There has been a great deal of effort made, over the centuries, to define ‘the one true church.’ Many groups have, at times, defined themselves as being the ‘true church’ because of various doctrinal items, historic precedence, and biblical interpretation. One of the things I appreciate about being a minister within the United Church of Christ is that it’s not a road we choose to venture.
I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘one true church.’ I think every church, in some way, illuminates the truth of God; and every church, in some ways, falls way short of God’s glory. The Roman Catholic Church often sees itself as the ‘one true’ or, at least, original church. Early church history, however, is way too nebulous to make that claim with a straight face. Christianity morphed, in time, into what we now call the Roman Catholic Church, but there are many incredibly valid arguments which demonstrate a massive straying from the early church. But, in fairness, they are not the only ones.
The Orthodox Churches, however, not unlike the Roman Catholic Church make the claim they were ‘founded’ on the day of the coming of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost. Others point to 1054 when there was a split between East and West, both claiming to be the ‘true’ church.
Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches practice exclusive Holy Communion; only if you are part of that denomination may you come to the Table of the Lord. Within Protestantism, it varies. Most Lutheran Churches welcome everyone, but some do not. Several Protestant denominations have, throughout history, deemed themselves as being founded, also at Pentecost, and are the ‘true’ representation of Christianity.
I don’t believe there is any ‘true’ church and I think trying to demonstrate one truth at the expense of another. There are, however, certain aspects of Christianity that I believe to be important.
First is faithfulness. Often in our desire to be ‘true’ Christians, we forget, first, to be faithful Christians. Years ago the New York Giants drafted a running back who was not working very hard. He was very talented but was a great underachiever. The coach sneered at him one day that the road to the Hall of Fame started by playing well on the field.
Faith is a great deal like that. Often the desire to be ‘true’ means we take it for granted that we are right, that we are correct, to the point that we no longer reflect what Jesus taught.
Secondly, we are driven by real biblical values. Often what passes for biblical values are our opinions with scripture verses attached. Instead, perhaps we need to read the gospels and see where the Bible actually drives us. The gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John speak often of a radical inclusion of all people and a caring for those in need. Until we live those callings, we are not really living biblical values.
Lastly, there needs to be a great sense of humility. There are two eternal truths that are real to Christians. There is a God, and we are not God. Presuming any of us are the real vessels of TRUTH is a foolhardy presumption. Only God is the Truth and we need to be humble enough to accept that.