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Monday, April 17, 2006

A Southern Baptist and a Methodist Share the Stage (oh my!)

GaspImagine... joining forces with another church in another denomination to reach people for Christ... read this from the Houston Chronicle about two huge churches in Houston that put any differences aside on Easter to attempt to reach people for Christ...

It's not about the bunny.

That's what the Rev. Ed Young of Second Baptist Church tells a distraught Easter Rabbit during a 30-second TV commercial for the largest Easter service planned this weekend in Houston.

The large bunny — upset because Easter is taking on religious overtones — is seen defacing Young's picture on a billboard advertising Resurrection Day at Minute Maid Park.

Young and the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell of Windsor Village United Methodist Church hope to fill the baseball stadium's 42,000 seats Sunday morning for an interracial, interdenominational worship service.

Young and Caldwell, the nationally known pastors of two of the city's biggest churches.

Young, whose church has a membership roll of 42,000, describes the service as ''the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as well as an outreach to the people of Houston to come to know Christ."

Members of both churches have been encouraged to invite not only family and friends but also those who don't attend either church or any church.

"If this were about Second Baptist and Windsor Village only, I wouldn't do it," said Caldwell, who pastors the largest United Methodist Church in the nation with more than 15,000 members, most of them black.

"This is about bringing men and women, boys and girls under one roof to celebrate the resurrection of our lord and savior Jesus Christ and then encouraging those persons who decide to develop a personal relationship with Jesus to go to the church of their choice," Caldwell said.

It will also be "a history-making moment," Caldwell said of the stadium gathering of the predominantly white and black megachurches. But the event transcends racial and denominational lines.

"We are excited because we have a venue for persons of all backgrounds to participate and celebrate and do so in a comfortable environment," Caldwell said.

In addition to an hourlong concert preceding the 10 a.m. service, both pastors will preach and then issue an altar call, an invitation to non-Christians to accept Christ.

"It is very evangelistic," said the Rev. Gary Moore, spokesman for Second Baptist. Staff members will follow up with any new Christians by contacting them and inviting them to attend church.

Young said he was invited by Drayton McLane, owner of the Houston Astros and a Southern Baptist layman, to stage Easter at Minute Maid. Young then proposed a joint service to his longtime friend Caldwell.

They will share the preaching duties. Young will present the "forensic evidence" for the resurrection of Christ. "(The Apostle) Paul said if the resurrection is not true, then we are all fools," Young said.

Caldwell will follow with "the practical power of Jesus Christ, his willingness and ability to transform our lives."

One of the benefits of the joint service is the cross-racial, cross-town connection between the megachurches.

"There were no barriers, no cultural barrier, no racial barriers. We were all one church, all loving God."


This fits in perfectly with a comment posted by Wendi over the weekend here at MMI:

"Last year at our church’s mission emphasis month was Latin America. One Sunday afternoon about 100 church leaders gathered to hear a speaker talk about what was happening in Latin America in terms of evangelism. The growth of the gospel was (is) phenomenal. It was a year ago, and I don’t have the stats to quote at my fingertips. Suffice it to say that the growth of THE CHURCH in Latin America is nothing short of miraculous. I have no reason to doubt the statistics, as they were gathered and provided by many different mission organizations.

After his talk, someone from the audience raised their hand during Q & A time. He asked: “Would you attribute the growth to be more through the work of fundamental evangelical mission organizations or Charismatic mission organizations (which have a strong presence in Latin America). Our speaker took a deep breath and a long pause. I obviously cannot recall his words verbatim, but I certainly remember the message therein.

“I will not dignify that question with a response, nor could I answer it if I was inclined to, because in Latin America we are ONE church. We only attribute the growth to the work of the Holy Spirit. We offer different ministry within the local communities we serve, but when it comes to reaching Latin America for Christ – we are one. We are all well aware of doctrinal and theological differences, but these are not discussions we have when determining our mutual strategy for evangelism. The fact that you ask such a ridiculous question may provide a clue as to why North America is the only continent on this planet where the church is shrinking instead of growing. [This line I do remember verbatim]. American evangelicals need to get over themselves.”

