A few weeks ago I met an area pastor at a local coffee shop. No agenda, just getting to know each other, listen to each other, hear how the Lord is at work in our respective churches. I love these kinds of meetings! It was nice. No comparing sizes (we never talked about nickels and noses), or even impact in the community. By the way, pastors often struggle with comparison, although you probably already know that. And it can sound spiritual to compare the level of communal impact one church has versus another. But it’s most definitely just another form of self-justification. No different than with circumcision in the book of Galatians. But I, as is usual, digress.
We seemed to really be pulling for one another. Both of us hoped our churches would grow in depth as well as in width. While we come from different theological camps, we both still rest in, and try to apply the gospel message. We’re Christians first and foremost.
The next day I had a meeting at a not so local coffee shop you may have heard of called Starbucks. I just happened to run into a Reformed Baptist pastor. So for about 10 minutes or so, I got to hear about his new book, his plans for community groups, and heard about his upcoming preaching series. We talked about the Gospel Coalition conference, and lamented how far away Indianapolis is. We had both attended the previous one in Orlando. Why can’t everything be in sunny Florida?
Then I met with some friends from my church to talk about baptizing their toddler son (not something Baptists do), while he worked away on his sermon in the corner.
Do you see the progression? Evangelical——Reformed——-Presbyterian. As the levels of agreement decrease, so does how strongly we draw fellowship lines with one another. I met at pastor in the same location some years back who denied the necessity of the cross as payment for sins. We lied and said that we’d both like to connect again. Confession. But with these lads, no lines needed to be drawn. We felt we were still on the same team and really pulled for each other.
I thought about the scene in one of my favorite movies The Apostle. The Pentecostal preacher/church planter played by Robert Duvall looks upon a Catholic or Episcopal priest (hard to tell from the clip) and sees him blessing a fleet of boats in transit to fishing grounds. He responds, “You do it your way, and I do it mine, but we get it done, don’t we?”
I give a progression in our membership class on the gradual levels of distinctives at Harbor and it mirrored my relationships those two days. Evangelical——Reformed——Presbyterian. I preach and minister from a Reformed, Gospel-Centered, and Presbyterian perspective, but one only needs to affirm the basics all Christians believe in order to join our work.
I’m thankful for how each of us ministers to and will reach a different slice of Bradenton. It is not about me, us, Harbor, them, but about His Kingdom. We’re just witnesses. I do forget that sometimes, but I’m thankful for these relationships to remind me. I’m glad we’re here together.