27 August 2014

I Made a Decision about Worship Today

Be prepared: this post may tend to ramble more than usual.
Since I was born (probably) until I moved away from home at age almost 25, I attended a Church of the Nazarene congregation with my mother. My father rarely went, usually only on Easter and maybe at the end of Vacation Bible School. But that isn’t what my decision is about.

The Church of the Nazarene is a small denomination, and from what I understand it is in the Wesleyan tradition, descended from the Methodists, although I really don’t know what Methodists are all about. I have attended a few Southern Baptist services, and they were very similar to the Nazarene services of my youth.

However, from the 5th grade (age 10) on, I attended a private school associated with the Church of Christ. This group has as its core teaching that the Bible, and specifically the New Testament, reveals all we need to know and should pay attention to regarding Christianity, including the pattern of worship services and church organization. In fact, anything that is not mentioned as being part of Christian worship in the New Testament is not done in any congregation of the Church of Christ. All this I learned while attending school and the daily chapel services.

While doing a crossword puzzle today at lunchtime, I came across a clue regarding a person associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, the Mormons). I looked it up on Wikipedia (because it really is pretty good at lists of things), and that led me to reading about an offshoot of the LDS–apparently a single congregation in Hannibal, MO–that calls itself the Church of Christ. That led me to look at the disambiguation page for “Church of Christ”, and to read a bit about the one I was familiar with.

I apologize for all the parentheticals in the following paragraph. I did warn you.

I learned that this group had its origin in the so-called “Restoration Movement” in 19th century America. I already knew that it had previously split into the Church of Christ I knew–which does not allow anything in a service that is not mentioned in the New Testament, including musical instruments–and the Christian Church (whose congregations may sometimes be called Independent Christian Churches)–which takes the position that any worship practice not specifically forbidden in the New Testament should not be forbidden in congregations. Therefore, musical instruments are allowed, but someone who shares the core beliefs of the Christian Church (and the Church of Christ, theologically speaking) could start a new congregation that did not use musical instruments, or that offered a choice between full-strength and watered-down wine, because it was the custom in the 1st century to mix water and wine for a meal.

All this led me to consider my own beliefs, including my political philosophy. I tend to be rather libertarian politically, and believe that if one’s actions do not harm other people, the government has no business punishing those actions. Of course, harm is not restricted to the physical or the immediate, but that is a different discussion and I need to give it more thought.

Similarly, I believe what the Church of Christ members taught me, that as Christians we are free to do anything, but we are required to do what is motivated out of love for others, to help bring them to, or strengthen them in, Christ. Therefore, thanks to my Church of Christ education, I have decided that when I start attending church regularly again, I shall attend a Christian Church congregation.

I welcome your thoughtful comments and discussion.