Saturday, December 10, 2011


My weekly theological discussion witn Meng Pu this week was about a difficult subject both to pronounce and to explain: Denominations. Let me preface this by saying that in my experience and opinion, "denominations" are highly overrated, and have in modern history done more harm than good to the unity of the body of Christ. I understand that people have different ways of worshipping, and different views on hierarchy and leadership, and emphasize different minor aspects of theology, and I see the value in associating yourself with a specific church family, but when labels other than "disciples of Christ" become people's primary identity, we lose the thing Jesus prayed for in John 17. So, with this as my beginning point, here's how our conversation unfolded...

Meng Pu asked me the name of my home church, which I told him is Triad Christian Fellowship. He wondered what denomination it belongs to, and if there are other "Christian Fellowships" around the country, like there are Assemblies of God, Baptist, and Episcopalian. I smiled as I considered all the Christian fellowships I have been connected with in some way and thanked God for each one. Then I explained that we say that my church is non-denominational - that the people who come have backgrounds in various denominations, and that we just try to keep our focus on the way the New Testament church lived, and we read Acts 2:42-47 together. Meng Pu nodded and said thoughtfully, "I think this is very good..."

He asked about our view on the Holy Spirit and Pentacost, among other things that sadly seem to divide so many Christians. I said that while our church body doesn't often respond charismatically to the movement of the Holy Spirit, that we are not opposed to it, and we very much believe he is active and present among us, and the evidence of that is through the ways we learn and grow, and the changes we see in people's lives. Again he nodded and repeated, "I think this is very good..."

His next question was how TCF could connect with other churches if we aren't part of a denominational family. I thought about the times we've worked with other community churches through Operation Christmas Child, Vacation Bible School, Child Evangelism Fellowship, and the Rescue Mission, and how beautiful it is that it doesn't matter what church buildings or names we have, we can still fellowship and serve in love because of our common hope in Christ Jesus. Once more, Meng Pu was amazed.

Then he said, "This is not like my country. In my country, missionaries come from different denominations and plant churches in their denomination. We become members of a church and do not worship with others." Even now in the states, he has not thought before about the possibility of visiting a church outside of his denomination. He said that as a child, he met a missionary from a different denomination from his own, who told Meng Pu that because of a difference of opinion regarding the Holy Spirit's role in believer's lives, he was not truly a Christian. Other divisions came up among missionaries in the area, concerning baptism and Old Testament laws and church government. So this information about how the body of Christ could work together as one in the name of our Saviour was very exciting to him. It's like he wished and prayed that the Church could be like that but didn't realize that in many places it is.

I was saddened and angered by the experiences that Meng Pu and his people (and probably many people around the world) have had with Christian missionaries. Why are churches sending out people who are only promoting and expanding a denomination? Why is anything at all being preached besides salvation and redemption through Jesus Christ? Isn't that the point - isn't that the message all disciples of Christ have been given - isn't it the only message in all the world that matters? Don't we believe that if people surrender their lives to Him that He can change hearts and make the difference? Don't we believe that the Holy Spirit still has the power to convict and reconcile and council? Who cares how we worship, as long as we are worshipping the one and only God in Spirit and in Truth? Why do we carry any other name or title but Jesus, when his life is the one we are to be devoted to following and living out?

Followers of Jesus, Disciples of Christ, Members of the Way - I pray that we remember that we have in common the forgiveness of sins, freedom from the laws of sin and death, and the hope of eternal life, and that we commit ourselves to sharing these things with those around us.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Thinking about seeds today... because they are something Jesus thought about a lot. I was reading the gospel according to Mark today, and chapter 4 is mostly about seeds, and how they are like the kingdom of God: the story of the Sower, the story of growing seeds, and the story of the mustard seed are all there. So below is a somewhat poetic expression of my thoughts on the subject.

The kingdom of God is like a seed.

It began with One Man -
not impressive to behold
but powerful.

He is the fullness of the kingdom of God
and He brought that kingdom to earth -
the kingdom of God is here and now
And he lived it out
lived out zoe
demonstrated life as God intended it to be 
His will on earth as it is in heaven.

He sowed himself among us
made his dwelling among us
planted and rooted himself among us
God with us

And then...

He spoke truth
He promised peace
He brought healing
He offered hope
He lavished love.

He broke open his life and poured it out
so others could live -
really live.

And what began as an unassuming seed pod

Twelve men listened and responded -
they followed and obeyed
they learned and tried to live the way He did.

He said, "Watch and listen -
This is how we grow,
This is how we live."

The Living Water flows
The Light shines and dispels the darkness
and the seed becomes sprouting leaves.

Three-hundred more
and then five-thousand
from many tribes and tongues
were added to the kingdom
through the Spirit and Truth.

The word spreads
the gospel enriches
and the sprouts become branches -
men and women shared the stories
to study and remember
and pattern their lives after the Seed.

And branches grow
they thicken
they strengthen
they stretch farther and wider
the kingdom expands to the ends of the earth.

People are amazed that
the more they study
and live the life of the Seed,
the more the seed becomes a tree -
taller and broader
mightier and fuller
more beautiful
more bounteous
more alive than they ever imagined.

But the truth is
the tree is not more than the Seed -
it is the Seed
the fulfillment and fullness of all the seed contains and holds.

It is the outward image and product
of the planted and rooted and very much alive seed -
the Church is the picture and body of Christ
living life to the fullest
living life as He intended it
the kingdom of God on earth
here and now
a tree
a seed.

~ C.L. Chandler

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas treats!

It's beginning to look... and sound... and smell a lot like Christmas around our house, thanks to our awesome international friends! On Saturday, we had some of the teen girls over to do some baking and preparing some treats. When we finished, the Zo church family came in and sang some Christmas carols for us!

Muddy Buddies - peanut butter and chocolate coated Chex mix,
powdered with sugar and sprinkles

Tidings of comfort -
Pretzels with chunks of Carmello bars and walnuts

Tidings of joy -
Pretzels with melted Hugs and M&Ms

Christmas cake - two-layer vanilla cake with whipped vanilla topping, sprinkles, and M&Ms

Zo church Christmas caroling

The best thing about the Christmas holiday is that we get to spend the whole month finding ways to share love and peace and joy with others! How can you do that today?