Thursday, June 14, 2007

Finding Jesus in another church

A wise man once told me not to judge other denominations by its worst examples because they could do the same for my denomination. As a young believer, I tended to buy into the proposal that people in mainline denominations, Roman Catholics and other non-Baptists did not believe the Bible and were not real Christians. I was always surprised when I met a non-Baptist on a mission trip or conference and found they believed in both Jesus and the Bible.

On the other hand, I was always made to feel uncomfortable by Fundamentalists and Charismatics. The latter would tell me I was a second-class Christian, the former that I was unsaved. There were also Calvinists, Dispensationalists and others who felt they had discovered the truth and loved arguing about it.

I must confess that I, too, tended to be a one-dimensional Christian. Evangelism is what gets me going. There was a time when I had reduced evangelism to an event where I make a presentation and press for a decision. Once the deal was closed, I moved on. There was no follow-up.

As my faith developed, I learned that there was a little more to evangelism than a polished presentation and an emotional appeal. I also learned that there was more to Christianity than recruiting members to my club.

I learned to appreciate what other Christians were teaching me. My Charismatic friends taught me to worship with enthusiasm and that God still works miracles in our lives. My Mainline friends taught me to minister to the needs of the poor. My friends from the African-American tradition taught me to fight for the rights of the oppressed.

I have not left my Baptist/Evangelical roots behind during my pilgrimage. I still believe that the Bible is the highest authority for faith and practice. I was saddened by the death of Jerry Falwell, who taught me that Christians need to be engaged in the political process. I am still evangelistic with a strong commitment to global missions but I’ve grown beyond the narrow views of my underdeveloped faith.

I continue to learn and grow in Christ. I work to build the Kingdom in cooperation with other churches. I read the Bible with the expectation that God teach me something new. I am open to both ancient traditions and contemporary adaptations in an effort to have a fuller understanding of God.

In today’s post-denominational environment I encounter a growing number of Christians who are setting aside traditions and denominational power trips to impact the world in Jesus’ name. I pray that the number continues to grow and that, one day, they will look back to our time and say the was the Third “Great Awakening.”

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