I was reminded of this when I read a recent blog post by Seth Godin. He said (in part): “Wait, I was confused. There's a sure-fire recipe for delicious chocolate chip cookies. There is in fact a magic formula. For businesses, not so much. There isn't one secret, one process, one solution. Instead, there are a thousand or maybe a million.”
Godin’s blog reminded me that there are any number of churches that we should celebrate. They are aware of their gifts and resources and are interacting effectively within their contexts. They are “the body of Christ” in their community. But they are not all alike. Each is unique in its own way.
Diversity in expression of church is not a bad thing. This has characterized the Christian faith from the beginning. Diversity has only been a problem when one particular group decided its model was the “correct” one and then obtained the power to enforce that “correctness.”
Even within particular denominations or “faith tribes” there are different expressions of church. Sometimes a particular congregation may have to live with questioning from the hierarchy or alienation from other congregations when they follow “the road less traveled,” but they often find themselves vindicated in the long run and praised by their denominational family.
In the 21st century, we will continue to see many manifestations of church—the neighborhood church, the house church, the megachurch, the regional church, the metachurch, the emergent church, etc. We will undoubtedly see the birth of models that we cannot even imagine right now. This may create discomfort for those of us who are tied to one particular expression of church, but I hope that many of us will be able to embrace, encourage, and celebrate this diversity. Such variety can only strengthen the faith.