During the civil war a soldier could not decide which side he wanted to be on so he wore a Union uniform on the top and a Confederate uniform on the bottom. That was a grave mistake. Half the fielded army shot at his top and the other half shot at his bottom.
I found that declaring oneself “non-denominational” is as difficult and dangerous, but this I have tried to do. After being born-again (which resulted in repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ, and Him alone) I thought it was wonderful to be a member of the family of God. But wait, not so fast. I needed (I was told to “join” the church) and in so doing , to choose a denomination. I gave this more serious thought than most. I even read a stack of those books I found in the public library. Perhaps you have seen them: Why I am a Baptist, Why I am a Methodist, Why I am a Presbyterian. I had decided to follow Jesus who said, “I will make you fishers of men,” and I thought something was fishy about all this denomination stuff.
I “joined” the same Southern Baptist church I came to faith in. Then after mustering out of the military I was hard pressed to find such a church in New York City in 1969 (although I am sure there must have been some). I admit I did look for the name Baptist, but if I did not quickly hear the name Jesus more, and hear it often, I looked elsewhere. If I did not hear the clear ring of authenticity in the preaching of the gospel, I also looked elsewhere. Even as a new believer who had grown up in the Lutheran church, I knew that it was not the “two or three” gathering together that satisfied me as much as the “there am I in the midst.” I looked for Jesus. I encourage you to do likewise.
Now that gets me back to the uniform story and the Civil War. All these nearly forty years many have tried to get me to wear their colors. I found that groups and sects have particular stripes, ribbons or braids they have decided are marks of authenticity. Woe to the private who is out of uniform.
The word “non-denominational” can be deceptive. Taking all the labels off the cans in the supermarket does not change what is in the can. Green beans are still green beans, label or no label. Labels are necessary when you put stuff in cans. But what if you put the contents in transparent glass containers? Then you might not need labels. The transparency however, would be only half the truth. I say “half” the truth, because the other half is in the tasting. Things are not always what they seem. Rather than tasting every jar, would it not make sense to see on a small label what additional ingredients, additives, and preservatives you are being asked to buy?
Beware of cans and congregations that are not transparent. Beware of groups that employ their “sects” appeal to woo people. Cults do that as well. There are some groups that gather around a particular form of government, and that is their distinctive. Others celebrate a single doctrine that is a standard around which their armies bivouac. Some gather around gifts, and others around a gifted person. Some have a headquarters, bureaucracy, and protocol that is as sophisticated and complex as the Roman empire. Others are more like tribes that have a chief and some are like schools without a principal. Some groups put the name of Christ in large letters on the label, but a search of the ingredients shows some curious additives, some things missing, and very little of His presence. In Antioch the believers were first called “Christians.” I can think of no better label than that, and no standard of quality more difficult to maintain.
I recently heard of someone say of another Christian “He is not one of us.” Actually, it never occurred to me that I was joining a “group” when I began to follow Jesus Christ. I suppose this person was speaking of his denomination or his unique “un-denomination.” Well, as best I can, I am still following Jesus. That is the most important “us” I know. Not declaring a particular sect, group, or party will close a lot of doors to “us.” But there is only one church. In John 17 the Lord Jesus prayed for “it.” In that prayer, He prayed for “me,” and He prayed for “us."