Friday, November 20, 2009

The Lord Thinks We're Crazy (Part Two)

This is part two of an emerging manifesto. To read part one, scroll down...

Here’s the verse that changed everything for me:

“By this will all people know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jesus in John 13:35).

I used to wonder whether Jesus’ statement was realistic. I never want to be on the other side of an issue from Jesus, but in the back of my mind I wondered: Would unbelievers really be affected at a deep level by seeing fellow Christians treat each other kindly? Is the love within a church really as important as, say, correct doctrine?

I’ve learned that the answer to those questions is certainly “yes!”

But I also learned something recently that I think we often miss: When Jesus was speaking these words, he was speaking to his disciples. These were to be the leaders of the church following Jesus’ resurrection.

Jesus was speaking these words to church leaders! He was speaking to the disciples who would become the apostles who would carry the gospel across the globe. Peter hung out in Jerusalem; Philip was sent to Ethiopia; Thomas went to India.

This means that in order for outsiders to see that we really follow Jesus, we need to love each other not only within our churches but across the whole spectrum of churches within the community (and world, for that matter). Pastors need to love other pastors, congregations need to love other congregations, denominations need to love other denominations. We can’t be in competition or assume the worst about one another—which we do, whenever we take the approach that “our way” is what is “truly needed.”

I'm speaking here about the competition that often takes place between one Bible-believing church and another. I am not talking about sheep being in competition with wolves; we should not unite with wolves who deny the basics of the gospel. But sadly, I find (in my own heart and elsewhere) a tendency to be suspicious of those who are even mildly different - or who threaten our territory.

Think about it. How many people don’t even bother with church because they pass 100 different churches and they have no idea “who’s right and who’s wrong”? They do not perceive us as working together and communicating the same message, and as a result they just throw up their hands in frustration. There is not a unified front, and it is killing us. Better: we are killing us.

And I know we sometimes try to join together but, let's face it - if no one can tell we're working together, we've got a lot of work to do.

The Lord thinks we’re crazy. We’re trying to be a witness in our community without joining hands with other like-minded, Christ-centered churches. All because of a lack of willingness, a lack of time, and – let’s be honest – a whole lot of pride.

As a result, people don’t know we are followers of Jesus. They don’t know who we are following or if we’re following anybody. They’re confused. And they probably think we’re just nuts, which, in fact, we are.


Jeff said...

Ken, excellent post! I have been thinking about similar things lately. Some of the highlights for our church over the last 6 months have involved services together with some of the other churches in town. I look forward to more of your provocative thoughts on this!

Sean said...

"Is the love within a church really as important as, say, correct doctrine?"

I would suggest that love within a church IS correct doctrine, or at least part of it!

Great thoughts, Pastor! Nice moose too. You know, I saw a moose in the wilderness of Maine during my survival training for the Navy. That thing was HUGE. He was wondering what a bunch of scruffy folks were doing sacked out under lean-tos on the way to his watering hole. So were we, for that matter. Amazing how something that big can be so quiet while moving through the forest.