Is it possible to do as Ed Young and Kirbyjon Caldwell did yesterday?  Sure, we have theological differences... but do we always have to bring them up when it comes to evangelism when we agree on the basics?  Is it time for us to get over ourselves?  What holds your church back from joining together with others to mutually reach your community?

Really... I'd like to know...


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April 17, 2006 in Outreach and Evangelism | Permalink

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It is their differences and mostly pride that keep them from working together I believe. I see much more cooperation among worship leaders and lay ministers throughout the various churches and denominations than I see from senior pastors. I am extremely pleased that our community ministerial association put aside those differences that separate (well most of them anyway) and decided to have a community evangelistic event. 20 churches have come together to support this event. As the largest church we have taken on the brunt of financial support and almost all of the preparation. I have been tasked with the production side and it is obvious that satan does not want this event to happen. We are in our final week of preparation and there is still much to be accomplished. Please be in prayer for us that God would be honored in our efforts and that He would be glorified and work through this event to change peoples' hearts. The dates are April 23-25. Thank you!

Posted by: Sound Doctrine | Apr 17, 2006 8:21:08 AM

We are also doing a multi-church event (We have, so far, Episcopal, Assembly of God, Interdenominational, Presbyterian, and Church of God working together) in June tying in with a big outdoor event in our community. If you work hard at it, it can work. I think that really big churches need to really step up to make this work, too.

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Apr 17, 2006 8:42:07 AM

I have noticed also that the older ministers in my area are more hesitant to cooperate with other churches in ministry. From what I can gather at my church is that this stems from repeated offers and attempts on our part to partner with other churhes that have been somewhat harshly rejected. So the enthusiasm for it is gone. However, I have noticed that newer staff amongst these churches, like myself, who are unaware of previous hurts are finding it easier to do multi-church events and efforts. I do have to say though, I have experienced a great deal of rejection also in these efforts and it can be very disheartening. I am encouraged by this story however, to press on and continue to try and unite with other congregations to reach our community for Christ.

Posted by: Reese Henry | Apr 17, 2006 9:08:18 AM

It is possible for this to happen, but it all depends on the attitudes of those involved (and I wish it would happen a lot more often). I helped lead worhsip at a church service one Sunday where a small city had every single church but two gather, and the only reason they didn't come was they already had something booked for that day. It was wonderful! But, in my last church, when I mentioned doing something with another church to our senior pastor, even with churches in our denomination, he said only if we did it at our building. I've never understood the "us vs. them" mentality of the church. Aren't we all on the same team? We may have theological differeneces, but don't we all have the same goals?

Posted by: Troy | Apr 17, 2006 10:10:37 AM

I agree this is a HUGE problem in North America. There is definitely an "I don't need you" (I Cor. 12) attitude, if not open competition or outright hostility between churches, especially of different denominations. I wonder if the megachurch keeps believers of different stripes apart because their full-service programs make them less aware of their inadequacies and need for all the believers. I certainly admire Young and Caldwell for what they are doing, especially sinking money into the venture (now there's a sacred cow!). In our community we have created a TEAM JESUS shirt and are organizing interchurch work parties to do good deeds together Saturday morning, Aprill 22.

Posted by: Dave DeCook | Apr 17, 2006 11:11:02 AM

I am grateful to be part of an evangelical ministerial association in our town (the "regular" ministerial association made up of generally mainline denoms broke up last year).

We routinely plan events together. We just held an awesome Good Friday service at a local Baptist church. The speakers included an Assembly of God pastor.

This week our group is sponsoring The Strength Team - big muscle guys who put on crusades and share Christ. The main follow-up guys are myself (Wesleyan), a Baptist, and a Church of God - Anderson guy.

To me, the issue is this: can we agree on the bed-rock essentials of Christ and a person's need for him for salvation? If so, let's work together!

The other issues, while important, are secondary and have no bearing on salvation.

This is the attitude of our group, and it allows our different perspectives to be put aside for the greater good of expanding the kingdom, which is our greatest priority.


