Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Taz.

Friday, February 08, 2008

What Would Jesus Think ...

of all these different denominations? A friend of mine asked me that question recently and asked me to comment on it here. It is a good question and deserves a good answer. But just as it deserves a good answer, there are several caveats that precede it.

There are different groups of churches for a number of different reasons. Some of them I am going to talk about here. But one thing is almost universal. There is something that sets each group apart from every other group. Some unique distinctive marks each group so that it is different from any other group, and thus, feels a need to exist.

Now some groups are different because they do not belong to the larger whole. I am speaking of cults and other non Christian groups. They exist because they are not Christian and cannot find fellowship with any genuine Christian group. Such groups would include (but not be limited only to) the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Christian Scientists, and others. Some groups exist because of an emphasis on some heretical doctrine, and again, the inability to find fellowship among Christians. The United Pentecostal Church would be a good example here. Some groups exist to push a particular message. The Seventh Day Adventist Church exists to propogate their particular end times views. This end times focus sets them apart from other Evangelical churches. All of these are some reasons why some groups exist.

But that still leaves a vast group of denominations out there. These are churches that have been accepted within the historic definitions of the Christian faith. They seem to be separated and not in real unity, but is that really true. Let me take a closer look.

Let's understand, that when we speak of unity, we need to focus first of all on the unity of the body of Christ, the Church (universal). There are some groups that teach that there is no universal Church. To them, all churches are local groups of believers. However, we see Christ saying he will build his Church and the Apostle Paul tells us that Christ died for his Church. This can only make sense when applied universally to all those who belong to Christ. Membership in this group comes only by faith alone in the Person of Jesus Christ and his finished work on behalf of his believers and in that alone. All such people who thus name the Name of Jesus are his. They hold what they believe because they find it taught to them in the scriptures and by the witness of the Holy Spirit. They are the ones who have been shown the truth by the Spirit and the word of God. They are his by grace through faith and all that in Christ alone. We are unified with all of these blessed believers, no matter what other matters separate us, we are one in the Spirit of the Lord. The Holy Spirit in us reaches out to the Holy Spirit in every other believer and joins us in one great Body, one Church, under one Lord, professing one common Faith. Never make a mistake about that .... if you are a Baptist, a Presbyterian, or something else ... if you are truly Christ's you are one with your brothers and sisters who are also in Christ.

But among all those professing believers there is a lot that seems to separate us. And it is true. One thing that separates us is our church polity, how we govern and operate our churches. Some churches are Episcopal (having bishops and so on to oversee them), some are Presbyterian, operating under elders and governing committees (Presbyteries), and others yet, are congregational .. having the congregation itself set it's own rules and policies. Some churches are pastor run and others have the deacon board running things. But a true church can exist within all these different kinds of structures.

Now, I am a Baptist. That means I believe in congregational rule over the church. I believe each church is an autonomous body. When I read the Bible, I see churches operating according to Baptist polity in the Bible. I see churches in the Bible doing things the way Baptists do them. My point is that, even though I am a Baptist, I allow that Christians can meet and worship God under a group of different settings and still be within the body of Christ.

Other groups of Christians separate over certain practices or styles of worship. There are many independent Evangelical churches out there today. Most have come into existence to show off a certain style of worship. Other groups, like Pentecostals and Charismatics focus on 'signs and wonders' being done among them. But true Christians can gather with and worship God among such crowds of people.

In all these ways which seem to separate us, there is still the essential unity of the Body of Christ. You see, the kingdom of heaven is not a one-note-guitar. It is a chorus. It is a huge group of different people, different languages, different customs, different styles of worship, different voices, all blending together to worship the One, True, Living God. We're going to gather with the Bishops, and the Elders, and the congregationalists, and the ones who pray in tongues and the ones who don't, and the ones who baptized their babies (and the ones who didn't). We're all going to be there. Every genuinely saved Christian, no matter where they are from or how they worshipped or governed their church... they're all going to gather at the throne. We'll see Whitefield with Wesley. There'll be Bunyan beside Owen. We may all be surprised at who we see standing near us around the throne.

So, what does Christ think of all these denominations? I think he looks out and sees his people ... drawn by the Father from every tongue, tribe, nation, and people. Drawn from every church polity, every church practice, every church imperfection. I think Christ sees his choir, those who'll sing his praises throughout all eternity. I think he sees you and me.


Anonymous Collkitto. said...

Excellent. Thoughtful and provocative article... find nothing here I disagree with, where The Lord reaps his harvest, to my mind at least, is not as broad a church as some would have us believe, admirable rejection of "Cults" that by my spirit, not to mention intuition, deem unsound, and do so boldly, pray God, that they who adhere to them be delivered to join the Choir..God Bless Semper.."Lang may yer lum reek" as we say in Scotland.

9:44 AM  

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