An Example of Kingdom Work

When my family and I are not at our regular church on Sunday, we usually visit a Baptist church just a few miles from where we live.  Well, today we made one such visit and was pleasantly moved by the sort of news that we love to hear:

A predominantly white Baptist church voted to allow a Hispanic church to use their church facilities rent FREE.

Before this move, this Hispanic church was RENTING its space at another Baptist church.  The Hispanic pastor, whom I got a chance to meet, is currently bi-vocational and is pursuing his Master of Divinity degree.

My wife and I were so excited about his gesture of kingdom work, where one church reached out to another, all for the sake of the kingdom.  I believe this is the sort of things Jesus prayed for in John 17.

The white pastor even visited the Hispanic church, to worship and fellowship with them.  Yes, a broader and more holistic vision of the kingdom is what we need, not our denominational tribalism that we are oft guilty of.

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18 Responses to An Example of Kingdom Work

  1. Juan Carlos Torres says:

    Amen!
    That’s wonderful.
    Kingdom networking at its best.

  2. Simon says:

    That is lovely news. But i’d be wary of applying John 17 to this. Apart from the implicit “Biblicism” involved with such a statement (yes I’m reading “The Bible Made Impossible” by Christian Smith!!), we shouldn’t downplay the significant doctrinal and communal differences that exist even within evangelicalism. I’m not sure what the doctrinal beliefs held to by this Hispanic congregation are. But the fact remains that the two congregations aren’t in communion with one another. I would interpret such a gesture as one group of Christians being charitable to another – which, of course, is how we should be treating one another. But still, within the Protestant camp, it is virtually impossible for complete unity to happen in my opinion. I hope I haven’t put a dampener on your enthusiasm for this very kind gesture by the Baptist Church TC, because it was a very nice thing to do. I’m just wary about drawing conclusions from John 17 is all.

  3. Its my experience that most of our theological differences are around 10% of the non essentials of traditional Christian faith – if we use the Nicene / Apostles creeds as our basis for inclusive fellowship.

  4. Simon says:

    Craig, be that statistic as it may. But we still have enough disagreement between denominations that are serious enough to cause schism. That suggests to me that the whole of the Christian doctrine is important (perhaps essential). Particularly if is important enough for groups to divide. One of the tragedies of the Reformation is the schismatic mindset that seems to be accepted in the Protestant world. Schism is not taken seriously for some reason.

    • Simon.. I think its ok for disagreement to take place. I have my own pet set of theological convictions which differ to that of many others. So within that framework, I don’t meet with them on a regular basis – instead I meet with others who likewise share my own theological convictions.

      However, for the sake of Gospel unity – I won’t allow those differences to prevent me from praying with, conversing with, ministering with and accepting them as family within the greater Christian framework.

      • Simon says:

        Craig, just to tease this out a bit.. So you’re saying that you don’t meet formally for corporate worship with those you disagree with. But will pray with them and minister with them within the greater Christian framework. This doesn’t make sense to me. So would you consider Catholics within the Christian framework? Or Ethiopian Orthodox? Or do you see Christians, who are not Protestant, as part of the mission field? I’m not sure how a high ecclesiology could emerge if we look at Christian communion in the way you stated above. I’m not sure how it would work practically in any functionally coherent way.

    • TC says:

      Simon: Your objection is noted and does not dampen my enthusiasm at all. We agree to disagree around here. 😉

      When local churches work together for the witness of Christ and advancement of the kingdom, I see a fulfillment of John 17 and living realities of such.

      Simon, you are forgetting that centuries before the Reformation of the 16th century there were already schisms in the church. Have you forgotten the great one of 1054? To say that “the schismatic mindset” is a tragedy of the Reformation is to willfully ignore what we know from church history. The very history behind the ecumenical creeds that have come down to us speak to all this. Must I go on?

      Craig: You are correct. It’s the fallen nature to disagree and divide. No wonder Jesus prayed thus.