Posted by: Brian La Croix | Apr 17, 2006 11:33:01 AM

I'm on staff at a church that holds its Easter service each year at a local school auditorium in order to hold the large crowd and take advantage of the theatrical equipment. A new church of a different denomination recently began meeting at the same school. I brought up in a staff meeting the idea of having a combined service with the new church. I received no response except a 'look'. It was sad yesterday to see both of our church's temporary signs at the school entrance, as if we were in competition. The only communication we've had with the other church was a phone call to be sure our Easter Egg hunts wouldn't conflict with each other. Sad.

Posted by: Brent | Apr 17, 2006 11:45:10 AM

I have a problem with the idea and at the risk of being attacked I will give my thoughts. Although I do not have a problem with minor theological differences,how could I, in good conscience,jointly work with someone who will possibly get newly saved people and train them in error? Am I not contributing to that error. How can I send them to a church that"chokes or faints" in the spirit? How can I turn them over to the church that believes babies that are "baptized" are saved? If we are speaking of a church that has elders instead of one pastor, that's fine, minor issues are not imortant, but there are many large denominations that teach error which I would not feel right about joining their ranks.

Posted by: Pastor Jack | Apr 17, 2006 11:57:17 AM

I just read your comment! How sad. My former church had similar attitudes when I would bring up joining or uniting with other fellowships for mass outreach events. (I'm the Pastor of Worship/Arts-which goes along with an earlier comment about we having less issues to deal with when joining with other denominations)
A small of men and myself meet for breakfast every Wed. am. We pray and study a book by Ted Haggard "Primar Purpose". The book has been around and is dated in some respects, but he makes a profound statement, "When the church has lost it's primary purpose(s) it turns in on itself and becomes self-serving instead of bringing others to Christ". He promotes church health, not church growth. My new church and new Sr. Pastor has the same vision, church health (which will produce growth)as an emphasis.
My former church of 15 years had its problems, as we all do, but it was much healthier than the present. And as a result it lost its primary purpose. It's in a preservation mode rather than an outreach mode.
I applaud the two pastors who put aside their theological differences and doctrines and focused on the primary purpose, "connecting them with a loving God who wants to save them and have a relationship with them and to keep them from going to hell", that's Ted Haggards words. The full title is "Primary purpose, making it hard for people to go to hell."
Thanks Todd, good read today and blog.

Posted by: James | Apr 17, 2006 12:04:49 PM

I will go a step further and say that churches who refuse to work with other churches are not doing the work of The Church. I'm not talking about ecumenism. It is imperative that local churches work together to bring people into the Kingdom. Minor petty theological differences are of no consequence when it comes to bringing forth the gospel. When will the separatists ever learn??

Posted by: Peter D | Apr 17, 2006 12:49:51 PM

We often do "community " type events with the other churches in our small town, but I would have to agree with Pastor Jack's comments too. How do we combine with a church that is totally against what we believe. Where do the minor doctrinal differences become major? Would you combine with a Morman church? I recently had a discussion with a local pastor who said that he didn't believe in the virgin birth, wasn't sure that Jesus was actually God, and that the resurection was only a metaphor and not an actual event. How can I combine with his church? The difficult thing is determining where that line in the sand is. I have also found that many of the churches that want to do things together are the churches with the newest and best facilities, have all the latest gadgets, and the largest budgets. Yes, call me jealous and immature! So are some of the people in my church. I do not want to risk them leaving to go to the "church of what's happening now".

Posted by: Bart | Apr 17, 2006 12:56:39 PM

To Pastor Jack:

Methodist's baptize both infants and adults and do not believe that baptism is what saves. I know many baptists who have been baptized, but personally, I doubt they are saved. They have no fruit. No offense, but I have served in both the UMC and the SBC and the A/G. All three have serious issues that need to be overcome. The SBC because of it's judgmentalism and legalism, the UMC because of it's schisms and the A/G because of it's extra-biblical practices. Hey, we're all trying to get this thing right, but, what we've really done is made a big mess. So, preach the gospel, make disciples and love everyone no matter what. That would be a good start. Let today be the Last Judgement, that is, the last time you judge someone else for anything. It's not your job to judge, leave that to God.

