all in the family

I did manage to take a break from grading exams last week to join Christians in Traverse City for the National Day of Prayer.  I had a wonderful time with the good people there, and visiting Traverse City in May reminded me just how beautiful Michigan is in the summer.  We easily have the best beaches and lakes and most scenic countryside in the world. 

If only our summers would last longer.  Would the rest of you mind if we prayed for global warming?  Would it be a sin to buy a fleet of SUV’s and let them idle?  Is it wrong to purchase picnic products, such as ketchup and mustard, in aerosal? 

After the prayer breakfast I met with twenty or so pastors and church leaders from the community, and our time encouraged me about what the church can be.  Our group included Baptists, Reformed, Methodists, and Pentecostals, and many of them expressed how encouraging it was for them to unite and pray together as leaders of the church of God.  They noted that it was a sacrifice for them to carve the time out of their schedules, but they tearfully said that it meant the world for them to pray with their brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Our time made me wonder whether any of you enjoy fellowship with leaders of other denominations in your area.  I know that we feel more affinity for those who share our denomination or doctrinal distinctives, and we are willing to travel great distances to meet our likeminded friends.  This is good, but I wonder how much space we also create for a more diverse regional fellowship. 

I’m sure that there are lots of reasons why this may not happen, and I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on pastors, saying here is one more thing you should add to your schedule, but I am curious to know what is going on in your location.  The leaders in Traverse City said that they had been working for several years to get the turnout they had last week, so it doesn’t seem to be an easy process.  Any thoughts or experiences that you would like to share with us?

One final note:  we conservatives are known for taking a stand for truth, but historically we have been less impressed with Jesus’ prayer that his church be united in love (John 17:21-23).  For example, this is from a letter wich Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote to a Dallas Seminary grad who had changed his views on the timing of the rapture:  “You will find yourself very shortly being avoided by all your classmates, by all the faculty and by all the alumni of the institution which has meant so much to you” (quoted in Three Views on the Rapture [Zondervan], p. 33).  I’m glad that this quote now seems quaint, aren’t you?

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  1. “I’m glad that this quote now seems quaint, aren’t you?”

    I’m not so sure how quaint it is as I have had opportunity to meet with other pastors within my fellowship who are strict adherents to a doctrine of separation – even when separation is over non-essentials (like the timing of the rapture).

    The Church would be well-served to re-examine John 17:21-23 as you have pointed out. I hope we are making progress.

  2. “I’m glad that this quote now seems quaint, aren’t you?”

    I’d like to think it is quaint, and your Traverese City experiance is encouraging. I once attended a church that was part of a larger informal association where unfortunatly the Chafer quote was sadly to often true.

    Peace…

  3. Love that thought Mike. Really truly do. The problem becomes that nobody is willing to lay much of anything at the door for the sake of unity. Just about nothing because we hold things so tightly.

    The most recent example of unity within the Christian churches of America may be people engaged with emergent village. Yet, unfortunately, fellow brothers and sisters have thrown those folks under the bus because they took the words of Jesus literally.

    just being honest here…

    peace.

  4. Maybe a little more unity could actually make things a little less overwhelming for individual churches. Case in point: my church recently started a MOPS program, which has turned out to be a pretty large time burden on a lot of the women in our church. We are a small congregation to begin with, and we are already short-staffed for programs like the nursery, Sunday school, and children’s church, so this comes at a high cost. There is also a long-established MOPS program at a Lutheran church (LCMS even!) a few miles away, which we’re now directly “competing” against. Why was it necessary for us to start up our own program? Wouldn’t it have been more efficient and spiritually gratifying for our churches to have formed some sort of partnership to share the burden and the benefits?

  5. Just Some Guy May 14, 2009 — 1:35 pm

    …I should clarify that it’s not attending MOPS that is the time burden for the women in our church, but the considerable administrative work that the program requires. That’s the part that I think we would have done well to share.

  6. Randy:

    Many of us think that some Emergent leaders have left the Christian faith, in which case it becomes logically impossible to participate in Christian fellowship. That isn’t “throwing anyone under the bus” but merely our honest assessment of the facts. I don’t expect you to agree with this, but that’s how we see it.

  7. Mike,

    Thanks for the reply. I encourage careful discernment regarding your willingness to throw others under the bus. Here is why:

    You say, “our honest assessment of the facts.” In other words, your assessment of biblical interpretation is the ‘correct’ version to such a degree that other versions are not factually correct.

    Interpretation is just that: It is taking one culture and language and trying to understand it best for another culture and language. Never is another language and culture understood completely by another. IF it was completely understood, it wouldn’t be called ‘interpretation.’

    Back to your desire for unity though:

    The bibilcal texts that speak for unity among believers become of less importance than those that speak of keeping the purity of the faith.

    THUS, you do claim a superior position even among others who also claim to follow Jesus Christ. You’ve come to the ‘fact’ that even those who profess Jesus Christ are not followers because your facts are more factual.

    From a systematic guy, this is ludicrous. It’s neither systematic nor embracing of a biblical worldview because some texts hold much more weight in your system than others.

    Perhaps it’s not a wonder that people ‘stop believing’ when they do get thrown under the bus. And yes, factually, you do throw people under the bus.

    Every time you suggest someone has left the Christian faith while they profess otherwise, you divide the body of Christ. It’s denying a brother the right to call you brother. It’s denying the right to call a neighbor ‘neighbor.’

    Not only do I not agree, I still believe you love Jesus Christ. I still believe God’s grace is bigger than my imagination as well as yours. And I still believe the biblical text holds truth – the truth that you have not the right to suggest other professing believers don’t hold ‘truth.’

    So, while you plead for unity in this post, is there anything you are willing to sacrifice for the sake of the biblical command to find unity?

  8. Randy:

    As I said, I didn’t expect you to agree. The problem is that we are constrained by who Jesus is and what he has done. We are not free to change his identity, for then we wouldn’t have Jesus. And once we lose Jesus, we lose everything.

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