In Mark 9:38-40, we have an interesting story involving Jesus’ disciples. While travelling along ministering in various villages, they observed someone else ministering. They said, “Jesus, we saw someone who is not one of us casting out demons in your name. Should we tell them to stop?” Notice how their reaction revealed an attitude of pride and exclusiveness that Jesus had to rebuke them for.
This story reveals some common attitudes that can easily become part of our way of thinking concerning other churches and ministries. Like the disciples, we need to change our thinking patterns in order to adopt a kingdom mentality. We need to shift, from a focus which is totally on our own local church or ministry, to a much broader focus on what God is doing through the wider church and the body of Christ.
Other ministries need to be valued and respected, as long as they are building the kingdom of God. Those who are not working against us are actually working for us.
Over the next few days, we'll look at some excellent attitudes that we need to embrace:
Be Inclusive, Not Exclusive
God desires us to seek to include others rather than exclude them. Christian love is expressed by an open, warm, embracing attitude toward other ministries and churches. We should look for common ground and not focus only on our differences (Philippians 1:15-18).
The apostle Paul’s aim in each new relationship was to win everyone, and he did this by finding points of agreement and then seeking to influence people towards Christ and further maturity (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
God wants us connected to others, not isolated from them. Cross-pollination leads to growth and improvement. We should seek to maintain balance and avoid the extremes that often occur through isolation.
God values diversity, not uniformity and so should we. In the Old Testament, there was only one nation of Israel, but it was made up of twelve different tribes, which were further made up of many different households and families. So it is in the church today. There are many different denominations, associations, networks and groups of churches and ministries. Each is unique and has its own distinctives, but we are all a part of the one true church. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
We must avoid prejudice against other churches and ministries and watch out that we don’t develop stereotypes of other ministries based on gossip and hearsay, rather than personal experience.
Carnality and immaturity are evidenced by comparing one ministry against another and by forming little fan clubs around Christian superstars. Paul had to address these attitudes in the church at Corinth, because they were divided over various popular ministries of that time – Apollos, Peter and Paul (1 Corinthians 3:1-9). Paul had to show them that each ministry has its place and that God used them all to build His kingdom. Ultimately, the glory goes to God, who makes all things grow.
Many people ask, “What about ministries or churches that don’t believe what we believe?” Obviously, our fellowship is to be based on the fundamentals of the faith. However, we need to know the difference between non-negotiables (the absolutes of Scripture) and non-essentials (personal convictions and preferences). We should not judge one another on issues of conscience, preference or personal opinion (Romans 14:1-13).
God has called us to build bridges, not walls. The world will know we are Christians by our love for one another, and that is demonstrated by how we relate to other churches and Christian ministries.
Any ministry or local church that isolates itself from others becomes exclusive and eventually degenerates. Let’s open up our hearts and reach out to others.