It's been interesting as we've traveled around the Southeast, meeting people from every walk of life. Having been raised in a very conservative church my whole life, it was like culture shock for me when we stepped into our first Southern Baptist Church a couple of years ago. I wasn't accustomed to seeing blue jeans on the Pastor and a whole band on the platform, drums and all. It took me off guard when the Pastor opened his ESV to begin teaching the Word and we didn't sing the traditional hymns that I had heard all my life.
And the truth is, I loved it!
For me, it was like a breath of fresh air. Everyone seemed so at ease and connected. There was a certain passion in the room and an excitement about the Word. I loved the music and for what seemed like the first time I actually felt connected in worship. I felt at home and I was at least 600 miles from mine.
So what did this mean for me?
I have found myself with a lot of conflicting emotions over the last couple of years as I've met so many people that have enhanced my relationship with Christ. I've read books and heard sermons that have changed my worldview, broadened my mind, and opened my eyes to the fact that we serve a big... make that HUGE... God who doesn't fit inside the box that we've tried to fit him in.
In all of our travels I feel like my soul has been awakened, as cheesy as that may sound.
But what were the implications of this? Was the church that I was raised in not doing things right? Did the fact that they were hard-core KJV only, singing hymns from 1930, and it was suit and tie and dresses to church every service mean that they had somehow missed the mark? Or did the fact that I didn't feel connected with that atmosphere somehow imply that my heart was wrong for liking the contemporary worship songs and preferring pants over a skirt?
Fast forward to a month ago as we sit in the middle of the Jungle at an Indigenous church. The Pastor is speaking in two languages as he preaches from the front of a grass-roof hut. The people are all sitting on benches and the floor, though concrete, is covered in dirt. Women are breastfeeding with no regard for who is nearby and chickens and children are running all over the place. The music service is in the tribal language and the song leader and several women in the crowd are dancing.
I won't say this was culture shock for me, because a part of me felt right at home. But it was all new to me. Where I come from, dancing is off-limits and children are seen and not heard. If a woman needs to nurse, there is a special room designated for that and chickens are only seen on our plates after we go out for Sunday lunch.
Was this church getting it wrong too? After all, the pastor wasn't wearing a tie and he preached for an hour and a half straight... didn't he know that lunchtime is at noon? And was that the KJV version of their tribal Bible translation.........
So who was getting this right? Who was really glorifying God? Whose heart was really in the right place??
I think the answer is all of them. God was being and is being glorified in ways that we don't understand and it's all around us all the time.
God's love language is diversity.
He created the Indians in the Jungle who dance while they sing to the Almighty God. He created the 20-year-old who has a talent playing the drums and uses it to glorify his Savior. He created the 80-year-old man who wears his suit and tie in reverence to the creator of the Universe. He created the Pastor who wears jeans and the new mom nursing her infant and the mom who doesn't even own a pair of pants and young woman who hates skirts and the teenager who wears straight-legged jeans and dyes her hair pink and the little Indian who runs around naked and the man who sits in the back row because he's uncomfortable in social situations and the shut-in who faithfully listens over the airways and the music director who raises his hands in praise and the Indian lady who dances her traditional tribal dances and chants her tribal songs and the ex-drug addict who sits in the front row to soak in the Word that changed his life and the young married couple who got tattoos to commemorate the day that their lives were transformed by Christ and the missionary couple who gave up every earthly possession to follow Him and the business man who uses his wealth to further the Gospel and the stay at home mom who raises godly children and the Indian who fishes for his food every day and wears monkey teeth around his wrist and the elderly lady who weeps as she sings the hymns that have carried her through so many trials and.............................................
And the list goes on. And who are we to say that we have found God's true love language? Who are we to say that this worship music is right and this kind is wrong? And who are we to say that you have to dress this way or that?
Who are we?
I'm thankful to serve a God who not only loves diversity, He created it.
May we not be so closed-minded to think otherwise.
"...For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
"...and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." Revelation 5:9-10