I was thinking today about the huge variety of Christian groupings and denominations. I get so tired of the antagonism and suspicion that we have for one another…
One of the inescapable facts that those outside the faith hit us with is the divided, sectarian nature of our denominations. Many of them split, then split again. Always there is the spectre of TRUTH looming over discussions- we share so much, but the devil (if you see what I mean) is in the detail.
Even within a particular denomination, it seems that there is considerable variation in emphasis from group to group, church to church.
So, assuming that we are looking for a spiritual home, how do we choose? What influences our eventual choice?
I suppose you have to return to TRUTH- but, beyond the core tenets of our faith, what might be true for me might not be so for you. Either we accept that most of us have got our choice of faith community WRONG, or perhaps God is prepared to deal with variation. Perhaps he even likes it!
So there must be other factors that influence our choice of church and its associated theology.
- Background/upbringing? We are all someone’s children. Perhaps we follow, perhaps we reject and forge a rebellious path…
- Influential friends? People we admire and are influenced by will of course leave their marks on the way we think about faith.
- Past baggage? Most of us have had some bad as well as good experiences of church- either through leadership issues, or broken relationships. With this baggage on board, we are less likely to get on a similar train (to mix a terrible metaphor!) Neither are we likely to look favourably on the opinions of those who may have hurt us.
- Personality type? We are all so different in the way we are wired. Some of us are more confrontational and risk oriented, and may thrive in a dynamic noisy atmosphere. Others are more contemplative, or organised- and will look for environments that fit.
- Convenience/lack of alternatives? If you live in an isolated area or have limited mobility, then I suppose your choice is made for you! Locality locality locality…
- Special interest? I think many of us look for something fairly narrow- a social or sociable agenda, the presence of lots of single available men/women, or good music. The rest, well so long as it is not too intrusive…
Increasingly, it seems that people are less likely to remain loyal to any particular brand. Everything is global, and the right to CHOICE is trumpeted everywhere. It remains to be seen what implication this will have to our churches.
What is clear though, is that diversity is here to stay.