This last weekend I had the honor and privilege of preaching at the church I grew up in: Northminster Presbyterian Church in Bakersfield, CA. That’s where my spiritual life with Christ began as I asked Jesus to be my Savior when I was 16 years old. My mom is still very active there, serving as an Elder for many years. I had a delightful time preaching to this congregation – many of whom were instrumental to my spiritual pilgrimage as a teenager.
As many of you know, I serve as one of the pastors at Community Baptist Church (CBC) in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. What makes it interesting is that my Senior Pastor (and very close friend, Dr. Rob Acker @robackercbc) also grew up in a Presbyterian church but is now a Baptist pastor. We joke around as we call each other “Bapti-terians” (which sounds better than “Presby-tists”). Every once in awhile, a little bit of our Presbyterian roots will “seep” through. For example, Rob and I snuck in the Gloria Patri into our prayers at CBC the last two weeks. We use the “debts” version of the Lord’s Prayer. And we now stand for the reading of Scripture. It works the other way too, as last Sunday I gave a good old Baptist sermon to the wonderful Presbyterian folks at Northminster. It was probably longer than what they were used to, but I think they got a lot out of it (at least, that’s what they told me!)
It is a blessing to have both the Baptist and the Presbyterian traditions in our background. We appreciate the stateliness and the grandeur of God expressed through Presbyterian readings, hymns, and liturgy. But we also love the solid Biblical teachings and the emphasis on evangelism we have in the Baptist church. It’s all good! I’ve also had wonderful opportunities to pray fervently and worship passionately with my Charismatic and Pentecostal brothers and sisters. I’ve been blessed by experiencing the intimacy of foot washing ceremonies and deep fellowship with my Grace Brethren colleagues. As well, I appreciate the brilliant writings on spiritual formation by Henri Nouwen, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and others in the Catholic tradition, the artistic icons and paradoxical mystery of the Orthodox, the spiritual experience and whole life application of faith by the Wesleyans, the radical “Sermon on the Mount” pacifism of the Mennonites, and the list goes on and on. They all have different methods, different approaches, and different strengths. But the one thing we have in common is that we all worship Jesus Christ as our Lord.
As the Twila Paris song goes, “How beautiful is the Body of Christ!”
I think it is a shame that so much of the focus regarding the diversity of traditions has been historically negative: “They have the wrong theology,” “Their worship is irreverent,” “They don’t interpret the Bible correctly,” “They practice baptism and communion in the wrong way.” And while there might be some legitimacy in our disagreements, I think most of the hostility between traditions and denominations is silly – if not, stupid and downright prideful. Most of all, by ignoring the beauty of our diversity we miss out on valuable perspectives that enrich our understanding of God, our connection with Him, and how we can effectively minister to a broken world in His name.
Whole Life Worshipers seek to grow in whatever way possible that helps us to offer our lives to God and be transformed from the inside out. So we need to appreciate and learn from Christian traditions that are different than the ones we come from or presently reside in.
As for me, I’m proud to be a Bapti-costal-brethre-tholic-wesley-luther-menno-terian! Because it’s all “Christ-ian” to me.
What Christian tradition did you come from?
How have you been blessed or enriched by another Christian tradition?
An excellent resource to explore the diverse beauty of Christianity is: “Streams of Living Water” by Richard Foster