One of the first notable differences between Uganda and the United States is the Church. At least, this is one of the first things I notice. This should be surprising, since the Church is the second most unifying factor of mankind, behind only the internet.
These differences are brought by a variance in culture and church development. The culture plays possibly the largest impact on these variances, while church development takes a smaller, but still important, role.
The first major difference between churches within Uganda and America is the reaction to worship. This is, by far, the most outwardly noticable difference between these vastly different countries. In the United States, for the most part, worship is done quietly, with the audience singing along to a band up on the stage. There might be some of the classic Tim Hawkins “Wash the window” hand movement, but that’s pretty much it. In Uganda, people jump up and down and dance to the music, filled with the Joy of the Spirit.
To some, this may seem as a revival-type response to worship. After all, there are many Prosperity Gospel preachers who teach that you are only a Christian if you have an outward response to the Spirit, such as speaking in tongues. While speaking in tongues and other works of the Spirit do still exist today, the Bible never teaches that you can “only be a Christian if you speak in tongues”. Digression aside, the responses to worship here are perfectly natural and, sometimes, enjoyable to watch and participate in. The joy is almost tangible, and the air seems to hum with love.
The second difference is the church building. Currently, I am taking Omnibus III, a Veritas Press class with an emphasis on church history and theology (amongst other things). We are currently studying Charles G. Finney, a man widely credited with the modern reforms to the Church. He, and his rather…unbiblical beliefs, made huge changes to the ways churches were both organized and built. Because Finney’s work never made it to Africa, the churches here remained untouched by his teaching. So, we are now met with massive differences in church buildings; most American church buildings are no longer constructed with permanent materials (brick, stone, mortar), but now with plastic and cement. In many churches, the pulpit has been replaced with a lectern and the seats resemble those found within a theatre.
The Ugandan churches are vastly different. Many are constructed with tin sheeting and wooden beams, for the owner usually has little to no money. Despite their poor quality, thousands flock from all over, sometimes standing for hours due to a lack of seating. The Ugandan churches have little money, but here’s the catcher: the people are happy. Despite the lower conditions, leaky roofs, and lack of seating, the people here remain endlessly happy.
Now, these changes are not inherently bad, so don’t think that I am insulting the American church. In no way is it inferior to the Ugandan church. They are equally beautiful in their own, unique ways.
Finally, the last difference between the Ugandan and American church is the teaching. Now, this is probably the least noticeable variance, but it exists. Obviously, it doesn’t exist as a general rule, since many churches teach entirely different. So, as I have seen and heard, the largest difference is the thought before teaching. While American pastors worry about whether their sermon will offend people, Ugandan teachers dive right in and teach, regardless of offense. Again, this is for the most part, as there are obviously exceptions to this.
These differences are big, but they make the church no less beautiful. As I travel between continents, I am taken with the diversity and flavor of Christ’s Church. There is nothing that compares to that beauty.
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