I have been a Christian for nearly eight-teen years and have been in the ministry for almost as long. I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church, but was frequently exposed to the Catholic Church as my mother’s entire family was Catholic. Three or four years after I became a Christian (for real) my wife and I left the Baptist Church to help plant a non-denominational church. During the first years of that church plant, we “explored” outside the boundaries of our former SBC doctrinal beliefs. We ventured into the areas of charismatic and pentecostal doctrines and experienced both the liberty and potholes in those often untamed theological frontiers. Some years later, we moved to another state and planted our own church. It was a Churches of God General Conference church and thus we were exposed to CGGC doctrine and culture. A few years after planting our new church I became involved in a few ecumenical organizations in our area and was even further exposed to other church traditions such as the Christian Church, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, etc. I am leaving out far more than one denomination from this story, but surely by now you get the picture. I have experienced many different “flavors” of Christianity and have gotten to know a lot of good people who love God AND participate in a different “flavor” of Christianity than me.
While there are many narrow minded groups out there who think that their “flavor” of Christianity is the only “correct” version, I would like to think that there are more than a few of us (hopefully, many, many more) who have realized that God works in many different Christian denominational contexts and cultures. Furthermore, I would also like to think that there are those of us who have realized that no Christian group has found perfection in regards to their theology and practiced values of authentic community. In short, I have discovered that there are many of us who dearly love God and have declared Jesus Christ Lord and Savior of our lives. We may call ourselves Baptists or Catholics, Pentecostals or Presbyterians, Methodist or Nazarene -but we really are all in the same boat. One day, we will all be in heaven and all those petty denominational titles will seem so childish and silly. Perhaps, in the manifest presence of God we will blush when we think of all of the trivial conversations -and arguments that we had during our earthly lifetimes… These thoughts are why I have adopted the following statement as my motto, “Some follow the Pope, some follow Luther, others follow Calvin, still others follow Wesley or Winebrenner; I follow Jesus with the understanding that God can use whomever He chooses to speak into my life.” –I think the Apostle Paul made a statement similar to this in his first letter to the Corinthians…
It is my belief that we spend so much time thinking, debating, arguing and “silently positioning” over our differences that we often miss the most important and fundamental questions of the day, -fundamental questions that almost no one would argue over. These are probably the least controversial but most important questions that we should be asking: Are we in love with Jesus? Have we truly surrendered to God and His Word? Are we daily humbling ourselves and yielding our lives to the leading of the Holy Spirit? Do we have a practical daily relationship with God? -Not much controversy here; yet I think we have to admit that if we (all) could answer yes to these questions, the face of Christianity would look different than it does now.
I shared the message that is linked below a few weeks before Christmas. I never intended for it to be an “oral manifesto” for me or my ministry; but after sharing it and listening to it while editing it for my blog, I realized that it was just that, my manifesto on being an authentic Christian.
This sermon can be listened to or downloaded with the links below:
Born of God -to download .mp3 file