Hello, my name is Kollin Baer. I am a minister, a preacher, a worship leader, a published singer/songwriter, an amateur stand-up comedian, and a seminarian at Duke Divinity School. I am a lover of Christ and of his church.
But what is “the church,” and how can I label myself in relation to it? I was raised Baptist; I worked in many non-denominational churches; and I currently serve as the Worship Leader for a coffeehouse service resourced by the Methodist Church. My close friends are Presbyterian and Catholic, and the woman I love is seeking ordination in the United Methodist Church. Confused? Me too.
While Bob Dylan was correct in writing “the times they are a changin’,” I don’t think he was referring to our tendency to divide ourselves. The variety of assumptions about “the church” has always fascinated me. Southern Baptists are only concerned with hell; Pentecostals like to speak in tongues; Methodists care too much about John Wesley; Presbyterians are intellectual elitists; and no one has sat through a Catholic mass and fully comprehended it. While I make light of our ability to stereotype, our culture is obsessed with labels and the implicit meaning behind them, but beyond a follower of Christ, I refuse to truly label myself. It’s really the only flag I am comfortable flying.
A few weeks ago, I was leading a discussion on “what is the church?” with a group of college students. I was amazed at their answers, and my personal favorite – and unfortunately most accurate was – “the church is the place where Christians fake unity.”
Ultimately, I choose to follow Christ, and he calls us to pick up our crosses before doing so (Matt. 16:24). It’s tough work, but I have known no greater joy. Christ has transformed me. One could attempt to pick up their cross in its full weight by oneself. Solitude is always an option. Or, one could lift it with the help of others. I choose this route with my Baptist family, my non-denominational co-workers, my Methodist church members, and my Presbyterian and Catholic friends.
Our crosses are much lighter when we bear them together. This is my church.
My Church is comprised of many versions of Christianity that are not so much divisions as they are particular witnesses to a God so big that we small humans can only attempt to categorize and compartmentalize. While some view the many varieties of Christianity as a weakness, I chose to view them as a “great cloud of witnesses,” (Hebrews 12:1) united in uniqueness––together but not the same, as Paul writes in Romans 14.
My hope for the church is that our differences would unite rather than divide so that we may embody Christ’s prayer in John 17:21, “That they may all be one.” Not one in denominational affiliation, color of skin, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, “functioning” mental abilities, but one in the collective carrying of the cross of Christ––a unity that embraces our humanity in all of its uniqueness. This is my prayer, and the prayer of my church.
Grace and peace,
You can help also listen to my folk records at kollinbaer.bandcamp.com, as well as on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify.
PS – RockTheWord is helping Kollin’s seminary education by sending all donations to RTW to help with Kollin’s seminary expenses. Make a gift and help support a future creative leader for the church. Your tax-deductible gift can be made can be made here!