This is one of the most basic posts that you will read but one that’s extremely helpful in your decisions on Church. Whether you are a new Christian who is looking for a home church or a seasoned Christian who is looking for a change or new perspective, this article will help with your research on which Church is similar to what you are looking for and the things you have been exposed to.
We all know there are many denominations and sub-cultures in Christianity. I have often asked why there are so many when there is only one God. My understanding is that, since the Old Testament, there have been many writers who have seen, experienced and interpreted God in different ways. Each from their own understanding of what the triune God reveals to them. Thus, the realization of these concepts can be interpreted in multiple ways, creating different ways in manifestation of the same God. I believe, the underlying factor to all these denominations is that, the Christian God (Yahweh, Jesus and Holy Spirit) is a God of love and wants to have a personal relationship with ALL people.
I don’t want to get into too much detail as that topic needs a series of Random Thoughts episodes and I might not be the expert here, but what I can write about is what really happens in different places of worship by those who practice the Christian faith.
Disclaimer: I’ve not been to every church from each denomination, but I will write about the ones that have been easily accessible and I have been to.
These churches are a gathering of people from an evangelistic and charismatic background. Started primarily from Azusa street movement in the 1900s with the Acts 2 preachings from the Bible, this kind of church believes in the Holy Spirit and the gifts thereof. So they are all about experiences and faith so they manifest this by clapping of hands, prophesying, speaking in tongues, and other practices that show the physical intake of the Holy Spirit. Now, this denomination is probably the most broadest classification but just know that, when you go to a pentecostal church, they will be very outspoken and show their experience of encountering Christ. People might think it is weird when they see the congregation at this church but these churches believe that their place of worship must be a place where they pour out their problems, cry and receive the tangible presence of God free of judgement. If you are planning to go to a pentecostal church, prepare to see things out of the ordinary, be non-judgmental and understand the Holy Spirit in all His majesty.
Assemblies of God
Now that we’ve talked about pentecostal churches, you will get a better understanding of the Assemblies of God. The AG (Assemblies of God) church are a collective group. They are a fellowship of over 60 million churches around the world who come from the protestant background. These churches preach specific doctrines, theologies and talk about fundamentals of faith but are different pertaining to region, language, affiliation and experience. So not all AG churches are the same in setup and preaching but their underlying belief is in the triune God, to pray for leaders and their nation. They are community oriented and have much influence in social spheres. Just like any pentecostal church, AG churches are vibrant, promote personal sacrifice, fasting and prayer. They reach out to the hurting in the community and provide for them according to the particular church’s vision.
A Non-denominational church, in my understanding does not practice a certain tradition and is not part of a certain group. They come from the protestant faith believing in the father, son and Holy Spirit but have certain order to service. In my opinion, the service is very similar to an AG church, meaning that there’s free worship, interactive sermon and more interaction during the sermon.
I have visited quiet a few Black/African-American non-denominational churches and the energy there is much different from the ones I have been to. They are loud, very happy and highly vocal on their praise for God. The choirs at these churches are typically flawless in their singing and ‘sang’ their heart out like anyone should. The music is on point and that is their primary way to conducting a service. So if you visit an African-American church, get ready to be on your feet and interact with the speaker at all times.
CSI (Church of South India)
This is the background I come from. Very traditional, has a specific order of service, narrates the creed, has specific rules for baptism and value rituals such as the harvest festival. They might be the closest to an orthodox church found in other regions. Certain CSI churches are relaxed compared to others but these churches belong to a diocese which means one Bishop has leadership over all churches in the province. Same with CNI (Church of North India). Congregants here come from a conservative background, raised in the Church and typically know the recitals by heart. So if you wish to visit one of these churches, get yourself one of those program sheets, a song book and a Bible so you don’t get lost. The churches are beautiful as they pay attention to the architecture but if you want to take pictures, make sure they don’t have restrictions. Put your phone on silent, coz we don’t want anyone staring at you.
Baptist/ Black Baptist
Baptists believe in the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus. They believe that you get to heaven by baptism and communion of Christ. My understanding is that they have a few kinds of baptists and come from separatist, calvinist or purist-seperatist movement. I went to a baptist college and also attended a baptist church for a brief period in my life. Very sweet people. They were mostly intellectuals who focus on evangelism and mission work. The church I went to was quieter than most services by pentecostal, non-denominational or CSI churches. They give you the time to listen and process the word given by the preacher/speaker. The baptist church I went to was community oriented and definitely refreshing to the mind, every single week. So what to expect out of a baptist church- raw, real, unfiltered praise to God with preachings straight out of the scriptures that are meant for thought and reform, either within self or community. Also, if you are into architecture, you can search for a baptist church that has detailed interior. They’re not very difficult to find.
Ok, this one was way out of the ordinary for me. I was astounded by the architecture. Here’s the one I went to.
I don’t have to give an introduction to the Catholic background as I think it’s well known around the world and practiced so differently around the world. The one I went to was a washing of feet service. Very pious, honoring the priest and the service itself was catered with many rituals which I could not keep up with and honestly, didn’t know the background to. I must say that they value the body and the blood of Christ. The way they prepared them was very different than what I’m used to and quite frankly, gave me a new perspective to the value of God’s body and blood. They were reverent to the communion and the process it is made and shared with the people. I must say that I strongly felt the presence of Christ. A calm, strong, focused presence that cleared my mind of all confusion. One, I didn’t expect to feel that strong presence but two, because I couldn’t keep up with the rituals they were performing, I thought I’d be too distracted to focus on why we go to service in the first place. Their mass was really beautiful, calming and the newness in perspective made me want to honor and pursue God in a different way. Worth checking out!
My recent find is a synagogue from the Jewish faith. We know that Christianity is based on Judaic principles and, most teachings and stories are from the Torah which Jews learn from. Just like Christians, Jews also have different sects, so there were different kinds of synagogues to chose from.
The one I went to was a Jewish reform based church, which means they teach the Torah with Hebrew words, meanings and symbols; and is more like a Bible study than church. They explain the religious days, traditions, their core beliefs and prayers performed by their ancestors in Israel. Their goal is to edify the mind but at the same time focus on family relationships. They gave much importance to children and taught them to celebrate in their worship to Yahweh. There was a lot of kissing and hugging that was brotherly and seen in the Old Testament. If you need a deeper understanding of faith and want a renewal of the mind, this is the place to be. I truly enjoyed it and learned so much about my belief system.