On Sunday I will be preaching from a pulpit here in Sterling. As I was thinking back on my years as a student, filling the pulpit in many a town and surrounding churches I realized this will be my first time preaching in front of a home crowd. Even more interesting is the fact that this church was the church that I first attended, and taught Sunday school, when I first arrived in Sterling over five years ago. I even had a pew willed to be there by an old friend of mine.
The only issue, and I really do not see it as an issue, is that this church is a Presbyterian church, and I am a member of the American Baptist Church, where I am also seeking to become an ordained pastor. Some might see this as an issue, after all, these are two very different mainline denominations. One has been growing and the others is the fastest shrinking denomination in the United States. You may say that the “Theological Gap is astounding.” Is it really?
What Five Churches Had in Common:
When I was serving in Denver we were required to visit five churches in the city of different denominations. I visited a Catholic Cathedral, A Non-Denominational Church, Two Baptist Churches (Different denominations) and a Methodist Church. I was expecting to find a great divide between the denominations. After all, they had split, there must be something majorly different. I was wrong.
All five churches preached the same message of Salvation by grace, through faith. They lived under the banner of “Love God and Love People.” They were preaching the gospel message and preaching it well. In a city that has its share of sketchy, even twisted teaching I found five churches that proclaimed the gospel boldly. My conclusion was that we are not as divided as we think we are.
United in the Essential, Divided in the Unessential:
It is a sad reality but what I discovered was that we are united in those essential parts of faith and divided by those things that are unessential. Unless there is an open heresy or false teachings, most churches split over issues that are largely peripheral and some are just plain ridiculous. Do we agree on salvation by grace through faith? Do we agree on the basic tenants of doctrine, those essentials such as the Godhead? Then why are we arguing?
Opinions are permitted, but never worth splitting over.
Bridging the Gap:
So if there is no gap then how do we avoid the arguments that so easily divide us? By walking in love!
Love, after all is what binds us together (Col 3:14-17). Not just a humanly love, but the outpouring of God’s love for us, imparted then to others in the church and outside of it. If arguments and dissension tear apart the church then the Love of God can reunite it. Not just the kind of skin surface love we show the people we like, but a real, genuine and passionate love for those who are around us. Both those we want in our churches and those we do not seem to want in them must be shown the love of Christ. That will unite, a love for those who are hearing and seeing the Gospel we live and share. The Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord, who reigns forever and ever.
I know it sounds crazy, and maybe cliché, but it is not, it is a command.