Another pastor asked me once about the secret for the growth Imagine Church has experienced in an era in which many churches are declining or have plateaued. "There's no secret," I replied. "Imagine Church has grown because the relationships we've developed are so warm, rich, and full of meaning to so many people." The idea of an inclusive fellowship describes the essence of our church family.

We don't waste a minute focusing on the divisions some look for in churches. I went to seminary at Duke with a student who was Baptist. I asked him once, "David, do you believe Baptists are the only ones who are going to heaven?" He answered, "No, I don't. Because if Baptists were the only ones who are going to heaven, within a month we'd have it divided into a southern heaven, a northern heaven, an independent heaven, and a primitive heaven."

We have a rich variety of denominational backgrounds represented in our one church. But instead of creating conflict, this has brought such a lovely dimension to our church's life. Think how drab it would be if everything were a single color. And a church of people without distinguishable differences would be pretty boring!

Some may look at Imagine Church and wonder how in the world this could ever work. But what I've noticed over these years of ministry is that most of what divides churches is not theological differences, but small matters which, when snowballed out of proportion, have become disruptive. We have collectively decided that that's not going to happen here. We have endeavored to put into practice the words of Christian reformer Richard Baxter: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."

We have discovered how wonderful it is to have Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Congregationalists, and Catholics all in one church family -- and while we're at it, we could add Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, too. One of the greatest preachers of the last century, Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, said it far better than I ever could when he said, "All the lovers of Christ can believe in Him without believing the same things about Him." You see, it's the intolerance you see in some churches that's the sin, not the differences in belief and worship. As God makes the fields more lovely by many colored flowers, the Christian fellowship at Imagine Church is made more beautiful by its variety.

 

In the name of the One who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
Bruce Jones, Pastor and Co-Creator,
Imagine Church of the Carolinas

 

Unity in Our Diversity

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