Posted by: Peter D | Apr 17, 2006 12:56:57 PM

I think God is smiling as He watches us see past our man-made barriers that we've built to separate the church.

I think it's about time that we all grow up and quit bickering over the minor issues and realize that we're all going to be together for eternity, and eternity begins now.

Who doesn't want to be part of something that contagious that would attract 42,000 people on any Sunday morning? What a way to claim a city for Christ, and make a major statement in the process!

Posted by: J Giles | Apr 17, 2006 1:05:25 PM

To Peter D.
With no dsrespect intended, you confuse spiritual insight with being judgemental. I believe someone choking or throwing up in the "spirit" certainly has a different "spirit" than I do. I don't think it's judgemental to discern. To judge means to condemn. I condemn no one as I am also a sinner. But I am mature enough to know the difference from right and wrong. I do not believe in woman pastors nor do I see the Bible teaching that. I was saved throuh a presbyterian Church with the Good News Bible. It can happen. But as I grew, I moved on to better teaching. I was fortunate.

Posted by: Pastor Jack | Apr 17, 2006 1:11:28 PM

I think it is great to join together for "ONE COMMON CAUSE OF EVANGELISM!" When one of the religious leaders of Jesus' day asked Him a question about the most important thing God wanted us to do, Jesus replied (in short), "Love God and love people." This is the great commandment. Therefore, I believe that the most important thing we all can do as churches is to lead people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and then teach then to love others.

There is a quote that I use quite often, "It's about relationships, not religion." Therefore, I would join up with any church that has a genuine desire to preach the gospel so that live can be changed, and people can come to know Christ as their Savior. Then, we must trust the leadership of the Holy Spirit in their lives to teach them and lead them to all truth. It's called "pan-ology" (haha)...if we get them into a relationship with Christ it will all "pan out in the end!"

Posted by: Jon Cannon | Apr 17, 2006 1:17:03 PM

Thanks Todd for posting this. I am extremely passionate about this topic. I have been involved in a few of these multi church events and they were great for the most part. However, I have also tried starting a few as well and have found an enormous wall rise up. In our area, the problem isn't church cooperation. Contrary to what I used to believe, I realize now its not the distrust of other denominations that is the problem. No. Its more serious than that. Its the internal conflict within these churches that keeps things separate. In my experience, the patern seems consistant. Churches that are self absorbed and internally fighting can't focus on loving their neighbors. Mostly, because its other fellow churches attenders; not the church up the street. To be able to accept another church would require them to look past the differences of the one sitting next to them. The county where I live is nothing short of a religious vein splitting into "what else?" more churches. There are so many church plants/splits that cooperation would fall back to the person who used to sit next to you in church. Anyway, I said all of that to say this, it is my perception that healthy churches who demonstrate love within their body seem to always spill over into the "Bigger Picture". The truly evangelistic lifestyle begins with loving your brother and sister in the Lord. Motives, motives, motives everything swirls, twists and turns around man's motives. I'm afraid so many of us have forgotten Paul's definition of love. I pray for the day when we all can "Get Along".

Posted by: Pete King | Apr 17, 2006 2:42:16 PM

Well it's been fun!! But I have to go now and start my own religion called Pastorism.

Posted by: Peter D | Apr 17, 2006 3:41:47 PM

Man I think this is excellent. You don't know how much this does my heart good to hear testimonies like the Baptist and Methodist getting along. I have been praying for something like this.

I enjoyed all of the positive feed back hearing about you all joining forces with other churches and doing outreach work. I have always believed that we as Christians have done a diservice to the cause of Christ by braking off into so many denom's. The reason I say that is because when we all get to heaven we want know who was Catholic, Prebyterian, Baptist, Pentacostal, and so forth.

Posted by: Clairvoyant 1 | Apr 17, 2006 5:35:18 PM

A very wise interim pastor helped us (our church) with this issue. He drew some concentric circles. In the smallest and center circle he drew a cross. This is our circle of orthodoxy and in it we put only those doctrinal issues that deal with salvation, or if compromised would also compromise someone’s salvation. We were to add other issues in the circles going out, based on how important these issues are for us as a church.

