I’ve had the privilege over the past few weeks to be in Europe, hanging out with Christians of great diversity and from all over the world.
First I was at L’Abri in Switzerland, where I stayed for 3 days along with about 30 others who were staying in “Chalet Bellevue” for a time. I’ll say more about my L’Abri experience later—let’s just say it was somewhat different than the Schaefferian picture I’d envisioned—but I will say that I got to meet all sorts of really interesting Christians. I met cynical students from Christian colleges in America, a passionate Spaniard worship leader, a Korean lawyer, an Asian German student from Hamburg, a Swiss teacher, Australians, and people of every imaginable denominational persuasion. There were Calvinists, Arminians, and even some agnostics with a bone to pick with God. This made for a lively, challenging, somewhat chaotic mish-mash, but it also allowed for some truly special moments—like spontaneous worship singing with three people in three languages, or a time of prayer between people who had only just met, but felt a unity in Christ that transcended normal inhibitions and differences.
It was a similar experience in England the last 10 days, where I’ve been a part of the C.S. Lewis Summer Institute in Oxford and Cambridge (pictured above). Here, around the theme of “Paradigms of Hope: Transcending Chaos, Transforming Culture,” hundreds of Christians from around the world (Australia, Canada, England, China, Switzerland) and of a variety of persuasion (conservative, liberal, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox) gathered to listen, study, and learn together in community. I don’t think there’s anything better than singing “In Christ Alone” with 400 fellow “mere Christians,” with a massive organ accompanying, in a Cathedral that is more than 1,000 years old.
This weekend I’m in Altea, Spain, participating in another Christian community called the Edge Project. Here again I’m surrounded by a variety of Christians with a variety of passions and perspectives, but bound by a passion for Christ and a belief in the importance of seeking his kingdom in all areas of life—academics, arts, worship, service, etc.
These experiences have been enriching and overwhelmingly fruitful for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most important lesson for me has been their reminder of the crazy diversity and room for difference within the kingdom of God. I’m not talking about universalism or even some ambiguously defined “big tent Christianity.” I’m simply reminded that the body of Christ is magnificently large, impressively diverse. Thanks be to God, it’s bigger than one tradition or corner of Christendom. It’s the one truly global religion, because (as one speaker in Cambridge reminded us) it’s the one religion where membership has absolutely nothing to do with who your parents are. It’s not a religion by birth. It’s not an inherited faith. It’s an alternative family open to anyone, anywhere, at any time… and that makes for a remarkably, healthily, robustly multifaceted and dynamic community.