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Working Together
Brett Anderson ©2003

I went to a Congregational church for the first 17 years of my life... and I never saw myself as a Congregational...

I went to a Baptist church for the next 10 years of my life... and I never saw myself as a Baptist...

I have now been going to a Vineyard church for about the last years of my life and I really don't see myself as a grape or Vineyardtist or whatever the terminology is supposed to be...

The subject of this week's thort is a bit of a play on words as it is really all about denominations but it is amazing how close that can be to what I actually put in the subject line and how I sometimes think of them...

Let me begin by saying that I personally see the need or understand the reason behind having different denominations (denomination being the name of a group of like churches such as Methodist, Anglican, Catholic etc plus the ones mentioned above) - different people have different way of doing things and prefer different styles (of service, of music, of meeting etc) and so I think there probably is a case for having different types of congregations with different names... but I NEVER think there is the case for promoting one specific name (especially above another one)

The thing that used to irritate me more than most stuff when I was at the Baptist church (and this would be the same at any church that does this) was every now and then (and it didn't happen often so probably usually a guest preacher) the preacher would preach a sermon about 'how to be a good Baptist' and I was like 'who cares?'... Preach to me how to be a good Christian or an effective follower of Christ, but I never need to know how to be a Baptist or Presbyterian or His Peoplian... if the lesson being taught does not make me a better/more effective Christian then why are you preaching it... and if it does then preach about being a better/more effective Christian - don't bog it down with the denominational label.

You may think that this is a bit of an arb Thort but I disagree - I really believe that God has laid this on my heart as something to share BECAUSE the moment I start focusing on the denomination as opposed to general Christianity then I am setting it apart from other denominations and as such saying that my denomination is better than others in some way or other. This is the kind of pride that causes disunity in the body and I really don't think that is it very helpful and this is the bottom line reason why not - as far as I understand from my reading of the Bible and my interaction with renowned theologians in the church:

WHEN JESUS CHRIST RETURNS TO EARTH, HE IS COMING TO CLAIM HIS BRIDE! [singular] Jesus is not coming for His brideS! There is only one bride and I believe in God's eyes there is only one church - one body of believers... and the sooner we realise that and believe that and start living that, the more effective we are going to be.

I don't think that unity of believers has ever not been on God's heart but over the last couple of years in particular I have really felt that God has been emphasising church unity as something that He is wanting to see more and more of.

Imagine how effective the church in South Africa would be (or in any country where you're reading this) if we all got together and worked on one unified project. We could maybe say goodbye to unemployment... we could seriously hamper the spread of AIDS... we could deal a decisive blow to poverty... we could send racism running... and why don't we?

Because we all have our little project in the corner that we cover fiercely so that the oppostion (that should read 'other members of our family in Christ') can't see what we're upto and we work on it independently and maybe look down on other churches or point fingers at the way they dress or worship or do liturgy or whatever... and so the lack of unity, and in some places disunity, reduce the effectiveness of each little project and so we continue making small impacts instead of joining up for one huge effective thrust.

Now maybe this is sounding a little bit idealistic - I'm really not sure that it is (especially when we start looking to growing the Kingdom of Heaven and not the Kingdom of my church) - and it is definitely a generalisation (as there are some major united church actions happening with fraternals in certain places, events like the big Connected youth event in Cape Town - that are signficantly successful) but for the most part one that a lot of us need to address.

Probably the first thing we need to realise is that there is no such thing as the perfect church - I had a buddy at a large church in the area seriously tell me a couple of years ago that each generation has one main church that is like God's chosen church (surprisingly he was attending this church at the time and I wasn't!) and I was like 'and what about my church?' and he said - no, your church is good too but there is one church that God really anoints or chooses to use or something to that effect...

Blew me away! That is the kind of attitude that there is no space for in the Kingdom of heaven.

In Revelation 2-3 God gives John a message for 7 different churches in different areas and each one gets a different rebuke for some stuff that has been allowed to happen within their congregation - one church has forsaken their first love, another tolerates Jezebel and a third is neither hot nor cold.... now each one of them could have probably chosen the area the other church was weak in and pointed fingers and said 'you suck in that area' but in the same way in a different area it could be turned around at them.

The same with our churches today - none of us have it totally right and there are probably some things in each of our denominations that need to be challenged (as opposed to gossiped about you will notice!) but none of us are above another church. We are all strong in some areas and weak in some areas and if we are not going to physically work together then the least we can do is stop working against each other, whether by what we say or what we do.

I could go on but I will try end it here. I really believe that we need to align ourself with Jesus and not with a denomination. What good is there in being a Baptist? Be a Christian that goes to a Baptist church. What good is there in being a Catholic? Be a Christian that goes to a Catholic church? And so on... Look for ways of working together as churches and as Christians in the neighborhood - there should be enough stuff that unites us (Jesus and what He did for each one of us on the cross will go a long way for starters) to alloow us to work together and overlook the things that don't...

Let's work together in building one Kingdom and one bride for Christ...

I will end with an ad for those in my area - as an example of this, on the first Friday of every month (next one Friday ) 5 March - a bunch of us youth leaders (although it is open to anyone but specifically those working with young people for relating's sake) get together at Seattle coffee shop in Century City for something we call a non-meeting as in no agenda/no minutes/no rsvp etc - Come if you want to - don't if you don't - just an opportunity to chill and hang out together and find out what God is doing in each other's churches - if you would like to be added to the email list of people reminded about these happenings please let me have your email address and maybe tell the youth leader in your church about it if they don't get these... it has been awesome to meet with people from different denominations and hear what God has been doing in their lives and in their churches... just a small example of a way this can work...

I am a Christian and I proudly belong to the church that is the body of Christ and itself belongs to Jesus... join me and let's get involved in the process of world domination together...