Shall We Imitate Denominations… Or Our Early Brethren?

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In America people are accustomed to having many choices. Who has not zipped into the drive through and stared at the reader board, or pushed a cart down long aisles at the mega-market passing hundreds of different items? When it comes to religion – there are choices galore. There is every imaginable denomination; many of which are splintered into various sub categories. No wonder the masses of humanity are in such a religious quandary!

Here in Africa, choices are limited, but not in the realm of religion. Mainstream denominations have long yielded their missionary influence in this land. What may surprise you is the fact that even some of the smaller religious bodies have a presence here. For example about a year or so ago, I had a study with a man who was a preacher for the Mennonite church. He had been trained in one of their schools of preaching here in Tanzania.

Another curious fact is that most religious bodies here have what might be termed a “Pentecostal Flavor.” That is to say, they have a leaning toward being charismatic. Last week, there was a special meeting being held on the grounds belonging to the Catholic Church. As I drove by, I saw hundreds of people assembled. It is hard to estimate accurately, but my guess was near 1,000 people. The amplifier system was loudly broadcasting the preaching that was in progress. It sounded just like what you might expect to hear at a Pentecostal/holiness revival. My brother Charles said the Catholics must use this type of presentation to compete with the other denominations. Such “hooping and hollering” draws the crowds!

In contrast, the Lord’s church has been around for about two thousand years. What worked in the first century will work still today. The power is still in the gospel (Romans 1:16). God still promises that the seekers will find (Matthew 7:7). We need not mimic the denominations. Those who are drawn by such theatrics are easily drawn to the next show in town. People seem to freely change churches as easily as they change their sandals. The true church does not need to try to be different – it is different! Neither should she try to be like false bodies. Remember Israel of old, who wished to be like the nations about her?!

Like Paul we must be busy teaching publically and from house to house (Acts 20:20). Three key qualities of “overcomers” are listed in Revelation 12:11. First, they have been washed (Acts 22:16), and continue to be washed (1 John 1:7) in the blood of the Lamb. Second, they have the courage and practice to share the message from their own lips. We will never see the church grow as God desires until each saint gives “the word of their testimony.” Third, their commitment ran so deep that they “loved not their life even unto death.” Faithful life in Christ is of more value than physical life (Cf. Matthew 10:28). We expect a missionary and a preacher to “share the gospel” from their own lips. God also expects the same from each of his children.       George Jensen