- Deity of Christ – easy, center circle. If Jesus isn’t fully God His redemptive work is compromised.
- Virgin birth – center
- Triune nature of the Godhead – center
- Physical death and resurrection of Christ - center
- Inerrancy of scripture – hmmm, not so easy. Could someone be saved and be fully part of our fellowship while believing scripture to be inspired but not inerrant?
- Eternal security – not in the center
- Doctrine of election – not in the center
- Mode of baptism – not in the center
- Dispensations of the spirit and the sign gifts – not in the center
- Women in pastoral ministry (since Pastor Jack brought it up) – totally not in the center

Bart asked “would you combine with a Mormon church” and I think all of us regular posters here would reply, “of course not.” The two pastors in this article agreed on the gospel message they were preaching as a tag team on Easter. Neither would share an Easter message with a Mormon clergy. Pastor Caldwell’s UMC church baptizes infants and probably ordains women. Pastor Young’s church baptizes only adults (and as a good SB church, by emersion I’m sure). Not sure where they stand on the women issue. But they could hold to completely different doctrines on these and others outside of the center circle and still share in an evangelical service on Easter morning because they are together on what belongs in the center.

There is a big church “Christian” (Disciples of Christ) in town that holds to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. I easily could join with them in an evangelistic event. I could not join their staff because I do not believe scripture teaches baptismal regeneration. You could say that I find this to be teaching “error,” but I wouldn’t consider myself complicit in teaching that error if what I’m partnering with them on is only about the center of the circle. Pastor Jack, you ask [how could I, in good conscience, jointly work with someone who will possibly get newly saved people and train them in error?] If you acknowledge that people are indeed becoming “newly saved,” than I just can’t see the rub. When we had a Billy Graham crusade in our town, many pastors did express concern that people might be referred to mainline churches that might not attend to discipleship. But what was the option? Not participate ourselves??? At some point I think we have to unify on the essentials and trust the Holy Spirit with the sanctification.


Posted by: Wendi | Apr 17, 2006 5:53:58 PM

Just when I thought I was out they keep pulling me in!) Quote from the godfather.

Just the fact that Miss Wendi thinks the following is not essential to sound doctrine, further proves to me that not all denominations can not work together.
Eternal security – not in the center
Mode of baptism – not in the center
Women in pastoral ministry (since Pastor Jack brought it up) – totally not in the center

These issues may not be essential to some but they are to me and as a fundamental, independent Baptist it is my my love for the truth that keeps me from joint ventures.

As a former catholic it frightens me that clairvoyent would consider them included m in Christian denominations. Af if someone does not agree then why not include the Mormans or JW's? To be a catholic according to catholic dogma, you can not believe in faith in Christ alone for salvation. End of story. So in our quest for "unity" we have become ecumenists. That is how the catholic church originated, by getting together with the pagans and adopting their practices of statue worship along with beads,incense and relics.
Additionaly, what is the point of getting together with other churches? I went door to door preaching on Saturday and the Lord saved two young men. He used me on Sunday to tell the story to a man who received Christ. That is the job we were called to do.If we are doing that job, each one of us, we wouldn't need to join with those who do not recognize Biblical truth.

Posted by: Pastor Jack | Apr 17, 2006 6:22:05 PM

Todd - Your original questions and the answers I arrive at from the string of comments:

1)..we have theological differences... but do we always have to bring them up when it comes to evangelism when we agree on the basics? Answer: PRETTY MUCH.

2) Is it time for us to get over ourselves? Answer: NOT YET.

3) What holds your church back from joining together with others to mutually reach your community? Answer: WE DO.

Posted by: Steve McGill | Apr 17, 2006 7:04:59 PM

Pastor Jack -

Miss Wendi here . . . Note that I didn't say these issues were not in any way related to "sound doctrine" I said that only those issues clearly related to salvation belong in the very center circle of orthodoxy.

