Should we participate in multi-denominational events?

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by SmalltownPastor, Oct 8, 2012.

  1. SmalltownPastor

    SmalltownPastor
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    I'm originally from a big city, but I've been a pastor of a church in a small town for three years now, and I've run into several issues as a result of small town dynamics that I wasn't really prepared for. This will be the first of probably many questions I have regarding small town ministry and pastoring in general.

    We have a ministerial alliance of pastors in our town. They plan several church services throughout the year that we can all share together, and lately we've also been cooperating on some youth events. I'm all for this stuff.

    Except that the Catholic church is also represented.

    Now, I recognize that many Catholics are saved (just as many Baptist are not), but because of official Catholic doctrine, I struggle with the concept of fully embracing events in which the Catholic church is participating.

    The church I pastor will follow my lead. I'm just not sure how to lead. I want us to participate in multi-denominational services and events, but I don't want to send the message to the community that we're in perfect fellowship with Catholic church. What's your take?
     
  2. mont974x4

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    I agree that you do not want to imply that you support or agree with Roman Catholic doctrines.


    what kind of events are you partnering on? What are the other denominations in town?
     
  3. Tom Bryant

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    For me, it would depend on what kind of events you are talking about.I would be involved with a meeting to help a food bank or a crisis pregnancy center. I couldn't be involved in any way with any kind of meeting that would have evangelism as the purpose, not just because of the Catholics, but also because of some protestant groups.

    I agree about pastoring in a small town. There are more of these kind of questions to answer.
     
  4. annsni

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    Yep - Totally agree with Tom here. :)
     
  5. SmalltownPastor

    SmalltownPastor
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    The service coming up that caused me to have this on my mind is the Thanksgiving service. We'll also join together for a worship service in the park once some time in the summer, and last year we shared a service together on Good Friday.

    We're planning a youth event in which our youth will all participate in a scavenger hunt. The items they'll be collecting will be food items that they'll give to the food pantry, which is also a ministry started by the ministerial alliance, but now primarily run by members of the Catholic church. We're also talking about cooperating on other youth events, whether they be 30-hour famines, regular worship services, etc.

    In addition to the Catholic church, there's my church (Southern Baptist), FBC (American Baptist), a Lutheran church (ELCA) ,and three United Methodist churches that participate together. There are other churches in town as well, but they don't participate with us.

    Last year, we had the Thanksgiving service at the Catholic church, and I preached the message (not sure if that was a mistake or not, but if I have an opportunity to preach to Catholics, I thought it was a good idea to take it). This year the Thanksgiving service will be at one of the United Methodist churches, and a woman pastor from another of the United Methodist churches will bring the message.

    (P.S. While I think the Bible is clear that pastors should be men, I don't think that's an issue we should divide over. But a correct understanding of grace and the gospel is a much more crucial issue.)

    I agree. In addition to evangelism, I also wonder about fellowship. That's much of the goal of these multi-church services, but I wonder if we should even be implying that we can have fellowship with Catholics in light of their official doctrine.
     
  6. mont974x4

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    Is it possible to teach your folks the doctrinal differences and the reason for not participating in formal events with the Catholics (personally I would add the UM church too) and then change the tone of community events?
    Maybe help your folks see the youth food drive event as a community event and not a church event?

    I don't really know so I am just thinking out loud here. I am looking at small town ministry and I appreciate the chance to be a part of this thread and learn from y'all.
     
  7. Michael Wrenn

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    I think it is especially important to have fellowship with those whom we disagree with doctrinally. Why the Catholics or Methodists should be excluded from such fellowship is something I don't understand. Is there a fear that something from them might "rub off"?
     
  8. mont974x4

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    I base my position on the Scriptural command to reject and not have fellowship with false teachers. One passage that comes immediately to mind is 2 John. I'll post a portion of it and suggest a reading of the entire letter.

    2Jn 1:9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.
    2Jn 1:10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting;
    2Jn 1:11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (NASB)

    Is it a "fear that something from them might rub off"? I suppose, yes, in a way it is as we know how cancerous false teaching is and how quickly it brings its damage.