  5. Simon. I see the Sunday meeting as a place for mutual edification. Within that framework, I wouldn’t be edified within a Cessationist Reformed setting… nor for that matter a Roman Catholic or Orthodox… however I know that many of my reformed, Catholic, Orthodox brethren have a deep love for Jesus and as such I have to call them family.

    But – If I was a pastor, I would allow any of those groups to use our church facilities – and I know in my own experience that it has happened in the area I used to live.. One such example is a well known and liked local baptist guy passed away – the only church building in the area which was big enough to hold enough people who wanted to come and see him off was in the Catholic church building / church. .. The priest generously allowed the local Baptist church to use its church for the send off and what a celebration it was.

  6. Jon HughesJ says:

    Simon,

    Wasn’t there a Great Schism around a thousand years ago over a rather small matter? We Protestants are not the originators of such things!

    TC,

    That’s very encouraging and heartening.

    • TC says:

      Jon, these stories always blesses my heart, bro.

    • Simon says:

      Jon, There was a schism. And the schism on what seems to be a small matter (i.e. the addition of the filioque into the Creed) really goes to a deep theological point – that the persons of the Trinity, tho of one substance, are not the same as one another. There was also the issue of Papal authority, which Protestants only realised was a problem 500 years later. But still, the Great Schism did not lead to a deconstruction of the Christian faith the way it did in the Reformation. The Sacraments, the Mother of God, the Saints, Iconography etc etc were not up for grabs in the Great Schism. They were in the Reformation, and we saw the whole fabric of society change because of this. Some in good ways, but some in very bad ways too.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        Simon,

        The question of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, or from the Father alone (through the Son?), seems like a small one to me. That said, I believe Roman Catholics are right on this one.

        But if it’s actually a deep issue (as you suggest) then there’s still a deep divide between the Eastern and Western Church, and deep schism concerning respective understandings of the persons of the Trinity.

        Therefore, once again, Protestants don’t have a corner on the market when it comes to schisms.

  7. Simon says:

    Jon,

    This isn’t the forum to talk about the procession of the Holy Spirit. It is a weighty issue. However, I think there’s no warrant for changing the Creed. The controversies that led the Western Church to make that addition could have been solved without changing the Nicene Creed. I wouldn’t want to fall into modalism. This is what is implied by the change and what the East was trying to guard against. And modalism is almost a completely Western phenomenon.

    The Great Schism is deep, I’m not suggesting that it isn’t. A lot has to do with Papal authority as well as the Creedal change. When the Bishop of Rome issued his excommunication letter to the Patriarch of Constantinople as he was celebrating the Divine Liturgy, this was taken as a very provocative thing and also taken seriously. The Reformation Schisms are legion, with many of the things taken for granted in the Christian community being turned on their heads. I think this is the difference between the Reformation Schism and the Great Schism. The sheer number of schisms subsequent to the Reformation and the fact that the Christian life was almost completely deconstructed is testament to the magnitude of what took place. The Reformation changed the world as we know it. Of course the Roman Church shoulders much blame for the Reformation. If they had not split from the fullness of the faith as expressed in the East, then no Reformation would have been needed – just as no Reformation of the Orthodox Church has ever come up. Orthodoxy stands aloof from the Reformation controversies, having never been “reformed”. The Orthodox Church is evangelical, but not Protestant. Orthodox, but not Jewish. Catholic, but not Roman. It’s not non-denominational, it’s pre-denominational.

    And, getting back the subject of this post, the independent Communions and Patriarchates that make up the Orthodox Christian world are held together, not by Papal authority, but by mutual love for one another. In Western Christian world forever changed by the Reformation, of course these acts of love towards other Christian communities should be celebrated. But I long for full Communion and a unified Christian Church.

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Simon,

      You write very attractively about the Orthodox faith, and I can’t disagree with the fact that the multitudinous Protestant schisms are a disgrace. My problem is that I can’t buy into all of Roman Catholicism (for some of the reasons you mention above) and for that matter all of the Orthodox faith either.

