Learning To Love The Body Of Christ

 

The church in North America is very divided.  There are many reasons for that – some good and others absolutely terrible.  The divided church is a bad testimony to the unbelievers.  Jesus said that the world would recognize the reality of our faith by our love for one another – oh how we have failed in that as a whole.  When I was a kid we went to a certain community church that taught us that speaking in tongues is from the devil.  When my parents brought us to a Pentecostal church for the first time and heard people singing, speaking, and worshiping in tongues we left the place laughing and mocking (us kids).  We were horrified when my parents told us we were switching permanently to that church.  The horror wore off (thank the Lord) over time when we realized that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is for the church today.

I use that to illustrate the problem we have in the world and in North America particularly.  Certain parts of the Body of Christ look at others with suspicion and disdain because they believe differently than they.   I personally have faced a mild form of persecution in my own hometown for feeling quite strongly about my Pentecostal heritage and beliefs.  I understand that many Pentecostals do some strange/flakey things in the name of the Spirit, but that does not justify the suspicion by which many members of Christ’s body are viewed.

I grew up in the church and saw this division throughout the Body of Christ.  I remember a certain church that would not participate in a Billy Graham crusade because he allowed Pentecostals to be on the counseling team for new believers.  This type of thing is distasteful and had a negative effect in my own heart growing up.  I felt like OTHER people thought we were “weirdos” because of our church (perhaps my family is a little eccentric even without the church J ).

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I have been a missionary for nearly five years and in Africa there are no churches with our particular flavor – which means I have had to attend different types of churches than what I was used to.  I have been invited to preach at numerous Pentecostal churches, but I have even had the privilege to speak at some non-Pentecostal churches like:  the Baptist church, a Dutch Reform church, and the Methodist church.  To my surprise they have accepted me and listened to my preaching.  This weekend I will be speaking at an international church in Lusaka that is listed as non-denominational.  It would not be considered a Pentecostal church.  It is at this church that my wife and I have really learned to appreciate the Body of Christ in a way that we have not before.

We felt the need to be connected to a local body when we were not preaching at other churches.  We recognize that in an intercultural atmosphere it is important for our sanity to have connection with others from a similar cultural background.  This is how we came to Lusaka Community Church.  It is an international body.  There are Christians from Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Korea, America, Canada, South Africa, India, and many other places around the world.  There are whites, blacks, browns, yellows, and other races from the four corners of the globe.  The church is made up of missionaries, businessmen, and various pilgrims from Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Dutch Reformed, and a variety of other church backgrounds.  It really is the most diverse and unique church I have ever seen – and a doctrinal nightmare for any potential pastor.

What I have experienced in this body has had a profound effect on my thinking.  We have seen the love of Christ amongst the various members.  We have seen love and acceptance from those whom we would not have expected.

Alyssa and I were praying for God’s provision for a trip that we were taking in December, and a couple from the church who would consider themselves “moderately charismatic” felt led of the Lord to give us a love gift to help with our trip.  We had only been to the church two or three times at that point.  Words could not describe how blessed we felt.  We later were invited over to their house for supper, and since then have grown quite fond of them.  They are such lovely, godly people.

Our vehicle has been out of commission for four months now, and we have seen Baptists (those guys who don’t believe in tongues), and Pentecostals offer to give us a ride to different church events.  They have stretched out the hand of the Lord to us in our time of need.  We are so grateful.

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One man of a Baptist background who is battling cancer with his wife felt led of the Lord to help us out with our vehicle situation.  They gave us a donation that so shocked and humbled us that all we could do was glorify the Lord.  Here these people are going through the trial of their lives, and yet they are thinking of others first before themselves.  Wow, this is so Christ-like….from someone who is not even Spirit-filled.  What a challenge to my Theology.

The Lord has just been showing me a new perspective on His Body that I had never experienced in North America.  We are His hands and His feet to be a blessing to this world.  The Body of Christ is made up of some from every tongue, tribe, and nation.  There are many denominations, but we are still one body.

Let us ask God to help us look at one another through His eyes – not the eye of suspicion or criticism.  Let us learn to love the Body of Christ – even the parts that may not be from our particular flavor or persuasion.

Amen!

– Pastor Justin

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Alyssa and I helping out at a youth event for LCC.  I am a judge for “Chopped”.

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