I had lunch with a couple of girlfriends yesterday, and it was a lot of fun. I’ve known these women for close to twenty years (I had to think about that for a minute, but yup, that’s right), and each of us is stubborn and opinionated, and it’s a wonder we don’t kill each other when we get together, but that’s what age, and history, and faith can do for you.
So I was telling my friends how Ed had joined the church we’ve been visiting while I was home sick one Sunday (we joked about his timing), but that I hadn’t joined yet, and I wasn’t going to join just yet, because I want to know a few more things about the church before making that kind of commitment. To me, joining a church is serious business—almost as serious as getting married, but not quite. Still, I believe that when you join a church you assume its financial obligations and you agree to serve its members, submit to its leadership, and abide by its theology. And, after being around the block a few times, I ain’t doing all that without some due diligence first.
So then one of my girlfriends said something like “Instead of focusing on all that, focus on your relationship with Jesus.”
And I didn’t like that advice, okay? (This friend has already told me she doesn’t read my blog, so I’m pretty certain she’s never going to read this posting.) And the reason I didn’t like the advice is—theology matters.
So I said (a little heatedly actually, so I’m guessing my friend already knows I didn’t like this advice), “That’s not good enough. If a church isn’t following biblical principles, I don’t want to join. It won’t be okay because I have a relationship with Jesus.”
“But,” she said, “there’s no such thing as a perfect church.” I told her I know that. As long as we’re on this side of heaven, there can’t possibly be any such thing as a “perfect” church. Human beings are too imperfect for that. “However,” I told her, “I still want to join a church that’s trying to follow the bible.”
Heck, I may as well join a mosque and rely on my relationship with Jesus, if that’s what it’s all about. But it isn’t.
My friend’s advice hit on a pet peeve that I didn’t even know I have and that is—Christians who don’t think theology matters. Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Mormon, Quaker, Mennonite, Jehovah’s Witness—some Christians don’t seem to think the differences matter, and some of the differences don’t matter. But I’m here to tell you that some of these differences do matter. Some of the differences get at the very heart of who Jesus is and the nature of salvation. Others aren’t as serious but do touch on controversial topics within the church such as tithing, women in leadership, and infant baptism. And that’s before you even get to the issue of churches labeling themselves Baptist, Methodist, etc., but not following the major precepts of the denomination. So while I’m an absolute believer in the universal church, and I know that I have brothers and sisters in Christ from all denominations, I don’t think that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take care in determining where to worship.
But hey, if that stuff doesn’t matter to you, fine. However, it darn sure matters to me, and by the way it’s because of my relationship to Jesus that it matters.
Seriously, I hope my girlfriend doesn’t read my blog.