"If we fall into Satan's trap of assuming that other people are not Christians because they do not belong to our own particular brand of Christianity, no wonder we become incapable of understanding the works of art produced by so-called non-Christians..."
Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water
I'm not sure that L'Engle would mind if I gave her credit or not for these words. She wrote fragments and quotes without much attribution to the original author or page number to cite later. Words carry meaning, and we strip it down when we insist on adding footnotes and citations. I like that about her. I also like her perspective on Christianity, expanding it to be much bigger than our western world's definitive and narrow brand of religion.
I was raised in a non denominational church my entire life, eventually landing in a mega church during high school and college. The kind with an electric guitar and modern technology and cool video edits. The kind of church that felt like an attraction, that loved marketing and production, and had enough seats for thousands of people.
Megachurches are an incredible place to meet Jesus, find Christian community, and grow as a believer. There is nothing inherently wrong with them. And while some of us prefer something smaller and quieter, others will build their entire lives on a church that serves thousands of people.
Both are valid.
But I didn’t recognise this when I was attending my own mega church. I bought into the marketing and business side of the ministry, wanting everyone to come to my form of religion and thinking that any other form of Christianity couldn’t possibly compare. I questioned liturgy and tradition, doubting that the vibrant and loving God I knew could be found there.
Maybe, had I read L'Engle's words back then, I would be able to see clearly the trap she was referring to playing out in my own life. A trap caused not directly by willful sin and disobedience, but by over zealousness and pride.
The more I defended my form of Christianity, and wanted everyone around me to be a part of that specific form, the more I found myself boxed into a world that I didn't fully love myself. How foolish to believe that God can only be found in one form of worship. How silly to assume that churches based on tradition and liturgy couldn't know the same Jesus I did - they are using, after all, the prayers and hymns that people have used to learn about and worship Him for generations.
While I lived in Tennessee, away from all the familiarity of my church home, and surrounded by people from all kinds of walks and doctrinal beliefs, I saw God there too. There was a beauty in all of it. We created the doctrines and dividing lines, not the God we all claim. And even if that isn’t what God intended for His Church, He shows up in those different forms of worship and disciplines regardless.
"We approach God in rather different ways but it is the same God we are seeking...in our totally different disciplines, (worshipping) the same Lord". (L'Engle)
I don't go to mega churches anymore. Maybe I will later, but right now I am longing for tradition, liturgy, and simplicity.
I needed to write this now, before it matters, before it means anything. To admit that the way I approached doctrines and denominations and forms of Christianity was so blind. To thank God that He softened my heart to liturgy and tradition, that He showed me how He can show up there and be just as real, just as vibrant.
I'm finding Him in places I never expected, and I love the freedom He created us with to do that.