As I’ve studied the Scriptures myself, I find that things I was taught in churches were I grew up in the Lord are just plain wrong when compared to the Scriptures. The first six years of my marriage were spent in independent, fundamental, KJV 1611, pre-millennial, pre-tribulation baptist churches. We were told what to do and what not to do without receiving scriptural guidance for doing so. “Good” Christians don’t go to movies, don’t listen to rock music (it’s of the devil, you know), we observe the holiness of the Lord’s Day, and we don’t hang with sinners because we don’t want to be tainted by their filthiness. As I’ve grown and matured in the Lord, I find myself being less and less dogmatic about things that really don’t matter. In the church we tend to be pushed into corners of dogmatism by our denominations and our ministry friends. There are issues to be dogmatic, but they’re not as frequent as people may think.
Rick Arreola pastors Hidden Treasures Assembly of God in Kingsland, GA and he is my friend. He is a true partner in ministry. He is not as concerned about church growth as he is about the individual growth of the people in the church he pastors. He is not as concerned with the numbers in the church as he is with the impact on eternity. Theologically, we differ in some areas, but we agree on Christ. On the essentials we are in unity. For some people, that wouldn’t matter. In fact, denominational associations are disappearing as churches remove their denominational ties from their names even if they maintain denominational affiliation. Churches are dropping from denominations for various reason as well, but that’s a different issue that I might dig into at a later date. Research tells us that people today are less likely to visit or attend a church that has a denominational name in the title so churches are changing their names, but don’t necessarily change who they are.
And so Yesterday I did something that few pastors do. I did something that would draw criticism from my former denomination. I did something that my pastor when I was a newly called minister of the gospel would likely condemn. I preached in an Assembly of God church in the town next to mine. The pastor of that church preached in the church that I pastor. Call me crazy, call me naive, tell me I’ve lowered my standards. To that I say, you’re wrong. I’ve learned some things as I continue to pursue Christ and as I serve the sheep God has entrusted to me in the local body I serve. I’ve learned that I need to partner with people that are like minded about ministry even if they are not like denominated. Is that even a word?
What ever led me to swap pulpits? Last Christmas, Rick and I were sitting around a table enjoying some food and fellowship and talking about the complexities of modern ministry. As we commiserated together about our trials, struggles, and areas we felt truly blessed. Is the grass is greener on the other side? I suggested we swap pulpits one day. It would expose our people to different preachers and give us an opportunity to be exposed to a different crowd. That could be awesome, or disastrous. We took the plunge and put it on our calendars. We met for lunch several weeks before the swap and discussed expectations. We openly shared our apprehension and excitement. We laid out some ground rules. I wasn’t going to go in his church and try and change everyone’s mind doctrinally or theologically. I wanted to share the joy of Christ and the power of His Word. Rick wanted to do the the same. What did Pastor Rick speak about? Something near and dear to my heart. You can listen to what he said here.