[x_custom_headline type=”left” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″]Jim was a very faithful Christian. He went to church every week, and had always served in his church in some capacity or the other. And although I had known Jim for ten years, I had never been to his home. One day he invited me to ride with him over to his house to pick something up that he needed for work, and so I agreed to ride along. As we turned the corner to enter the street where he lived, he pointed to a Baptist church and proclaimed, “I am on the deacon board of that church.” Then he pointed to a second Baptist church directly across the street from the first one and said, “I went to that Baptist church for many years.” [/x_custom_headline]
Not being a good Baptist boy myself, I was a bit puzzled about these two Baptist churches being directly across the street from each other. I just couldn’t understand why two churches of the same denomination were placed less than one hundred feet apart from each other. So I asked him, “Jim, what is the difference between these two Baptist churches”? He smiled and said, “Well, that’s easy. One of them believes in foot washing, and the other one doesn’t.”
Well, I guess that settles it. I mean, who could think of anything more severe to have a church split over other than foot washing? I can almost hear the first pastor announcing one Sunday, “If you believe in foot washing, then get out now and get your own building. We don’t need your kind in this church anymore.” And then out the door go all of the foot washing believers, socks and shoes and all.
When Jim told me this about these two churches, I just laughed and laughed. I couldn’t help it. It was one of the dumbest things I had ever heard Christian people segregating themselves over. In my own imagination, I began picturing the marquee of the foot washing Baptists reading, “Foot Washings Here Every Sunday at Six – bring your own towel.” Then the anti-foot washers across the street could advertise, “No Shoes – No Socks – No service.”
As I thought on the whole foot washing fiasco I had to admit that Christians had been separating and segregating themselves over equally ridiculous things for hundreds of years. What divides Christians could easily be categorized under headings such as, “Biblical Ignorance”, “Rebelliousness to Scriptures”, “That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It”, and many other such ridiculous titles.
Many Christians just seem to miss the big picture, and they divide and separate themselves over the silliest of things, yet unbelievably, are shaky and entirely unstable in those areas of Christianity that are uncompromisable.
Look closely at these directions that Holy Spirit gives to us from the book of Ephesians.
[x_blockquote cite=”Ephesians 4:13-16 KJV” type=”left”]“13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”[/x_blockquote]
I once had a couple visit my church on a Sunday morning who acted as though they were very hungry for God. At our church, our praise and worship service is a bit more modern and up-to-date musically. We don’t use hymnals, but use a video projection system to project the lyrics of the praise choruses onto screens on the wall. This of course leaves the hands of the congregation free to clap and worship the Lord.
I could tell that this couple was truly being fed by the teaching of the Word that morning as I preached. The husband was like a dry sponge, soaking up everything he could from God’s Word, and obviously enjoying it very much. The wife seemed to be enjoying the ministry of the Word as well, but also seemed a bit disturbed about something. After the service, I found out what that was.
Following the service that Sunday I had the opportunity to meet and greet some of our visitors. This couple was among those visitors I spoke with. In their family, I quickly learned that the wife did all of the talking. She told me that she and her husband really enjoyed the ministry of the Word and that they had been praying about a church like ours to attend for some time. However, she went on to inform me that, “when it comes to the worship service, I’ve got to have a song book in my hand. I just can’t go for this singing off the wall. “
Forgive me if this sounds unkind, but I couldn’t help but think that this lady was a bit off the wall herself. I mean, she just told me how much they received from the service, and I had observed this myself as I was preaching. But she made the decision that this could not be the church that was the answer to her and her husband’s prayers, all because we didn’t use hymnals in our song service. If the use or the nonuse of a church hymnal will keep you out of a church that God has raised up to bless you, I can safely predict that you will forfeit God’s best for your life many times over.
Far too many Christians forfeit the will of God for their lives all because they miss the big picture and get tripped up over the non-essentials. Are you missing the big picture?
Portions of this blog are an excerpt from Kenny Gatlin’s book, Discovering Amazing Treasures Hidden in Unity, which is available for purchase at kennygatlin.com.