There it sat on my desk − that monthly letter inviting me to the local ministers association. Though the story I’m about to tell you happened many years ago, the lesson I learned changed my life forever.
I can still hear the words of my friend giving me advice when I first started pastoring here in this community. “Don’t waste your time with the local ministers association,” he had told me. “You’ve got your own church to build. And besides, they’re really not on the same page when it comes to spiritual things and the way we interpret the scriptures.”
Well, all that made perfect sense to me. I was young, a little ambitious, and full of great ideas to advance the kingdom. The question was whose kingdom? As I glanced at the familiar monthly letter inviting me to come and fellowship with other pastors, an unexpected thought flooded my mind.
“I want you to go,” the thought said in a still small voice. Though, at first I didn’t realize it was the Lord talking to me, when I threw the letter in the trash, which is what I usually did, the thought only got louder. Finally, after several minutes of inner wrestling I realized it was the Lord wanting me to go.
“Ok God,” I said, thinking I had figured it all out. “You’re sending me on a local mission and you want me to go and help these other ministers out.”
“No,” came His reply, “I want you to go and I’m going to help you out,” He said.
Suddenly I knew it was the voice of truth. Somehow, in all my pride and spirituality I had become blind to my own needs. When I finally realized the attitude of my heart, and God’s plan to fix it, I felt both pain and gladness. Pain because I had been so blind to my condition but gladness because God had not left me to myself.
For years, I had avoided meaningful fellowship with other churches because of differences in styles of worship and interpretation of certain scriptures. Little did I know that though God was certainly interested in me having a correct understanding of the Bible, He was equally interested in the spirit with which I was living my life.
Isaiah 29:24 gives a unique look at what I’m talking about. “They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.” Isn’t it interesting that error does not just exist in our interpretation of the Bible but in the spirit and attitude with which we live our lives? For me, though I felt like I had the correct understanding of the scriptures, I clearly had missed God when it came to the spirit I was operating in.
I’ve learned that when God looks down on the earth He doesn’t see things the same way we do; aren’t you glad? Though each local church and denomination seem to carry a unique facet of who God is, at the end of the day He sees just one church and it’s made up of all those who genuinely have placed their trust in Jesus.
I find it hard to believe that any one group has got it all together. I know most of us feel like our way is the right way, and maybe it is; but for me it’s not just about what we know, but the spirit and attitude in which we know it. I leave you with the wonderful words of Jesus found in John 13:35 “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.”