ISSUES OF FAITH: Christian faith is diverse but united in Christ

MORE THAN ONCE I’ve heard people criticize Christianity because there are so many different Christian denominations.

On the other hand, I’ve never heard anyone criticize cars because there are so many different car manufacturers.

Seems a little unfair.

Every Thursday morning a group of local pastors meets at a restaurant in Port Angeles for breakfast.

I don’t make it every Thursday, but I have joined them as often as possible during the past 12 years.

Sometimes there might only be three at the table; sometimes there’s a dozen.

It’s a diverse group.

We drive cars made in the U.S.A., and we drive imports.

Sedans, vans, pickups — and the oldest one of the gang pedals in on his bicycle.

And, to add to the diversity, we order different items from the menu.

I might be the oddest one at the table because I don’t like coffee.

Yes, the churches we lead are also diverse.

Diverse in size — big, small and a lot of in-between.

Diverse denominations and diverse non-denominations.

Conservative to Pentecostal.

Dunkers and sprinklers.

Churches that worship with hymns and churches that worship with contemporary songs.

In addition to eating together, we also do a lot of laughing.

Pastoral work is sometimes stressful, and a little lighthearted conversation is a relief.

Listen in and you might even hear some lighthearted mocking.

Breakfast brotherhood.

But we also help each other.

We “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2 NKJV) by listening, counseling and praying for each other when serious topics and concerns are brought to the table.

I trust these men, and have sought their wise counsel as a group and individually.

We occasionally meet at each other’s churches to pray for its leadership, congregation and unique ministries.

And once in a while those diverse churches will unite for a night of worship.

And this local breakfast bunch isn’t the only diverse gathering.

There are groups of Christian pastors, parachurch leaders, community leaders and laypeople who meet once a month in Port Angeles and Sequim for prayer.

Like the disciples on the day of Pentecost, we are “… all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1 KJV).

How can there be so much unity amidst so much diversity?

One word — one name: Jesus.

We know that we are loved and saved by Jesus, and we love and serve him in return.

Yes, we are diverse, but we gather “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3 ESV).

I admit that if we gathered to simply debate doctrinal and theological matters, it would probably get a little heated.

Possibly divisive.

But because we have chosen to “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV), our love for each other and the diverse ministries he has called us to is not jeopardized.

We believe the kingdom of God takes precedence over personal turfs.

We believe the glory of God is more important than the glory of self.

We believe we have a common enemy, and our battle against him is best done standing and kneeling side-by-side.

We believe encouraging each other is more profitable than ridiculing each other.

We believe reaching lost people with the gospel of Jesus Christ is more important than fortifying our diverse theological paradigms.

Yes, we are diverse, but we are firmly united in Jesus.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Greg Reynolds is pastor of Joyce Bible Church. His email is [email protected]

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