I have no idea when it was I first heard the phrase, "There's no competition between lighthouses" but that metaphor has burned itself into my mind ever since. Lighthouses have one purpose, to warn sailors where the shoreline is, period. In other words, lighthouse are all about saving lives, not out-shining each other. What a wonderful metaphor for Christians.
I ran into an older gentleman this week who worships within a church culture which I see as having a narrow view of Scripture. For example, his tribe feels it's sinful to use money out of the church treasury to support colleges or orphanages. The first thing he asked me was if we "dropped" the name "church of Christ" in our new plant. It was a pleasant conversation from start to finish, and I respond we do just call ourselves "New Song Church." I told him we are holding to the essentials, but that we were being open to the non-essentials.
The older I get, mutual acceptance and cooperation with other believers in Christ becomes more appealing. My tolerance, on the other hand, for sectarianism has decreased. Jesus said that there was one way the world would know we were His followers, and it wasn't our distinct doctrines or our ability to be right about everything or be correct every time... or the name over the door. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)
My faith journey started within a community of believers that stood on certain doctrines that separated them from the "denominational" world. I love the people who led me to Jesus, and still have the highest respect for them. I completely believe that God brought my family to the right congregation at the right time to lead us to His salvation. It was the perfect church for us, and the preacher who baptized me was perhaps the only person that could've made the personal connection with me that was needed for me to be receptive of the Good News. I'm eternally grateful to the people who loved my family into the Kingdom. I'm no longer comfortable though, thinking or feeling "my group" is the only one going to heaven.
For me, I've come to a place where I no longer want to ask what doctrines or rituals sets me apart from "other" believers in Christ. Why can't our distinction simply be Jesus? Distinctions separate. You either see Jesus as Lord, or you don't. I adhere to certain essential practices in the Christian faith; really only a few that I see as non-negotiable (If you're interested in my core beliefs, email me). Even still, I refuse to judge or condemn another Bible-believing group that reject my views. I'm pretty sure God has it all under control, therefore He can bring other people along with me, to better understandings too. What I don't want to do though, is to confuse my favorites for what's important; I think this is where we have spray-painted the windows on our lighthouses...
Think how much more influence we could have for God if we all simply cooperated. In fact, I'm convinced when we help other congregations do good things in the name of Jesus, even those we don't see eye-to-eye with, people are helped and God is glorified.
It seems like Jesus didn't feel threatened by working with other groups that His closest followers didn't recognize: John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward." (Mark 9:38-41 ESV)
Do I "agree" with each and every group? No, nor do I have to. There's an old saying, "The dog in the hunt doesn't stop to scratch fleas."