Over on The Christian Chronicle website there’s an article asking about how Churches of Christ can interact with other local Christian churches (read it here). The article is part of a series called “Bridges & Barriers” and I have enjoyed the two previous article in the series.
I’m glad to hear this article is in the works as I think it is past due that Churches of Christ learn how to work cooperatively with other local churches. In most of my ten years as a minister, I have enjoyed participation with other churches. In Ithaca, New York, besides meeting with other local pastors on a regular basis for prayer and encouragement. The Ithaca Church of Christ partnered with volunteers from Young Life to run an after school coffee house ministry (the church building was near the high school) which was also supported by some other local churches. Likewise, the Ithaca Church of Christ also helped support the Ithaca Pregnancy Center, a ministry to expecting mothers that was ran by another local church.
Here in Columbia, where I minister with the Columbia Church of Christ, I meet with other local pastors for lunch, prayer, and encouragement. One of the things we prayer for is all of the local churches. Our church has also partnered with other local churches in local initiatives aimed at helping the poor among our community. I’m also blessed to be a Doctor of Ministry student at Northern Seminary where I learn from a myriad of other pastors.
Those who come from the Churches of Christ know that our fellowship has often eschewed participation with Christians from other local churches. That was a consequence of sectarianism, which more and more churches in our fellowship have left behind. However, as this is still new waters for many Churches of Christ, there still might be some hesitation and questions. So I want to offer a few reminders/suggestions.
- Trust Jesus, walking by faith rather than remaining isolated in fear of other churches. Their aim is the same as your aim: to live as witnesses of Jesus Christ. In the Bible-belt where there are still plenty of local Churches of Christ, it is easy to remain isolated from other local churches. But in the rest of North America—an increasingly post-Christian North America—organized ministry within the community will require more collaboration. Remaining isolated will not only be detrimental to faith but also to the mission of God.
- Focus on our common confession of faith in Jesus Christ rather than the doctrinal differences. Each church will likely still be gathering for worship in their own meeting places, being led and taught by their own leaders. So many of these doctrinal differences and the church practices that come as a result of those doctrinal differences will likely never become an issues to deal with and work through.
- Be humble and be a fellow learner on a journey together in Christ. In one of the comments on the Christian Chronicle article linked to above, someone suggests that Churches of Christ should interact with other churches saying, “We can pray for them and also teach them; not what WE think; but what the Bible teaches!” How about a little humility! Yes the Churches of Christ can pray for those other churches, just as they should pray for us. And yes we can teach them just as they can teach us something if we all are willing to collaborate as learners who are journeying together seeking the kingdom of God (cf. Matt 6:33). Neither the Churches of Christ nor any other local church has a full understanding of the Bible and a perfected Christian faith, so we all benefit by coming together, praying for each other and learning from each other that we may help each other live as faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Well, those are my thoughts. What are some of your thoughts?