This past week I attended the Missio Alliance Conference held at the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. The conference brought together a variety of Christian thinkers and leaders serving in churhches, seminaries, and other ministry organizations. The speakers were fantastic and the sessions, which allowed for a lot of dialogical conversation between speaker and audience, was great too. But one of the added blessings was getting to spend time with those other Christians.
That’s right! Those other Christians. Those Christians who belong to a church that’s not a Church of Christ.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the fellowship I have with my brothers and sisters in Christ among the Churches of Christ. In fact, in a few weeks I’ll take part in some of that when I head to the Pepperdine Bible Lectures where I’ll be teaching a class on how the church missionally lives as the artwork of God from Ephesians 2:8-10 (yes, that was a shameless plug in). But it is nice to get beyond the reach of my own tribe.
When I gather with Christians from another tribe besides the Churches of Christ, it’s like traveling in a different country (I’ve traveled in both Brazil and Canada before). It’s exciting and different. Just as there are both many customs that different countries have in common as well as differences, so it is among Christians. For example, we all tend to bow our heads when praying. Yet while being led in prayer, one Christian might repeatedly say “Amen!” while another might say “Yes, Jesus!” and the difference seems to be the church tradition the Christians come from.
Yet we all want the same thing. As believers in Jesus Christ, we all love God, want to live as followers of Jesus, and be led by the Holy Spirit. As believers in Jesus Christ, we all want to become better ministers of reconciliation, help lead our churches to live on mission with God, and teach scripture as the word of God in such a way that others will become disciples of Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God.
More importantly, I recognize the same Spirit living in us all…the Spirit of God. I recognize this because we all share a common confession of faith in Jesus as our Lord, because I see the fruit of the Spirit, and because I see a love for God and one another.
Yes there are places where we have reached different conclusions about what scripture teaches but the love for Jesus and his church among those other Christians cannot be denied. It cannot be denied when you witness that love first hand as I have. Those other Christians are our brothers and sisters in Christ!
So let me end this blog post with a word for my fellow Christians among the Churches of Christ. Too often we have remained in isolation from those other Christians. At worst, we have been sectarian but these sectarian walls have been coming down since the 1980’s (tumbling among some, slowly cracking among others). We can serve our cities and communities in the name of Jesus so much more when we come out of our isolation. Not only can God use us to help those other Christians but he can use those other Christians to help us. And together, in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the same Spirit that dwells within us all, we can participate in the mission of God not for the good of our churches but for the good of our cities.
It’s time for all Christians in North America to be a movement again, a movement for the sake of God’s glory as we work together on mission with God.