The following is a post I wrote shortly after returning from West Africa as a missionary. I share it again today really as a reminder to myself, and to share with you, about the great diversity that exists in the whole church when each local church has the freedom to worship in their own, cultural way. As you read this post, think about the thousands and thousands of churches spread across the world today, worshipping in their own language, in their own way, but focusing their praise on the one, true King and his glory!
I am still traveling. In just a couple of weeks, I will hit the two-month mark and the longest I have been in any one place is two weeks. I am tired of highways.
When I started making plans for my return, I knew I would be speaking at a lot of churches and sharing about God’s work in West Africa. So at the time, I decided it would be wise to front-load my schedule with travel in order to finish in the first two or three months. It seemed like a good idea, but in the middle of all this traveling, I am beginning to second-guess my decision.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Like the patches on a quilt, each local church is a different shape, pattern, and size, yet they are all knitted together into the grand fabric that is the universal church.[/pullquote]
Yet, despite the headache and permanent imprint in my driver’s seat, I gained a unique perspective of the church in the catholic sense. Now, I am not talking about the Roman Catholic Church (my travels have really produced no new information on them), but the term catholic as it is used in the Apostle’s creed to refer to the universal body of the church.
Week after week, I find myself in a new place, with a new people, at a new church. Every few nights I am in a new home and on a new couch (or if I am lucky, a guest bed). In a way, it reminds me a little of Paul and all of his travels in the New Testament. During his first trips, he planted a bunch of churches, but on his subsequent trips, he would travel around and stop back in to see people all along the way. Paul traveled from church to church, visiting old friends, people with whom he had worked and ministered. I can only imagine he crashed on a couch or two in his day.
Through all of this travel, I continue to develop a better understanding of the church universal. I see the love and hospitality of our great family. I am treated to meals, offered warm places to sleep, gifted with great fellowship and treated as though I am family. I worship so many different ways I have lost count. There are great big services with a full orchestra and small church plants in elementary school gymnasiums. I hear everything from guitars and egg shakers to pipe organs and brass sections all in worship of the Most High God. I watch along as each church discusses its unique passions and specific mission.
Now, set that beside the context I just left where worship is done on mats and in grass-roofed huts. Songs are sung in a different language and prayer, not music or a sermon, is the central activity of worship.
So often we get mired in conversation about tertiary issues such as music style and which instruments are appropriate in a worship setting. We tire ourselves with debate on how our sanctuaries should look or what kind of dress is expected of God on Sunday. Certainly there are some biblical principles that guide worship and its purpose, but in truth those guiding principles are more matters of the heart than mechanics of the service.
Christ’s church is a grand patchwork of diversity in design and mission. Like the patches on a quilt, each local church is a different shape, pattern, and size, yet they are all knitted together into the grand fabric that is the universal church. That is a taste of Revelation 7:9 right here, right now. It is a diverse body tasked with reaching a diverse world.
These travels are a great gift, as I see a view of the church few get to behold.
Photo By *Vintage Fairytale*