Different Expressions

'What if well-funded megachurches decided to see some home-based faith communities as partners in ministry, so they could overlap and share resources and not see one another as enemies or even alternatives, but as two expressions of the same thing? That takes us in the direction I think we need to go, and will be good for the whole range of faith communities.'

Brian D. McLaren

I find that quote very exciting. I have never looked at other denominations in this light before and it brings a whole new view from which we can all work together. The problem comes, of course, when we see 'our church' as the 'right' way of 'doing church' instead of a different expression of people who are trying to following Jesus.

What would happen if we tried to follow this model? I think we would be closer to what Jesus prayed in John 17:
I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

'...that they may become completely one...' I see in this phrase the notion that there will be differences with each other. And that's natural because we are all different. So, this to me, shows that the different expressions of the church becoming completely one is a process. It's going to take time. But the question is, are we working toward that completeness? Are we making strives to show the 'world', i.e., those outside the church, that we are all actually different expressions of the same thing? That we accept different Christian traditions as our brothers and sisters? I pray that this is so.

I can almost hear the cries now. 'But they believe in predestination!' Or, 'They believe in free will!' Or, 'They believe in speaking in tongues!' Or, 'They don't believe the Eucharist actually becomes the body and blood of Jesus!' Or, 'They don't even call it the Eucharist!' And the list goes on and on and on ad nauseam. But do you notice what these are? These are all secondary issues. What we have done is we have taken secondary issues and promoted them to primary issues. Therefore, because of our sudo-primary issues have been looked down upon, we feel we have the right to split the local church; to mutilate the body of Christ. What we must do, family, is remove this pride in ourselves and realize that those sudo-primary issues are just that -- false primary issues. We need to get back to the real primary issues. What are they? The Nicene Creed contains the primary issues. If there is an expression of Christ's body that believes that, then everything else is a secondary issue. Sure, the secondary issues can be debated over, and should be. But they should never, never, be used to dismember the precious body of our Lord Jesus. Those secondary issues, those differences, are there to help the body of Christ reach the world. They should not be seen as a dividing line. Through the Providence of our Lord, those secondary issues have been given to the church to help implement God's kingdom on earth.

So instead of letting those secondary issues divide us, we should see them as different expressions of the same thing and work toward becoming completely one.

Peace be with you.

+ OD


Ted M. Gossard said…
Yes, I believe the Holy Spirit works in spite of all of us as believer in Jesus, and that none of us have it all together in our theology. I prefer to try to find what's right. And even when I intensely dislike a thelogy such as dispensationalism (especially classic, progressive is not so bad), etc., one needs to see the beauty of the Lord in these people. One of the most godly people I met is a pastor in the Word of Faith movement. His theology and mine in a number of matters are poles apart. But the beauty of the Lord is very evident in this brother.
Odysseus said…
Exactly. And let's take it a step further. What if we meet someone, or we know of someone in our local fellowship, who just doesn't 'fit'. How would we feel if they decided to go to another fellowship. Or, perhaps we recommend a different one to them. Not in a judgmental kind of way, like, 'You know, you really aren't a good match here. You would fit better at so-and-so down the street.' But in a loving way when they come to us for advice. Would we feel comfortable in recommending a different fellowship to them?
Ted M. Gossard said…
Great point.

Rich Mullins told the story of a family who left his Disciples or Christian denominational churhc in Wichita for a Vineyard church. But when they sought to join the Vineyard church wisely told them to go back as they had left just because they liked the worship experience better.

I think we need discernment here. There is no fellowship in the world with which we'll agree with everything, and the older we get the less concerned will be with our own thoughts on such things, anyhow, I think.
SuperHealthKyle said…
OD, I like where you're going.
What I wonder is, "What should make up the 'primary issues'?" The mention of the Nicene Creed is something I can agree with, but I'm seeing an elevation of the creeds in recent days that troubles me. For example, if you had never heard the Westminster Confession, and were asked, "What is the chief end of man?", you may answer it a number of different and correct ways. Yet, if you're in a church who's tradition is to memorize the Westminster and you answered differently, they'd raise eyebrows and wonder why you're wrestling against such a basic and primary issue.

