[ht: Los Angeles Times]
Since starting Kairos Partnerships, I’ve had the privilege of working with pastors, church planters and leaders in various denominations: American Baptists of New Jersey. The Mid-Atlantic District of the Church of the Nazarene. Baptist General Association of Virginia. Mennonite churches. A bishop from the Church of England. I serve on an advisory team for a Presbyterian (PCA) church planting network – and I hosted a regional event with a Presbyterian (PCUSA) church. I’m coaching pastors in various denominations. I helped facilitate the Fresh Expressions National Gathering this spring, which included over 400 people – with 21 different denominations representing. This week I’m helping with training for church planters, most are non-denominational plants. I will get a chance to spend time with my Episcopalian priest friend this week. He always challenges me and encourages me greatly.
I have never interacted as regularly with various Christian denominations as I have in the past six months. I’ve learned very significant lessons and been reminded of important realities in these interactions.
1. I’m thankful for the diversity of expression within the Body of Christ. After numerous interactions I find myself whispering, thank you God for interactions like this. I find that each denomination brings its own set of priorities, gifts, contributions, strengths and emphases. It’s great to see these strengths come out.
2. My view of God expands. In the various expressions of worship, theology and teaching, they bring out elements of God. When this happens collectively, I experience the reality of God’s bigness and, at times, it leaves me in awe.
3. It keeps me humble. Interacting with various denominations oftentimes makes me the minority (which, as a white Ameircan male, is a good thing for me to experience from time to time) and takes me out of my comfort zone. This forces me to step back, observe, listen, learn and appropriately question why I do what I do and why I believe what I believe. This also keeps me from getting in a rut or believing that only my ‘tribe’ is the only one. It’s worth remembering that Lutherans and Baptists and Presbyterians and Nazarenes and Assemblies of God and Mennonites will be enjoying God’s presence in heaven one day (if that offends you, might I suggest it be time for you to do some reflecting on the nature of God’s heart – and probably yours, too). It also reminds me of Augustine’s famous quote: “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”
4. We can’t do effective ministry without a deep dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Despite all of our polity and structure and history and funding and vision (as great as they are), it will still fall short. A deepening dependance upon the Spirit to guide us is absolutely essential. A non-negotiable. Without it, we are wasting our time. Fortunately, as I am in these settings, I hear conversation laced with a ever-deepening expectation the Spirit will be on the move.
5. Collaboration is the name of the game. Linking arms and working with other churches and denominations is the nature of the kingdom. No one church or denomination is going to reach their city or zip code for Christ. It will take every church working together to see Christ’s name elevated and advanced for His glory and purpose. It reminds me of a quote from the NBA legend Larry Bird who said, “I don’t care who gets the credit, as long as my team is winning.”
I hope I learn more lessons and am reminded of more realities in the coming weeks and months.