What can seperate us?

(This is a recent blog post from Jim Ramsay- Senior Director of Field Ministry at The Mission Society.  (Our agency)  Miki and I have learned so much from Jim and everyone else at TMS.  I thought I’d pass this little nugget along.)

March 2, 2010 by Jim Ramsay

We know that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, but what is it that separates us from living out the love of one another that He commands us to demonstrate?

I was recently attending a consultation of people representing organizations who have an interest in a particular unreached people group. My reason for attending was to learn more about the needs for ministry in the area and seek others who we might collaborate with. Sorry about the vagueness of where this is, but it’s a pretty sensitive area and publicity is not helpful.

One person mentioned that she was recruiting a team to work in the area. When I mentioned that we might be able to find personnel to become part of a team, her first response was that they need to be people who held to a premillennial return of Christ, believed in eternal security, and did not engage in speaking in tongues. I was a bit taken aback. What took me aback was not so much her position on these particular issues, but that from the starting gate, these became the key determiners of who could make part of her team. It hit me, where was the Kingdom in all this? How can we hope to demonstrate the Kingdom of God to unreached peoples, when issues that are probably not even on their radar prevent us from working together?

Especially as we engage in the work of God’s Mission, we have to find ways to deal with the very real differences in our interpretations of His Word in ways that allow us to work side by side in unity. As my colleague Frank Decker often asks, “Jesus plus what equals the gospel?” Jesus plus eternal security? Jesus plus a belief in premillennial return? Jesus plus infant baptism? I have observed that when missionaries go with rigid understandings in these areas of differing interpretations, the result often is that the church they plant will lift up these distinctives to the same level as belief in Jesus Himself. In such a way division is implanted in the DNA of a new church. But when we go with a recognition of differences, but a firm commitment to unity in the foundation of the gospel – Jesus Christ and Him crucified – it provides a much stronger witness. It gives the new church the tools to deal with the differences that are bound to develop as their church grows and interprets the Scriptures for themselves.

Do I have strong feelings on the issues she mentioned – you bet I do and I can speak to my interpretations with passion. But will I allow them to separate me from others who have a faith in Jesus Christ and are seeking the Kingdom of God? I pray to God that I never will.


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2 responses to “What can seperate us?

  1. This actually raises a lot of questions. I like your main point, that love should be the bottom line and not be preceded by other factors. If only we would all put this into practice!

    But I wonder, for example, about the practice of “recruiting” workers for ministry. If you are going to advertise something to a wider circle, then you do need to take into account the fact that some respondents may not be like-minded believers.

    An applicant should, perhaps, display a willingness to submit to leaders and teammates, although you don’t necessarily have to mention specifics.

    Yes, these questions may unnecessarily raise division. Should we avoid even mentioning the divisive issues and just hope to live without them? Or should we bring them up immediately and “clear the air” as a safeguard?

  2. Liz, great thoughts. I can’t speak for Jim on this, but I’d say that when we as outsiders come into a new culture with a rigid set of theological requirements (even to the point of building teams around them) above and beyond of our foundation in Jesus- we do run the risk of obscuring the Gospel for those to whom we wish to reach.

    The Gospel itself is sometimes challenging enough to put into the context of the culture for those who may have never heard. Imagine tossing these things on top of that.

    I know a church here in town that struggles with a sense of its own validity- due in part that it was started by a denomination with a strict set of guidelines and procedure as to what defines “church”. The foreign leadership has since departed- along with its budget. So the local leadership from time to time gets discouraged because they can’t afford to “have church” like the missionaries who planted it. They don’t have the budget, the a/v equipment, etc. The Gospel was obscured.

    I firmly believe that theological division has very little place in Kingdom work, and we should always defer to our common bond in Christ when seeking to work together. I feel a lot more would get done that way.

    So, no- we shouldn’t avoid mentioning these divisive issues and hope to live without them. Feel free to “clear the air”. But I’m not sure if those issues should be the criteria as to who and how we work to further the Kingdom.

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