As the pastor of a church that is part of two tribes (SBC and A29) I am one who encourages friendly cooperation between gospel-proclaiming networks, conventions, and denominations. I would like to see less competition and more celebrating; less antagonism and more affection. Thomas Murphy, in his classic, Pastoral Theology calls on ministers in particular to set the tone for friendly cooperation and brotherly affection between men of differing evangelical groups. Let his words be an encouragement to us all who preach Christ and him crucified.
Much of the character of the feeling which prevails between the denominations depends on the pastor. He can irritate or he can soothe. By his example and by his words, public and private, he can drive them farther and farther asunder, or he can bring them together in happy Christian intercourse. He should therefore cherish kindly relations toward all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. He should shape his own conduct with a view to keeping up this Christian feeling. It is far easier and pleasanter to do this than to indulge in the opposite course of feeling and action.
It is the duty of every Christian man, and especially of every Christian minister, to take some pains to become acquainted with the people of God with whom he is likely to meet in the ordinary intercourse of life. Some of the most excellent of the earth are in parts of the fold that bear a different name from our own. Many of them have so much of the spirit of Christ that to know them is to love them; and why not enjoy the pleasure of their Christian fellowship? On every account it is better, more Christian, more for the prosperity of the cause, more for the honor of Christ and our own comfort, to know them, to be neighborly with them and to rejoice in their welfare.
The most charitable judgments should be formed concerning those who entertain different views from ourselves about some points of doctrine and order. They should receive credit for being sincere in their belief. We should sympathize with them in their peculiarities. They are dear to them, even though they may appear insignificant or erroneous to us. We should not be too sensitive with regard to seeming encroachments upon our rights by attempts to lead away families or individuals from our church. It may not be so intended on their part, or they may not have anything to do with it, or they may be so circumstanced that they could not do otherwise; and they may be doing just as we would if situated as they are; or the whole impression on our part may be a mistake. At any rate, it is best to give them credit for good intentions, and neither act nor feel toward them as if they were enemies.
To cultivate this Christian friendliness in our intercourse with all other evangelical denominations will take away from the enemy one great advantage in reproaching us. It will illustrate and recommend the charitable spirit of the gospel. It will help forward the cause of Christ on every hand. Moreover, at some future day it will turn to our interest, and we shall experience the wisdom of it in the reaping of benefits that we now but little suspect.
- Thomas Murphy, Pastoral Theology
Some are pushing for a kind of doctrine of separation that puts too much distance between brothers and sisters in Christ. We can and should maintain our distinctives, but I hope we can do so without cutting one another off entirely. Pastors should seek out a hard copy, but you can download a free PDF version via Google Books.