During my recent ministry trip to the USA I was once again impressed at how diverse the Body of Christ is. Not only are there cultural influences of a nation upon a local church there are also several other factors that define why certain churches do what they do the way they do it. In just under three weeks I tasted many distinct church cultures that led some churches to open their service with a countdown clock, another to open with a drum solo, another to blow the shoffar, and another to commence two hours of singing before the preaching of the Word. Some of these churches believed they were in dark, evil, perrilous times, other churches believed they were in increasingly glorious days where the best of what God has for them is yet to come. The worship styles were different. The venues were different. The leadership structures were different. The way (and the why) they decorated was different. But they all had one thing in common: they were committed to the Gospel of First Importance. They each affirmed the absolute necessity of preaching Christ as Saviour to a world of sinners through the sharing of God's Scriptures. They each affirmed that a relationship with God was only possible because of the finished work of Christ. They each affirmed that a believer came into fellowship directly with God without the need for any other Priest other than Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we can look at churches that do things differently to the way we do things or believe what we consider to be quirky things and either withdraw from them or worst still, slander them. I think we need to understand what the Apostle Paul meant when he described the things of "first importance" in First Corinthians 15:3. There are certain non-negotiable Gospel truths revealed in the context of Paul's statements that we should be able to distinguish from what we might call secondary issues. These include-
1Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
The basis of our Christian fellowship is grounded in the Gospel of First Importance and each of its implications about Christ, us, God, the Scriptures and the communion of the Body of Christ. As our church fellowship grows there will be people who bring to our church opinions, ideas, and even beliefs that are really secondary issues not First Importance Issues. And when it comes to Secondary Issues we should be mature enough to disagree without dividing. I think this is something that God Himself has to model when He chooses to have fellowship with you and me. It is my prayer that we can in some way reflect the heart of our Father and model this kind of grace to each other and those the Lord adds to our church family.
Rom. 15:7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.