The Bride of Christ is a multi-cultural and international outworking of God’s salvation work to all people. Revelation 5 tells us that Jesus “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” So of course there are local churches in every culture where the gospel has gone and done its life-changing work. These local expressions of the Body of Christ often look very different than what we perceive as the norm. Or they may look very similar. Either way, the mysterious church has infiltrated the world, and I consider it a great privilege to visit these other-cultural expressions. We recently had the privilege of visiting a local church in The Netherlands.
It was like walking into a big living room, but with all the furniture turned the same direction. There were couches, bistro tables, pitchers of coffee and water—the necessary elements of family life—all warmly presented. This local body was very much alive, very much in love with Jesus, very much attuned to the Word of God. The Dutch name for the church was Zolder—attic—but it was meeting in a basement! The church had started in the attic of a narrow canal-side Dutch house, but had outgrown that space and was now meeting in a basement.
We sang worship songs—many of the same ones I was familiar with. We heard a report of recent mission activity. We had a greeting time and since we were clearly visitors, we were pounced on with smiling faces and firm handshakes and lots of questions. We gathered in small groups and prayed for some of the needs of the Body as listed on a PowerPoint slide. This was the church, conducted in English, in the heart of Amsterdam.
The sermon was presented by a young man who was interning as a pastor. His text was Philippians 2:1-11. He was visibly humbled to be preaching on a text that teaches humility, and he was clearly an incarnation of the truth of the passage. He was so real, so humble, so gentle. The character of shepherd was evidenced in every word he spoke.
So many of the elements of this worship service were familiar. Yet each culture, each people group, each area of the country or the world, stamps its uniqueness on the timeless Bride. I suppose it is like attending weddings in different cultures: many common themes, but with a unique twist. Europe is seriously devoid of the Truth, having long ago rejected the heritage of the Reformation. The culture is uber-secular, very liberal and godless. So it was thrilling to see a man of God leading the people of God, a bright light in a very dark place.
I love seeing the church in different cultures and expressions. Honestly, church as we know it in America today is the minority expression of the church worldwide. Every believer ought to experience the church in other cultural expressions. If you haven’t done that, put it on your ‘bucket list’ and go worship with another culture somewhere. You will be richer and wiser for having done so!