Music is the universal language—NOT MATH, as my college algebra prof used to tell me. (Ok, math, too but nobody really likes math, right?) We associate music with our ups and downs, with breakups or weddings, funerals or births, with car rides on Saturday night and worship on Sunday morning. Music speaks to us, collectively and individually. Not all music speaks to everyone in the same way, however; death metal may be a boon for some, but I prefer some good ol’ Garth Brooks when I’m mowing the lawn. When I write, I typically listen to classic rock—yep, I need that dramatic chorus to pump me up. When guests are over and, if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll slap on some old crooners and let it play low. Different moods require different tunes.
When I was growing up, country wasn’t typically played in my house. Truth be told, if it wasn’t written in the sixties or seventies, and it didn’t have rad guitar solos, it wasn’t played in our house. My folks were classic rock connoisseurs; I grew up learning from the Gospels of John, George, Ringo and Paul; my theology consisted of believing that I needed to find this mystical “Stairway to Heaven”; and when things were rough, I realized that “You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.” From Stones to Dylan, my musical road was paved by the greats—or at least, who my parents named ‘The Greats’.
Well, when I started branching out with music, it went over like a Led Zeppelin. (Ok, I’m done)
The point is this: We all have our favorite music, the rhythm and rhymes that speak to us, that makes our feet tap and our hearts beat on time. And we all also have that music that we really don’t like. Church can be the same way, really. We all have worship styles we appreciate, we all have worship styles that we don’t consider worthy. I think that’s fine, but I’d like to encourage us not to be too fancy when talking about others’ styles. Let me give you an example.
Last Saturday, I attended the wedding of a good friend’s daughter. The pastor was a Southern Baptist Preacher from their congregation here in Oklahoma City. Immediately, I had preconceived notions of how the service would go, what the theology would be, and cringed at the ideas of inevitable unity candles and sand ceremonies (note: If you had a unity candle or sand ceremony, I don’t want to offend—my wife made me have one, too). What I received instead, was church. At a wedding.
That preacher brought it, y’all. He talked about Adam and Eve’s union and then tied it up with Christ’s union to the church in Revelation. In the middle of the ceremony, the preacher stepped back and said, “And now the couple will take communion together.” I was like, “Whaaaaaaaat?” I saw God on Saturday in the midst of a style of worship about which I had preconceived notions. After it was done, I found that preacher and shook his hand. We talked for a bit about his church plant and what they were doing, how they were doing it. Then we talked about the Episcopal Church and what we were doing.
As I turned to go, I shook his hand and said, “One kingdom my man. Thank you.” And I walked away.
Like music, Jesus has a universal language. I think it’s important for us to know what other denominations are doing in their worship, to know who they are rather than who we think they are. Times are changing. Theology is changing. Worship is changing. I think before we talk about ‘the Catholics’, we should know what we’re saying. Because, pro tip, they’re Christian, too. Baptists, Church of Christ, Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics, Episcopalians, and everyone else under this big tent of Christ—all carriers of their perceived and received Word of God. We may not like the style, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate that they’re trying to make a song of praise to God. So next time you’re in a conversation with someone and they start to bag on a different denomination, maybe step back and recognize that we’re all trying to get it right, and every one of us is inevitably making mistakes along the way. In the end, it’s about trying to get the message of love to the rest of the world, and I believe that, FOR THE MOST PART, Christians everywhere in all places are genuinely trying to do that. Pray for them. Pray for us. Because…
One kingdom, y’all. One love.