Updated: May 28, 2021
A question I am consistently asked is “Have any of the churches you’ve visited stood out to you?” This question assumes that I am looking for the perfect church. I am not. It also suggests I am looking for a church to do my internship at. While I am looking for possibilities, I am also visiting churches I would not consider for an internship. What I wish people would ask is “How have you seen God working since you’ve been visiting churches?”
I’m so glad you asked. Let me tell you. I have visited Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, Anglo, and mixed churches. I have visited large and small churches. I have visited churches that have women on staff and others that don’t. I have visited Pentecostal churches, Baptist churches, and many churches that range between the two. I have visited churches that are active in missions, both in their local communities and overseas. And I have seen people worship. I have heard people pray. I have heard sermons that explain scripture and extol the name of Jesus over every other name. I have heard testimonies of lives being changed. I have been inspired to give my life away. Simply put, I have found that despite the differences, we are the same. We worship one God. We preach the same gospel. And my dilemma has grown stronger to the point that I don’t want to say any church is better than any other one, I want all of us to come together. Parachurch ministries understand what it means to serve a community. Other organizations can gather attendees within a particular geography. But every Sunday many of us choose a community that looks like us, ethnically, stylistically, theologically.
I’ve been told that heaven is the solution and to stop asking people to leave their comfort zones. Let people be comfortable once a week, as long as they are learning about God – personal spiritual growth is all that matters. But I am growing more and more uncomfortable. And the church appears more divided than united. The Korean church has taught me the value of prayer. There are churches with prayer rooms open 24/7. Many offer early morning prayer services (5am) every day. A kidowon (literally “prayer mountain”) is a retreat center dedicated to prayer which even Korean children are familiar with. From the Anglo-American church (someone please give me a better name for this), I have been taught about the love of God from childhood. While there may have been too little discipline (especially when compared to other traditions), there was an abundance of freedom. And freedom to love a God who chooses you despite anything you can or cannot do for him is a beautiful thing. The Pentecostal church values the movement of the Holy Spirit and instills a belief that God is currently at work in the world and he is working in and through us, perhaps not always within our plans. The Baptist church emphasizes the truth and value of the Bible as the inspired word of God. I have heard that the Chinese church emphasized service, that our service to others and to God is evidence of our relationship with him. Sounds Biblical to me. And there are so many more traditional ways of experiencing God that I have not yet experienced. Any of these lessons alone paint only a partial picture of who God is and what he is doing in the world. Is it any wonder that I hesitate to choose one and am unwilling to say that any single church is the best?
And yet, one thing has been confirmed for me. It is simply this. We are better together. And I want to serve with you. I believe this is what the kingdom of God is like, people coming together for what they have in common despite their differences. And while I am hesitant to believe that any one church can or will be this, I will continue looking for glimpses of the promise of Revelation 7:9, of “a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.” One crowd. One church. One God.