I counsel and mentor pastors and leaders from very diverse backgrounds, mostly diverse protestant backgrounds. That makes my job very interesting. One of my favorite conversation starters is: “Tell me about yourself.”
It’s incredibly fascinating to me to hear the spiritual journey of folks who are Methodists and Baptists and Lutherans and Charismatics and Church of Christ and Vineyard and Assembly of God (to name just a few) talk about how they came to be where they are today. And why they feel “Called” to stay where they are!
I always try to follow “In essentials unity; in nonessentials liberty; in all things love.”
Down through the ages, though, the question always has become: “But what are the essentials?”
Years ago when I was graduate school in journalism I was working on a big project concerning the Unification Church. For months I was deeply enmeshed in trying to figure out this aberrant group of people, whose origins started South Korea.
On a trip to Chicago with members of the local chapter of the Unification Church — an eclectic group of 8-10 people from the United States and France and South Korea — we got into a heated discussion about what are the essentials of following Jesus.
(The leader of the local group man from France. He and his wife, an American, had been married a year or so before I met them by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Unification Church leader, in a mass wedding ceremony [with about 200 other couples] in New York City. They told me they hadn’t yet been given permission to consummate their marriage. “Really?” I asked them. “Do you kiss each other?” “O no, not even that,” they answered without breaking so much as a smile.)
They claimed to be followers of Jesus but also said their leader Sun Myung Moon had more authority than Jesus and in fact was their true Messiah. It was a wild couple of days hanging with these folks up in Chicago.
When I finally wrote my nearly 100-page in-depth story after months of investigating, interviewing them and following them from meeting to meeting, they claimed that I had misrepresented them and never wanted to speak with me again. And, well, we didn’t.
My graduate advisor thought it was a very solid piece of in-depth journalism and gave me an A. Quite frankly, I thought it was too, as I had been very fair and had bent over backward to get my descriptions and quotations accurate.
Today, I work with pastors and leaders with whom I share much in common theologically but certainly not everything.
In fact, with most of the 50 or so pastors with whom I periodically meet, I can say unequivocally that Ephesians 4:4-6 is true: “There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called– one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
I agree wholeheartedly with writer Ken Sande who says, “Believers that stand together on the essentials and love one another provide an effective Christian witness and create a united front against the hungry, roaring lion.”
What is your bottom line? …
* The Apostles’ Creed?
* The Nicene Creed?
* Your denominational tribe’s statement of faith?
* … How about the Apostle Paul’s phrase from I Corinthians 12:3 “… no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.”
The foundational question for me always is: “Who is Jesus?”
My answer: Savior and Lord of the world!