This past week I took a trip to the North American Christian Convention–the largest annual gathering of the Independent Christian Churches. I've written before, even recently, about my belief that the sectarianism that still separates Churches of Christ and Christian Churches is a sin we need to repent of. Thus, I won't reiterate this conviction here other than to say it's time more church leaders and congregations step forward and say so…then take some concrete steps in unity's direction. I was glad to see a number of people from acappella Churches of Christ present. Next year's NACC is in Orlando, Florida. I hope you'll consider attending.
Here are some reflections on the week:
- Dudley Rutherford did an outstanding job organizing the week. There weren't a lot of visible hiccups anywhere, and the quality of the week in nearly every aspect was exceptional.
- The praise portions of the sessions were ridiculously awesome and powerful. I loved seeing ethnic and age diversity on stage. The musical and spiritual giftedness of those leading worship was an immense blessing to me.
- I thought this year's preaching was stronger than in year's past. In particular, I enjoyed hearing Dave Stone, Jeff Vines. Francis Chan and Jeff Walling are always great to hear.
- There was a clear emphasis on increasing ethnic diversity in churches. As many of you know, this is a passion of mine, and the call at the convention was given with both grace and conviction.
Apart from those observations on the convention, I love attending the NACC because it's a great glimpse into the differences between Christian Churches and Churches of Christ that go beyond the simple issue of instrumental worship.
In particular, there are three emphases that I believe have led to the Christian Churches' renewal and rapid growth over the past several years:
- Reverence for growth. Christian Churches are much less suspicious of large and growing churches and view growth as something to aspire to. Even right now, some of my brethren are immediately thinking their growth must be shallow or at the cost of depth or doctrine. Not so, and, my point exactly. Churches suspicious of growth will not aspire to it and won't achieve it.
- Emphasis on Planting Churches that will Grow. Christian Churches are church-planting machines. They also plant with an emphasis on evangelistic growth. Domestic church planting is now in their DNA the way foreign missions has historically beeis in the DNA of Churches of Christ.
- Culture of Collaboration. Churches and organizations tend not to view one another as competitors, but as partners. They collaborate, help one another accomplish one another's goals, and share knowledge openly. Churches and colleges, for instance, have a more symbiotic relationship than in Churches of Christ. This is because of a palpable mentality of abundance, rather than scarcity.
There remain areas in which Churches of Christ are stronger than Christian Churches–and these are observable at our gatherings. This is just one more reason greater unity would be a blessing. The strength found in partnership is really powerful. Strength in isolation isn't very strong.