Americans love their pizza. Thin crust, thick crust, hand tossed, deep dish, Chicago or New York style. Sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, peppers, onions, pineapple, bacon, and even anchovies (not on mine, please). And don’t forget…the CHEESE! Extra for me. Order whatever flavor you like and enjoy.
Occasionally our family goes go to the local pizza buffet in town. It may not be the best pizza around, but it’s nearby and they will make whatever kind of pizza you want, no matter how many people are in your party. They keep bringing out the pizzas, calling out particular toppings. You go up and grab however many slices you like. When you return to the table, everyone has different varieties on their plates, and we each enjoy the feast together.
Now imagine going to a pizza buffet, and, after getting a plate of your favorite pizza, one of the restaurant workers directs you to a section where only people eating that exact kind of pizza had to sit. Sausage people in one section, pepperoni in another. Mushroom over here, bacon over there. Everyone divided into their own groups. You wouldn’t know those you are sitting with, and they don’t know you. But you do have one thing in common. You all are eating the same kind of pizza, so you’ll at least have that to talk about.
Over the years I’ve noticed something similar to the hypothetical pizza buffet I just described. It’s church. There are many varieties (more than I can name), and a multitude of “toppings” to suit anyone’s fancy. And everyone is divided into their own groups. Catholics go here, Presbyterians go there. Baptists do this, Lutherans do that. Methodist gather at this time, Adventist meet at another time. Some sing from hymnals, others use big screen TV’s. Leaders in robes, leaders with no robes. Incense, candles, liturgy, and on, and on, and on it goes. The sad thing is many have ignored the original recipe! And the average church members are content with it. One writer has come up with an interesting name for it. He calls it “Churchianity.” I call it “doing church.”
Jesus desired and prayed that all who would believe in Him would be one. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one” (John 17:20-21a). The apostle Paul wrote there is “one faith” (Eph. 5:6), and that believers are to be united (Rom. 15:6, Phil. 2:1). Perhaps Paul’s clearest exhortation comes to us in 1 Corinthians 1:10, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” He also instructs the spiritual leaders to “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13).
Acts 2:44 gives a simple description of what the church is to be. “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” Our world wants everyone to have everything the way they want it. The fragmented church is just one result, and it has lost its unique flavor. Different tastes in pizza is fine, but I don’t think the Lord intended it for His church.