      But I do believe in the need to be rooted, not only in Christ, but in a fixed trajectory that can accommodate all of the unsavoury schisms. For me, this can be found in a hopeful (not dogmatic) universalism. You’ll be interested to know that my inspiration for this hope goes way back to the likes of Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, etc. Indeed, it has been argued that universal reconciliation was the majority view in the first three centuries. What should also interest you is that it was AUGUSTINE who influenced the thinking of the Church toward the dominant ‘eternal conscious torment’ position from the 4th Century onwards. Whether it’s a Dante Alighieri or a Jonathan Edwards, the WESTERN CHURCH (both Catholics and Protestants alike) has followed Augustine’s cue on this and a whole host of other matters ever since.

      You may be interested in a recent book by David Burnfield: “Patristic Universalism: An Alternative to the Traditional View of Divine Judgment”.

      Of course, even a biblically worked-out universalism won’t stop angry ‘schismatic’ types branding such proponents as heretics, despite the fact that they are in good historical company.

  8. Simon says:

    Jon,

    Good points on universalism. St Gregory of Nyssa (who conservative evangelicals love for his defence of the Trinity and his statement concerning the authority of Scripture) was indeed very close to universalism. Origen, in the Church’s estimation, went too far in asserting that all MUST be saved. Of course the problem with Origen is not that he thought God wanted to save all, but because he said that God MUST save all. The Church’s position (and this is still the RC and EO position) is that it is a heresy to say that God must save all because this violates the free will of human beings. Hell is what happens when we say no to God (note that Calvinists can’t understand this, this is why punishment and retribution plays such a prominent role in their theology). We can say no to God and it is precisely God’s love that torments those in hell – because they don’t want it. St John said that judgement is that Light had come into the world, but people LOVED darkness.

    However Church unity isn’t about our doctrine of hell. It’s not even about adhering to dogmatic pronouncements of the Church – though this is required. It’s about mutual love for one another that leads to full Communion with each other. How can the Body of Christ be divided? St Paul is very clear about this. It cannot function and this is the plainest and clearest indictment against the state of Protestantism almost since the beginning of the Reformation. It just doesn’t get any more clearer than that. Ecclesiology is not optional or non-essential. It is nothing less that the mystical Body of Christ. It is the mystical continuation of Christ’s incarnation. And we ought to take Paul’s statements on the Church very seriously.

    To diverge again, yes Augustine is culpable for many innovations in Western theology. I whole heartedly agree with you. Some Orthodox say that Augustine is the Father of all Western heresies. For some reason, in the West, you have a propensity to gather around one central figure – like Augustine, or the Pope, or Calvin, or Luther. Eastern Christianity is far more conciliar. The consensus of the Church is paramount. What has been taught consistently by every Christian everywhere. Not giving undue influence to any one theologian or spiritual leader. Augustine didn’t like Greek, he wasn’t good at it. He didn’t converse with his Greek contemporaries. Consequently his errors were not corrected.

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Simon,

      Very informative! I’d never thought about that before – different expressions of Western Christianity gathering around a central figure. A recent example would be the MacArthur Study Bible. If John’s ‘unleashing-God’s-truth-one-verse-at-a-time’, who are we to disagree? 😉

      • Jon Hughes says:

        Simon,

        Just an additional thought, this gathering around a central figure in fact goes way back. Consider 1 Corinthians 1:12: “…each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”

        Doesn’t make it right; but shows that there’s nothing new under the sun.

      • Simon says:

        John thinks he’s “unleashing God’s truth on verst at a time”. But I don’t buy it. I’ve commented on John’s heterodoxy before. Here we have an independent megachurch pastor who is Calvinist in soteriology, Baptist in the sacraments, dispensationalist and cessationist, Just because you subscribe to the Trinity, doesn’t make you a “historic Christian”. There would be virtually no one in Church history, literally no one, who would agree with John MacArthur. That’s the supreme irony of his posture as the doctrinal policemen of Christendom – much less contemporary evangelicals and other Christians. Funnily enough, his great adversary Mark Driscoll, is in the same boat. Different theology on some points, but very similar in ecclesiology and soteriology. Fancy reading a book from Driscoll on Doctrine. I mean the guy is as heterodox as they come.

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