I am privileged to worship in an international church that illustrates the ‘go’ in gospel. On any given Sunday, there are people from Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Madagascar, Finland, England, Holland, France, Portugal, Bulgaria, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Korea, China, Canada, USA, South Africa, Germany, Spain, India, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Lebanon, and Egypt, to name a few. And the people that come were raised in many different faith traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity [which can be a religious tradition as much as any other], atheism, humanism, animism, agnosticism.
Every Sunday is Pentecost here. I love taking communion with people from all over the world, and experiencing a glimpse of heaven. I love worshipping with Baptists and Presbyterians and Methodists and Catholics and Anglicans and Orthodox and Lutheran and Assemblies of God, and Foursquare Gospel and Nazarenes and Brethren and Mennonites and Evangelicals and Fundamentalists and Liberals and Congregationalists and Quakers and Reformed and Episcopalians and Pentecostals and Charismatics. All in the same place at the same time.
Ironically, no citizens from this country are part of the church since the country is one of the 60+ where it is illegal to share the gospel, the very activity that has brought this international church into existence. Articles 18 and 19 from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not in operation here. Citizens are not allowed to choose their religion and for them the church is a kind of forbidden fruit.
There are a lot of countries like this, where your family decides what religion you will be labeled with and you don’t have any say in the matter. Your religious affiliation is given to you at birth and put on your identity card. You can’t change it [or can’t change it to ‘Christian’]. Even in western countries where religious affiliation is not on public documents, [like the States and in Europe], I’ve talked with people who allow that it’s fine for me to follow Jesus, but only because I was born in the US and raised by Christian parents. They too think your religion is a stamp you get when you are born. They ask me “Why do Christians have to share their faith? Why can’t they just leave others alone?” To them, life is a game of musical chairs, and the music has stopped and everyone has taken a seat.
But I think the music is still playing.
“We will sing sing sing
And make music with the heavens
We will sing sing sing
Grateful that You hear us when we
Shout Your praise
Lift high the name of Jesus…”