I’ve been formally attached to two different churches since I’ve been baptized. The first was a Church of Christ (Instrumental,) in northwest Ohio. The second, and the one I’m currently attending, is an independent Christian Church in the suburbs of Atlanta. Both are branches from the same theological tree, the Restoration movement. And just to give you a little insight (the short, short version,) into who we are, there is no formal liturgy, and we “hold no creed but Christ.” (Sounds creedish, does it not?) We baptize by immersion only, and our communion, while taken every week, is relegated to memorial status. We’re generally an inoffensive bunch, which can be nice. In fact, where I am attending now is so alike to my first church in both polity and vision that I couldn’t help but be comfortable.
There’s something to be said about the comfort of familiarity. We like to be comfortable, don’t we? We’re comfortable in our daily routines. We go to the same restaurants, wear the same clothes, and read the same blogs. We’re even comfortable in our theology. I think it could also be argued that our tendency to embrace the comfortable has been horribly damaging to both who we are as the Body of Christ, and how we are viewed by the world, namely as a hodge-podge of distinctive denominations rather than as a unified body. We’re comfortable settling into our denominations, amputating ourselves from the rest of the Body, and we’re weaker because of it.
Now I’m not suggesting that a full-blown ecumenical movement is realistic. So long as we remain in a fallen world, there will always be irreconcilable differences between us. I doubt that there will ever been a congregation of Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Mennonites, Church of Christ folk, and Baptists, where we light up the incense and start singing Kumbaya. The Church of Christ people will undoubtedly be irritated at the guitars, while the Roman Catholics will be singing in Latin, (pocula, magister bibendi, pocula?)
But that would be cool, wouldn’t it?
What would it look like? Our plethora of denominations uniting around the holy, sinless, Son of God, Christ crucified, who died and rose again, by whose stripes we are healed. Does that happen? Can and should it happen? Paul certainly didn’t speak too highly of divisions in his first letter to the Corinthian church, and even to the factions who aligned themselves with him, Paul would accept nothing but devotion to Christ, and preaching Him crucified.
It makes me wonder what we could do differently.
Good observations, Christopher. For me, discomfort begins individually and hopefully disseminates into and out of the local church. One wonders how biblical “comfortable Christianity” is in the first place? On the contrary, I find myself questioning the way when it seems too broad and easy. So individually I will embrace, accept, affirm, and collaborate . . . I will personally demonstrate unity amidst discomfort with a prayer that my example will light the path for others to follow.