Posts Tagged ‘Christian fellowship’

God has always encouraged collaboration!

MustardSeed_1Just think about the plurality of the Creator himself: “Let us make man in our own image” (Genesis 1:26), or his opinion of the first male of creation: It’s not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

Noah was the only righteous person, but his whole family gets to build the ark; Abram is called, but for what?  To be “a great nation” Gen. 12:2), which required Sarah and Isaac and a whole history of descendents. Jacob is renamed Israel but needed twelve sons to become the Israel that left Egypt as God’s people. And God sent His only Son who immediately gathered twelve close disciples and told them to go into all the world.  The twelve, empowered by the Holy Spirit, immediately became three thousand who turned the world upside down.

All of human history is God’s collaborative working to bring the nations to the Tree of Life (Revelation 22:2).

In contrast, one of the most frightening and condemning verses in all of Holy Scripture is the description of Israel during the time of the judges: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

What keeps God’s churches from being more collaborative?

  • An over-zealous understanding of congregational autonomy! I just addressed that topic specifically, so I’ll not repeat myself. Here’s the link to the previous posting “Is Your Church Too Autonomous?”
  • Fear of slipping into a hierarchy?  If we could ever really understand that “all authority” has been given to Jesus as head of the church, then we could see that God assumed that His Church on earth could function quite satisfactorily without usurping the authority of Christ or competing with Jesus for the throne.  The fear of hierarchy is legitimate to the extent that we men seem to consistently grab power and authority, but the fear of sin should not cause us to bury our talent and fail to multiply what God has given us.
  • We American Christians live in a time and culture that has exalted individualism and a Christian libertarianism. Notice the individualism in the most common words of every evangelical preacher: “Accept Jesus as your personal Savior!”  Notice the tendency towards independent churches, which I wrote about in “Are We Satisfied With Denominationalism?”

Does this not seem like a tendency towards everyone doing what is right in their own eyes?


So what would a different spirit of fellowship, cooperation, and collaboration look like?

OK, this is what I have been writing about for the last month. That’s why I keep referring back to other posts. Those earlier posts were the groundwork for this final brief set of conclusions and suggestions.  Go back and read the post “Movement Networks—A Challenge For Churches.”

  • If we could think as a fellowship, we might start addressing the bigger questions about going into the whole world—instead of each small gathering just addressing what a single congregation can do.
  • If we could cooperate in true unity, then Christians could become known for the love we have for each other and for others, instead of being known to be factious and exclusive.
  • If we could collaborate as brothers and sisters of the same family, we might be able to use ALL of the spiritual gifts that God has given to His people collectively.
  • If we could work together with mutual respect instead of the need to control, we could begin to address what God has prepared in advance for us to do.
  • If we could truly pray that God will forgive us—as we forgive others—then we would not break nor avoid fellowship with other Christians just because we do not agree. We would understand that God has forgiven us for what He knows are our failings and He has continued to walk with us; can we not only forgive others their failings, but love them and walk with them as well?

Movements do not start large; they start with a tiny mustard seed. But Jesus said that mustard seeds grow into the largest garden plant with huge branches for all the birds of the air (Mark 4:30-32).

  • If you will find another Christian to do something bigger than you could do by yourself, then you are too a mustard seed.
  • If you will lead your congregation to collaborate with one other congregation to do something bigger than you can do by yourself, then the mustard seed has grown!
  • If you will call churches together and challenge them to love each other enough to work together with a vision for the world, then birds will start looking for the branches!!

What can you do?   No, that’s the wrong question!!

What can we do? 

Read Full Post »

Opening Night of the Pepperdine Bible Lectures is why it is still alive when virtually all other Christian college lectureships have faded!

Opening dinners start at 4:00pm, one for the women sponsored by Associated Women of Pepperdine and one for the men.  I suspect this gender-divided agenda is a fossil remnant once required so that the many women leaders who raised over $250,000 for Pepperdine last year can stand at the microphone, and so women like Emily Spivey, the dinner speaker for the AWP Dinner, can speak the Word of the Lord as powerfully as the preachers I have heard at the men’s dinner.

No one really sees this as an issue at Pepperdine—because the people who are looking for fights don’t come to Pepperdine Bible Lectures. 

Helen Young continues to grace the dinner and the lectures with her godly presence. She is a continuing inspiration and a link to the past that reminds us that there have always been gracious, forward-looking people in our fellowship!

In a matter of minutes after the dinner, I had short conversations with national evangelists from Senegal and The Gambia, with church leaders from Greece, and with Christians from Rwanda and New Zealand. With each of these, we had true koinonia—true fellowship in the gospel—hugged, shook hands, whatever was appropriate and talked about the work of God in their country.  This is why we and thousands of church leaders come to Pepperdine.

I especially loved the moment when Dennis Okoth, an African evangelist of the first order, led the thousands of saints in prayer, beginning with these words, “Brothers and sisters, let us believe and pray!”  Oh, yes! Let us believe and pray!

I don’t know how many people were at this opening service, but I would guess about three thousand, Christians from all over the world and from across the United States. We have already been with friends from Michigan, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas (of course), Oregon, Washington, and Florida—just on the first day—oh, and California too!

My personal moment to remember though was every voice singing Great Is Thy Faithfulness, the great hymn written in 1923 by Thomas O Chisholm. I was introduced to this hymn by Owen Olbricht in 1966 when I was a part of Campaigns Northeast. We used it as our theme song, so we sang it often. Sherrylee and I adopted this hymn as ours and have certainly sung this song with each other more than any other hymn, I’m quite sure, so to sing it with the Pepperdine crowd was very special.

The theme for this year’s Lectures is “God’s Unchanging Faithfulness” based on the Psalms. The program  variety is huge! The number of classes so many that hard choices are made all week. The singing groups are the best in our fellowship. There is nothing missing from the Pepperdine Bible Lectures.

But what truly sets these lectures apart is a sense of fellowship!  In years past, Christian college lectureships were known for their “Open Forums” where Bible professors would pontificate on every conceivable question.  Other lectureships were known for “defending the faith.”

Make no mistake, the Pepperdine lectures have not avoided the hard questions. On the contrary, probably most “hot” topics are discussed here—but they are discussed in an arena where people are respected, not ridiculed, and where at the end of the day, we join hands across the aisle and sing “The Lord Bless You and Keep You!”  It’s the spirit of a fellowship on the mission field where fellowship is precious—where fellowship is unity!

I’m not sure the lectureship format will last another generation—but if it does, Pepperdine’s Bible Lectures will be the shoulders the future gatherings stand on!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: