I grew up “un-churched”. I remember attending random places of worship with my Grandma or with the families of friends over the years, but it was just a side-effect of having spent a Saturday night with them. Or a Friday night, in one case.
I had no clue at the time that there were “different” churches. Church was church and you got dressed up and sat quiet and then went home. I don’t remember much beyond being uncomfortable in those settings.
I realize now that I have been in Lutheran and Roman Catholic and Seventh Day Adventist and even Mormon churches, and Grandma probably took me to a Baptist or Missionary Alliance church.
Somewhere in there I’m sure the Gospel was preached.
When I met my husband, he took me to church. A little country Missionary church, with a wrestling-coach pastor and a lady on piano. We sang the words off an overhead projector, lead by either a gentleman with a velvet voice or by the elderly Native American woman, and the sanctuary was full of light.
I know the Gospel was preached there.
Before we married, I had fully accepted that I was a sinner saved by Amazing Grace and that Jesus had called me His. I don’t have a date and there was no Road-to-Damascus-type conversion, and maybe I was truly saved at nine years old when I prayed with Grandma in her motorhome, but my testimony is just this: I know I was lost, and now I know I’m found.
We married in another little country Missionary church with red-shag carpet and a gymnasium.
After our honeymoon, church was in a garage or the living room of faithful saints. Eventually our little body moved in to the Methodist church building, meeting for a couple of hours after their service and usually having a potluck afterwards.
On my 21st birthday I was baptized. By my husband. In a hot tub.
We were few but faithful, and our lay-pastor was a certified genius who taught us of all the wonders of God and His word. I remember round tables and Bible studies where the whole church would show up, all 40 of us, and we’d discuss and disciple, and we grew.
Tim and I grew and our church body grew, and there were babies born and funerals for those faithful saints who opened their living rooms to us, sharing their mincemeat and encouraging us of God’s faithfulness.
We read our Bibles and opened our eyes. We traveled overseas and to the neighboring towns with Good News and we were, we are, small town American Christians loving the God of the whole universe.
God called a biologist back to his hometown to teach us the Word, full-time. So we got ourselves a pastor who’d never been to seminary, and somehow we outgrew the Methodist building and God gave us a larger one to rent. And we keep growing and going around the world.
We never took a label except the one pictured above.
In all this quaint history of my “Christian experiences”, labels have never been important. I still don’t understand what it means to be Lutheran or Baptist or Episcopalian or whatever. I know there are churches where Jesus is preached in all the fullness and infallibility of the Word of God, and I know there are churches where He is not.
The jokes about denominations go right over my head.
The debates about -isms don’t hold great interest to me.
Emergent and fundamentalist, egalitarianism and complimentarianism, Christian feminism, Calvinism, Arminianism, on and on ad nauseum.
I’m sure there is merit in understanding the different schools of thought and in debating the various theological arguments. We have some of that in our small group meetings and Bible studies, and we are digging in to church history in our homeschool.
So I probably do use labels as a sort of caution, because I do need to define what is pure and true and noble. But at the end of it all, I didn’t sign-up to join a movement or to get a group membership.
When I read something or hear something, when I see someone labeled or find myself labeled, when I look up the definition to try to understand what is being said, I really just have one simple filter.
Is that in the Bible?
Because I guess I am just a simple person, believing in Jesus. I’m ok with that.