Knowing the Heart and Soul of a Fellow Believer

One of the greatest things about the 18 years we served churches in Montana was the lack of sectarianism. By this I mean those who were of the Reformed or Armenian or Calvinist or even Wesleyan belief systems worked well together. Those issues were not a litmus test for brothers and sisters working together on projects much too large for one church. Part of the reason was the geographical situation. Churches were often isolated from other churches of the same denomination. My own, for example, was 110 miles removed from the next church of the same denomination. Throw in Montana’s abysmally cold and long winter which forbids travelling long distances much of the time and one learns how to play nice with one’s neighbors. I spoke at our churches, Lutheran churches, Methodist congregations and had great rapport with the ministers of the Assembly, 7th Day Adventist and Disciples of Christ churches. This was necessary to reach a town that had never seen an outbreak of revival in anyone’s memory. We knew each other intimately. We knew each other’s families. We prayed and labored together. Did we have our differences? Yes. We didn’t sweep them under the rug or compromise – we discussed them, rationally, like adults and joined where we could, such as on issues of the right to life. We knew each others hearts and never demonized the other.

I well remember rumors, unfounded of course, that flew one year about my family and I. At a ministerial meeting, the other pastors pledged to address this from their pulpits, set the record straight and they did so. This show of support was overwhelming and much appreciated. In this atmosphere, the gospel witness went forth.

Unfortunately,  this did not last. Even more unfortunately, the disruption came from within my own denomination. There were many who came in, from down South, with preconceived ideas and agendas that ruined a sweet fellowship. Adherence to a particular interpretation of Scripture became the basis for isolating and minimizing churches and pastors who failed to follow those in positions of power. The same has been experienced in church after church here in Georgia after our relocation. I long for the days when church leaders got together to know, intimately, the heart and soul of fellow ministers. I long for the time when differences of opinion can be discussed rationally, like adults if not like Christians without demonizing those who differ. It may be that I am wrong in an area of doctrine or you may be wrong. We may even both be wrong because I have yet to meet a single person who understands every aspect of Scripture. I have met many who think they do but that’s another story.

In the midst of this, though, I do find hope. From some in my denomination, though not many. I find it from others who have taken the time to get to know their fellow ministers as a person. They may have met them at a hospital, visiting on the same floor, traveled on the same flight together or met at a community event. This gives me hope. Our ministry spans denominations as in many countries there are ones not even represented here in the States. We don’t make churches who ask for help fill out a questionnaire – we go and help. They will take what they agree with and toss the rest, we know. But it is freely offered to all the same. Ta Ethne is somewhat Reformed in its leanings but our most faithful supporters are Wesleyan. They know our heart and work with us. We have Calvinists and Armenians both who advise us and help edit our resources. How can this be? Because God is bigger than all of us. He knows our heart and soul and we should get to know the heart and soul of His children as well. We have also been shunned by others who thought we were too “Presbyterian” and by others who felt we were too “liberal” (whatever that means). Others have questioned how a “Calvinistic-leaning” organization could be so mission-minded (guess they haven’t read our books) and still others thought we played and worked too much with our Wesleyan friends (although I would never give up those friendships). Both sides (or maybe all 4 sides) have labeled us as somethings or other at various times. I just shake my head and forge on as God directs. I would rather describe us as followers of Jesus Christ helping other followers of Jesus Christ become mature disciples.

It is far easier to dismiss someone if you don’t personally know them. Getting to know people shakes up your assumptions and the parroting of beliefs held by others. I remember my first trip to Malaysia, a Muslim nation, and having every assumption I had crushed. They were the most open and friendly of people, full of questions and having a desire to know my beliefs. From mosques to bazaars we encountered curiosity and developed friendships. I learned about the Koran and Muslim beliefs from practicing adherents and they learned of Christianity and the Bible from me. We discussed and argued civilly, respecting each other while differing. The same held true on my trips to China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and other places. I find it sad that I find more civility and respect in foreign countries from those with differing beliefs than in the Bible Belt.

Oh, how I long for an outpouring of the Spirit to bring about a melting of hearts, a desire for civility. I long for ministers of the gospel to get to know other leaders as people. Invite them over for a meal, go on a retreat with them, study Scripture together regularly — get to know their heart and soul. You may just win a friend for life or even for eternity. You might also become a far better minister

Advertisements

Seminar Notes From Our Future of Islam Conferences

Here at Ta Ethne we strive to bring the best seminars possible on topics facing the church. One of our most popular seminars is called The Future of Islam. It is a look at the Islamic religion through the lens of Scripture. It is informative, historically accurate and biblically based. When quotes on Islamic history or the Qur’an is used, we use the works of Muslim scholars so that no charge of bias can be formulated. We felt that by posting our PowerPoint outline on our website, it would not only be a great advertising tool for our seminars but also a resource for other church leaders. If you would like to use our resource you may, simply credit us and, if you will, drop us an email at taethne@outlook.com to let us know where it is being used. If you would like to schedule a seminar on this or other topics, give us a call or send an email request. May God bless you and remember — keep praying for Muslims and the Arab people in particular.

