There’s a joke out there that goes something like this:
A man dies and goes to heaven. He meets St. Paul at the pearly gates and right away, he’s offered a tour. They go past a room that’s loud and everyone is having a good time. Paul says, “Oh, that’s the Catholics. They love a good party.” Further down, they see a big crowd with their hands raised high, singing loud and yelling. “Oh, that’s the Charismatics. They really know how to make a joyful noise to the Lord.” Finally, they reach another group of people. Paul puts his finger to his lips and says, “Ssssh. These are the Baptists. They think they’re the only ones here.”
Cue the laughter. Except there were times in my life when I sort of thought, maybe, this might be true.
Now, if you’ve spent any time with me here on the blog, you know I’m not speaking badly about Baptists. Or any other denomination. Ever. We’re all responsible for our own relationship with Christ and I have known some amazing, godly men and women in every denomination.
As part of her Out of Sorts book launch, Sarah Bessey has invited bloggers to participate in a synchroblog. Which simply means, I’m writing this review post of her book and linking it on her website right beside other bloggers. Read other entries here. She’s invited all of us to respond to the writing prompt:
I used to think ________ and now I think ________.
Here’s how I would fill in the blanks:
I used to think other denominations were wrong in their belief systems and now I think we’re all wrong.
Like many believers, I didn’t really start spreading my faith wings until my 20’s. Fresh out of college, renting my first apartment, I found myself alone every Sunday morning for the first time in my life. Which meant I set out on my own and found a Baptist church to attend that was close to home. I attended there for a few months but it didn’t feel like a good fit. So, I tried another Baptist church. I got involved in the church choir, taught Sunday School and attended services on a regular basis. However, the drive from my work made for a long commute. So, when I moved to a different apartment, I looked for yet another church.
In all, during the five years I lived as a single career woman in St. Louis, I took part in worship services and studies at six different churches. Three different denominations. I learned about new ways to worship. I further honed my Bible study skills. I accepted positions of leadership. I discovered the Church stood much greater and broader than I had ever realized.
These few churches in my 20’s only whet my palate for learning about all the different ways my brothers and sisters in Christ worshiped in community.
My definition of Church got a whole lot bigger.
I devoured Sarah’s book, Out of Sorts. I’ve become a student of the Church. Sarah grew up Charismatic. In Canada. Both of which I know next to nothing about. So, her book offered me education.
Sarah spoke honestly about her own search for a place in the church. The quote I have seen used most often from her book is this one:
Yet, in the ups and downs of her own faith journey, Sarah discovered she really loves the Church. I know this truth. It’s why I love Sarah’s writings, including her latest book, so much. She sees a fallen people trying to love their Savior well. She knows the imperfections of the Church but still finds Jesus there time and again. Here are a few quotes where she expresses this:
I was craving Jesus. Desperately.
Not seven steps to a better life, not practical how-to stuff for the week ahead, not more sermons about “what women really want.” I certainly wasn’t longing for vestments and hierarchy, smells or bells: I was longing for Jesus. I wanted to be with people who loved him too.
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Like a lot of us these days, I defy the easy categories for sorting. I’m an Anglican-influenced charismatic, postevangelical with a strong pull toward Anabaptist theology. Say that three times fast. I speak in tongues and I pray the hours. I dance and clap at church, but I also sit in silence and meditation. I place my hands on people when I pray for them, and I light candles. I follow the Church calendar observing Lent and Pentecost, Advent and ordinary time, but I worship in community with believers who do not - and likely never will - and I belong there.
In my heart of hearts you know what I wish? I would like to worship every Sunday with a Catholic on my left and a Messianic Jew on my right. I’d like to watch the Charismatics raise their hands and dance in the aisle during the praise and worship. I’d love to recite the Lord’s Prayer (it’s the only one I have memorized) with the Anglicans. It would do my heart such good to sing along with the Baptists to the hymns of my childhood. I want every believer to see the miracle of grace and redemption through the words uttered over them in an Ash Wednesday service.
That’s why I say what I’ve learned is that we all have it wrong. We’re the family of God. I can hardly debate the minute details of it anymore. Infant baptism vs. believer’s baptism. Sprinkle vs. immersion. Church membership. Prophecy. Speaking in Tongues. Women leaders. No single denomination has all this right. In fact, if you study church history, we’ve changed our minds within denominations over the years. We’ve discovered we were wrong a hundred years ago, and now supposedly we have it all right.
We’d get a whole lot closer to right if we did a better job of doing this together.
These days, I long to stand in line with every believer in Jesus Christ. I want us to make our way together to the Lord’s Table. I want a fellow believer to offer me a piece of warm, homemade bread, made by the women’s Sunday School class that very morning. I want to dip it in the juice and hear these words uttered over believers again and again,
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (Luke 22:19-20)
I received a copy of Out of Sorts, written by Sarah Bessey, from NetGalley for the purpose of generating a review. This book released this week. Italicized quotes are from the book or Scripture. The opinions expressed here are my own.