"You're Baptist and happen to be a Christian. I'm a Christian and happen to go to a Baptist church."
I heard this from my father-in-law yesterday regarding a thought he had about churches in this region.
Too often, we tend to want to label ourselves in favor of packaging our beliefs in a quick way so we, in a sense, give a mini-biography about our faith. In just the realm of Baptists, there are Southern, Reformed, Freewill, tons of others. Living on the fringe of the Bible Belt here, you can't throw a rock without hitting a church of some kind.
I'm starting to find it a bit distasteful that people, including myself, will tend to congregate with people of like beliefs. The funny thing is, I know that in my church of about 200 people, there is not a pair of people with the same exact theology as another person.
So why do we do it? My theory is that it's just sin at work dividing people into ever smaller groups.
The problem with this is that people will not get out of their little boxes and challenge themselves with "new" ideas about the Bible because they are surrounded with a group of people who believe a certain way by default--or they just won't be introduced to anything new. I really think that this is the reason we don't see as many revivals or reformations amongst us. The last time I heard of a huge change in ideology was started by a guy who's dead now.
We divide ourselves too much. The result of being divided into smaller and smaller groups is that Satan will pick them off with false truths and bend their learning slightly, and over time they will be so far off the mark that it's ridiculous.
I mean, how many times have we read that living the Christian life is like a war? It's not smart to take a tiny group of people away from a whole platoon of soldiers to do their own thing because they think they have it right is it? They'll most likely get blown into chunky bits because a small group is easier to take out than a bigger one.
So why treat church any differently? We shouldn't. Here's a list of things people have divided over that I can think of off the top of my head:
Music--hymns vs. contemporary; drums or no drums; too noisy, not loud enough
Hand raising--OMG YOU CHARISMATIC!!!11 vs. It doesn't bother me
Shouting during worship--Everybody's going to start doing it vs. Who Cares
This stuff isn't really worth dividing over, because that's the only thing it can do IS divide. What does Paul say about this kind of stuff? Basically that if something you're doing is offending a brother, cease doing it. It's implied that you shouldn't be grumbling about ceasing. But what's the ultimate goal here? It's unity, right? So wouldn't the ultimate goal be to just not get upset at all about this kind of stuff, to realize that these are really fringe issues (if they're even issues at all) and that it's MUCH more important to just maintain unity?
I don't know. I really hope that this rambling of mine is making some sense because I have what feels like an idea what looks like a plate of spaghetti that can't be untangled. I'm trying to just get across the idea of NOT dividing over minor issues.