Monday, February 11, 2008

Two Churches, Two Very Different Styles

I am still on the road sharing the news about Manuelito Navajo Children's Home. I left Gallup on January 22, and my travels have taken me through Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, and back to Texas. I am currently in Temple, Texas. I will finally return home to Gallup on Friday. As enjoyable as this tour has been, I'm eager to get home.

One of the great blessings of this job are the opportunities I have to visit so many different congregations of the Lord's people. I've lost track of the number of churches I've visited during the past three weeks.

Yesterday, I worshiped with two different congregations here in Temple, worshiping in the morning at Western Hills and having the opportunity to speak last evening to the Northside church. These are very different congregations with a common faith.

Western Hills seems to be more progressive of the two. Their worship included a number of contemporary songs, even a few songs I had not heard before, and the service included some elements that were somewhat new to me. I especially liked the "Shepherd's Blessing," a word of encouragement and prayer given by one of the elders near the beginning of the worship. I was also moved by the placement of the prayer for the offering, given aften the collection was taken. It reminded me of Jesus taking the loaves and fish and lifting them up to God, asking for his blessing. A subtle act, to be certain, but powerful. I enjoyed the message, brought by Scott Meyer, and delivered in a very "relaxed/casual" manner.

The Northside church is a more traditional congregation, more long the lines of what I have been accustomed. The friendliness of the congregation was impressive. And the singing . . . even with a small group, it sounded great. I must say, even though I have always prefered "Youth Songs" over the old standbys, I found myself appreciating singing some well known songs (in contrast to not knowing many of the songs at Western Hills). It reinforced to me the importance of striking a balance between the traditional and contemporary. The all and none approach leaves people out, a blending includes everyone.

The primary point I want to make with this posting is that despite the differences between these congregations (and I imagine the differences go deeper than just the distinctions in worship), both congregations share a fellowship grounded in faith in Jesus as Christ. I found a passion for Jesus in both places and a genuiness of faith that was encouraging.

Despite the protestations of some, the New Testament does NOT provide us with a precise model or blueprint of what the church is to be and do. Certainly, we are given principles to follow and we have some examples of the life and practice of the early church, but totally lacking from the New Testament is a book like Leviticus. The minutia of the "old law" was nailed to the cross.

Consider how varied the early churches of the New Testament must have been. Different cultures, languages, and backgrounds must have resulted in a varitety of practices, much of the variety being subtle differences, but differences none the less. For instance, I can imagine that the singing in a predominantly Latin North African church would have varied greatly from a church in Jewish Palestine. Yet, both were praise directed at a common Father and shared Savior.

I am reminded of the song, a "Youth Song" at that: 'We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord; we are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord; and they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love."