Can’t We All Just Get Along?
I had a great lunch today with the pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Smith, Dr. Dale Thompson. We were also joined by Dr. Jeff Thompson (no relation) who is the Associational Missionary for the Concord Baptist Association (CBA). The food was good but the fellowship was better. The purpose of our meeting was to discuss our mission partnership to the unreached people group called the Pare located in northeast Tanzania, Africa. My church and Dale’s church have both sent mission teams in the past 6 months to Tanzania to piggy-back off of each other’s work. Additionally, the CBA has adopted the Pare people as well and we are hoping to see other churches in our area send mission teams as well.
We met today, just two pastors and our association missionary to discuss how we can better work together in the most effective way possible to reach the Pare. I’ve got to tell you it was very refreshing. You see, my church and First Baptist Church are two of the larger churches in Fort Smith and we are located on the same street in town just blocks from each other. One could look at our two Southern Baptist Churches and think, “Boy, I’ll bet they really don’t get along. I’ll bet they have to have to really compete over people.” Maybe something like this has been true in the past, I don’t really know. And yes, I guess there have been times throughout the history of churches in America (and even Fort Smith, or your town) where churches have “competed” over trying to “get people.” But I’ve gotta tell you that this just is not the case with our two churches.
You see, in my view (and I think this is very biblical), there is the Church. And the Church is made up of little churches. The Church, capital “C”, consists of all orthodox Christians. For the purpose of winning the world for Christ, we have organized ourselves into smaller units called a “church” (little “c”). But we are all part of ONE Church, Jesus Christ’s Church. That means we are all on the same team. We all have the same goal.
Now, that doesn’t mean we all look alike or do things the same way. Rick Warren, the pastor of one of the largest churches in America, Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, has a saying: “It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.” I think he’s right on. If you know anything at all about First Baptist Church and Grand Avenue Baptist Church you would know that we are very different churches. From the architecture of our buildings, to our worship styles, to our church polity structure, we are very different from one another. Most likely a person who loves how things are done at one of our churches may not enjoy so much they way things are done at the other church. That’s because we are different. And that’s OK, because ultimately we are on the same team, serving the same God, working to accomplish the same Great Commission. Fort Smith is FULL of all kinds of people and this city needs BOTH of our churches (and many more) to accomplish the goal given to us by Jesus Christ.
So today, I had a great lunch with the pastor of a sister church down the road. Dale Thompson is a great guy. He has a warm and engaging personality, he’s a very smart man with tons of ministry experience. I quizzed him about the remodel currently taking place of his worship center because we need to do some work in our own worship center. Dale has a passion for the gospel and it was a joy to talk strategy and about working together to reach the Pare.
May God bless FBC. May God bless GABC. And may God bless all of His churches as we work together to be the Church.