quite small.  At Corinth the church was in the middle of a big city with an egalitarian attendance each one willing it seems to speak out on their own behalf.  Even Paul’s two letters did not produce the ‘love’ he sought, Clement from Rome wrote a long, very long, letter years later in an effort to heal their rifts. While it is clear churches did contact one another each was different, the settings were varied, the numbers also, teaching from passing apostles and their followers may have been abundant or rare depending on where they lay, and often disrupting influences would arrive altering the teaching even amongst the best taught churches, Ephesus for instance had years of dubious preachers even Paul and John could not deter.

So I found myself in this mixed bag church watching while the men at the front held a wooden cross and the large attendance, no seat for me bar in the far corner like Tom Thumb, the large attendance came forward and added a flower to the cross.  This took around twenty minutes and reflected a symbol of their devotion.  It was a wee bit strange to me from a Presbyterian/Baptist/Charismatic background.  Symbols are not something I go in for bar bread & wine.  The people were happy and this is a place where Jesus was clearly worshipped and put my grumbles in their place.  I would to be as sure and happy as most of these were today.

On the other hand I almost went to a church that rapidly rises onside me, an Anglican one!  Dearie me not just Church of England but with a woman vicar, heresy!  Yet she knows God and appears to me to be the right person for this churches needs at the moment.  I considered risking banishment from Baptistry by taking communion there, but went to the other place as it was nearer!  No church suits what I look for, even though there are several with God fearing people seeking to do his work.  None fit my personal wishes, maybe there is a reason for this?

The good thing is that today churches are relaxing in many ways.  Old separations are being pulled down, denominations work together often having mixed services once a month, this is all good.  The variety of differences may be irksome occasionally but those who seek the Lord should be encouraged and we should mix with them and learn about him who died for us and is their Lord also.

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