A couple with roots in the Churches of Christ write that, while they love that fellowship, they no longer fit and feel compelled to go elsewhere. This thought makes them both sad and fearful, and they ask if I can offer any advice.
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I empathize with your struggle and your search. Remember that before there were Protestants or Catholics, there were disciples of Jesus. Before there were any modern denominations, there were New Testament churches, built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. How would we identify such disciples? From the beginning, they are people who believe in the one Creator God revealed in the Jewish Scriptures, and who believe that Jesus of Nazareth, born of the Virgin Mary, is God’s unique Son. They hold that the Romans murdered Jesus by crucifying him, urged on by jealous Jewish authorities, but that God raised Jesus back to life. They confess that the risen Jesus ascended into the sky in the presence of his first disciples, and that ten days later those disciples sensed audibly, visibly and in their hearts that Jesus had returned to earth in the divine Presence which Christians call the Holy Spirit.
In retrospect, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ disciples realized that his death was no accidental tragedy but was part of an eternal purpose, by which a holy God had reconciled sinners to himself and had redeemed them from the powers of evil and of death. Through the centuries, millions who never saw Jesus in the flesh have surrendered themselves to that ancient faith and have discovered the divine Presence empowering their own new lives. These disciples wait in hope for a day when Jesus will return in person and in power, to give his people immortality, to destroy the remnants of evil and to usher in new heavens and new earth. That is the substance.
Where do you appear on Sunday to celebrate this faith? Wherever these truths are affirmed and where they shape lives and life together. Wherever the divine Presence is manifested by the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience and so forth. Wherever you sense the Risen Lord. No church will be perfect, for they all consist of human beings — although Christ is their head. The name on the sign is not as important as the message in the pulpit and the Spirit in the people. Ask God to be your guide. He will not let you down.