"For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body....Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it." (1 Cor. 12:12, 27; NASB).
In addition to my home church, I like to experience other gatherings, which meet at different times. By doing this, I marvel at the unity and diversity of the Body of Christ, i.e. the Church.
Last Sunday night, I attended a Reformed church that especially illustrated this unity and diversity. Here are the highlights:
1. Multiracial, multigenerational, and multisocioeconomic strata attended (including what appeared to be a couple of homeless men);
2. Like most churches, the congregants were asked to greet each other. Unlike most churches, this exchange was designed to delve beyond surface pleasantries, but to involve sharing of what God was doing positively in one's life. This level of sharing was buttressed by the statement later that 90% of the church were involved in discipleship or accountability small groups.
3. Communion was held, but not in the traditional fashion. During the lengthy second segment of worship (after the message), I noticed many people leaving. At first, I thought it rude to the worship leader, at a minimum. I then remembered seeing a slide projected at the beginning of the service, which announced that the Lord's Supper (served weekly) would be available throughout the service. I turned around and saw in muted lighting with candles a large cross with the elements placed next to it. I also saw many fellow worshippers taking communion, praying and then circling back to their seats.
4. Like most churches, the service was comprised of spiritual songs and the spoken word. Like most churches (and for good reason), one of the songs was Chris Tomlin's, "How Great Is Our God". (I think Tomlin writes the most theologically rich contemporary songs today). Unlike most churches, perhaps, the pastor was 26 and took the stage in flip-flops. Unlike most churches, perhaps, he spoke with authentic vulnerability. Further, in the middle of his talk about one of Jesus' parables, he took an excursion into what he termed the "Romans Road", which included a frank discussion about hell and salvation.
5. The pastor's interpretation of this parable (Matthew 20:1-16 [Laborers in the Vineyard]), reflecting his Reformed orientation, was fresh, however, and informed through apparent study of differing interpretations.
6. The pastor repeatedly closed his prayers with "I thank you, and I love you." He also ended the service by sincerely saying that he loved each of us, and that was the reason they were doing what they were doing.
In many ways, this experience was similar and dissimilar to other churches today in the Protestant tradition. As such, it serves as a shining example of the unity and diversity of the Body of Christ.