Before The Mandalorian told us that “This is the way” as he protected that undeniably cute baby Yoda (spawning COUNTLESS memes), Jesus had already come before and shook up the world as he claimed and proved to be “the Way”, the Truth, and the life (John 14:6), and Paul who was once persecuting the followers of “The Way” was now claiming to be a follower of the teachings of “the Way” (Acts 24:14).
Origins of “The Way”
“The Way”, of course, is what early Christians called Christianity before using the term “Christianity” as an accepted label of following “The Way” became a thing. You see, the term “Christian” was later tossed upon the followers of “The Way” as a derogatory term meaning “Little Christ” and was intended to be a mockery of them. Christians adopted the term as it was technically an accurate representation of who we are trying to become…imitators of Christ…or…”Little Christs”.
Any student of Church History knows that there has not been a time when the Church was fully unified and devoted to one another and to the same cause. There has always been a rift, and that rift exists because the Church is made up of…well…people.
But that doesn’t mean that we should not always be striving toward unity and love between the varying church bodies throughout our community and the world.
As of the writing of this article (January 13, 2020), I received an invite from a Facebook friend who I don’t actually know on any personal level, to go and like another Facebook page. This other page was dedicated to, apparently, the calling out of a church that the creator of this page felt was in “apostasy”. The church, that I’ll leave nameless, is a Baptist Church somewhere in the state of Georgia.
I declined, for obvious reasons, I hope.
As the Mandalorian would say, “This is NOT the way.”
I don’t understand it though. Why in the world is there an entire Facebook page dedicated solely to the purpose of tearing down another church body and it’s leadership? It is literally dedicated entirely tot he ruin of a single church body.
How does this profit anyone?
Is this really a precedent we want to set as believers? Really?
I’ll be honest, I don’t know a single thing about this church. They may very well be involved in some messed up stuff, twisted theology, and apostasy. But my mind is so seriously blown by the very fact that someone is out there who has taken the time to create this page, regularly updates it, and actually has 60 followers….meaning there are at least 60 other people out there who think this is a good idea.
And apparently one of them thought I would think it was a good idea as well.
I did not.
But you know what? You don’t have to create a Facebook page to accomplish this very same thing.
Sadly, I see countless Christians badmouthing the churches down the street that, and I quote, “Are a threat to our existence” as a local church (I’ve literally heard this). Many take to social media making posts about pastors and church leaders they don’t know, local church bodies they know nothing about, and on and on…all criticizing everything these folks say and do and may even, as the Facebook page I was invited to did, call them apostates.
What exactly does “apostate” mean? I’m glad you asked…here is the definition:
Apostate | noun. a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle, adj. abandoning a religious or political belief or principle.
A Way but not “The Way”
So, in typical human fashion, we cast labels on people that we probably have very little knowledge about because they are perceived to be a threat to our own existence or worse…we assume they must be teaching heresy and therefore leading people in to hell.
All, of course, without knowing a single thing about them.
Folks, this is not “The Way”.
This may be “a way” but it is not “The Way”.
This is not profitable, charitable, helpful, or encouraging.
This is sad and unfortunate.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely churches out there getting it wrong and leaders and preachers out there who are indeed apostate. There can be no denying this. We are indeed commanded to be on the lookout for such people and avoid them.
But social media isn’t the way to deal with it.
I know I have seen them, and perhaps you have as well, the memes of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church there in Germany. These memes usually equate what Martin Luther did to posting on social media.
Could it be? Maybe…but I have my serious doubts.
But that’s irrelevant, because the reality is, I’ve seen this behavior play out between churches that I know aren’t that different from one another on beliefs and practices, but because they perceive one another to be a threat to their own growth (which is laughable when you consider that God alone is responsible for a churches growth – Acts 2), or they know they belong to a denomination that is having some MAJOR issues, they have to demonize and make one another out to be enemies and apostates instead of partners and fellow followers of “The Way”.
Yesterday (January 12, 2020), I went to two separate churches that morning.
You read that right…two separate churches. Two churches on two opposite sides of town, with two very different church models, with two very different church demographics, with two very different way of doing things.
And yet…I am actively involved in both.
For the very first time in my life, I’m partnered with two churches in a very unique and almost unheard of way, and I’m quite grateful for it.
A Brief Personal History
You see, we started attending Journey Church in Ladson, SC back in January of 2019 after nearly 8 years of ministry at another church that no longer exists in the Charleston SC region. We spent the last year at Journey recovering from nearly 17 years of ministry hurts, disappointments, and frustrations. We are not fully recovered, but we are much further down the road than we have been in a long time.
As a result, I felt like I needed to get back into the game of ministry and began to look around for churches that were needing help in their areas of ministry. That journey (pun intended) led me to a church in Knightsville, SC that was about 20 minutes from Journey, who was looking for a praise team leader.
During the interview process I brought up how we were connected to Journey and had hoped to be able to remain connected. The pastor in Knightsville asked if we liked it there, and I responded with an emphatic, “yes!”. He said, “Then you should stay there”.
All that and they still hired me!
This told me that this pastor was unique and that he had a kingdom mindset that saw the bigger picture of Kingdom partnership rather than consumer “competition”. I already knew that Journey was like this, but it brought my heart great joy to connect with another church who saw things very similarly.
Something that should be pointed out…Journey Church is a Southern Baptist Church and Knightsville is a United Methodist Church. They have a lot in common, but there is still a LOT that is quite different.
So yesterday I first go to KUMC where I am now on staff as the praise team leader and I sat and listened as our pastor spoke about the choices we make and how they will impact us. He was relating this back to choosing to obey God and His word, or not. Our pastor and this church have been very encouraging to me as I know that they partner in so many ways to reach their community. Some would write them off immediately because they are associated with the United Methodist Denomination, but I can say that they are doing a great deal for the Kingdom.
This is the way.
After this service was done, we traveled across town to Journey Church where we listened to our pastor there talk about almost the exact same thing. He also talked about partnering with and encouraging other churches and not seeing them as competition but as partners in Kingdom work.
He then handed a key to another pastor, pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship, who was there from still another church that actually meets on Sunday nights in the same space as Journey. This church will be inheriting the space when Journey church moves to its new location in February.
This, as the Mandalorian would say, is the way!
The End Goal
And many other words ending in “ing”.
All of these churches and their leaders have one goal in mind, and that is this: that we have a far greater impact together than we do apart.
Sad truth is, I’ve never seen such a culture and spirit of unity and partnership among varying church bodies as I have over the last year. Don’t get me wrong, the last church I was on staff at did some partnering with some other churches (3 other churches to be exact), and one of the experiences was good, and two of them…well…not good. But I say sad because either up to this point I’ve been blind to it or it just started becoming a thing in our region. I have a feeling it’s the former more so than the latter.
Church, God is indeed doing something new and exciting.
Don’t be fooled and don’t be caught up in the trap of attacking other churches. God will deal with them. That is His job and His job alone. The Bible tells us that He disciplines those he loves.
Continue moving forward and seeking positive Kingdom impact and partnerships.
After all…this is “The Way!”