Three Things I Love About An International Church

by Jerry Jones on April 24, 2017

The Church has issues.

Can I get an amen?

In all of its forms — in every place — regardless of name, denomination, age, size, musical preference, preaching style, tradition, creed, constitution, by-laws, baggage, building size, history, quality of leadership or any other feature, factor or flavor, you will not find a local church without some mess.

Some of you disagree . . . you’re saying, “you haven’t been to MY church.  We’ve got it right.”

I’ll let the irony of that thinking catch up to you later.

Something rich happens though, when you get to see the messiness of one church experience through the smudged lenses of another.  I have been blessed to worship in a wide variety of churches through the years.  From the one room (not counting the outdoor toilet) 20 member, country chapel that my grandfather pastored to the 20,000 member mega-church.  From the mountain, village church on a tiny little island to an “under the radar” less than legal fellowship in one of the world’s largest cities.

They’ve all had issues . . . and they’ve all offered a new layer of perspective on the others.

One of my favorite expressions of the local church has been the international fellowship in our current city.

Here are three things I love about it:

ONE: It Exists

How’s that for starting simple?

I am reminded though, every week when my ID is checked at the door that the simple existence of this gathering is not something I should be taking for granted.  Where I come from there was a virtual buffet of churches to choose from.  Don’t like one? Pick another.  Keep hopping until it fits your taste (but still complain when it doesn’t).

Where I live there is one organized international fellowship and a number of home fellowships.

Having fewer options adds tremendous value to all of them.

 

TWO: We disagree

On any given week our fellowship will have between 200 and 300 attendees.  In that group is the full range of Christian denominations.  From high church liturgical to aisle dancing charismatic, we all come together as foreigners and believers.  Like any church, ours has taken on its own personality (somewhere in between those two) but the full spectrum of potential theological debate is always present.

I get to be on the teaching team and TWICE I have gotten the predestination passage as my assigned text.

SERIOSULY?!!  Predestination? To this group?  We can’t even agree on that in churches where we force everyone to agree about everything.

BUT — it’s good.  It’s good to not have the luxury of preaching to the “amen.”  It’s good for the preacher to know that no matter what they say, someone is going to see it from a different angle.

Disagreeing actually forces our focus towards what matters instead of an unchecked sense of rightness.

 

THREE: We blend

Our worship team routinely consists of some mix of a couple of a couple Brits, a German, a Canadian, two Filipinos, an Indian and an American or two.  Once a month a team of African students come from the other side of the city to lead.  It’s not uncommon for 30-40 nationalities to be present and yet we join in a common voice.

It’s like a little taste of heaven.

Only the sound system messes up.

And it’s hard to get volunteers for the kids program.

And attendance goes way down in the summer.

And we meet in a hotel basement which used to be a bowling alley.

And we primarily speak English.

And locals are not legally allowed.

And we haven’t figured out predestination just yet.

And people don’t stay forever.

 

So in a nutshell . . . apart from its issues . . . I go to the perfect church.  I would bet that’s true of yours too —  wherever it is and whatever it looks like.

Why not take a minute and pick three things you love about your church?

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About Jerry Jones

Jerry lives in China with his beautiful blended family. He is a trainer, a speaker, an adventurer, a culture vulture and an avid people watcher. He writes about all of that at www.thecultureblend.com
  • Elizabeth Trotter

    Love this Jerry! I too, love international church. Our diversity is such a gift — it points us straight back to Jesus, who is the one who brings us all together in the first place.

  • Kathy Vaughan

    Three things I love about my church which is a mix of international missionaries/aid workers, and locals: humble leaders; a “blend” that works for us, even when we don’t agree doctrinally (which reflects back, in large part, to the first characteristic); and a lot of love between us.

  • Victoria Parsonson

    I love that my church reminds me of the early church in Acts, where all the believers were in one place and shared and met needs. After every service there is a church meeting. The needs that week are explained – someone’s house burnt down and they need clothes and cooking pots, someone else is sick and needs meals delivering, someone is in hospital and we all need to visit. Someone’s father has died and there is a funeral to plan. Who is going to clean the church this week? Who has an oven at home and can bake the communion bread? There is an expectation that we as a group of believers will meet those needs, and people in turn give sacrificially of their time and resources, and of course we pray for it all. I love that people feel able to bring their needs, and that everyone works together to meet them. It’s not perfect, but it works pretty well. Loving your neighbour trumps pretty much everything (hopefully apart from loving God) to the point where I get annoyed when people are late or don’t show up because some sort of community or hospitality issue took precedence at the last minute.

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