I get to go to my church this morning, and that makes me happy. It also has me thinking about all the different church cultures I've experienced over the years. As a little girl, I started off in more conservative church cultures - cultures, as in, denominations, but all that terminology starts to get a little too complicated for my taste, so I'll just stick with cultures - and moved toward more charismatic, Pentecostal church cultures through the years. Each of these cultures would agree on a few fundamental things, mainly that Jesus alone is our Savior and our way back to relationship with God, but each also has it's own set of doctrines or beliefs about God, the Bible and what it means to live as a Christian. Some of these differences are slight and some are more apparent, but hopefully Christians within each church culture can agree that the thing of utmost importance is Jesus. He is the reason we're here and He is the one who connects us all as one big family.
But that's not what I'm thinking about this morning as I prepare for church. I'm thinking about how sweet and strange it is that I've found a home within a church culture that is vastly different than the one I was immersed in the last decade. I went from Pentecostal to Presbyterian, if that means anything to you. Suffice it to say, it's a huge difference. But I love it. I never imagined myself at a church that uses liturgy throughout worship. We read prayers outloud together, sing old hymns with beautifully rich lyrics, confess together on our knees, and share communion each week. People here are passionate and serious about Jesus in a different way than my Pentecostal church family. I love and respect those differences.
Several years ago, I wouldn't have considered settling into this church culture. Honestly, back then I wouldn't have believed I could experience intimacy with God in a way that I found satisfying outside my Pentecostal home. But I've reached a place in life where the church I'm a part of isn't definitive of who I am. I don't consider myself Presbyterian any more than I consider myself Pentecostal. I'm just someone who loves Jesus and worships with a Presbyterian church family.
Sometimes I miss things about the Pentecostal style of worship, because it's more familiar to me in its free-flowing spontaneity, but I see myself stretching to embrace a new kind of worship, a new way of relating with God. In the process, I find another dimension of experiencing intimacy with God, beyond what's familiar. In many ways, it's a cross-cultural experience, not unlike my relationship with Ricardo. In order to have a healthy, mutually respectful, growing relationship with someone from another culture, we cannot presume that our way is the "right" or "best" way. We may have our preferences and our comfort zones, we may agree to disagree on a few things, but the more we can open up and enter each others' cultures, the more we can grow. In this way, church is also a cross-cultural experience.