Is it possible some people could have more of a problem with me, a church of Christ preacher, associating with a Pentecostal preacher than they would my associating with folks that gossip, judge, condemn, criticize, hate and abuse alcohol or prescription drugs? Sadly, it is true. I come from a heritage that used to be more comfortable condemning other people to Hell because they belonged to a different denomination than condemning others for partying a bit “too much”, using foul language, poor work ethic, gossip, etc. Sermons were preached condemning these latter actions, but people did not get as riled up by my associating with people that did these things as they do with associating with preachers in other denominations. Thankfully, the churches of Christ have changed quite a bit since the days when they were known for teaching that people in other churches were damned to Hell, but traces of that belief remain across the country.
It was a charismatic/Pentecostal church that displayed great joy in their worship on Sunday mornings and didn’t care about the time (this was at Sunset Park Church of God when Troy Miller preached there; Troy’s son, Tim, carries on the great legacy of passionately teaching others the word). I guess people planned not to time their lunches in the oven based on getting out of worship “on schedule”. Sunday mornings were lost in worship, regardless of the time. It was a young Baptist couple that helped me through some very difficult times after attempting suicide and spending a summer in a behavioral hospital. They, Paul and Bonnie Catlett, took me to a Dawson McAllister conference, exposed me to Al Denson music (which really helped focus on the Lord during the bad days), and were always there to listen and pray. Looking back, I know this had to inconvenience them, but they never acted like it. They showed me love. It was Jehovah’s Witnesses that helped propel me in my study of the Bible. I will never forget the hours I spent with Ed and Viceola Neal and their family studying the scriptures. With them, it was fun. They never got angry with my bible questions and challenging them. They showed me true openness to others that had differing beliefs. It was a church of Christ youth minister, John Rice, that revealed to me that God’s church, His kingdom, was a family! John taught AND lived like we are all family, and treated each other as such. He embedded that in me, and I cannot forget it.
God has shaped me through Pentecostals, Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, churches of Christ and folks from all walks of life. I am who I am today because of God working through them. I cannot turn my back on the precious gifts they gave me in life. It is gossip, hate, envy, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, fornication, adultery, lying, cheating, judging and other moral sins that have hurt me and other people far more than participating with denominations. Even though my church of Christ heritage has taught against all these sins, we treated belonging to another denomination as the sin above all other sins. Thankfully, many churches of Christ have changed their beliefs about other denominations. We love and receive one another as Jesus has (Romans 15:7). I believe we have spent far more time judging others for where they are in life, or where they go to church, rather than how much God loves them at their worst. Praise God that is changing, not just in churches of Christ, but for churches across the world. God is glorified when we live unified (John 17:20-21).