This is a blog entry about how Kossuth should relate to other churches, but first I’ll talk about personal friends.
Even the shyest among us has friends. Only hermits don’t have friends. Of course, “friend” is a somewhat vague term. Some of us only reserve the word for deep, close friends. We may know some people very well because we’ve spent many hours with them, but we’d probably call them acquaintances, because they don’t know us deeply. Think about people from work or soccer club. For other people, everyone is a friend and they seem to have hundreds of them!
Regardless of the terms we use, we all recognize that we have degrees of friendship. We also have degrees of trust and comfortableness. We can have lunch regularly with a group of friends, but we’re not convinced that we want to go into business with them. We can work side-by-side with someone, but not trust them to share a personal confidence. We can form an intense bond with someone over several classes and extra-curricular activities, but realize that we don’t want to be their roommate. Sometimes we learn that after spending a year being their roommate!
I hope we all have Christian friends. But many of the same reservations still apply: we know them well, love them greatly, but don’t necessarily want to trust them with our money. A few more might apply because of differences in beliefs. For instances, you might trust some of your Christians friends with very deep, personal issues, but at the same time feel uncomfortable going to their church because of their style of worship (for instance, speaking in tongues or the use of robes). You’d easily give them hundreds of dollars and dozen of hours of help if they were stuck in a bad situation, but you know you couldn’t join their church because of some deeply-held doctrinal difference (for instance, views on baptism or female pastors).
But there’s one thing you’d always be wiling to do for any of your friends. You’d pray for them. However much or little you know them, however much or little you would trust them, however much or little you would be willing to work with them or join their church, you’d pray for them.
I hope you can see how this applies to churches, too. As part of our strategic plan efforts, we’ve committed to building relationships with other churches in the area and exploring joining one or more church networks (or associations, conferences, conventions, etc.: different names, same idea). Some of these groups may require a large commitment, some only a little commitment. The only thing we’ve decided is, yes, we should not be an isolated church. We need to be connected with other like-minded churches. Figuring out who to be connected to will take time, wisdom, and prayer.
In the meantime, the least we can do is pray for other Bible-believing, gospel-preaching churches in the area. They are our friends, not our enemies. They may not be close friends, we may not be officially part of their denomination, conference, etc., we may have doctrinal or practical differences, but that doesn't mean we can’t pray that God would bless them or help them in a difficult situation.
We’ve already done that twice in the past few weeks. Let’s continue to pray for Calvary Baptist Church as they struggle through a difficult situation. The elders are going to continue to pray publicly for other local churches. That doesn’t mean we endorse everything they do, believe everything they believe, or want to join forces with them in some deep, committed way, any more than praying for a friend means that you like everything they do, believe everything they believe, or want to go into business with them. Joining with them at a deeper level will take some thought, just as bigger commitments to friends takes some consideration. But we can still pray for them, including their growth in holiness, their advancement of the gospel, and their protection from the Evil One. Let us do so.