Friday, July 18, 2008
In Zimbabwe, there are dozens of located, local, native ministers trying to love people in the most horrific of national, political, health, and humanitarian situations who are hungry for and desperately in need of understanding the difference between getting the people to meet together on Sundays for a worship service to praise Christ and getting the people to come into intimate friendship with and become more like Christ.
In Russia, there is a small group of Christians that decided to accept Christ shortly after Russia opened it's doors to outsiders, and they are good people who love Christ, but because of internal issues and external fears have forced them to stop meeting together in the building they were using and need desperately to understand that just because they aren't meeting in a building does not mean that they cease being a group of disciples that are in relationship with each other, and by so doing they are still the church.
In Australia, there is a faithful and influential minister of the gospel of Christ who grasps the difference between trying to change the world for the Kingdom by making disciples of Jesus Christ through intentional relationships or by maintaining a certain worship service structure among existing churches...but the churches that he loves and serves among need to open their minds to the idea that zeal for Christ means to love people like Christ did, not win arguments against other denominations about certain doctrines.
I have been invited, recently, to each of these places by these people and the people who love them in order to love and teach and share and fellowship around the idea of teaching the heart, mission, character and priorities of Christ. Each place and people could and would accept as much or as little time as I would invest in them...and I would be lying if I said my heart didn't want to go...to each and every place and people. My desire borders on a feeling of need.
"I need to go to Russia."
"I need to go to India."
"I need to go to Australia."
"I need to go to Zimbabwe."
These feelings and stirrings grow out of a combination of my relationships with people there or here who love the people there, the message they are asking for being the message I carry, and my great and growing love for the world. But, alas, each sentence, each desire, seems to call out for my whole life...and I only have one.
And in the one that I am living...my neighbors seem to be in equal need, and I have been invited into their worlds as well. Trying to list them all would take all week.
How important is it then, that the whole global church be activated? That each and every follower, as a functioning part of the Kingdom, identify and utilize their spiritual role to play so that the world may know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life?
I'm preaching this Sunday on the desperate plea of Paul in Eph 4 where he says, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." He goes on to say that Christ has deposited in each one of his children a gift of grace...some are apostles, some prophets, evangelists, teachers, or pastors. And we need every single one to function.
That the nations and our neighbors may be loved with the life-giving love of Christ.
God help us.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
WHY SERVE AMONG CHURCHES OF CHRIST?
Various gracEmail subscribers ask why I am connected with the Churches of Christ instead of some other Christian tribe or movement. They ask for different reasons, depending on their own experience and perspective.
My home base is with the Churches of Christ because that is where God has placed me for now. If I ever sense that God is leading me to a different subdivision on the Christian map, I will not hesitate to move. The truth is that I am at home wherever believers worship God, proclaim Jesus Christ, teach the Bible, live in the Spirit and love each other. The spiritual address is irrelevant.
I also remain in this nondenominational movement of my youth because I have complete freedom of understanding and conscience. I have a congenial home congregation, the Bering Drive Church of Christ in Houston, Texas, in which I have served as a teacher and an elder since 1982. A new generation of Churches of Christ is coming on the scene: one focused on Jesus Christ rather than on a church system, that proclaims justification by grace through faith rather than salvation through human effort or doctrinal conformity, and that enjoys fellowship with other believers based on commitment to Jesus rather than on sectarian allegiance or denomiinational membership.
I also reside among the Churches of Christ because I appreciate their founding ideals. The 19th-century Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement from which it sprang began with the goal of uniting Christians under the leadership of King Jesus without regard to human traditions or creeds. Its founders' vision was to be "Christians only, but not the only Christians." It adopted the more ancient slogan, "In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things, charity." It professed to "speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where the Bible is silent." It offered freedom of conscience to individuals and autonomy to congregations. I find these ideals to be biblical in origin, refreshing in theory and hospitable for daily living on the ground.
Not everyone in Churches of Christ enjoys the freedom of which I speak, or encouragement in their local fellowship, or healthy gospel preaching from the pulpit. I encourage them to work for such results as God gives opportunity. If the doors are slammed shut in their face, these individuals must sometimes leave the "home-folks," as the Apostle Paul was required to do, and go where God is leading. When that happens, I confidently commend them to his tender care. I deeply regret that some among these churches have been brainwashed to believe that they have no other spiritual option. Those who are responsible for such nonsense will one day answer to God.
For more on the Churches of Christ, click here.
Copyright 2008 by Edward Fudge.