I differentiate the “Big C” church from our individual church in Llano. The “Big C” Church includes Christians of all traditions, spanning geography and history. It’s not just a cute designation. This is a biblical question with important implications for how we do our work and experience the ministry.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, as he encourages them to work together, he inserts this tidbit applying not only to a local Roman congregation, but to Christians separated by space and geography: âSo in Christ we , although many, let us be one body, and each member belongs to all the others â(Romans 12: 5).
Differences working together
What would it be like if Christians really realized that we all belong to each other? I got a glimpse of this possibility as Christians and religious leaders in Llano recently came together to help prepare school supplies for a community effort called âJackets for Successâ âin reference to our school’s mascot. , the yellow jacket.
The effort provides school supplies to every student on every campus in Llano. In addition to many businesses in our community, each church represented also provides financial assistance to make this possible.
As a parent of two young children and husband of a public school teacher, I cannot overstate the blessing this brings to our community on many levels. At the most immediate and basic level, it is a blessing for students in making sure they have what they need, and it is a blessing for parents in relieving a financial burden often exacerbated in the fall. when students also need new clothes.
In addition, it is a blessing for teachers, as it ensures that students will have the correct supplies requested by teachers and it prevents teachers from tapping into their own pockets – which they do far too often – to provide what. lack.
On a spiritual level, Christians can rejoice in the blessing of taking ownership of the community that is theirs because they recognize that we all belong to one another.
Do not mistake yourself ; I am a dedicated Texas Baptist. You won’t find me kneeling with Catholics, sprinkling with Methodists, speaking in tongues with charismatics, banning instruments with Churches of Christ, avoiding modern translations with independent fundamentalists, or being too fashionable with non-denominational people. And you will certainly not see their devotees adhering to my traditions and my ideals.
It is right and appropriate for us to defend the individual points of theology, doctrine, policy, and tradition that we find important in our practice of being individual churches. In doing so, however, we must not lose sight of the fact that in Christ we belong to one another. This is not only helpful in enabling us to be better together with the âBig Câ church. It also highlights our particularities, as our individual churches seek to live in the unique mission and call that God has for us.
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Distinct parts of a body
Every November I attend the annual meeting of the Texas Baptist General Convention. Our church is associated with the BGCT, and I know a lot of people who participate in it. It’s refreshing for me to reconnect with other pastors I’ve been to school with and friends I’ve served with over the years.
The unique brotherhood that I experience in these gatherings is special because of the distinctive traits we have in common. But if this is the only kind of brotherhood and cooperation that we agree to, we remain short-sighted and anemic.
The truth is, being the “Big C” church takes work. It’s not as easy or as natural as associating with those who are most like us. It can be tempting to isolate ourselves in religious ghettos and become convinced that we are the holiest, most righteous, and most important because of our unique mark of devotion and service to the Lord. This misses our denominational peculiarities.
A few weeks ago, I âswapped the chairâ with Bryan Rogers, pastor of Lutie Watkins United Methodist Church in Llano. After preaching in each other’s churches, we were lovingly heckled with similar remarks, something like, âYour sermon was not too bad for a Baptist / Methodist.
Our families accompanied us. My children had never been part of a service in which a historic Christian creed is recited and a more formal liturgy is performed. At the end, I asked them if they were ready to become Methodist. They both shook their heads vigorously, my daughter exclaiming emphatically, “It’s not our tradition!”
That didn’t stop them, however, from attending their second summer vacation Bible school with Lutie Watkins United Methodist Church.
Recognizing that we belong to each other in Christ does not mean losing our traditions. Rather, it helps us appreciate our uniqueness, even as we celebrate the larger meaning of the “Big C” church. Join me in thanking God for his entire church, as well as the unique space our Texas Baptist family occupies in this diverse group.
Matt Richard is Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Llano. His bachelor’s degree is from East Texas Baptist University, and he holds a master’s degree in divinity and a doctorate in ministry from Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University. The opinions expressed are those of the author alone.