May 01, 2007

An Interesting Interview With Implications For Para-Church

This was an interesting article for me to read especially since I am on staff at a para-church ministry.

Here's a key paragraph:

Liam was eager to point out that he believes it is vital for those who he describes as “confessing evangelicals” to work together across some of the barriers that have divided them in the past. He does not, however, advocate minimising or removing all such distinctions. We operate in two spheres — the sphere of joining hands to support the Gospel and work together and the sphere of the local church. Liam spoke about the importance of realising what issues have prominence, and in our conversation those did, indeed, have prominence. He clearly believes that what Mohler calls “theological triage” is crucial. There are issues that should not prevent us from working together on a conference platform, but which within a local church may present practical difficulties. Each local church must identify where it is going to stand on these matters, and on which of them it is willing to be flexible. Liam believes, for example, that to have both cessationists and charismatics in the leadership team of a local church congregation would not be practical. On the other hand, in his own local church, considerable flexibility is given to those who differ on the mode and timing of baptism. Not every church will come to the same conclusions about where it stands on these “second-order” issues, which of them will be required for membership, and which will be prerequisites for leaders in that congregation.
But, said Liam, every church must have a clear idea of its own theological and stylistic identity, and must not confuse the two. Along with theological distinctives, each congregation will be shaped to some degree by the local culture in which it exists — this will affect the stylistic choices, but obviously should not affect the theological ones. It is vital that we remember that the way we do things is not the only way they can be done — or even necessarily the best way in another context.

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