I am concerned about division. I’m concerned as a believer, as a preacher, as a pastor, as a church member. I don’t like to see nor experience division in the body of Christ. I’m not a proponent of splits especially in our denominational structures that have taken us from one convention in 1914 to well over 20 conventions, reformations, and fellowships in our African-American baptist context. We are so divided it’s hard for any one group to make an impact upon society because of our fragmentation.
I’m reminded of when the National Baptist Convention of America split in 1989. I was a young pastor, just started my pastoral ministry in Portland, Oregon and then watched my home convention split and the reverberations spread across the country. Those who had served together for years and many of them icons were now drawing borders and fellowships that had existed for years were now laid bare on the ground.
There was an incident that occurred when a pastor from NBCA wrote a pastor from NMBCA and stated that since the National was splitting, a decades long fellowship between the two local churches was no longer in his best interest. I said it then, it was a sad day when we can’t worship together on a local level.
However, there is a move afoot and I think it’s worthy of mention that it seems that we are becoming increasingly divided due to stances of theological proportion. Back in the day, E.V. Hill could preach in Los Angeles in his pulpit on Sunday morning, appear on the Charismatic TBN broadcast with Paul and Jan Crouch Sunday evening, fly to Denver to preach to a Focus on the Family event and then wind up at a City-Wide revival at the end of the week. In other words, he had no problem flowing from reformation to reformation. He preached for liberals, conservatives, pre-trib, post-trib, pentecostals, baptists, methodists, episcopalians without any hesitation, in order to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The problem, as I see it, is that many pastors are willing to die on ant hills instead of mountains. We have too much in common in the word of God to sacrifice it on a small list of differences that will either cause us to express disdain or withdraw fellowship because, frankly, what we think is a sacred cow is nothing more than putting personal ideology over biblical practice.
Hot button issues aside, we are becoming the Baptist Hatfields and McCoys. I can’t come preach for you because your people shout. You can’t come preach for me because I have women in the pulpit. I can’t come preach for you because you don’t have a higher degree. You can’t come preach for me because you aren’t conservative enough in your theology. I can’t come preach for you because your church is not large enough. You can’t preach for me because all you’ll do is squall at the end of your sermon. And while we play these ecclesiastical games, our churches are thinning out and pulpits are dying.
Even if a stance evolves or shifts there is no reason to cut off fellowship completely. I had a friend that was “ride or die” and when I changed a stance, all of a sudden I became an anathema to him. I tried several times to call – not to chop it up theologically, but just to call and say hello. No response. Called several times. No response. So I had to write off a friend that I had worked closely with for many years because of the foolishness of an ant hill mentality.
I long for the day when denominations will cease. But I long more intensely for the day when division among baptists will cease.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.