Back to the basics…or at least one of the reasons for this blog.
My formative years were full of instruction in the ways of legalism an legalistic thought. Because of this, my view of the Body of Christ was limited. To me, if you weren’t Baptist (Independent, that is) you were probably not going to heaven. At the least, and I do mean very least, if you were not Independent Baptist, or if you used any translation of Scripture other than the King James Version, you were a liberal awaiting the chastising hand of God. I did not work well with other denominations.
Since that time, I have learned that the Christian church is not limited to Independent Baptists,
…but is comprised of many other denominations, also. Some of these denominations I have yet to even learn of, for there are so many smaller ones in other places of the country and the world. It is true that denominationalism (the tendency to seperate into various factions) has hurt the Church. The unbelieving world has used our schisms as evidence that the True Faith is not even real. Some even say that the many different, competing, and even warring denominations are proof that Christianity is nothing more than man-made. That being said, however, just because people within the Body of Christ choose to operate differently in their own context, one should not automatically assume that Christian group “A” is that much different than group “B,” at least not until the particular core elements of the faith are examined. For that matter, just because a congregation claims to be Baptist, does not mean that they hold an orthodox view of Christianity…just look at that group from out west that protests funerals (I will NOT associate with them!).
Well, in an effort to battle against the legalism and denominationalism of my past, I continue to reach across the divides to other brothers and sisters in Christ with an offer of fellowship and understanding. Does this mean that I have become Ecumenical? No, it does not. What it does mean is that I want to reunite family. I want to consolidate forces. I want to bring healing and strength back to the Army of God which needs to unite in spiritual battle (and I did say, “spiritual”). This applies even to churches within the same denomination who may fear competition (competition is not a good thing in this case).
In our community of Lookout Valley, there are several churches of various denominations. Most are very supportive of each other, but a few still maintain strict adherence to the Doctrine of Separation (see my post on this doctrine). The ones that feel freedom in Christ to participate have come together each year to hold a community Thanksgiving service. Today I met with a small room full of other pastors in order to plan for this service. Present were Baptists, Church of God, Assembly of God, United Methodist, and Presbyterian. Not an unkind word was spoken. Each shared in prayer for our community and for each other. Coffee was even provided by Troy Walliser, the pastor of Lookout Valley Baptist, who has a taste for the “foo-foo” stuff (I just had to get that in). We had a good time and look forward to worshipping together on the 23rd of this month, along with our congregations.
Why do I bring this up? I say all of this because Christians have a common Enemy. That enemy, Satan, is always in the process of uniting his forces in league against God’s church. The battle lines are drawn on many different fronts and his forces are continually amassed and reinforced, waiting for orders. The school prayer thing is just another example of a unified front. It is at this time when the true believers in Christ Jesus, those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, put on the whole armor of God and come together to make a stand. The example of Nehemiah 4 is alway relevant. Our forces will never be more than Satan’s. We will always have to come to the aid of our fellow soldiers in their time of need. But just as that is true, so is it also true that where we gather to stand against an enemy attack, “the Lord our God will fight for us.”
I thank God for the pastors of Lookout Valley who know that though we may have our differences, we are still on the same side.