When I wrote Your Church Is Too Small I wanted to tell stories to my readers that would clearly demonstrate the power of the idea that I was advancing for the future of the church. This is why I included ten different examples of missional-ecumenism in the next to last chapter of the book.
I have heard both Catholics and evangelical Protestants insist that we can share in pro-life, and related cultural issues, as Catholics and Protestants but we can never share in evangelism and making disciples for Christ as partners in mission. I reject this conclusion. I once held this view very tenaciously so I have great sympathy for those who still hold to it. I was over 50 years of age before my mind was changed about this matter.
One of the things that forced me to change my thinking was meeting Deacon John Green in Chicago. When I saw how Emmaus Ministries worked with people I had to intentionally refuse the obvious or walk away in unbelief and, for me at least, disobedience. Emmaus uses various people in their mission from many churches and includes student interns and workers from schools like Moody, Judson, Trinity and Wheaton. If you go over their financial report you will quickly discover that they receive support from Catholic congregations, Protestant congregations and individuals from both contexts. At first I argued with myself that this simply could not work. Compromise lurked around the corner. We do not preach the gospel the same way and we do not, and thus should not, even try to work on how we could preach the gospel together in unity. Emmaus totally transformed my mind on this point. One living illustration was more powerful than a lifetime of theory and arguments.
I still remember where I was when this idea began to truly grip me. I also remember saying, “This simply cannot be true.” But the facts proved me wrong. I have concluded that such facts are stubborn things. Some Christians would rather argue about “old” ideas than embrace what is obviously the work of the Holy Spirit in saving people from darkness and transforming their lives through Christ and the good news. This reaction comes from Catholics and Protestant evangelicals.
Deacon John Green has thus become a trusted friend and role model to me. He will be one of the persons who will join me next month in Rome for our special conversation on missional-ecumenism that I referred to in yesterday’s blog. Just to give you a taste of John’s life and message, and the power of the gospel to transform men, watch the video that I include in today’s post. It is inspiring and life-transforming. Perhaps you too will have to change your mission and gospel paradigm just like I did. I hope and pray so with all my heart.
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This is a beautiful thing, John, and Emmaus is a beautiful ministry.