    To be clear this thread is not about evangelizing the lost. Obviously that requires time spent with the sinners and it is a good thing. The issue at hand is partnering with those who claim to be Christian while teaching doctrines that are counter to what we believe the Bible teaches. By doing so we send a message that we agree with their teaching, and in so doing, per 2 John, we share in the blame for their leading people astray.
     
  9. Michael Wrenn

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    Yes, but who defines "false teaching"? For some, that would be any who disagree with them on anything. With Wesley, I would define false teaching as that which "strikes at the root of Christianity." While I disagree strongly with the RCC and would hesitate to even visit a RC service since I would be excluded from communion, I still consider them a Christian church because they affirm the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed which are sufficient statements of the Christian faith. Therefore, I would not refuse fellowship with them. By having such fellowship, I don't believe that I in any way send a message that I agree with their teaching.
     
  10. mont974x4

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    In the case of the OP, it is the pastor choosing as he leads the flock that God has entrusted to his care. My issues with the RCC and the UMC are those that do, in fact, "strike at the root of Christianity" because like the example in 2 John they deal with the person and work of Jesus Christ. In other words, I see them as essential issues because they are salvation issues. I did not come to this conclusion lightly. It came through prayerful examination of Scripture and what I have come to know of the RCC as my family has deep Catholic roots and my own time in a Nazarene school and as a former Nazarene pastor. the Church of the Nazarene shares most of its doctrines and positions with the UMC and other Wesleyan/Arminian groups.

    I understand why many disagree with me. That's OK. I am just trying to explain what my decision is and why.
     
  11. Michael Wrenn

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    I can kind of understand why you would hold to the position you do with regard to the RCC since they have many extra-biblical doctrines which they place on par with scripture.

    However, why in the world do you hold the same view with regard to the UMC and Church of the Nazarene?
     
  12. mont974x4

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    To avoid further thread derailment can I PM you?
     
  13. Michael Wrenn

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    Certainly you can.
     
  14. 12strings

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    I can tell you what our church does, which I agree with:

    We do cooperate with the RCC church for right-to-life walks and a local pregnancy resource center. However, our town (12,000 population) also has a yearly combined bible school that a number of the primary historic churches participate in (RCC, Amer. Baptist, UMC, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episciple) We do not participate in that due the confusion it might give children and parents as to what the Gospel is, especially from a RCC perspective.

    I believe this is the right course of action for many of the reasons already stated by others. For specifics.

    General deep theological doctrinal differences would keep us from worshiping or doing outreach with RCC.

    The acceptance of homosexuality would be a primary reason that we would not worship with or do outreach with certain strains of UMC, Episc., Presbyterian, & even the Lutheran church.

    I would not have a problem worshiping with Nazarenes, conservative methodists, wesleyans, conservative presbyterians, conservative lutherans, or certain types of charismatic churches (one's that preached the real gospel, not the health & wealth Gospel)...even though I am a fairly Calvinistic Baptist.
     
  15. Michael Wrenn

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    Thank you for the information.

    I have a question: Why would you not participate in the combined Bible study? The American Baptists are doing it.

    About the homosexuality issue: Many in those denominations you named -- especially in rural areas and small towns, and in the South -- feel that their denominations have been hijacked by the liberal North and major urban areas, and they feel helpless to do anything about it. I know this is true because I have talked to some of these people.
     
  16. SmalltownPastor

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    The churches do have a joint VBS, but our church has never participated in it, we've always had our own. And we cooperate inn running a clothes closet, food pantry, and in helping people with their heating bills.

    I'm still undecided regarding things like Thanksgiving services, though. Services in which we share our stories and thankfulness to God, but not in an evangelistic way before unbelievers. Yet even in participating in such services, I don't want to give the impression that we're in perfect fellowship with them.

    I think I want to sit down with the RCC priest to talk about his view of salvation in order to decide one way or the other. He actually used to be Baptist, so I think we could have a very productive discussion about how/if we can cooperate in different ways.
     
  17. mont974x4

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    That's a good idea. It'd be interesting to get his take on the unum sanctum...which states that salvation comes only through submission to the rcc/pope.
     
  18. SaggyWoman

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    I think it depends on the event and its purpose.
     

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