Monday, August 3, 2015

Denominational Flavors

There are places where the variety of flavors consists of vanilla.

If I'm really hot and hungry for ice cream, I'll take it. But believe it or not, there are people who don't like vanilla and will skip ice cream altogether if that's all that's offered. (A life without ice cream...The Horror!) There are places that just offer vanilla or chocolate or vanilla dipped or swirled with chocolate.

But many of us want more choices. Baskin Robbins' sign says it has 31 flavors, but in fact they've offered more flavors than that through the years. (I remember enjoying "Peanuts and Popcorn," but apparently not enough other people did. Mindy's still waiting for a return of a Mississippi Mud/Pralines and Cream combination that she liked). Baskin Robbins offers seasonal varieties (pumpkin in the fall, peppermint at Christmas) and tie-ins to major motion pictures ("Poultry-Ice" and "The Ice-or-Crisp" were short-lived tie-ins to horror films, I believe).

Sometimes people do get overwhelmed with choices and return to good old vanilla.

I sometimes hear people bemoan the variety of churches and denominations. After all, doesn't Ephesians 4:4-6 say, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one whope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all an through all and in all."?

Why doesn't everyone in a town go to one church like in the good old New Testament times?

There are places in the world, such as some European nations, where it seems there is only one choice of church, the State Church. Often, the Church is dying in such places. Why is that?

I think it's because people have different needs and need to be ministered to in different ways. You could say different people need the one Gospel to be presented in different flavors.

Paul said it this way, in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. "Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews, I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I might share in its blessings."

I believe different denominations can serve as different flavorings of the Gospel, all presenting the truth, but with different emphases and styles.  Of course, there are some churches that do present a false Gospel (poison ice cream), but our emphasis here is to try to find good churches wherever we can.

So this month, we're trying to taste some flavors we haven't before. Some are denominations we've never attended, and some are just ones we haven't written about (for instance, the first Sunday this month we visited a United Methodist church. We've attended Methodist churches before; in fact, I served recently in a Federated church that is both Methodist and Presbyterian. But we hadn't written about it before).

We hope this month you'll find something that refreshes your spiritual palate.
-- Dean

(all scripture references in this post are from the New International Version of the Bible)