For us in the Churches of Christ, I think some of the fear of publicly and openly recognizing other groups of Christians as brothers and sisters is that our people will leave and join those other churches. We’re going to lose members. If we admit that the members of all these churches are just like us in that we’re all calling on the name of the Lord, we’re all baptized into Christ, we’re all following the Word to our best abilities, and we’re all saved by the matchless mercy and grace of God, there’s nothing to keep our members or our children from embracing those other churches. We’ll lose members. As I’ve heard more than a couple of people put it, “If we’re not better, if we’re just like everybody else, then what are we calling our people to? What’s the point?”
OK. Hear me out.
I think that openly embracing other groups as Christian brothers and sisters will actually cause our specific Church of Christ stream to grow, not shrink. We can still hold and uphold certain practices and preach and teach certain doctrines. Those practices and doctrines are critical. They’re important. Saved by faith. Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Weekly celebrations of that salvation around Christ’s table. Acappella singing. Yes! We stand strong for them. But just because we take ownership of certain doctrines and practices doesn’t mean we have a monopoly on God. We don’t. And if we’ll just recognize that, if we’ll just accept that we’re all doing the best we can with sincerity and faith, that we’re all saved by grace, it will change us for the better.
Here’s how: I think it would actually force us into where Christ inarguably calls us to be.
Instead of saying, “Be a member at Legacy” or “Be a member of the Churches of Christ” because our worship is correct, we’d be forced to say, “Be a member at Legacy” or “Be a member of the Churches of Christ” because our people are being shaped by Jesus. Be a member here because our people are so good. Be a member here because our people will love you and support you no matter what. Be a member here because we’re so involved in our community. Because Christ really does dominate our thoughts and deeds. Because we’re serious about being transformed into his image. Because we really have sold out to Christ Jesus as our Lord. Because we act like a family. Because we take care of each other. Because we really believe we are saved through no merit of our own. Come be a member of this church because God is using us in huge ways to impact his eternal Kingdom.
When we receive one another as Christ received us, when we forgive one another as God forgives us, when we love one another as God through Christ loves us, that will attract many more people to Jesus than a “correct” worship service on Sunday morning. Our focus will no longer be inward, on the “correctness” of our Sunday morning hour, but outward, toward loving one another and sharing God’s mercy and grace to a lost and dying world.
Just a dream? Maybe.
But I hope to pass it on to my children as the holy will of our God and something that needs to be pursued by his people with everything we’ve got.