HOUSTON – In the Christian life, many times believers are divided, taking sides on issues and desiring for their views to reign.
During the Texas Baptists Annual Meeting sermon, George Mason, pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, said Texas Baptists must be careful with taking sides, sighting the problems and discussion that appeared in Mark 9:38-50 as John was concerned that another believer not part of the disciples’ group casting out demons.
Jesus tells John that others who are following Christ are a part of what He is doing. Texas Baptists need to take this approach too, Mason said.
“Before there were conventions and Baptists and Christians per say, followers of Jesus were taking sides,” Mason said. “We take sides about whether the gospel is primarily about saving souls or social justice as if it can’t be both.”
Division appears when believers take sides in ministry and the body of Christ, Mason said. Many believers and churches think they have the best method for ministry and look down on others.
“The truth is I am just as guilty of this just as any of you,” Mason said. “Many times I think all of you should think like me. You ought to worship like my church worships. You ought to do missions like me. And here’s the worst admission – those I tend to slam are in churches that are successfully using methods I would never use.”
Mason said this division can come out of judgment and competition with others in ministry.
“There are Catholics, Pentecostals, Presbyterians and others who are not in our Baptist realm doing great things for the Lord,” Mason said. “Shouldn’t we call them brothers and sisters anyways?”
Many times churches and denominations treat other believers different from them as enemies, seeing that they are working against each other, when in fact, they are working for the same cause – to see people come to Christ, Mason said.
“Do you know what friendly fire is?” he asked. “It’s when you are in the midst of battle and you forget whose side you are on. There is too much friendly fire going on between our churches and within our churches.”
Believers need to realize they are all working for the same cause and need to take a childlike approach to division, Mason said.
“Kids are good about making up games of going after made-up enemies – be more like them,” he said. “Forget who is the greatest. Keep your eye on the real enemy. Your fight is not with each other but with the evil principalities of the heavenly realms. Bind yourselves for battle against the enemies from hell.”
To avoid taking sides, believers must look at their own lives and hearts, making sure they first are in a right relationship with God.
“Self examination while learning from others and serving with others – that is the spirit we need to have,” Mason said. “Jesus wants us to realize that if there is anything in our life that is keeping us from living for God, it has to go before it sends us to hell.”
To live the life that God has for every believer and for every church, people must humble themselves and seek God above all.
“Jesus doesn’t want us to waste our lives, not now, not forever,” Mason said. “But our pride gets in the way of the life He wants for us …. While the rest of the world is caught in the gains of greatness, we must show we are in the realm of self examination …. Let’s take sides with Him, Texas Baptists, by taking sides with each other and not against each other,” Mason said.
As Mason stepped down from the podium, David Lowrie, pastor of First Baptist Church in Canyon and president of Texas Baptists, said that Texas Baptists can achieve this if their lives are based in Christ’s love.
“It’s not about theology or orthodoxy or how we are going to reach the world,” Lowrie said. “Jesus said they will know who you are because you love one another.”
“We are privileged to be something bigger than ourselves. Jesus said by this all men will know that you are my disciples. This is the defining quality of us. My prayer is that the Texas Baptists family will be filled with love and that will extend that to others. I pray that you will live that out as you leave here today.”
By Kaitlin Chapman, Texas Baptists Communications