As many of you know, a couple of years ago I began conducting auctions. It's not uncommon for other auctioneers to attend my auctions. One of the things I always try to do is introduce any auctioneer who might be in attendance and ask them about upcoming auctions. They often do the same when I attend their auctions.
Although we are competitors I also see these folks as colleagues. Sometimes I work for fellow auctioneers when they need additional assistance. I attend their auctions when possible, and I usually buy at every auction I attend. I believe I enjoy a great relationship with other auctioneers in our area, and I believe that relationship is good for all of us.
Shouldn't the same thing be said about churches? Unfortunately, it's not always the case. Some churches believe they are the only church that proclaims truth, and they warn people to stay away from churches of other denominations because they hold to minor doctrinal differences.
Many years ago Billy Graham held a crusade in Indianapolis. I spent a week there attending the crusade meeting each night and their School of Evangelism during the day. As I traveled from my motel room to the crusade site I passed a large church on the interstate bypass. The church had erected a huge banner on their front lawn facing the bypass asking people to challenge Graham's beliefs about a certain doctrine.
I kept thinking about the confusion such a banner must create in the minds of unchurched people thinking about attending the crusade, and, in fact, it still saddens me after all these years. I can imagine them wondering why such a large church was so opposed to a Christian minister with the reputation Graham enjoyed. I've often wondered since then how many people never came to faith in Jesus Christ because of the divisiveness of this church's actions.
Churches and denominations do have doctrinal differences that divide us, but these are usually over minor differences of church governance and polity. When it comes to the major theological beliefs most evangelical churches are amazingly similar.
For the past several years I've spoken to gatherings of numerous denominational groups. Most of these gatherings have been of bivocational and small church leaders. Only one time have I ever been invited to speak to one of these groups and then had my invitation revoked when the sponsoring denomination found out I belonged to a different denomination. The funny thing about that is that I have led the same conference for numerous other groups in that same denomination. As one leader told me, the needs of their bivocational pastors are much greater than the minor differences than exist between our denominations.
How much more effective would the work of the church be if the various churches in a community could find ways to work together to impact their community for the Kingdom of God? Instead of seeing ourselves as competitors trying to build up our individual church let's begin to see ourselves as colleagues on mission with God to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ into our communities.