By Rob Kastens
Recently I was given a complete original set of The Millennial Harbinger. As I read through the discolored, fragile pages of several issues from the 1800s, I was struck by the discourse and exchange around all sorts of issues.
Positions were stated and confronted by Alexander Campbell as he responded to writings published elsewhere and letters he received. This exchange of views through the Harbinger and other publications, in addition to public debates and discussions, helped shape and hone our movement in its early days.
In these pages, I found Christians who were committed to Scripture and restoring New Testament Christianity exchanging different perspectives (sometimes heatedly) but never drawing lines of exclusion. They were living out, “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, love.”
At first I was taken aback at the intensity and free exchange I encountered in these pages. Then I was taken aback at the lack of such dialogue today. Today we like to be told what to think. Or, when we know what we think, we like to listen to, associate with, and read only those we agree with. It’s as if we believe, “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, unity with a smaller group that agrees with me; and in most things, tolerance.”
At our introductory class for new people at Mountain Christian Church, our senior pastor, Ben Cachiaras, describes several issues that can divide committed Christians. He concludes by saying if people on both sides of an issue are going to find out who is right when we get to Heaven, then it is a nonessential and we shouldn’t let it divide us here.
However, just because it may not be an essential does not mean it isn’t important. There are lots of issues and decisions facing the church today that deserve intense study and discussion to shape and form our perspectives as Christian leaders.
I’m excited the NACC in July is devoting an entire workshop track to such issues. Let’s come together to think, discuss, and learn from each other. Let’s allow our perspectives to be challenged as we unpack our sometimes differing biblical worldviews around several challenging subjects. I believe we will walk away with better insight and understanding of how Christians can think about these issues. And in the process we should also gain better insight, understanding, and appreciation of each other.
Rob Kastens serves as executive pastor with Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, Maryland.