One benefit of being in a Christian college environment is the ability to connect and find church community with much less effort than at a secular school. However, with this also comes an unforeseen issue: judgment and stereotyping of the different churches people choose to attend.
While churches in most cases are largely similar, congregation members from various denominations and church bodies tend to focus more on differences than their shared belief systems and traits.
The undermining nature of this thought process is a deeper-rooted issue than it appears. It is extremely easy to fall into the trap of letting someone’s church affiliation shape how we view them.
Personally, I have seen how difficult it is to not allow my own personal decisions in regard to the subject of church attendance to turn into expectations of others. Just because I like or dislike the style of worship, a message or the environment at a church does not mean everyone feels that way.
Once I began to recognize this, it helped me to not feel as judgmental toward people with different churches and doctrines but instead to try to focus on where I agreed with them.
In addition to this, I have also seen instances in which I have been criticized and critiqued for choosing to attend a certain church and the impact of this has only been to further distance myself from these individuals.
The harm in this “us versus them” mentality lies in the dividing nature of judgment between church congregations and bodies, which is directly against the single unified church family in which God calls us to participate.
Despite the obvious issues with judging based on differences in church choices, it is very difficult to avoid stereotyping even among those who foundationally hold similar beliefs.
This tendency is part of a much larger issue than it initially appears. It is one thing to make certain choices about where one goes to church and personally prefer or adhere to certain doctrine, but it is an entirely different issue when Christians begin to expect everyone else’s decisions should exactly match their own.
Historically, much of the conflict within Christian groups can be traced to starting with this exact issue. In today’s context, being critical of church choices leads to a harmful pattern of stereotyping across churches.
In the end, it is unity of the church and the body of believers God calls us to. This does not mean it will be easy, but we should make an effort to try to focus more on what we have in common with one another than on our differences.