 

The Future of Islam

Believing in Jesus doesn’t make one a Christian

I had an interesting conversation with an individual the other day. This person had grown up outside of church but was introduced to Christianity as a young adult. He joined a Reformed Presbyterian congregation but left to enter the Disciples of Christ as a minister. Continuing on in his spiritual journey, as he called it, he soon left that denomination behind and entered into process theology. Process theology, in a nutshell, believes that as we grow in learning about God, God grows in learning about us. In other words, God becomes as we think about him – we create him, in our image. The man I was talking to said he no longer believed the Bible was inspired by God, that it was just man’s beliefs about God, full of contradictions and mistakes. He went on to describe how his journey had led him to the Dali Lama and Buddhist truths. At this point the conversation took an interesting twist. He stated, “I am still a Christian.” I asked how he could claim that.

“Well, I love Jesus. I believe he was a good man, a wise teacher, a great example of God’s compassion and love.”

I replied, “So does a Muslim. Jews also will grant you that. I even have agnostic and atheist friends who believe Jesus existed and was a moral man. Deluded, maybe, but real and a good humanitarian. That is a far cry from being a Christian. A Christian believes Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Chosen One of God who brought salvation. Christians believe Jesus was Divine, God’s Son, our Savior. You, sir, are not  Christian. You are a Deist well on your way to becoming a Buddhist, but you are not a Christian.”

This man I was talking to did not like to be told that. He was not being honest with himself. He started tossing out words of wisdom from Buddhism and Hindi philosophy to show how those beliefs were superior to my “limited understanding.” I used Paul’s writings to Corinth to show that all those same things were found in the Bible he had rejected.

In the end, I left him with a thought. I told him, “There is a world of difference between going on a journey and admitting you are wandering around lost in the woods.” His “spiritual journey” had left him wandering with no anchor. He had a mish-mash of so many beliefs that he was confused and yet, at his core, he was afraid to admit he had completely left Christianity behind. He wanted the safe comfort of a womb, recreating and redefining Christianity to suit his new beliefs without realizing and admitting what he truly was – a theologically bankrupt soul. Those who make God in their own image, as this man has done, find that they have no God at all.

WORLD | In defense of Richard Dawkins | Marvin Olasky | March 16, 2013

Another cowardly attempt to paint Christianity as evil and never address Islam. If we beheaded those who disparaged Christ would they stop their pathetic efforts to ridicule something they cannot possibly understand?
Why is it okay to slander Judaism and Christianity but not Islam? Dawkins is not only a fool (that’s what the Bible says about those who do not worship God) but an opportunistic coward. If he truly does not believe in a God, then it doesn’t matter what religion’s god is being talked about, Dawkins must show the same lack of belief in any of them to be consistent with his claim of being an atheist.
Of course, a true Muslim would be offended by his slander of the God of the Hebrews anyway – that is, if they read their Qur’an. So how about it Muslim world — any takers on defending God’s name?

WORLD | In defense of Richard Dawkins | Marvin Olasky | March 16, 2013.

Highlights Around the World – #2 Malaysia

Perhaps the most rewarding of all our overseas trips was to the wonderful country of Malaysia. Fantastic hospitality, great food and dedicated disciples made for a successful trip. We went, at the request of churches there, to hold discipleship training events and interactive question and answer sessions on any topic they picked. We met in three different cities (Penang, Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur) over 6 days. Presbyterians, Baptists, Assembly of God, Lutheran, Independents, and others all gathered together and shared with us and each other. Kudos to Canaanland Christian Book Store over there who made sure our teaching materials were in place and who provided us with a guide/translator who became a close friend with each of our teammates. Lifelong friendships, nay, eternal friendships were made as lives were shared with each other.

We learned so much that week – more, I’m sure, than we imparted to them. How inspiring it was to receive VCD’s of churches taking our training and showing us the ministries they came up with based on the training. Many ideas we have shared with churches in the states. I firmly believe that by working together and gaining insights from each other, churches around the globe can strengthen and edify each other. We have things we can teach, we have things we can be taught.

Please, pray for the Malaysian church. Great people ministering in a Muslim country, many facing increased persecution. They are strong in the faith, eager to share their witness, great examples for the worldwide church of God. Visit there, get to know the people, worship in a church with them. We did, and gained so much from it. How joyful it was to find such exuberant Christianity among the believers. God willing, we will be invited back to share with them once again.