One of my less-glamorous true stories is that I came to the Christian faith through a street evangelist who was a member of a Christian cult. I refuse to be embarrassed about this. As a genuine seeker – walking towards the Hari Krishna band – I was intercepted by a woman in her mid-20’s who invited me to her church and sat with me in a cafe to read the bible. When I was confronted by the gospel, though sheepishly looking around to see who might see us with a BIBLE open in PUBLIC, I was convicted by the truth of who Jesus was and what He did for us, and immediately turned my life toward knowing God and being known and loved by Him.
In the month that followed, I was welcomed with generous hospitality into the homes of fellow church members and felt a sense of being part of God’s family. I hungrily read my bible at home, though soon enough alarm bells sounded for me when I heard those fateful words from her ‘we are the only church to be saved.’ The countdown was on, it was only a few weeks later I cut myself off from that lovely, though misguided community and found myself receiving the generous hospitality and biblical teaching of a Baptist Church in Sydney’s West. Praise God. The whole inter-denominational community opened up to me at the Katoomba convention and I’ve never looked back, always relishing the taste of the Kingdom on earth wherever I worship.
I would like to say that all of that is behind me, however, it took many years of listening and learning to ‘weed out’ (pertinent expression!) the false doctrine that I was taught in those first few weeks as a baby believer. The spiritual milk was a bit off, and I needed a lot of extra nourishment to grow strong and mature in my faith. Even now, as I wander the earth through the different stages of my life, I come across the same idea in otherwise doctrinally sound church communities. The red flag is hoisted when I hear ‘we are the only healthy church around here,’ or a red-faced teacher adamantly insisting that his point of view on a matter of faith is to be obeyed (or else!).
This my-way-or-the-highway view of ecclesiastical issues has many faithful and dedicated souls hitch-hiking their way from crumbling sandstone building to urban chrysalis hoping to find a healthy kind of ecumenicalism. Those, like me, who do not wish to be judged for the denominations of their past. For me, my spiritual home is wherever I lay my coat and pick up a name tag – although I’ve been known to use the Royal ‘We’ when referring to the Anglican Church, it is, in fact, our Kingdom royalty that expresses the words We Believe. I am traveling toward a place where We stand on common ground and can have arm wrestles over doctrinal implications. A place where We allow grace and truth to season us as we mature, forgiving and giving one another the opportunity to be transformed in our mind and hearts, and loving one-another as Christ intended for his bride, the church.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. John 14:27
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, Ephesians 1:18
Photo Credit: Brett Boardman