Thursday, April 21, 2005

How can we reach the world for Christ if we can't come together as Christians?

I was driving the other day and happened to stop the radio dial on a program featuring a radio preacher. He was talking about denominational issues, so I decided to listen to what he had to say. He made a very interesting statement: How can we reach the world for Christ if we can't come together as Christians?

The radio preacher said that we should be tolerant of each other's doctrines, hymns, worship styles, etc. He said that he had been judgmental toward other denominations and said that God was convicting him of that lately. He urged his listeners to visit other denominations once a month. I wondered what would happen if he visited my church. If this local pastor had visited my church the very next day, he would have experienced the following:

  • corporate confession of sins;
  • pastor using the office of the keys to pronounce our sins forgiven;
  • an infant baptism, our pastor's first grandchild, with tears of joy streaming down the young parents' faces in gratitude to a loving God who can create a seed of faith in their newborn child and our pastor choking back his own tears of gratitude as he poured the saving water on the child;
  • proclamation by our pastor with a huge smile on his face, "We have approached the throne of grace, now our God approaches us in His Word;
  • sermon reminding us of our own sinful state and the loving God who gave us Jesus Christ as a substitutionary sacrifice so that we may enter heaven.
  • gentle and loving admonition to congregants of the biblical teaching on partaking in holy communion without full agreement that Jesus' body and blood are truly present.

What would that radio pastor think of my church? Would he walk away critical of us for not allowing his to take communion or baptizing a newborn baby into faith? I looked up his church and radio ministry on the internet when I got home. I know of his denomination, was a member for a few years and know that they reject that God creates faith in infants at baptism and reject Christ's real presence at communion. Certainly, we share much in common, namely that faith in Jesus as the savior is the only way to eternal life in heaven with God. I do agree that disagreement over what scriptures teach does hinder reaching the world with the gospel message; I also believe that agreeing to disagree is harmful...to me, to all Christians and to the non-believer. Christians must consider the scriptures together and agree on what they teach. That is true unity.

6 comments:

Bob Waters said...

You go, girl!

Tim's Ghost said...

Good thoughts. Like you, I'm a relatively new Lutheran, so I have lots of old friends and family who are Evangelicals. I've found that when I begin to speak with joy of the biblical and historic beliefs and practices that you outline above, their desire for 'unity' quickly disappears. At best, they're patronizing, suggesting that I've merely embraced the one option (or flavor) among many. But what they really want is for me to embrace some ambigious, lowest-common-denominator Evangelicalism that never even mentions, among other things, the Holy Trinity or the Sacraments.

You're right in suspecting that your list above wouldn't go over very well with that radio preacher, but that would be consistent with what Evangelicals believe about the Sacraments. They believe that they are the ones doing the doing, and therefore they see such talk as works righteousness. They view our understanding of the Sacraments, ironically, as synergism or works righteousness, and this is certainly consistent with their own view of them as ordinances. But here's another question: I am sure that Evangelicals would say that we all come to faith in Christ through God's Word (Romans 10:17). But then couldn't the same complaint of synergism or works righteousness be made about the act of reading or preaching the Bible? By the same logic, wouldn't that also be a work? You are right. Most Evangelicals would not want to engage you and the Scriptures on the things that they would have seen in your church service. That would be uncomfortable for them.

Once more example: C.S. Lewis said the the common, 'mere' Christianity that all Christians share is the "hallway" of the house (Church) and that our different confessions are the various rooms in which we live. I have found that most Evangelicals will listen politely at first, when we talk of the blessings of the Gospel found in Baptism, Holy Communion, and Absolution, as you outline them above. But then they will try to get me to move out into the hallway and live there! And you better not come out into the hallway to talk about the Confessions. They most definitely do NOT want to hear that the things you've outlined above is historic, biblical Christianity. How provincial and narrow-minded of you! Can't you just move out into the hallway and sing "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High" with us? Sheesh.

You're right. I am afraid that all you heard from that radio preacher was pretentious Promise Keeper rhetoric. The best example of honest attempts at reconciliation, and as you put it, true unity, can be found in the Lutheran Confessions.

Blessings.

TKls2myhrt said...

Rob,

Thanks for your excellent comments. You and I and our family seem to have experienced the same type of bland, generic American Evangelical experience. Lately, I've just come to think that I was shallow, trying to walk down that hallway of mere Christianity and sample from each. At least, you and I can now warn others of the deadly consequences of such a faith practice. There is no hallway and there are no safe rooms; there is just one mansion and the same music is playing from the speakers in each room in that mansion. (That, of course, is a very earthly and poor description of what heaven might be like.)

Tim's Ghost said...
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Anonymous said...

Words always get in the way. So many times what sounds good to us is not very nice sounding to others. We need more action and interaction with the Lord. Prayer, reading the word. Being in reverence of God. We need a turning away from our sins. Not words. We need more love, not crititsism, and see my words may even sound harsh to you also, my appologies. May the peace and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
-an evangelical christian and former catholic

TKls2myhrt said...

Anonymous,

We need God's Word. That is how He has chosen to communicate with us. We need to understand what He has said to us. Your words are not harsh to me, but some consider God's Word harsh. More interaction with the Lord would require us interacting with His Word. We can't ignore scripture for a generic love session of each other. What does scripture say? It says to be strong in the grace that is Christ Jesus.