Summary: 3rd in a 4 part series dealing with topics that tend to divide people from each other and God.
THE GREAT DIVIDE - PART 3
“DOES MY DENOMINATIONAL BACKGROUND MATTER?”
Have you ever said something, oh so carefully, lay out just how things were, and how they worked, and why they worked, and then sat back satisfied? Then you heard someone repeat what you’d said and you hardly recognized it, and your brain screamed, "That’s not what I meant!" Have you ever shared your heart with someone, pried out a tiny nugget of how you truly felt and told someone special and then stared in disbelief as they responded all wrong and your every pored shouted, “That’s not what I meant!”
When Jesus’ talked to the Father on our behalf, He prayed that we who would believe in His disciples message and be a unified people.. Jn. 17:20-21 “I am not praying just for these followers. I am also praying for everyone else who will have faith because of what my followers will say about me. I want all of them to be one with each other.”(CEV) But I can’t help but wonder when God sees all the different Churches, all the divisions, all the splits, if He’s not sighing, or whispering, or even hollering, "That’s not what I meant." As we continue in our series I want us to focus on the religious things that divide us that Jesus never wanted and more importantly, what we can do to bring peace and unity. The unity that Jesus prayed for. That process must start with me and with this church. How do we do that? The secret I think is in that one little verse from Jn 12:32 where Jesus says, “...when I am lifted up on the cross, I will draw everyone to myself.”(NLT) If we are going to cross the Great Divide of religious differences we must lift Jesus Christ above anyone and everything else. That means we must:
I. EXALT JESUS OVER OUR INDIVIDUAL BACKGROUNDS:
Exalt, or lift up Jesus over our individual backgrounds. We come from different religious roots and we must be very careful that we do not place our backgrounds above Christ. One of the wonderful things I love about Discovery is the fact that so many of us grew up in different backgrounds. We ask that question in Discovery 101 and it never ceases to amaze me. We have people from Catholic backgrounds, people who grew up in Baptist churches, we have Methodists, Presbyterians, people from non-instrumental Church of Christ’s, Mormons, Episcopalians, folks from the Church of God and our largest group: those that have very minimal or have no church background to speak of. And that’s great because Discovery has always been about being a place where all faith backgrounds are welcome.
But I thought it might be interesting to you, to tell you a little about my background. Because I grew up in a background that is very similar to the one you are attending. You see, I grew up in a Christian Church, much like this one. From the time I was young I learned the basics of what we call "The Restoration Movement." What is that? Well, it was started by men such as Barton W. Stone a Presbyterian, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Baptists, Walter Scott who was a Catholic, James O’Kelly, a Methodist and others. These men in the late 1700’s & early 1800’s were discouraged by the denominational divisions that separated them. So they urged Christian people to forget their man made creeds, drop their denominational ties and restore the Church in the NT- in it’s beliefs, actions and unity. That’s why it was called “The Restoration Movement.”
I learned the Biblical emphasis of my background- I knew Acts 2:38 where Peter told people to repent and be baptized almost before I learned John 3:16. I could recite Acts 20:7 where the early Church met each Sunday to observe the Lord’s Supper. I learned that the NT taught the autonomy of the local Church. When I finally figured out what "autonomy" meant I found that every Church in the NT was independent - there were no denominational structures in Bible days. And I was confident that if Jesus ever came to our town he would pick our church to worship in, because we were the “right church.”
Sadly, in the early 1900’s, this movement which was intended to unify all believers divided. They split over whether or not to use an instrument to accompany singing in worship. Then years later there was another split. One group wanted all churches to cooperate with one mission organization. The other group wanted to remain independent & have each church choose their own missions. So there was another division and out of that division came The Disciples of Christ and churches like this one, Independent Christian Churches or non-denominational, that is Christian Churches who have no denominational headquarters.