The apostle Paul taught the principle of unity in diversity in 1 Corinthians 12.
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. … Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27)
Over the years, I have come to the realization that the body of Christ is much bigger than my narrow theological convictions. Just because someone doesn’t agree with my convictions about church government, mode of baptism, timing of the rapture, hymns versus praise songs, etc., doesn’t mean they are not evangelicals. As long as we agree on the essentials—inerrancy of Scripture, trinity, virgin birth, deity of Christ, salvation by grace—we can agree to disagree on the nonessentials.
I was reminded of this today when I received a request from a prospective missionary. He is raising support and wanted to present his ministry to our church. In reading through his doctrinal statement, he states,
- I stand for the King James Version of the Bible in the English-speaking world, and I am in disagreement with the other versions of the Bible.
- In a Gospel Church, the KJV Holy Scriptures will be preached with authority, yet with love and longsuffering.
- The Church recognizes only two offices fulfilled by the Pastor(s) and Deacons, is lovable to others and declares a love for preaching and proclaiming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
While I agree with much of his doctrinal statement and heartily affirm he is an evangelical minister, I’m not sure he would say the same about me. I make use of several different Scripture translations when I study and I preach from the ESV (English Standard Version). By his definition, we are not a Gospel Church because we don’t use the King James Version of the Bible and because we have a team of elders who lead, feed, guard, and care for the church and a team of deacons and deaconesses who provide the practical, hands-on ministry to the church. We wholeheartedly preach the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, just not with the other trappings he seems to think are important.
In my response back to this prospective missionary, I tried to graciously affirm his call to ministry while at the same time pointing out that we might not be the best fit for him because we don’t share all of his convictions.
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”