Saturday, August 2, 2014

Facing the difficulty of ecumenism as a FWB Pastor

I have a confession to make.  Please don't judge me for this.  I went to an ecuminical service last night. There.. I said it.  I realize in our ranks there are those who would tell me to 'Lighten up!'  "It's no big deal!!" And there are others who would tell me I should turn in my FWB credentials.  One side might need a bit more wisdom in such things.  The other, well, I don't really know what to say to them.

If you are like me, it's hard to find a comfortable balance between being Free Will Baptist and joining in with others who might disagree with our doctrine.  We don't have any trouble buying their commentaries or reading their books - but  is there a difference between going to an event with them and owning their church growth materials?  What if your church is invited to participate in a men's event where there will be ten or twelve denominations present?  Where do we draw the 'theological line' of separation?  Here are a few questions only YOU can answer:

1) What are the Risks?  If you are spiritually mature, the risks are likely minimal.  You are confident in your faith, grounded in the word, settled in your doctrine.  It isn't likely you will find yourself struggling with pentecostalism simply by being exposed to charismatic people.  But what about those who go with you? What about the excitement of fleshly worship and the natural desire your people might have for that kind of thing in YOUR church?  What about the layman who was saved out of the Catholic Church who hears there were Catholics assembled with those who are born-again?  Will this overthrow their faith?

2) What about your Example?  Akin to the above, are there people you might offend through this affiliation? Paul addressed something similar in 1 Corinthians.  The church at Corinth was a fractious church - personalities and personal liberties had them so divided that the reputation of the church was being sullied in the community. When Paul spoke to those "with knowledge," he challenged them to remember to love, to show deference to those who are weaker AND EVEN sacrifice their personal liberties for the good of others. Attending these events may not rise to the level of eating meat offered to idols - but then again, it might.

3) What might be Gained?  Maybe you are trying to build a relationship with a man who is out of church and you go to an event with him to grow your influence with him.  Maybe he has no problem attending a nondenominational concert or men's event on a Friday night, but can't get out of bed in time for Sunday Worship.  Maybe you will be exposed to some things that will actually help hone your own skills and ministry.  You might even learn what NOT to do in your ministry as you expose yourself to the way others are doing it.  There are things to be gained by exposing yourself to others ideals.

Some of us need to learn that chasing after the latest fads, the lights and fog machines, the comedy or the latest techniques to grow are often like chasing a mirage.  They might SEEM like the answer to our dying churches thirst, but in the end, they are only so much sand in the mouth.

Others of us need to learn that holding to tradition to the detriment of truth is what the Pharisees were guilty of.  And I distinctly recall that these were the people Jesus called "blind leaders of the blind."

How about we all exercise spiritual maturity and Christian love and take some of these things on a case-by case basis.  I might not have benefitted personally from the things at the event I attended - but I DID greatly enjoy the fellowship of one of my close friends I seldom get to see.  I did get to tell him, "No matter what, I've got your back."  Could I have done that WITHOUT the event?  SURE!  But I might have forgotten to do it.  Don't throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater as you decide what you should do in good conscience.  Pray for wisdom.  Check your motives.  Follow the Spirit... and you will be fine.