I wrote this originally as a comment on Wade's blog but decided to put it up as a short report post [with small additions and clarifications] until my next installment of "Growing Older."
It is in reference to the meeting I shared with 30 or 40 other men and women this past Monday and Tuesday in Arlington Texas. It was conceptually birthed and hosted by the Cornerstone Baptist in Arlington and her Pastor Dr. Dwight McKissic. You'll be hearing much more in the days, months, and years to come, the Lord willing.
Suppose, hypothetically, a person and fourteen others get together to support a idea to provide some funds, if possible, for someone who might need a little help in getting to a ministry God has called them to in spreading the gospel. To do so, the fifteen of them, decide what they can agree on as to the message of the gospel. In other words, what the message is that needs to be heard and must be believed to be saved. [Then that little group clearly states the essentials that are necessary to actually believe the unique exclusivity of the true gospel message. They call it their 'statement of faith' meaning for the gospel message to be the true one.]
Agreeing there, they decide, the fifteen of them, that their differing views on lesser truths will not be an issue for them to promote the gospel. In fact, they will even sing together, pray together, give together, share together, believing their unity is NOT, and never SHOULD be, uniformity but, rather, that their eyes stay fixed on Jesus when they're together which is their real essential when they gather together. They learned this in First Corinthians, Acts 11 and 12, from where the Antioch name came for the network and other places in scripture.
They agree that when someone teaches, they should be true to how they see the text in the lesser things but will always practice a spirit that says, "this is where I am on this but my enjoyment of praise and worship of our Lord with you is NOT dependent on you agreeing on this point with me. In fact, I won't demand you must agree and you won't demand I can't believe this." [Referencing whatever lesser thing they are talking about.] That is their commitment.
Someone might, in the course of sharing a homily, mention their belief in a private prayer language, for example, but they would know full well someone present believes, perhaps, that those gifts have ceased. [The mode of baptism would be another example.] Further, there is an unusual spirit of respect among those fifteen for the Spirit's responsiblity to make clear to each, as He wills, those things that need to be taught, [the lesser things] once the claims of the gospel have been responded to in one's life. But that will be wherever that person choses to affiliate with other believers locally in a church.
Were someone to join in worship with any one of the fifteen local fellowships represented in that group, they would hear the clear articulation of the variously held views on such things. But this little group of fifteen is not trying to be a local church, a denomination, a religious institution of any kind. They just want to be a part of a few people who want to love Jesus together, give money so that Jesus may become known, and love on one another as different as we all happen to be, and believe me, hypothetically, those fifteen are different.
Further, hypothetically, suppose that little group of fifteen is open to ANYONE joining them in the desire to enjoy Jesus and each other and get the gospel out in some new and fresh ways. [Knowing the exclusivity of the gospel message they hold to.] Would you NOT want to be a part of that small group? If not...then don't. If yes...then by all means..do.
Now, you may ask "Bro. Paul, why don't you just come out and say that's how you view that group?"Okay, I will. Just change the fifteen to thirty-five, and you have my view of what I experienced in Arlington. It won't replace my local church fellowship at all. It won't even replace my denomination.
But it wasn't half bad. In fact, it was plumb good. [In Oklahoma you can't get better than 'plumb.'] :)