Are You Defined by Your Denomination?
- Gina Smith ginalsmith.com
- Updated Jan 10, 2024
We were at a wedding reception. The music started, and the dancing began. It was a time of celebration, and everyone was having a good time. My husband and I stood off to the side, sipping punch and talking to people we knew, when a young man, urging my husband to get out on the dance floor, blurted out, "Come on, Brian! What are you? A Baptist?" He then laughed and walked away. Brian smiled politely and continued his conversation.
I felt like I had been hit in the stomach.
I hurt for my husband because I felt he had been wrongly labeled. Because the young man implied that Brian had something against dancing. Because he had wrapped my precious husband up in a neat little package and labeled him "Baptist" without really knowing him.
Yes. He grew up attending a small Baptist church. He is a sincere God follower who has been on a journey of growing, learning, sifting, evaluating, and changing for over five decades. He is not someone who can be put in a category and left there.
And yet, the foundation that was laid during his childhood was strong. His roots grow deep in the gospel, and that is what his life shows. He was also taught many life-changing truths in that little Baptist church. I'm thankful for the history that Brian brings with him. His parents were some of the most godly, loving, faithful, giving, gracious people I have ever met. In the 30 years I knew them, I never heard them say a negative thing about even one person. All of that came from God doing work in their lives while attending a Baptist church.
Me? I was never a Baptist. I was a military kid who spent several years in Europe attending a military chapel. The teaching was all over the place—nothing of substance from what I remember. Then we moved back to the United States. We attended an Evangelical Free Church, a Brethren Church, and a Bible Church. A patchwork quilt of thoughts and beliefs, with the gospel as their foundation. I then left for Bible College. I was introduced to things I had never heard of. Doctrine. Theology. And you know what? People think differently than what I had always known. In fact, professors in that tiny Bible College didn't agree with each other on some minor teachings. However, they stayed true to the gospel.
We are all products of what we have always known and been taught. Eventually, we learn to think for ourselves, and we come to a crossroads. Are we going to stay where we are, or are we going to study, learn, grow, and acknowledge that we don't know it all -- and we never will.
If a person wants to grow in his knowledge of who God is, there must be a consistent choice to evaluate what we know and prayer for God to show us where we are in error. If we are given an opportunity to share with others, we must learn to share with an attitude of humility, ever mindful that we are still learning. Isn't it amazing that God chooses to use each of us, no matter where we are in our process of growth and knowledge of who He is? Aren't you grateful that any work done in the heart of another is a work only He can do and all we have to do is speak what has been revealed to us? Nothing is too hard for Him!
"I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted." Job 42
Our imperfect efforts to present the gospel will not make it harder for an all-powerful God, who has been drawing men to Himself since the beginning of time, to open the eyes of those who do not realize that they need Him. Yes, times have changed. It is becoming harder and harder for believers to be able to speak about God freely, but there is nothing that can make it too difficult for the Holy Spirit to draw a person to Himself. He continues to be the one that moves in the hearts of men, and He is more than capable of opening the eyes of any person.
As I look back over 58 years of a life journey that God has had my husband and me on, I am becoming more and more grateful for the things that God chose to use to help us to grow up and to equip us for all that He has called us to do. Every step we took, and every church we were a part of, was used by God to mold us into the people we are today. None of it was a mistake, and all of it, the good and the not so good, helped us get to know God better and learn to discern truth from error.
None of us can be wrapped up in a neat little package and labeled "Baptist" because that is not where our identity lies. Our identity always has been, and always will be, found in the person and work of Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross. The buildings we sat in where the message was taught were only the means by which God used that we might hear the gospel and come to know and follow Him. They are, and were, all a part of God's beautiful plan to draw men to Himself.
We are continuing to grow and learn so much, yet we must be confident-- not "self-confident, but confident in all that God has done to equip and grow us up to the present, and then use it all for His glory. Imperfectly pouring out for Him, knowing that He will use it as He sees fit.
"So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:11
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