A Baptist church suffered a terrible fire. The congregation immediately launched a campaign to raise money to build a new building. One especially enthusiastic fund raiser called the Church of Christ preacher across town and asked if he’d be willing to donate a hundred dollars to the cause. After a thoughtful pause, the Church of Christ preacher replied, “Friend, you know I can’t give you a hundred dollars to build a new Baptist church in this town. But I can give you a thousand dollars to help you tear down the old one.”
I am so thankful to belong to a group of churches in downtown Amarillo — elders and board members, pastors and ministers, and more than three thousand Christians — that are committed to loving one another, supporting one another, praying for one another, and moving heaven and earth to help one another. I am grateful to God to be in the middle of a group of Christ-followers who are so willing and eager to put our denominational differences in their proper perspective and lock arms and hearts to worship together and serve this city together in the name and manner of Jesus. Every single thing our four churches do together serves as a powerful testimony and an undeniable witness to Amarillo and beyond that our God really is who he says he is and he’s really doing everything he promises he’s going to do.
The “4 Amarillo” churches — First Presbyterian, Polk Street United Methodist, First Baptist, and Central — came together for our fifth annual Thanksgiving Service last night. Our four churches’ praise teams and choirs combined for a hundred-member ensemble that opened the evening with a bouncy “This Is the Day the Lord Has Made” and closed it with a soaring rendition of “By Our Love.” The room was packed — more than a thousand — the energy was up, the spirit was one of enthusiasm and encouragement. Congregationally we sang “When We All Get to Heaven,” “Count Your Blessings,” “Give Thanks,” “How Great is Our God,” and “How Great Thou Art.” Howard Griffin led us in a powerful responsive reading from Psalm 136. Howie Batson’s benediction inspired. And I was privileged to deliver the evening’s message from John 13:34-35, “Love One Another. Period.”
Privileged is the right word. Blessed. Honored by our Lord to be in the middle of something only God could do. It’s hard for me to put into words the significance of what we do together as “4 Amarillo.” I know there must be other places in Texas and certainly around this country where churches from different denominations worship and work in true partnership and fellowship together. There have to be; I just don’t know of any.
I feel especially blessed to experience so regularly here this heaven on earth. Our Lord went to the cross to eradicate the barriers between us and God and between all of God’s people. Jesus’ prayer on earth was that all of his followers would be united, that we would all be one just as he and the Father are one. And we know that on that last day of glory, all of God’s people for all time will be gathered together around his table, to eat and drink in his presence, at the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb. And, by God’s grace, we are doing that right here in downtown Amarillo! Who would have ever guessed? God be praised!
“The time is now: come, Church, arise!
Love with his hands, see with his eyes.
Bind it around you, let it never leave you,
and they will know us by our love!”