Based on what church you go to, what preacher you listen to, and most importantly what your parents believe, you are likely to have a set of beliefs that help mold your personal relationship with God. You live by them, you abide by them (or try to, at least), and you are comfortable with them.
You are living the Christian life the way it should be... or, well... the way it should be according to whoever told YOU it was the way it should be.
Now, I'm not here to knock anyone's personal beliefs or sway anyone into going hippie Christian or anything. But, stepping out of your denominational incubator for just a second, think of what all the other churches in your city believe... and how WEIRD you think they are for believing it. How many times have you and your church-going friends laughed with each other because of a church that was just not "getting it". Lord knows I've done it.
Ok, now let's look a little further outside our box... let's look beyond the church completely. What do you think all the people looking from the outside-in think of all the churches? Besides thinking that we're all nutcases, frauds, liars, snot-noses, wackos, and otherwise... non-believers have NO idea what the heck we believe in beyond the fact that there are "rules" we have to abide by that make our lives a lot more boring than theirs.
Is this because what the church believes in is just confusing? Well, let's start with the basics. At the core of what the Christian church truly believes is that a loving God who was absolutely heartbroken to see His people destroying themselves sent His only son to die and take on our sins so that we may join Him in eternity... Basically, as Christians we BELIEVE in Jesus.
But beyond those core beliefs is where our confusion as "the church" really begins.
There are thousands of beliefs, denominations, religions, values, and churches that fight over the set of rules for living a Christian life. Rules that, if you do not abide by them, are sneakily sold to the church as "beliefs". Things you may find on a church bulletin:
- We believe in the holy virgin Mary.
- We believe in the holy virgin Mary that is as important as Jesus.
- We believe in confession.
- We believe in communion.
- We believe in communion everyday.
- We believe in water baptism.
- We believe in speaking in tongues.
- We believe in speaking in tongues if you've been given the gift.
- We believe speaking in tongues was for the day of Pentecost only.
- We believe in the Trinity.
- We believe in Oneness.
- We believe in clapping and raising hands during worship.
- We believe in being reverent in church.
- We believe in the church.
All these will of course be followed by a scripture reference of some sort.
These rules... errr... "beliefs" are of course used to welcome the church-hoppers... errr... long-time believers that are looking to find a home church that makes them "comfortable" and feel like they won't be challenged where they are at.
But for the new believer, these set of "beliefs" are something to start a whole new life by. These are the tenants that their Christian walk will (or should) adhere to, according to their pastor.
"Now, now... John... are you asking me to challenge my Pastor?" Of course not, people... God has placed your Pastor where he/she is at for a reason and I pray that he/she is following the path that God has placed before them to the best of their abilities.
But I'm challenging us as a church to stop the madness! We are so caught up in the X's and O's of Christianity that we are forgetting the N-A-M-E that died on the cross to carry ALL of our sins. Could you imagine how many more people we'd win to the Lord if we shared the story of Christ and the most important things he bestowed on us: new life and unconditional love!
Let's stop the in-fighting, let's stop the church wars, let's stop worrying about which denomination has it right... NONE of us do. We ALL fall short... WAY short... arguing about the stupid stuff in between is useless... let's just go out and love the heck out of people and let them find out what we REALLY believe.
Because when you show the true love that we are commanded to as believers, there is never any confusion about what that is... that's Jesus.