Has anyone ever asked you what kind of Christian you are? If yes, then am I the only one who finds that questions a bit odd? I am not a lover of labels and if anyone ever asks me, my answer is “I guess I am sort of a happy clappy kind of Christian, but I’m not sure!”. You see, I have been a part of many different kinds of churches, and I have liked and disliked different parts of how they do things. For me it is not important what kind of Christian you are, but that you have accepted Jesus into your life as your Saviour.
I know there are some big differences between the major denominations, and to be honest I haven’t quite decided where I would choose to be if it wasn’t a “family decision” and I was a single person in the world on my own! But I know that I have learnt something different from each I have been at, and I am truly grateful for the rich tapestry that makes up the UK church. Here are my highlights:
- Church of England – I had the great privilege of being brought up in a Christian home, and my parents always took me along to the local CofE church. It was a joy to be a part of a lively Sunday School, taking part in the annual nativity play and then migrating up to ACE (After Church Experience) our youth club. I had the honour of growing up alongside some great friends, journeying through our faith together and questioning things as we went. As I grew older I had the chance to get involved in the life of the main church as a server/altar boy, and it was through that I truly started to appreciate the value of the rituals and liturgy. The words started to really mean something to me, it wasn’t just repetition for the sake of it. I did wish that we could have had a bit less organ music and bit more band, but they did try with a Songs of Praise style monthly service and a youth music group.
- Evangelical Church – When I moved to uni and had the chance to choose my own church to attend, it was a scary prospect! I did plenty of research before going and had decided that the CofE church in Lancaster which had a student service in the evening was probably the best option. It had a band too! But a friend from a summer camp also said he knew someone who had recently gone to lead a church there and I should pop in and say hi. So my first Sunday I did. And I loved it! I ended up spending the best three years at Moorlands Evangelical Church and growing in my own faith and understanding phenomenally. The church was an independent evangelical (which just means bible believing) church, affiliated with the North West Partnership (a group of similar churches in the North West of England). They had a big heart for student ministry and in using the three years of uni life to train students up in the bible. It was here that I got a real thirst for bible study and truly started to understand how powerful it was. I also got a glimpse of how amazing hospitality can be, through the many student lunches I got to attend in peoples homes!
- Elim Pentecostal Church – At uni I met the man of my dreams, and we got married soon after graduating. At the time my husband felt called back to his home church so as a dutiful wife I followed him! It was definitely a culture shock for me, as I learnt about the Holy Spirit more and the gifts that he gives. To be honest, this is still a journey for me! However, what I loved most about Beacon Community Church was their heart. Their heart to serve and to love the community around them and not to let anything be a barrier to their faith. And I got to be a part of that. I got to volunteer in the charity shop, at the toddler group and the youth work. I got to be in the band and help lead the women’s ministry. I got to be involved and feel wanted and see the power of prayer as buildings were claimed and lives restored. It was this church that really fired me up to the power of God.
- Small church plant – After a period we felt God telling Rob to go to bible college and train properly, so we moved back up north (yey!). At that time we got involved in a one year church plant in the town we were living, called Hope Church. It was only about 30-50 people strong, but the love was immense. We formed some amazing relationships in this church and saw the struggles of church planting first hand. I loved the welcome we got each week and that I could actually speak to EVERYONE in church on a Sunday morning. They also knew the power of cake, oh amazing cake, and its ability to bring people together. When we got to visit their new building a few years ago there was a sense of feeling at home in it, and making people comfortable. This church really knew how to look after its members, and we were so blessed during the weeks after Sam was born with food and presents and comfort. I learnt a lot from this.
- Large Pentecostal Church – Going from our small church plant to a church of over 300 was an even bigger culture shock! This really hit me hard when we started, as I found it difficult to move from speaking to everyone on a Sunday to almost noone speaking to me. But once we got stuck into a lifegroup all that changed and some of the deepest relationships of our lives have been formed. Yes our church now is a pentecostal one, and I am learning more about the Holy Spirit again, but it is also a loud one! Our church meets in a warehouse with a band and flashing lights. Some people would say its more like a gig than church. But with the lights out and the music loud, I have finally learnt how to truly let go and worship my amazing God, without the thoughts and pressures of what the people next to me are thinking. And that is an amazing gift.
So there you have it! I have also had the pleasure of visiting Baptist, Methodist and African Style churches through my travels, and every one has taught me something new about myself and my God. So I ask you – what kind of Christian are you? I am a whole mixture of kinds, as every church I have been too has left its mark on me. And does it really matter? I certainly don’t think so. I am just thankful that I know my Father in heaven and that I get to spend every day of my life with him.