Pastor Caldwell and Young disagree between sprinkling or emersion (mode of baptism) but this has nothing to do with someone's salvation. That is why I called it a non-essential. There may have been women pastors at the Presbyterian church where you were saved, and they'll be in heaven with you (along with all the people they led to the Lord). Thus . . . not related to salvation and a non-essential (for me).

You have obviously things in your center circle of orthodoxy that ARE NOT directly related to salvation, which indeed keeps you from partnering as pastors Young and Caldwell did. That's fine.

However to the unsaved outsider looking in at us, I think such separatism makes Christianity look pretty unappealing, whereas seeing a Southern Baptist and a Methodist pastor linking arms makes Christianity look interesting.

Just my opinion - Wendi

Posted by: Wendi | Apr 17, 2006 7:08:05 PM

No one is suggesting that we covort with cults, Pastor Jack. I understand where you're coming from... I was raise indepenent fundamental baptist; and as a separatist baptist. We wouldn't even play softball with other baptists (that's how bad we were).

My only point would be: don't let your 'love for the truth' keep you from the need of people in your community to accept Christ. Obviously, you're doing your part. But why not share the ball with some other people who are like-minded when it comes to salvation. The Holy Spirit will work in them as they hear the gospel, just as He worked in you; telling them what is right and wrong; and leading them into the real truth.

If that doesn't work for you, then just keep up the good work you're doing.


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Apr 17, 2006 7:09:01 PM

Todd and Miss Wendi,
I certainly appreciate both of your comments. I know what your speaking of when you say one baptist team not playing another. (Something I totaly agree is nuts!)
We also have some issues relating to music and to dress. I can overlook a lot. What I am saying is doctrinaly, if we can't offer something that is unchangeable and has a sure foundation we are no better off than the heathen.
I realize as Miss Wendi put it, that I probably have more in my center circle but I don't see why I have to make Christianity look appealing. I think God has done that already and is still doing it as He draws those by the Holy Spirit.
I don't think a woman "Pastor" that leads someone to Christ is going to hell, nor do I believe it is critical for salvation. It is however critical to the word of God and if I go along with that, I am putting my ok on woman pastors or whatever the disagreement would be. On the other hand, I can focus on leading others to Christ, and doing the best job that God enables me to do. I think we may be overlooking the fact that God does not need us He chooses to use us. Also, it is not our ability to have massive "Bennie Hin" type shows to seduce the masses but our ability to love one another and letting them see Christ in us.
I agree with you both on wanting to be able to come together. It would be glorious. Yet think of it this way, is a man wanted to marry a woman and he wanted kids, her to stay at home and wear dresses instead of pants and she wanted no kids, wanted a career and constantly wore jeans, should they attemp to get together?

Posted by: Pastor Jack | Apr 17, 2006 7:39:04 PM

You know . . . I'm wondering if we get stuck on doctrinal issues in our churches because we know what one another’s doctrinal positions are, whereas we all probably support organizations that have staff and volunteers with a myriad of differences we don’t know about.

I'm on the board of our local Youth for Christ chapter. We to evangelism work in the local schools and juvenile penal institutions. On our particular board are Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Charismatics. Our staff is similarly diverse. I never feel like I’m endorsing the teaching or doctrine of a particular church by serving on the board with a member of that church. I’m happy to write checks in support this ministry even though I know that some of the staff members whose salary is paid by my giving are members of a church with doctrinal differences from my own. When kids are led to the Lord, they are invited to the church of the staff member or volunteer. It might well be a church with teaching I disagree with . . . oh well . . . I’m just happy they’ve heard about Jesus. That’s what I’m giving my time and money to.

Such para-church organizations function in every community only because they can count on being able to recruit volunteers and get support from people of every doctrinal stripe. It has worked this way for years (for YFC USA about 65 years to be exact). But when churches in a community try to join hands and do the kind of work the para-church has been doing all along, we put our denominational flags up and get stuck. Aren’t these really the same thing?

Now I’ve said enough - Wendi

Posted by: Wendi | Apr 17, 2006 8:02:15 PM

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