Nov 19, 2005

healthier (holy) households

One of the things we're doing these days is watching the kids of some friends on a weekly basis. Keep in mind, these are some of our best friends and the guy and I go way back. We've done road trips, been the "best man" in each other's weddings, and even created some fond memories involving eggnog containers. I share that to simply illustrate how alike we are in many ways, especially from our background.

And yet we are also completely different. There are personality differences, not to mention philosophies on how decisions around the home are to be made. Again - none of this is bad, and even the differences stem from similar foundations. It's because of that foundation, too, that we completely trust our kids into each other's care even though our households run a bit differently. We've discussed parenting strategies, sharpened each other, and even had a lot of fun doing so along the way.

Now, hit pause there for a moment. New topic.

One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to have friends sleepover at my house. Occasionally this would also involve them coming early enough to enjoy dinner with my family, too. Remember your first experiences with this? Whether it was a friend at your house or you at a friend's house, it was one of your first experiences with the fact that every house works differently than yours. Whether they eat Macaroni and Cheese from a box or boil egg noodles and add homemade cheese sauce, it would cause you or your friend to look at the plate and go, "We don't do it like this at MY house."

Now hit play... back to the first topic.

This past week one of our friend's kids happened to comment on the lunch we'd chosen to serve - chicken nuggets, fries, and applesauce. This meal is a regular bit of food around our house and is one of the many "quiet" meals we have because everyone eats and no one complains.

That said, one of our friends' kids said something quite innocent and normal:

"We eat healthier food at OUR house."


We know we don't eat this meal everyday, even though we do eat it. Also, the comment was quite innocent, and with every bit of context in mind that I've just shared, we took it quite well.

But it got me thinking about another topic... denominations.


You know as well as I do that part of maturity involves being exposed to experiences outside of our own household. Whether it's tasting food you don't normally eat or traveling to places outside of your normal drive, if we can participate in new paradigms of life we will either grow our own, strengthen it, or challenge why it even existed in the first place. This requires a healthy foundation, of course, especially when you're a kid. Otherwise you might get thrown into such an odd mix of ideas that you lose your innocence all together.

That said, I belong to a denomination. I didn't grow up in it but sort of found it on my journey towards ordination back in the day. It used to be the trend to be a part of a non-denom church, but the problem that created was I was sort of dazed when it came to finding a theological track to pursue. Then when the Emerging Church books told us that traditions were good things, it ended up being a nice security blanket after all. For as we all know, pastors tend to do what the books tell them to do.

*ahem* Sorry... I was venting a bit there.

In any event, I am hearing more and more people in my theological circles concerned about defining themselves as denominational types (insert your favorite one here: _________) instead of Christians. For instance, "Should Baptists support Disney world?" or "Is it okay for a United Methodist pastor to visit a local bar" as well as "Can a Wesleyan choose to be friends with a Calvinist (or is the whole thing already predestined to fail in depravity)?"

Perhaps this is a semantic I am missing, but shouldn't our identity be defined as "Christian" while keeping ________ the denomination we may happen to participate in? Before you shout HERESY or AMEN, I'm asking this mainly because I don't like limiting my choices to follow God to the denomination I'm in. Rather, I want to search the Scriptures and hold my denomination under its lens... and not the other way around.

Sorry... maybe I'm standing on a soap box now, but that's my slant.

On the other end, though, is it possible that denominations are necessary? Again, before you shout HERESY or AMEN, consider that Harvard and Princeton used to be evangelical schools. Once they dropped their denominational affiliations, though, they became the secular giants of tolerance that we know them well to be today.

Cast that fact aside for a moment, though, and think eternally. Just the fact that God is who He is demands that we wrestle over issues with our human brains. Since we are finite and He is infinite, the fact that denominations even exist are a testimony to His existence. I'm all about falling down on some key issues when it comes to denominational nutrition... but I also believe it can be served in the form of chicken nuggets just as much as we need some carrot sticks from time to time.

To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite college profs, I have a "lover's quarrel with my denomination." My personality prevents me from elevating the tradition of a denomination at the expense of my journey with God. While I know we need preservists who are married to the traditions and perpetuation of the organization, I also believe we need scouts who look over the fence... or maybe sit on it... in order to say, "Yeah, but look at what they're barbequing over there!"

In my "house" I think it's okay to theologically consume the "chicken nuggets, fries, and applesauce" version of the Kingdom. I also love to try new things, though, and would welcome a chance to taste what you're serving up, too.

Of course, let's be careful to cover all the basic "food groups." If we do I'm sure it will turn out healthy in the end. If we don't, though, or if we only eat our favorite stuff...

well, I think that's called malnutrition, isn't it?

    "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." (Acts 17:24)


Friar Tuck said...

For me, I value both my denomination and my experiences as a whole across denominations.

I was not a member of my current denomination until college, so in many ways with ordination it is like a family I was adopted into or married into. And I am thankful for that. My denominational families of orgin were not healthy, and although we have our problems, we also have a lot of strengths. It was like I was a foster child all my life in Christian circles, and I have found a place where I can kind of belong.

I think your perspective on this whole issue comes from your history. From my perspective, denominations seem much less important than they did when I was younger. And my last church was historically tied to denomination, but did not really care for denominationalism as a whole. The pastors tried to push denoomination, but the congregation did not like it.

What keeps denominations going? I think it is pastoral leadership who want the connections to jobs, the structured ministerial fellowship, and in our denomination the strong retirement program.

But, I think the tie to family is interesting, as that is the metaphor I have used for denominationalism as well.

Chris Marsden said...

The last couple of years of my life have been focused around looking at the passages we often define towards a particular church (or denomination) and applying them instead towards the Kingdom. The foundation of what we do should be Scripture. The problem is that we look at different passages different ways. Sometimes it is out of ignoarnce, sometime deliberate misinterpretation in order to get the answer we want, and sometimes it is just our background or culture that affects how we look at something. In some cases our differences are wrong. Careful, honest examination of what those passages mean in the context of scripture will show us where we are wrong. But a lot of times they are just differences.

My family, too, would prefer chicken nuggets to carrot sticks. But only a handful of health zealots would beat down our doors to prove that we are wrong. Most people would just see it as a choice, that while not as healthy, is acceptable if in balance with other, more healthy meals.

One huge advantage of denominations that I don't have the priveledge of, is shared budget and accountability. Instead of the smaller churches starving and becoming ineffective, they can be supported through difficult times. In non-denoms, they simply close their doors.

Dakotaranger said...

I guess I never really worried about denominations to much. I was raised Wesleyan, went to a Luthern Church for a while and going to a Nazerene Church now (I give my pastor a hard time by telling him that since I'm Wesleyan I get in free or I'm always right)

I think it is more important to know what you believe and why so when a question is raised by an unbeliever you have an answer.

The Church's primary mission is as an armory, preparing the congrates for spiritual battle. So we can witness to those who need to hear. Understanding that doctrinal problems are man made and that no matter how well versed you are you don't know everything.

The Secondary mission of a church is fellowship/supporting each other.

that's just my $.02

Tony Myles said...

Good stuff...

I always wanted to be a "Free Methodist" just so when the tithing plate went by I could say real loud, "HEY! I thought this was a FREE Methodist church!"

David Alexander said...

Ha! I love the analogy.