It is easy to become nearsighted in our vision of the Church, focused only on our own congregation or denomination, or the Church in our own country or in the present year or decade or century. God has been at work in his worldwide Church throughout Christian history, I am persuaded, including parts from which we might imagine we have nothing good to learn. The Church in its fullness will incorporate contributions from believers in all times and places, and we can begin even now to appreciate and to share in the diversity of that rich heritage.
All Christians can profit, for example, from the time-honored liturgical tradition of the Catholic and Anglican portions of the Church, which points us to God the Father, mysterious and transcendent, and which inspires our reverence and awe. Similarly, we all need the Protestant/Evangelical gospel tradition with its message of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who fully accomplished the work that set sinners right with God. And all of God’s people can benefit from the Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition, which reminds us of God’s immanence through his personal, powerful presence in the Holy Spirit.
Together, these three great historical movements emphasize the fullness of one God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In gathered worship, their respective strengths and contributions become manifestly powerful in the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper), in Preaching (the Word) and in Praise (Singing and Prayer). Sadly, churches that are strong in any of those areas are usually weak in others. No part of the Christian Church is consistently strong. Perhaps part of the reason is our common nearsightedness and failure to draw from the proven strengths of others outside our own particular denomination or movement.
Each of these historical manifestations of the Church, as indeed every other part of the universal Church, has something from God which the whole Church needs, as well as certain errors, abuses and extremes which the larger Church will do well to recognize and correct. Together, we anticipate the time when God will sum up all things in Christ, there will be new heavens and new earth, and God will be “all in all.”