All shapes and sizes

Every time I think I’ve seen everything in church I get surprised. And last Sunday it happened again. 

We were visiting good friends of ours who are leading a brand new church in northern Indiana. It turns out almost every last person in the fellowship grew up in the Amish. Some had barely traded in their horse and buggy.

Even within the Amish, there are lots of differences. You’ll often find a lot of legalism and not much true understanding of the Gospel. Yet, as you can imagine, there is a great sense of community and shared values. Many of these folk left the Amish because they had come to Christ. We heard one moving testimony from a young man, who had experienced the Rumspringa, the rite of passage where teenagers are allowed to run wild for a year and do anything they want (that's why, as we found out living on a rural Michigan highway, you can hear the boomboxes resonating as the buggies go past at 3 am on a Saturday morning). At the end of that time, they are free to leave the community if they wish, but if they return, they make a solemn commitment which, if ever broken, results in being shunned by family and friends for the rest of their lives. This young man had turned to alcohol and drugs while on Rumspringa, had left the community, and was spiralling rapidly downward until invited to a Bible study where he heard about the grace of God and accepted Christ. Later that day, he phoned his father, who was an Amish preacher. He told his story, then held his breath waiting to see what the response would be. Silence. Then he heard the sound of his dad weeping and telling his son he had done the right thing and was proud of him. Weeks later, his father knelt on the floor of his buggy shop to accept Christ, had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit, and left the Amish himself.

I loved the atmosphere of this new church. Somehow the people had received the grace of God while not losing the incredibly strong sense of community in which they had been raised. And the church lunch afterward proved to be an Amish feast with Amish quantities. No need for five loaves and fishes!

What I find amazing is how God creates churches that are as different as biological families are, yet shines his light equally through each one of them. We have no problem accepting that each human family operates in a unique way. Why do we have so much difficulty accepting that church families are just the same? How often do we try to impose our “cookie cutter” on churches, and then judge those different from what we think is the ideal?

To me it is an extraordinary miracle how God takes people, steeps them in the same Biblical truths and values, and causes them to reflect different but complementary aspects of his character. The body of Christ is like pieces of a pie. Each piece makes a contribution. None has a monopoly on what is right. The whole can only be seen when every piece is accepted and comes together.

We have the privilege of working with an incredible variety of churches, some urban and some rural, some working class and some highly educated, some who like one type of music and some who like another, some who abstain and some who drink, some politically right and some who lean left (but not too far!), some highly organized and some who go with the flow, some in a denomination and some not, but all of which love Jesus.

As my years advance, I have learned to become more and more flexible in church practices, while remaining as rigid as I can be in adherence to the Biblical truth that must direct them.

If God only loved one type of church, we would probably have lost the amazing experience of last Sunday. Not to mention the lunch.

Header Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash




Foundation of Faith Project  is strengthening generations in faith and bringing beautiful changes to the communities around them. Through teaching, mentoring and coaching, many are finding out who they are and who they are destined to be.  They are bringing more to their world. David Campbell is the key leader in this initiative and you can support him financially directly through Awakening Ministries.

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