A few weeks ago, I attended a leaders’ conference for a charismatic Christian denomination.
I’m a reformed conservative evangelical Christian. I like Biblical expository preaching. The faithful gospel preaching and pastoring that my local church pastors have provided over many years has helped me grow in my faith and love of the Lord. I like John Piper. I like Tim Keller. I like Matt Chandler. I like Francis Chan. I like Kevin DeYoung. These men have helped me love Jesus more. I like solid hymns like It Is Well and How Great Thou Art. I like faithful Christian rap from people like Lecrae and Trip Lee.
So it’s fair to say that this conference was very different to what I’m used to! I was out of my comfort zone. It was a different style of the Christianity I’ve experienced. Because of that, it could have been easy to criticise what went on.
But what I found was a community of people who love Jesus passionately. This gospel passion comes out in the way that they cheer when truth is proclaimed. This gospel passion comes out in the way that they encourage each other with genuine thankfulness and intense praying. This gospel passion comes out in the huge view of God that was preached.
I didn’t agree with everything that was said, but that was down to personal preference and secondary issues rather than a deviation from the infallible word of God. If I was to focus on those differences it would only be because of my pride. I’m happy to call out heresy and wolves in sheep’s clothing if need be, but there was none of that. Instead, I found myself enjoying being part of a community of believers.
Sure, we have our differences and I thought certain practices should have been done in different ways, but I was one with them. I wasn’t considered an outsider, I had no sense of ‘us versus them’. We were Christians together, united.
In Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17, he prays that we Christians would be one – that we would be united as God the Son and God the Father are united. Criticising legitimate Christian practices on the grounds that I myself am not comfortable is wrong; that makes the gospel about me and my comfort. False teaching must definitely be called out, but where genuine Christians disagree on matters, we should still be committed to unity.
Jesus is the only person whom people can truly unite around. All other people, systems, ideologies, parties and cultures will fall. Jesus will always remain. Let us unite around Jesus and his gospel. One day, all Christians will be before him singing his praises in Heaven. I want to get practising for that now!