The point is, there are primaries and there are secondaries, but what are they?
Is there ever a time to separate based on anything except primary issues?
We have all seen TV preachers who's ministry magnifies the secondary issues and who's mangling God's Word manifests as sheer acts of thievery - "send money and get the blessing" - all while proclaiming correct renditions of the "primary issues". They get the primaries correct so that we allow them in, but they bruise the image of the church. Should we not separate over this, even though it may be "secondary issues" we're fighting?
Odysseus said…
SHK, thanks for dropping by.

Concerning the elevation of the Creeds: As you know, I used to be just as leery of the supposed elevation of the Church's creedal statements (which are, primarily, the Nicene Creed and the Apostle's Creed). But, it wasn't until I looked into the context of the development of the creeds that I started to realize their importance.

Painting with a VERY broad brush, the creeds were written to combat heretical doctrines that had infiltrated the church. These statements were very compacted theological statements regarding the orthodox beliefs of the church up to that point. And they have stood the test of time. In the Nicene creed have the basic gospel message in just a few lines: God the Father, creation, Jesus, God's Son, God in human form, virgin birth, trial, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension, Holy Spirit, Giver of Life, universal church, resurrection of the dead, and the world to come. We could take each of those lines and unpack them and find some differences of opinion as to how we would arrive at that statement; but we would all arrive at that statement. Now, if someone did not believe in the Nicene Creed (say, they didn't believe in the incarnational parts), then, to me, they couldn't be a Christian. That creed doesn't replace the Gospel but sums up the Gospel.

Concerning the WCF: That's why I didn't mention the Westminster Confession. There are plenty of denominations that don't agree with such a Reformed statement of faith. However, even those in the Reformed camp agree with the Nicene Creed. So that is where I would start. (As an aside, the Confession doesn't ask questions. That's the Catechism. 'The chief end of man' is not a primary issue. Even the wicked glorify God.)

Concerning the example of TV preachers: I didn't say this wouldn't be difficult. I understand that. But we are not to divide over such things. Where does the New Testament talk about that? Paul was clear that our differences should be celebrated and not cause to divide the church. Those who were/are mature are to be patient with those who are 'weaker' in the faith.

Lastly: Have you seen 'Even Almighty'? Highly recommend it. There is a wonderful scene where God talks to Evan wife (she doesn't know it's God). God has told Evan to build an ark and his wife and three sons have left him. They stop at this diner to get something to eat when God approaches Joan (Evan's wife). She confides in him about her situation and says, 'Evan says that God told him to do it. What do you do with that?' God replied, 'That sounds like an opportunity. Let me ask you a question. If someone prays to God for patience; does God give them patience or an opportunity to be patient?' I think that is EXACTLY what we are called to do. When we are in situation where it is bloody difficult to be in the same room with someone as to worship with them, we, who are mature, at to be patient with the weaker brother or sister. But, we also have to be careful not to fall into sinful pride in the process.
SuperHealthKyle said…
Ah, you're right - thanks for correcting me on the WCF.
I think you also make a good point concerning the purpose of the creeds.

Regarding the TV preachers, I may explore it a little more with you. I agree that those who are stronger are to have patience with those who are weaker. In my mind, it is the weaker brothers and sisters who are entranced by the wolves, not the wolves themselves! In other words, those who are knowingly stealing money from the sick and the old "in the name of Christ" aren't simply "weak", but unregenerate in some cases. I can't judge their status in that regard, but I know if theivery has happened. I know if one calls himself a prophet and his/her prophecies contradict Scripture, there are clear things Scripture says in regard to that person.

That is my only contrast with your observations, I think. There are those who know how to say the words which might indicate they "have the basics covered". But when you see that it is only the weak who are dazzled by the rest of their obvious lies, those who are lied to must be patiently protected, not the liars; They are to be exposed.

Turning inward, however, I must admit that I have found in my own mind the truism that, "our sanctification is the process of shedding our own heresies"! (Not an exact definition, but a worthy observation, for sure.) We're all on the journey, and may we "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus". In all regards, may God lift the scales from my eyes in those areas where my confidence is high but my knowledge is incomplete!

Good movie quote, BTW - I love it!

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