Several articles back, I wrote something (here) listing views that have changed for me over the years. It wasn’t meant to be an exhaustive list or a debate. The purpose of the article was to conclude a four-part series on change in the Church, specifically the Church of Christ (here). I was raised Church of Christ and still attend one. Many enjoyed the post even if they didn’t make the same changes, but many from my heritage saw it as an attack. Instead of taking the article down, I chose to write a follow-up post talking about the things I love about my heritage.
I do love my heritage. They are my family. All people are my family in a sense (our original ancestors, the image of God, and our common humanity make us family). All Christians are my family in a more specific way (blood family by the sacrifice of Jesus, power of the Spirit, and love of God). However, the movements, religious affiliations, and especially our particular congregations have a special sense in which they are family. Even when there are fights, heartaches, and disagreements, even where there is distance, we have that close family. We share a culture with them. We have a common history, language, and “DNA.” I love my Church of Christ heritage, and I consider them family, regardless of if they feel the same.
I feel the same way about my Protestant heritage. This article and the next one will be similar to the articles I wrote a while back regarding the CofC. However, I will write the article concerning what I love about my Protestant heritage first. Following that, I will write about how some of my views have changed over the years. It is not meant to be exhaustive or a debate. I have written articles on several of these subjects in the past, and I am sure I will again in the future. This post is simply a list of changes that I have personally made.
One more thing before I give you the list of things I love about my Protestant heritage, I will be speaking very generally. Just because I say that I love “this” or “that” about Protestants does not mean that every person, congregation, or denomination shares those views. Furthermore, just because I mention “this” or “that” about Protestants doesn’t mean that non-Protestants don’t share those views as well. The list is intended to speak about broadly accepted views in Protestantism at large. You should know, if you don’t already, that Protestantism is generally categorized as “mainline” (UMC, Episcopal, Lutheran, etc.) and “evangelicals” (Baptist, Church of God, etc.). Evangelicals tend to read the Bible more literally but are usually less particular about the role of sacraments and formality. Mainline churches are generally particular about sacraments and formality and more open to cultural and linguistic nuance in the Bible. Remember that ultimately, this is all my opinion and experience. If you don’t share my perspective, you are free to write your own article. I mean that! I’d love the diversity. With all of that said, let’s talk about what I love concerning Protestantism.
Ten Things I Love About Protestant Churches
- I love that Protestant churches believe in one true universal Church.
There are certain sects of Christianity that believe their institution is the “one and only true church founded 2,000 years ago.” By that, they mean that only a place that believes like them, thinks like them, and shares the same kind of moniker is part of their sect. In fact, they don’t believe they are a sect at all. They believe they are the only Christians (with a few hypothetical exceptions). Other sects are slightly more graceful but still believe essentially the same. However, as a general rule, Protestant churches understand the truth that sectarianism is uncalled for and illogical. Each denomination is part of the whole. They know that if their particular denomination looks or thinks differently than another denomination, there can be brothers and sisters who “agree to disagree” because the true Church of Jesus is a spiritual kingdom, not a physical institution. It manifests itself in physical churches (plural) but is one true spiritual universal Church (singular).
2. I love that Protestant churches are innovative.
I can’t think of anyone who reached as many people with the Gospel in their lifetime as Dr. Billy Graham. How was he able to do that? He was not afraid to come up with innovative ideas to spread the good news of Jesus. We use whatever technology is available to find an opportunity for growth. We aren’t afraid to take risks concerning our methods for the sake of the mission. Protestants have tended to be extremely innovative.
3. I love that Protestants are brave in the face of persecution.
From the very beginning of the reformation movement, Protestants have been persecuted. Even today, there is persecution in places like Asia, Africa, and parts of South America. Protestants aren’t the only ones being persecuted. But I have always been proud of our heritage when it comes to picking up our cross to follow the example of Jesus.
4. I love the Protestant initiative regarding apologetics.
Apologia is the Greek word for “defense.” Apologetics is the practice of defending one’s faith with history, linguistics, science, and philosophy. In a culture that is increasingly becoming post-Christian, it is good that there is the material out there that presents evidence for the Gospel message. I think that the Protestants have some cringy material out there in this area, but I also think that there is some really sophisticated material out there as well.
5. I love that Protestants preach a personal faith relationship.
Many worldviews don’t include a God. Many religions don’t include a relationship with God. Many Christian sects don’t include a relationship with Jesus. But very FEW Protestant churches DON’T teach that salvation is about relationship and is so much more than just gaining or losing a reward. It is intrinsic to most of Protestant teaching that we have a personal relationship with God.
6. I love the extremely high view of respect that Protestants give to the Bible.
About half of the Protestant community thinks that the Bible should be read literally. The other half believes that there can be some nuance in Scripture because of linguistic and contextual expressions. Either way, Protestants respect and love the Bible. They see God’s hands in its making and feel His breath in its words.
7. I love that Protestants believe in a Creator who is also our Father.
There is one Father. God, the eternal I AM. The all-powerful, all-loving, all-wise, and ever-present Creator is also our Father, and we are His children. When we see Jesus, we see the Father. Jesus is exactly like the Father, but to me, the crazier thing is that God the Father is exactly like Jesus. That is beautiful, and it is true. I know other sects of Christianity believe this as well. But Protestants shout it from the rooftops.
8. I love that Protestants listen to the Spirit for unity.
Many Christian sects rely primarily on a modern authoritative figure, post-Nicene tradition, and/or near-perfect agreement regarding the interpretation of biblical issues for the sake of unity. Protestants can and do commit the same crime; however, I see a great history (and growing reality) of Protestants relying on the Spirit when there seems to be an impasse concerning an issue not directly related to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
9. I love that the Protestant churches preach the Gospel as the belief of primary importance.
Paul and John explain the meaning of the Gospel quite explicitly (1 John; 1 Cor. 1-2, 15). The Gospel is that Jesus sat His power aside to become fully God and fully man; he showed us the love and righteousness of God by living a perfect life; he died for our sakes and rose by the power of the Spirit on the third day. He did what He said He would do, which means He can do what He said He could do. We, too, will rise from our graves and spend eternity with our God. We strive to live as He lived and rely entirely on His grace and the guidance of the Spirit. Everything else is a matter of opinion or growth.
10. I love that the Protestants still take ordinances seriously.
The two major ordinances (or sacraments) of Christianity are baptism and communion (also called the Eucharist, the love feast, and the Lord’s Supper). Some Christian traditions sprinkle/pour the water, and others immerse in the water. Some baptize babies, and others only baptize believing adults. Some believe baptism is when one is fully a member of the Church, and others believe it is a symbol of one’s adaptation in their heart. Some practice open communion for all, and some practice communion only for Christians. Some take communion daily, and others take it weekly or less. However, 2,000 years later, the Gospel message, communion, and baptism all remain the same. I love that our sacraments give us a common heritage.
CONCLUSION: Again, these things can apply to non-Protestant “tribes” of Christianity as well. And again, these things don’t apply to every person, denomination, or congregation within Protestantism. However, I love that the ten items I listed are generally true about my shared history with Protestant brothers and sisters. My next article will be just as loving. That said, I will be a little more critical. See you there! – Jesse