“But how (insert church denomination here) is he?”
I’ve heard this question three times in the past month. A group of girls gabbing about a new guy of interest, when eventually his church affiliation comes up. All three times, the man being discussed is a church member in a different denomination than the gal who’s interested.
But how Baptist is he?
But how Lutheran is he?
But how Church of Christ is he?
But how Pentecostal is he?
You get the idea. Each time the conversation ends with the conclusion that this denominational difference might be a deal breaker.
There are a lot of reasons we could list that I believe are valid deal breakers when dating someone, but let me suggest that his church denomination should not be one of them.
I realize we are looking for a compatible life-partner and part of compatibility is agreeing on a church together. However, deciding that someone isn’t “the right fit” purely based on his church-affiliation seems so ironically wrong.
When we get down to the bottom of it, our church affiliation boils down to two things: preference and theology.
You attend your church because it fits your preferences.
Some of us love liturgy. Some of us love to jump up and down and raise our hands during worship. Some of us just care about the sermon. Some of us want the sermon to be entertaining or feel good. Some of us want it to be intense and academic. Some of us prefer hymns. Some of us love it when we sing songs from the radio. Some of us want our church to play major roles in global missions or justice missions or environmental issues. I could go on.
The point is it’s your preference. And your preference is not any better or more right than his preference. If choosing a church is going to be the greatest struggle you have in your marital years, then HALLELUJAH. What a great way for you both to consider each others’ needs and pick a church together.
You (might) attend your church because you agree with it’s theology.
Many times, people don’t even know the real nitty gritty of their denomination’s theology. So, before you write off someone else because they aren’t the same denomination as you, perhaps it’s time for you to truly dig into what your church believes and why it believes it and give the other person a chance to share what they believe. It might not be exactly what you thought.
So what if there are real theological differences? Isn’t that a deal breaker?
Maybe. It depends. The truth is that you are going to be hard pressed to find someone that completely agrees with you on everything you believe. That may seem horrifying, but let me put it this way.
You are not 100% right. There is no way that you are totally correct on everything you think and believe when it comes to our God and the Bible. There are incredibly godly men and women, folks who have devoted their life to studying God’s Word, who fall all over the spectrum on major theological differences. That leads me to believe that it’s okay for us to not 100% agree on every tiny detail. Do we need to agree on major theological points like the gospel, the Trinity, the validity of Scripture? Yes. However, I think too often we allow minor theological differences to become major gaps between us.
Here’s the deal. The reason I think it is so ironically wrong to dismiss someone based on their denomination is that it seems to go against everything God would desire for us. God’s design is for His followers to be one body, heirs of one household, citizens of one kingdom, one faith, serving one Lord. (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 2 + 4)
Instead of fretting over “how can this work?” if he’s Methodist and you’re Southern Baptist, consider if perhaps God is wanting to stretch your view of what His Kingdom really looks like.
Regardless of our church-style preferences (and even many of our theological differences–gasp), all Jesus-followers will be in heaven one day praising the same God together. I think we’ll do it all– liturgy, hymns, silence, shouting, hands raised, no instruments, orchestras, rock bands, dancing– all of it.
So maybe, just maybe, we can date and even marry someone who has been loyal to a different denomination than we have on this earth. Perhaps it’s time to expand our view of what God’s kingdom looks like and loosen our grip, just a bit, on the preferences we hold so tightly.