This past weekend I had the opportunity to guest preach at the Littleton Church of Christ. The Littleton Church is a wonderful group of people who meet only about 10-15 away from Mountainview, the church I’m privileged to serve as senior pastor. Our two churches are both a part of what is known as the American Restoration Movement (Christian Church, Church of Christ, and Disciples of Christ).
For several years, the Littleton Church was led by Collin Packer, the son of one of my first friends in ministry – Barry Packer. When I was a very young minister (21!) serving my first church in San Diego, Barry become one of my best ministry friends. I’m still very thankful for the lunches we shared at Fuddruckers in Grossmont Center. Over the last few years, I enjoyed meeting with Collin and hopefully provided him with the same encouragement his dad provided me.
My wife and I were both raised in the acappella Churches of Christ, a heritage we treasure. As I sat through the song portion of the first service, this thought came to me: This would be the first time I’ve preached in a Church of Christ since 2001 – the year we made the switch to Independent Christian Churches. I’m not sure why that hadn’t dawned on me before that moment.
After the first service, which was all hymns, someone apologized to me for the all the hymns. I quicky said there was no need to apologize – I love the hymns I grew up singing. And I loved sitting in front of an elderly couple, both of them singing their parts (if you grew up in the Churches of Christ, you know what “parts” I’m talking about), just like I remembered them. Once or twice, I closed my eyes and was transported back to the East Peoria Church of Christ and the voices around me became the voices of those who influenced and shaped me.
Later, at the second service, they took a few minutes and recognized those who were graduating high school. After having the graduates stand, they then asked for anyone who had ever taught them in Sunday School, volunteered at an event, or chaperoned for a trip, to stand up. Like popcorn, the room began filling up with standing people.
I couldn’t help but think of the people who would have been standing up at my home church back in 1987, when this skinny, nerdy kid was about to graduate high school and head off to college.
As I’ve written on this blog before, I am very thankful for my heritage. Deeply indebted might be a better way to put it.
I’m also thankful that the brothers and sisters at the Littleton Church of Christ made this Christian Church preacher feel at home. I’ve been around long enough to know that divisions still exist. There are certainly other Churches of Christ within 15-30 minutes of where I live that would not let me pray during their service, let alone preach. That does not make them bad people. It simply means they have convictions they are trying to live by and I can respect that.
As I get older and value my experiences in two-thirds of a three-part heritage, my hope and prayer is that more common ground will be found and that more good will be done for the kingdom. Life is too short to spend fine-tuning the minor issues that divide honest, sincere Christ-followers from each other.
May God instill a spirit of unity among his people.